Carpe Janus!

Turning the calendar to a new year is often accompanied by a lot of reflection. Individuals do it, companies and organizations do it, nations do it, families do it. Sometimes, it is purely internal, and sometimes the results spill out into articles, memes, reflections, or even fireworks. It is a time to look backward and forward all at once.

Janus is the ancient Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, and endings, usually depicted having two faces – looking forward and looking back. Our January draws its inspiration from this root word, as does, interestingly, janitor, originally one who was a doorkeeper, and now expanded to be the caretaker of a building. While being “two-faced” has a profoundly negative connotation in English, I think we all have something to learn from Janus.

As someone in career transition, I find myself in profound Janus Time. I look back on my professional and personal roles, drawing out the things that are most important and formative to me as I consider what to pursue next. I sit with myself, trying to use this in-between time to better know my whole self, to be honest about my strengths and weaknesses, and how and when I am at my best. And I look forward, imagining the ways I can benefit a new organization with my talents and gifts.

I confess that I am a bit restless in this in-between time. Perhaps it is the uncertainty. A very confident person by nature, I tend to believe that things will ultimately work out if I do the hard work I need to do. I do not focus as some do on the inherent instability of the in-between time, but try to seize the opportunities it presents. More than uncertainty, I think it is restlessness that gets to me.

When I’m actively working, I am purposefully serving a mission, leading a team, and collaborating with colleagues. I derive great satisfaction from all these roles. Right now, these roles are all muddled or expressed very differently. And as much as I value myself as good company for the journey, I am a profoundly social person by nature, and really notice how introspective this process not only allows me to be, but also forces me to be.

One thing I have learned as I reflect on my last position is that I thrive in a role that allows me to lift others up. I had never been a part of an industry that by its very nature is focused on self-improvement and owning one’s own health. The health and wellness industry, not surprisingly, is filled with inspiring people, all helping people to be their best. I found not only my own role but also my travelling band to be wildly inspirational in ways I hadn’t found in many other roles that were more narrowly focused on other pursuits. I know I want something like that to permeate my next role.

As I think through my next career move, I am deeply grateful for the friends, colleagues, and professional contacts who have reached out with ideas, leads, suggestions, and simple words of encouragement. This time has allowed me to spend more time cultivating my network – reaching out to those I should talk to more often – and to develop and grow it to provide even better guidance on my life’s path with some inspirational people recommended to me by those I already count on.

And, as news of layoffs continues to reverberate in the headlines, I’ve found myself as an encourager of others. I’ve had friends and strangers reach out to me to help clarify goals, review professional materials, and to suggest ways in which they might pursue their highest and best purpose. I don’t purport to be an expert in career transition, but I’ve now done it enough times that I have found ways to be intentional about it – driving toward a goal but also allowing the powerful, liminal space of transition to transform.

Whether you are in a time of career transition or not, I encourage you to use this January, this Janus Time, to ask yourself some questions. Where are you going? How will you know when you get there? Are you using all of the key parts of yourself in your professional and volunteer roles? Are there parts of you that you should work on to be happier? More fulfilled? Are you thriving – or are you merely surviving? Who can you lean on to help you? And who can you help on their journey?

As the poet Mary Oliver poignantly asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?”

Please let me know if there are ways I can serve you as you grapple with these hard questions. And please reach out to me if you have ideas or insights that will be clarifying to me on my journey. Thanks in advance, and may your journey be insightful, clarifying, and productive.