July 22, 2015

I Got a PhD & Nothing Changed.

journey balloons

When I was young, I told my parents I wanted to become a psychologist.

In June, that goal was fulfilled. After years of hard work, sacrifice and hard-core learning, I woke up the day following my dissertation defense to find that nothing had changed.

There were no PhD gods descending, sitting at my feet and awaiting my orders. There was no genie in a bottle, waiting to grant my every wish. The sun rose, as it always does (without my help) and the Earth continued its orbit.

I made my own coffee. My pants went on, one leg at a time.

If there was some magical event that was supposed to be triggered by my getting a PhD, it didn’t happen.

(Truthfully, I didn’t expect anything magical to happen but that was because I’ve been fortunate to have mentors, friends and colleagues who warned me against thinking that I would be granted the keys to the world when I finished.)

But I remembered something that I learned a long time ago and I was reminded of a sacred truth. That is this: fulfillment comes in the journey. No matter what great accomplishments, gifts, relationships or items show up in this life, they in and of themselves lack the power to cause one to be happy.

My colleague Shawn once reminded me that “freedom is an inside job” and that statement resounded in my spirit. It is speaking to me again as I examine my life now, having grasped the golden ring I’ve been chasing so long. And while having a PhD certainly opens doors that were previously closed, I am acutely aware that my happiness and fulfillment will come from within or they wont come at all.

As a practicing coach and psychotherapist, I see many people who believe that they will be happy “when.” When they fall in love. When they get married. When they have kids. When their kids leave. When they retire. When they finish school. When they get that job. And sadly, many of them spend their entire lives chasing something they think will make them happy, only to reach the end of their days to realize that by postponing their happiness, they postponed their life. Then, it’s too late.

Life is happening, whether you are an active participant or not. Sure, you can wait until something happens, or you can realize that “sometime” is “now” and that your joy can be found right where you are. That’s not to say you give up on your dreams—not at all—you just learn to blossom wherever you are on the journey.

Chase your dreams. Follow your heart. Pursue passion and madness and creativity and soulful purpose. Love recklessly. Don’t give up. Live full out now.

And when you do, you’ll look back someday and realize that the magic you’ve been seeking has been inside of you all along. You just had to find it.




The Journey Starts with Now.


Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Kasia/Flickr

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