Are you living the “American Dream”, with things like a comfortable home, 2+ children, a job or your own business, friends and family, etc., yet you can’t help feeling like there’s something missing? Do you have things in your personal and professional life that others would love to have, yet you just don’t feel as fulfilled as you think you should?
As the dust settles on one of the most challenging years for accountants and moms, it can leave a lot of us wondering what’s next; what’s going to make us happy again (or maybe even happy for the first time)? With so many unwanted changes being thrust upon us both professionally and personally, a lot of working moms are left wondering how to get back their feeling of purpose, and might even feel directionless.
Next thing you know, you’re looking to switch jobs or careers, you’re wondering whether you need to get divorced, you’re snapping at your children more, or you’re avoiding talking to anyone about how you’re really feeling. The mental, physical, and emotional pressure on accountant moms was already hard enough before the pandemic; now the weight of it all can have you buckling at the knees.
With fewer lifelines available to help lighten the load with things like childcare, normal school options, and accessibility to family and friends, among many other things, more and more working moms have had to hustle, balance, and manage their careers and their families in unprecedented ways. I’m going to bet that it’s an understatement to say that it’s probably taken quite a toll on you.
While the subject of self-care was important to incorporate into the busy schedule of accountant moms pre-pandemic, I’m also going to bet that that was probably the first thing to be let go of while trying to juggle all the changes and course corrections you’ve needed to make over the past year. Eating right, exercising, getting enough rest, and taking time for yourself, have probably become very low on your list of priorities; or they’re not even on the list.
I’m sure you can probably tell me things that you're grateful for, like maybe your health, the fact that you have money coming in, and that your children are safe and sound, but I’m also going to guess that you might be experiencing a sense of numbness. Like you got caught in a tsunami, the waters have died down, everyone is safe (or maybe you’ve lost people you cared about), and you just can’t get your bearings.
On the one hand you might feel bored or unsatisfied with things in your life, but on the other hand you also feel guilty for feeling unfulfilled; as if you weathered the storm so you should be happy. This sense of guilt can make you feel ashamed and have you hide the fact that you might feel unfulfilled as an accountant, as a mother, as a spouse, or just as a woman.
Or maybe you look at what others have and compare your situation to there’s, feeling unfulfilled due to a sense of compare and despair. Things like their career choices, their finances, or their relationships have you looking at yours and feeling like something’s wrong.
If any of this resonates with you, you’re not alone. I speak to and coach so many accountant moms who have done their best during these trying times, but now that there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, they’re left feeling dissatisfied, unhappy, or disillusioned and understandably not knowing what to do about it.
The good news is that I see you, I hear you, and I can help you. If you are feeling unfulfilled, whether it’s professionally or personally, I’m going to support and encourage you so you don’t have to do this alone.
This week I’m going to discuss why you actually feel unfulfilled and what to do about it.
Why you feel unfulfilled
For a lot of us accountants and moms, we tend to believe that our success, achievements or reaching certain life milestones will make us happy and fulfilled. From my experience, and the experience of many of the accountant moms I come in contact with, the typical trajectory for an accountant mom is:
- We go to college
- We take on the challenge of the CPA exam and feel a fleeting sense of fulfillment once it’s passed
- Get a job and feel relief when we check that box
- At some point we decide to get married or find someone to have a long term relationship with
- Then we decide to have a family
- That’s when we start trying to have work/life balance
- Maybe we go on vacation once or twice a year, again having a fleeting sense of fulfillment
- We try to be good spouses, good mothers, good friends, etc.
- Yet….we wake up one day feeling unfulfilled and don’t know why
Can you relate to some, or all, of this? Where you’ve checked a lot of the boxes of what society says should make you feel fulfilled as a woman and a mother, you’re somewhat living the “American Dream”, you’ve worked hard for what you have, you’ve shown strength and resilience during these challenging times, yet…
A lot of the accountant moms I speak to and coach say that they’re afraid to admit to themselves and outloud that, even with everything they have, they honestly don’t feel fulfilled; that there seems to be something missing. They’ve checked off various boxes but feel like something is blocking them and getting in their way.
I also want you to consider the fact that for thousands of years, a woman’s job was taking care of the home, having children and nurturing her family. That message and the skills to do those jobs was passed down from generation to generation, however, now working moms are trying to balance it all but are still getting messages that the old way of life should be fulfilling enough.
As a working mom we often get the messages like, what’s wrong with just staying home and raising children; why do you also need to have a career as well; why isn’t being a mom enough? And then we wonder why we feel guilty for not feeling fulfilled with the sole role of mother and nurturer; for wanting to work outside the home, use our gifts and talents in other ways, use our intelligence, and contribute financially to our families.
The first thing I want you to know is that it’s not your fault if you feel unfulfilled and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it, no matter what your life situation is, professionally or personally. Secondly, as a high achieving woman, you’ve most likely got the misconception that external things cause how you feel, or that your actions cause how you feel, but here’s the thing – you actually have it backwards.
The truth is that how you feel is never caused by all the boxes you’ve checked off, especially the ones that society tells you should equal a sense of fulfillment. How you feel is only ever caused by your thoughts, so basically your career, your success, your degree of work/life balance, where you live, who you live with, the state of the world, what you do or don’t do – none of it has ever, or can ever, create whether you feel fulfilled or not.
I know this can be challenging to hear because we all have this kind of “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” type of view of our lives, where if we could just find the right place to work, the right partner, or the right weight, we’d feel so much better and be able to live our best lives. But have you ever noticed those people that seem to “have it all”, yet still aren’t happy? The ones who overwork, overspend, or overindulge in many other things, trying to feel fulfilled?
That’s because the reason why anyone feels unfulfilled is because you have a human brain that has habits of thoughts. Just like you don’t have to think really hard about how to brush your teeth or which hand you use to write, your brain really likes having habits of thoughts because with those habits, it expends much less energy, saving its energy for more complicated accounting things like PPP loans and Employee Retention Credits.
The simplest way to explain it is that throughout your life, you’ve been laying down tracks in your brain with your thoughts, just like train tracks, making it easier and more efficient to think certain things. So if you’ve had repetitive thoughts like “I’m not smart enough”, “I’m not a good enough mother/wife/accountant”, “This isn’t fair” or “I should be happier”, you’ve been laying down tracks with those repetitive thoughts, making it easier and easier for your brain to easily ride on that track.
When this happens, it doesn’t matter whether you get a promotion, get a glowing review, your spouse tells you that you’re awesome, or your kids tell you they love you. If the tracks in your brain say some version of “I’m not good enough” or “This should be different”, then no amount of things outside of you will make you feel any differently.
For example, I’ve talked to many accountant moms who believed that things like getting a higher education, obtaining their CPA designation, getting married, having children, having a nice house, or being able to wear a certain pair of jeans again would eventually make them feel happy and fulfilled. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, but no one ever told us.
So we wind up overworking, jumping through hoops to get other people’s approval, caring way too much about what other people think and slipping into people-pleaser mode too often. We burn ourselves out in the chase for fulfillment, never realizing that none of what we’re chasing actually creates lasting fulfillment.
What I really want you to get from this episode is that the real reason you feel unfulfilled is because you have gotten a lot of mixed messages over the years, and most importantly, you have an unmanaged mind. While your brain is doing what it’s supposed to do, which is to follow the tracks you’ve laid down, it doesn’t question how those tracks make you feel, or whether the destination those tracks will take you to is in your best interest.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with checking off certain professional and personal boxes as your life unfolds, but just don’t buy into the belief that those checked boxes hold the key to your happiness or fulfillment. The best news I can give you is that those life milestones and those checked boxes are not responsible for how you feel; you are.
What to do about feeling unfulfilled
One of the most liberating and life changing things I can help you to learn is that you are 100% in control of how you feel, but were never taught how to create your feelings on purpose. Between our education, society, advertising and social media, we’ve all been mistakenly taught to believe that our fulfillment is based on external things like the job, the house and the kids.
For a lot of the accountant moms I talk to, with the weight of this message we get, often at a young age, they’re embarrassed about the fact that they don’t feel fulfilled with their career or with different areas of their life. They tend to keep how they currently feel a secret, either chasing after something or blaming various situations for how they feel.
The key thing to do when you’re feeling unfulfilled is to understand your unique brain better so you can get clear about the thoughts that are causing the feeling of unfulfilled. Remember, it’s never the circumstances that are causing your feelings; it’s only ever your thoughts about your circumstances that are creating your feelings.
This is really important because when you learn how to understand your brain, the tracks that you’ve laid down over years and years of education and society’s messages about what should make you feel fulfilled, and what you really think about the boxes you have and haven’t checked, that’s when you’ll be able to get more control over how you feel. You’ll understand why trying positive thinking or trying to make changes in your work or life situation, just hasn’t worked.
This is also why, for example, trying to practice a positive thought like “I love my job” doesn’t help when you’ve been laying down tracks of “I hate my job”. The well-worn tracks you’ve laid down are what’s believable to your brain and what’s believable will always give your brain a little reward when you think that thought.
Just like rats in a lab can quickly be programmed to push a lever for cocaine-laced water because of the reward it gives their brains, your reward-seeking human brain likes familiarity and habits of thoughts are familiar. Habits of thoughts give you a little reward each time you push the lever on a practiced thought.
This is really important to know because when you try to practice thinking and believing something that is too far from what you currently believe, you won’t get any relief from that new thought. Your brain just can’t make the huge leap from “I hate my job” to “I love my job” because it’s not believable based on the tracks you’ve laid down.
So in order to deal with feeling unfulfilled, you have to start practicing neutrality. Neutrality means making small shifts in the way you think about the circumstances that you believe are making you feel unfulfilled, allowing those small shifts to start laying down some new tracks.
For example, instead of repetitively thinking “I hate my job”, you would begin to catch yourself thinking that thought and choose to think a more neutral thought like “I have a job” instead. The power of neutrality is that just that little shift can give your reward-seeking brain the relief it is seeking, making it easier to practice that new thought more consistently.
If you want to feel more fulfilled, you have to get to a place of neutrality first and thankfully, that isn’t as difficult as it might seem because of one very important fact – everything in your life is already neutral. Every person, place and thing in your life is completely neutral until you have a thought about it.
You think your brain just observes reality, interprets it objectively for you, and tells you the information, but that’s not at ALL what’s happening. Your brain is actually just following the tracks you’ve laid without you even realizing it.
Your human brain assigns meaning to everything based on your repetitive thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, things like your job, your relationships, your finances, etc., aren’t objectively good or bad; you make things good or bad in your experience by what you choose to think about them, and most of the time you’re not aware of what you’re choosing to think.
When it comes to fulfillment, most accountants are focused on taking action to feel more fulfilled like setting career and financial goals and hustling to get to some end result that they believe will be the answer to fulfillment. They go after another professional designation, take more and more CPE courses, and jump jobs, grasping for different puzzle pieces that will make them feel fulfilled both professionally and personally.
But here is the most important thing that I have learned and that I teach my coaching clients – whatever we think we want, is because of how we think we’ll feel when we get it. Therefore, the best part of learning how to manage your mind is that that feeling you want is available to you now; happiness, peace, fulfillment – all available now without one thing needing to change.
Hopefully now you can see that no matter what job, boss, relationship, or body size you have, if you haven’t laid down new tracks in your brain or changed the way you think about things, it’s not going to matter. So if you are feeling unfulfilled and don’t know what to do about it, you need to learn how to manage your mind.
- I speak to and coach so many accountant moms who have done their best during these trying times, but now that there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, they’re left feeling dissatisfied, unhappy, or disillusioned and understandably not knowing what to do about it.
- The first thing I want you to know is that it’s not your fault if you feel unfulfilled and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it, no matter what your life situation is, professionally or personally.
- Secondly, as a high achieving woman, you’ve most likely got the misconception that external things cause how you feel, or that your actions cause how you feel, but here’s the thing – you actually have it backwards.
- When it comes to fulfillment, most accountants are focused on taking action to feel more fulfilled like setting career and financial goals and hustling to get to some end result that they believe will be the answer to fulfillment.