I was feeling uninspired at work — until a career coach gave me this one tip

Feeling uninspired by your work? For writer Ronnie Koenig it wasn’t about a career change, but a change of perspective that made all the difference.
Image: Woman writing on Notepad
Career coach Emily Eliza Moyer suggested that Koenig write to write, regardless of the outcome, to prevent it from feeling like a chore.Mayur Kakade / Getty Images
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By Ronnie Koenig

On paper my career looks pretty impressive — I’ve attended great schools, written for some of the world’s top publications and I know how to use Excel (OK, that one’s a lie, but still). With a solid resume and the experience to expect to be compensated well for my work, I wondered why, then, did I have the sinking feeling that at the end of each week, I hadn’t worked toward accomplishing my bigger goals?

With writing assignments, kids and a household to manage, most days I barely felt like I had time to come up for air, let alone sit down and plot a career trajectory. But I also knew that if I continued to be reactive in my work (responding to every opportunity that came my way versus planning out a future) nothing would change. That’s when I decided to contact Emily Eliza Moyer, a career coach who specializes in helping women define their purpose so that they can love their work.

I knew that if I continued to be reactive in my work (responding to every opportunity that came my way versus planning out a future) nothing would change.

My dilemma: feeling stuck and uninspired with my work

I came to Emily with the notion that there was something bigger out there I wanted to be doing, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. For people who aren’t sure what they could get out of working with a career coach, Moyer explained it to me perfectly.

“The women who choose to work with career coaches are ready to make a major shift into purposeful, meaningful work,” she said. “They’re ready to stop following others’ expectations. They’re sick of feeling undervalued and underpaid. They’re feeling called to forge their own path instead of doing what’s ‘safe.’ Or they just want to feel inspired and excited, rather than miserable and demotivated. Balanced, instead of harried and spread too thin.”

All of that resonated with me, in particular the part about wanting to feel inspired and excited. Sure, I knew that I could churn out copy on any given topic, but what I really wanted was to be using my writing toward something that felt more fulfilling. Moyer told me that it is possible.

First, we identified my passion

We began our video chat session with a moment of meditation followed by an oracle card reading. (Moyer is located in Chicago and I’m in New Jersey but no matter, she had such an easy way about her that it seemed like we were in the same room.) Moyer’s approach to career coaching is holistic, incorporating Western organizational strategy and Eastern philosophy and ancient wisdom — not your typical approach to career counseling, but I decided to be open-minded and give it a try.

As we both closed our eyes, it quickly became apparent that this brief meditation was an effective tool to clear the space for us to focus on the time we had together. In a world where we are constantly available and responding to beeps, rings and bells, it felt great to ensure that this time we had set aside for a specific purpose was sacred.

Emily told me that she would select a card for me but that there would be no “bad cards” to worry about. My card was “Freedom” and she read me the description and we used it as a jumping off point to get into the root of why I was seeking career help.

The ice breaker worked, and I found myself opening up to Emily, telling her about the bigger dreams I had for my writing: to publish a book and write movies. I wanted to do more of the style of writing that was actually in my own voice.

After listening attentively, Emily gave me the encouraging news that I was already way ahead of the game in that I knew what my passion was. She was right. I knew plenty of people who had the vague notion that they wanted to be doing something great, they just weren’t sure what it was. For me, I know that when I’m writing I feel most like myself. Call it a passion or a calling, but when I’m in the zone and the writing is flowing, I know it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

Second, we talked the balance of being a wife, mother and career woman

The second thing Emily told me I had going for me was that I understood that focusing on advancement in my career would actually have a positive effect on all the other aspects of my life. I know that for a lot of women, especially mothers, the idea of focusing on work can feel almost selfish. But I already knew that by being fulfilled in my work, it would just make me an even happier, more productive mom, wife and friend.

Moyer said that while women now have so many options when it comes to career and lifestyle, often the availability of options can feel overwhelming.

“Many of us are trying to do it all, weighed down by having too much on our plate,” she said. “Others are just unsure what choices are right for us, out of the myriad options. Additionally, we tend to take on an extraordinary amount of additional emotional responsibility for other people in our lives. Any of this can lead a person to feel stuck, confused or lost.”

The takeaway: I needed to prioritize my passion and reallocate my time

Still, Moyer said that “stuck” is really not such a bad place to be.

“It means you’re in a position to make a change; to decide that you want a different life experience," she said. "Feeling these things means you're able to acknowledge that it’s time for purpose and meaning to be prioritized.”

Moyer asked me if there were things in my life I set aside dedicated time for, and I said yes. Ever since becoming a mom, I’ve prioritized my workouts, not just because they help me be fit but because I need them for reasons that have nothing to do with how I look, like keeping stress at bay and feeling energized. Moyer pointed out that I was already accustomed to setting aside time for something that’s important to me, so could I do that with my writing? She made the distinction that we were talking about creative writing, the stuff I want to write. She encouraged me to schedule an hour a day for what she called “soul writing.”

The idea of that felt simultaneously luxurious and anxiety-provoking. On the one hand, I loved to write but thinking about the outcome of my work often made it feel like a chore or something to avoid.

Moyer explained to me the yogic concept of "aparigraha" which translates to non-attachment. “Do the work for work’s sake,” she told me. “Because it is your gift. Because it is why you are here. Because you must. Release the outcome. Release the attachment of what will come from your writing time. Write to write.”

For me, it wasn’t about a new trajectory, but rediscovering my passion for my current work

By the end of the session I surprised myself by tearing up — how had I let the thing that made me feel most like myself, creative writing, become something I dreaded doing? Moyer sagely smiled at me: It wasn’t like she had outlined a new life trajectory for me, instead she had helped me change my own mindset about my work. It was something that on the surface seemed so simple, but the shift had eluded me until working with her.

Since working with Moyer, I feel a renewed energy for writing and real excitement about the possibilities. I’m the one in the driver’s seat, deciding which opportunities to devote my time and attention to and which ones to decline. I know that anything is possible if I put in the work.

If you’re considering working with a career coach, take the time to make sure the person you choose to work with is a good fit. Most coaches will offer a “getting to know you” call so you can see if you’re on the same wavelength. Unlike therapy, career coaches usually work with clients over a shorter period of time, and though some emotional stuff may come up, the work is more goal-oriented than explorative.

“It’s time to work with a career coach if you are ready to both invest in and do the inner work your career coach will challenge you to do,” said Moyer. “Working with a career coach usually requires you to face some tough stuff and you need to make sure you’re in a place in your life where you’re ready to do that.”

Although it wasn’t easy to confront the old patterns and beliefs that were holding me back, in the end I was so glad that I did. Now, instead of ending the week wondering what I’ve done, I wake up each morning ready to rock n’ roll and do the things I love the most. Next up: penning that screenplay.

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