I grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. There were 60 people in my town, my family contributing seven to those sixty. Eight towns came together to make up our high school. There were 82 people in my graduating class. Of those 82 students, just one was considered a minority. I had a wonderful childhood, albeit a bit sheltered.
During my senior year of high school, I met with my guidance counselor to chart my future path. "You can be whatever you want to be!" she told me, then proceeded to present me with my choices: housewife, farmer, teacher or accountant. I knew I could also be a nurse (as my mother was a nurse), so I added that to the list. At that point in my life, I dreamed of money, my own office and business suits -- so, accountant was the obvious answer. I went to college to be an accountant.
For the first 25 years of my professional life I worked in the corporate world. While my focus changed from accounting to human resources, my alignment to a straight and narrow career trajectory was unwavering. After a while I figured I was too senior, too successful and too old to do anything other than follow those who came before me.
Until one day. It was a Friday, and the week had been a torturous one. I was on the phone with my best colleague friend, and we were bitching about everyone and everything. "We should just quit!" I said. "I should just quit and start my own health coaching business." (I had recently received my Integrative Health Coaching certification and was dying to use it.) We spent the afternoon talking about what we would do if we didn't have to do the jobs we were doing. We were dreaming. We were making things up. We felt free, energized, excited, creative and strategic. I told my colleague that she could do or be anything she wanted to, and that's when it happened -- I realized that I could be or do anything I wanted.
I wish I had made that realization twenty years earlier. I wish someone had told me that anything is possible, and by anything, that truly meant anything. Because, the sooner you find what really lights you up in life, the longer and brighter you will be able to burn.
I quit my corporate job one year later and started my Executive Health and Leadership coaching company. I also do Life Coaching. As a 44-year-old, corporate born and bred, Type A perfectionist, learning to be an entrepreneur was a challenge. Twenty years ago, challenge may have felt more exciting than risky. But every day is a learning experience. Every day holds opportunity to make it anything I want it to be. Fundamental qualities like perseverance, hard work and the desire to succeed support your path forward, but where your path leads is open terrain and you are in the drivers seat.
The options are endless. If something doesn't exist, you can create it. You can lead your own movement, start your own company or create your own job title. The trick is to realize that anything is possible, and then go after your anything. Become a leader of your anything. Don't let what has come before you define your direction. Find what you love, and make something happen. While I say I wish someone had given me this advice earlier in my life, the fact is, I wish I had understood this advice earlier in my life.
We are surrounded by motivational stories about people who have, against all odds, done remarkable things. Reality TV allows us to watch as others give everything they have to win money, fame and be declared "the best." Behind each one of these people is the knowledge that they can be, do or have anything they want. And these people are no more special or no more deserving than you are. They simply opened their minds to what is truly possible for them. If no one has yet told you that you can be anything you want to be, I'm honored to be the first. But more importantly, you need to be the first to believe that you can be anything you want to be.
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Icon Next, entitled 'The Best Piece of Advice I've Ever Received For Achieving My Career Goals.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here. To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to firstname.lastname@example.org.