If you have paid some attention to tennis over the last few years, the name “Kim Clijsters” should ring more than a couple bells. She rose to the top of the game, had plenty of success though not enough at the major events, hit #1 and retired to, essentially, get a life. She got married, she had a baby and she was feeling pretty good about herself and her choices. And then she got the urge to come back to tennis and compete.
Clijsters (pronounced CLY-sters) trained and trained and got herself back in shape. She did fairly well at a couple of tournaments before entering the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. Well, long story short, she upset Venus and Serena Williams and several other impressive players along the way to a victory that will go down in history as a fairytale ending (or beginning, depending on how you look at it).
Professional athletes do live in their own bubble, I’ll give you that. But the Clijsters story does make a statement that applies to the everyday person: do what you love while you’re loving it and get out when you’re not.
The woman may be a great tennis player, but she’s also incredibly smart. She listened to her head and her heart and when the game stopped being fun, she made a graceful exit and removed herself from a situation that was giving her grief. She found new things to fill her time and slowly discovered that she missed what she gave up. So, with a whole new outlook and a rejuvenated enthusiasm, she picked herself off the floor and worked hard. She shed all of the drama and the shortcomings from her first career and now comes to her second with a new perspective: sure, she wants to win, but more importantly, she wants to do what she loves and push her limits as far as she can.
Too often we don’t do what Clijsters did. We’re rarely willing to evaluate our feelings about a job or a career choice. And even when we do, it takes so much effort on our parts to decisively declare that it’s time to get out and look for something new. For all the complaining that we do, it takes a lot to push us over the edge and convince us to go elsewhere.
But it’s something that we need to get into the habit of doing. If a work environment or a job is not resembling your ideal in any way, then it’s time to really sit down and do some thinking. It’s certainly true that walking away isn’t always an option since we don’t have the luxury of having millions of dollars in prize money waiting for us at home. Instead, find some way of objectively looking at your situation, either by evaluating your feelings when you’re taking an extended vacation, making a pros and cons list or talking it through with an impartial listener who can help you process things. You may find that despite some negative feelings, you’re actually pretty happy overall. But you might also find that it’s time to find your exact same job in a company that actually cares that you have the potential to cure cancer. Or you mind find that computer programming isn’t the love of your life and that you’re going to become a professional clown. Hey, gotta do what makes you happy, right?
So congratulate Clijsters on a job well done at the year’s final major, but consider her choices as you give your own some thought. Kim Clijsters: 2009 US Open champ and HR posterchild. Awesome.