When I showed up at my first workshop to get trained as a coach, I was a dried up soul.
I had just come out of two years of business school, followed by a few years doing work that wasn’t what I really longed to do. A quiet voice inside had grown less quiet, reminding me about the creative, entrepreneurial career I really wanted. That voice had said, “Tara, just go get that coaching training. No matter what you do with it or don’t do with it, it will be good for your soul.”
It was. The very first workshop I took was led by two veteran women coaches. It had been a long time since I’d seen anything like the passion they had for their lives and work, or since I’d heard people talk about crafting their lives so intentionally.
In that coaching workshop, I learned to ask new question about my life. Questions like:
What do I really want?
What are my big dreams?
What would bring me joy?
What decision or choice feels most “resonant”?
It was liberating to ask these new questions. It was exhilerating to realize one could create one’s life around the answers.
And yet…there’s a shadow side to getting stuck in these questions.
I’ve begun to notice something I call the resonance trap. It shows up particularly among women who have done or are doing a lot of personal growth work. The resonance trap is thinking that what we do in our careers or in our creative lives always has to feel resonant. That it has to feel right, good. That it has to feel current.
This so gets in our way.
When I met Kim, she had just finished writing and recording an album of music. But, she told me, the songs just weren’t feeling resonant for her anymore…a new (yet unwritten) music project on the theme of motherhood was. She was so excited about this, she told me, and just couldn’t wait to dive into this project. The other album was about to get left behind. It no longer “felt right.”
Now, perhaps the traditional “coach” approach would be to encourage Kim to follow this burgeoning passion. But I was skeptical. Why? Kim had this sudden switch in interests just as she was coming to the point of getting her album out into the world. This is usually exactly when brilliant women sabotage themselves with the resonance trap: when things are starting to succeed, when they’ve finished the most difficult part of a project, or when their work is ready for greater scale and reach.
We get scared of the visibility. We get scared of success.
We have trouble reaping what we’ve sown. This is important: brilliant women like to sow, and sow, and sow, and then go find a new field to sow in…without ever reaping what we’ve sown. I know hundreds of women who have done it and I’ve done it a million times myself. We have trouble receiving the return on our investment, leveraging our work.
It drives me crazy, both because I want you to get to live the success you dream of, and because our world needs brilliant women’s ideas, creations, innovations, businesses, books, art, organizations AT SCALE.
So please stick with it long enough to scale yours, my dear.
A part of us that is comfortable playing small wants to reinvent the wheel again so that we never actually have to step into success. Fear blocks our passion for whatever we are up to, and a fantasy of a new pursuit takes hold.
If you recognize yourself here, I invite you to make moment-to-moment resonance a low priority for a while, just as an experiment.
Commit to being a fabulous steward of the time and energy you’ve already invested, the direction you’ve already chosen to pursue.
Make the most of that, rather than beginning again. Stick with it even though you feel resistance.
That’s what Kim did. She dug back in, fear and resistance and icky I-want-to-run-the-other direction feelings and all, and she finished the album she’d invested in. And you know what? Once she walked through the fear, she had a blast sharing it in the world, performing concerts, meeting her listeners, and stepping into the new identity of being a successful musician – not a musician dreaming of a hoped-for success.
Work through the fear rather than chasing the fantasy. Get to know the part of yourself that is not the creator of something new, but the excellent manager and amplifier and optimizer of what you’ve already created.
In other words, yes, stick with it. See it through.
photo credit: John Price