Reframing Your What-Ifs and Going for the Work Life You Really Want

When my brother was an intern at the Engineering firm CH2MHill, he worked in a high rise in downtown Seattle with sweeping views of the water and the Space Needle. But he didn’t have that view. Instead, he had a crappy cubicle in the middle of the office that matched his intern status. Did he let this stop him from going after a view office? No, Ma’am. He wanted a view office, and he resolved to have it sooner rather than later. He just didn’t know yet how he’d get it. Amazingly, a few weeks later, one of the Engineers with a view office left the firm. My brother planned his approach, and confidently walked into the office of his boss, and proposed that he should move into empty office during his internship because it would make him more productive.

And do you know what his boss said?


My brother moved in, and at 21 he had a better office than many senior Engineers at the company. They probably didn’t like him very much, but I’m sure they admired his chutzpah! I sure did, and it stuck with me.

Around this time last year, I started entertaining a wild career possibility myself. I was on a plane home from Pasadena with my dashing husband when the idea to start an organizing business hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’d just finished de-cluttering and organizing our home, and I loved every second of it. I couldn’t wait to bounce out of bed and get started as soon as the kids were off to preschool. I organized during naptime, after my kids went to bed, and on weekends. At the end of each day, I’d gaze proudly at the spaces I’d transformed, and felt like I had done the impossible.

My husband encouraged me to treat myself, and come along on his work trip to Pasadena. I thought I’d use the time to work on my novel project or chill by the pool. But on that trip, when I could have been writing or poolside, do you know where I ended up? The Container Store. I could have gone to a movie, or the spa, or to lunch. It was a beautiful sunny Pasadena day, I had no children in my charge, the world was my oyster, and I went to The Container Store? I know it sounds crazy, but that is where my heart took me.

And let me tell you, it was HEAVENLY! Strolling the organized aisles with my iced coffee, made me feel inspired, and I felt my angels shaking me and whispering, “Pay attention!”

As we flew home that evening, I looked over at my husband, and said, “I wish I could get paid to organize.” And my husband, being a guy who generally thinks he can make any dream a reality said,
“Yeah, you should do that.”

Wait, what? Could I really just do that? For one glorious moment I entertained it, but it was quickly drowned out by all the reasons why I shouldn’t do it. It went something like this:

But I’m a teacher. I worked so hard to get my Master’s Degree in English. My calling is to write a novel. Our kids are still really young, and they need me. I can’t start a business. How will I ever have time for that? I don’t know anything about starting a business! Who will pay me to organize when they can just do for themselves? I don’t have any formal training. Is it even a legitimate job? What if my friends and family laugh at me? What if they think my house actually looks really unorganized? What if they think I believe I’m better than them, and they stop wanting to be my friend? What if people think I’m not smart, and I couldn’t get a tenure track job or write a novel, so I did this instead?

Ouch! I can be so harsh on myself sometimes. Can’t we all? Seeing some of those words written down makes me want to cry, but those are the words I thought. And even though I know they aren’t true, sometimes I still think them. But after the last what if came another one, “What if I could?”

What if, like my brother did with the view office, I could ask for what I want and get it? What if I could have my own business doing something I loved? What if it helped and inspired others? What if I could build this business and still get to be there for my family and friends?

And then I thought something else: “I just want to see if I can do it.” So I did!

This month, I’m projected to earn more than the monthly salary I made as a teacher, and I’m working half the amount of hours. My new business allows me to do something I love, help and inspire others, and still be there for my family and friends—everything I wanted it to be. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to all those negative what ifs!

I think women, especially, need to be reminded that they can and should ask for what they want. Today, if your work life or home life has you asking what-ifs, why not make them positive?

What if you really can do exactly what you’ve always wanted?

Go get it!

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