When I was in my corporate life, I met with a development coach. I complained to him that I didn’t think that the job I was doing was making much of a difference in the world. He asked me if that was what I wanted to do, make a difference in the world. Of course, I said. His reply to me was to go make a difference in the world. In other words, he told me to up my game.
Play on a bigger stage
My coach told me that if I wanted to play on a bigger stage, I could go play on a bigger stage. How? How do I change what I do now to what I want to do? He gave me some advice on how to change the circumstances of my life, but warned me that it would not be easy. Not only had I become complacent with my life, but everyone surrounding me had become complacent too. People who were used to me doing one thing would resist the change. They would try to keep me from changing because it meant that they would have to change, too, if only to change the expectations of what I was and what I wanted to do.
The most fundamental thing about this life change for me was to decide what it is I wanted to do. Make a difference in the world is a pretty broad scope to work with. The more specific I could get, the more successful I could become. This definition of what it was had to be powerful and resonate so much that I would be able to overcome not only my own resistance, but the resistance of other people around me.
Find what resonates
I decided that what I wanted to do was teach Chado. I had been studying with my sensei for a couple of years at that time, but it was something that did resonate with me. Of course, there were many obstacles to overcome from convincing my sensei that I was serious (I was not a particularly serious student at the time), to convincing and getting my husband to support my dream. There was also the obstacle that I barely knew anything about what it meant to teach Chado.
The fact is, we do have choices, but there are trade offs. We can up our game and change our circumstances, but it requires sacrifices and may not manifest instantaneously. Hard work, persistence and ongoing negotiation with the people in our lives are required. The advice my coach gave me was to hold the vision. He also said to do one thing that moves you closer to it, and one thing that nurtures the vision every day.
The dream doesn’t materialize instantaneously
This dream of mine did not manifest within the year. In fact, it took more than 15 years. In the meantime, I became a regular student with my sensei who became much more strict with my training. Even though I was intensely focused on learning, I still didn’t know enough to be able to teach. I had changed jobs several times (not voluntarily) and started a business. I did not give up my day job until sensei thought I was ready to apply to Midorikai.
Taking a year off of work and leaving my husband and family for a year took a very long time to negotiate and convince everyone around me. I wanted to do it in a way that people would support me. If they didn’t understand why I had to do it, at least they would know that it was very important for me to live in Japan for a year and study Chado.
The dream seems farther away
After Midorikai, I thought I was farther than ever from becoming a teacher because I had found out in my year in Japan just how little I knew about the way of tea. I also had to get a job because of depleted savings and other people were depending on my income. But I continued to study and go to lessons every week. I became immersed in the local tea community and studied on my own nearly every day.
I spent another seven years working and training in tea before I started my own place to study and began teaching. It did not happen overnight, and there were many times I felt discouraged and wanted to change direction. I had to plan and negotiate reduced income with my family. In many ways, it felt like would be easier to give up and just do what I had always done, go to tea lessons once a week, go to work and earn money in an unfulfilling job.
But hard work, negotiation and never letting go of the vision helped to achieve what I once thought was impossible. Now, I am a teacher of Chado. I have upped my game and I do feel fulfillment in what I am doing. And yes, in my own little corner, I feel like I am making a difference in the world.