Writing your own rulebook with Isabelle Vandenbroucke
Part of what I wanted to do on this podcast is introduce you to everyday people who are thriving professionally and personally. To show you that feeling energized and aligned at work isn't just for the celebrities or titans of industries that are often featured on other podcasts. It's available to every single one of us - including you.
My guest is Isabelle Vandenbroucke. Isabelle is a former of client of mine who I met and became friends with in 2016 while we were both doing our MBAs together.
When Isabelle started working with me she was in big pharma. Today she is an Internal Management Consultant at CEPI - the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which develops vaccines for epidemics and pandemics in low and middle income countries.
On the side, she runs a professional organizing business, Equilibrium Organising, where she helps people declutter and organize their spaces so they can focus on what's important to them. She's especially interested on how this work can help to reduce our negative impact on the environment.
Isabelle is Mexican Belgian, grew up in the US and Asia and today lives in London. In her free time she loves swimming, freediving, scuba diving, and surfing.
- How to move past feeling like a failure
- The benefits of a portfolio career
- Breaking out of the 9-5 and designing your day to suit your priorities
- How feeling your feelings creates self-trust and a sharper intuition
- Why it's never too late to make a career move
- And much more!
Are you ready to create an energizing career you love?
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Welcome to the career studio podcast, where we boil down the noise and focus on the core concepts, essential for building an energizing career you love. One that is simply an extension of who you are and how you wanna live your life. Anyone can do it. It's just a matter of knowing what to focus on.
Anne: All right. Hello. So, a bit of an intro here. Part of what I wanted to do on this podcast is introduce you to everyday people who are thriving, professionally, personally. To show you that feeling energized and aligned at work isn't just for celebrities or the titans of industry that are often featured on other podcasts.
This is really available to every single one of us, including you. And so my guest today is Isabelle Vandenbrouck . Isabelle is a former client of mine who I actually met and became friends with in 2016, when we were both doing our MBAs together. And when Isabelle started working with me earlier this year, she was working in Big Pharma, and today she's an internal management consultant at Cepi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which develops vaccines for epidemics and pandemics in low and middle income countries.
On the side, she runs a professional organizing business, Equilibrium Organizing, where she helps people declutter and organize their spaces so they can focus on what's important to them. She's especially interested on how this work can help reduce our negative impact on the environment. Isabelle is Mexican Belgian, but she grew up in the US and Asia, and today lives in London.
In her free time, she loves swimming, free diving, scuba diving, and surfing. Our conversation covered a lot of topics from overcoming feeling like a failure to be able to create something that feels fulfilling, letting go of what other people think, what's expected of you, and creating your own manual with your own rules.
We discussed how to explore something that feels scary. The benefits of a portfolio career, breaking out of the nine to five and designing your day to suit your priorities, how feeling your feelings create self-trust and a sharper intuition making mid-career shifts and much more. It was really such a pleasure and privilege to work with Isabella, and I'm really happy with how this conversation came together.
We ended up discussing so many really critical insights. That makes a difference in this work and certainly have impacted her journey. So, yeah. Let's dive in.
I like to start these conversations just by reflecting on where you were in your career, in your life, how you were feeling before we started working together, and before you put intentionality around redesigning how things looked and felt.
So maybe you could take us back, and paint a picture.
Isabelle: Yeah. Okay. I'll take us back to when I started. Right before I started working with you and I kind of thought, oh, I might need a career coach. I had been working in a job that at one point I was really excited about, you know, it was something that I really looked forward to doing and I was super interested in, and I felt like I was going places, felt like the company had invested in me and I was gonna go far, is kind of how I felt.
And then, it kind of was like suddenly I woke up and that wasn't true anymore. But I actually think what happened was it was like over a number of years, like maybe one or two years that this kind of had started to happen, where I didn't really love what I was doing day to day anymore. Like maybe I had changed roles and I thought that was a good move, but actually the daily work was not as interesting to me anymore, and I just didn't know where to go with it. I felt like I was a little bit at a, at a dead end and I, I felt like a huge failure about that. I think that was like the primary reason why I reached out to you, and that was one of the things that you helped me with really quickly early on, but I felt like it was all my fault, like how could this have happened?
I've worked in this industry for 10 years, like a decade, and. And now I'm at this place where I don't even think I like it and I'm going nowhere fast . So that was kind of like where my head was at. And yeah, I was kind of just berating myself for having been found in that place and I just really didn't know where to turn. And that's kind of where I reached out to and was like, please help me .
Anne: And actually, just to confirm, you, you're, you were working for a large public. How would you describe the company you were working for? The industry you are in.
Isabelle: Big Pharma , working for big pharma. Yeah, I believe in it definitely. I think it's does a really important thing in the world, but yeah, for whatever reason, it just wasn't for me anymore.
Anne: And I think, um, it's a normal place to feel like, how do I address this? I think this is a whole challenge when you feel lost and really down on yourself and really confused about where it goes next, or how to address how you're feeling. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. I think that's a really normal feeling.
So why don't you paint a picture of how you feel now?
Isabelle: Yeah, I think you really helped me to, to nail those things because now I feel much more aligned to who I am. I kind of with you was able to really look at, you know, what am I good at? What do I like doing? And really understand myself a lot better and make sure that the work that I do every day relates to that very much so.
So today, I would say I'm really happy going to work. In general, I feel really fulfilled in what I'm doing. It's much more close to what I'm good at and what I like doing, and I just feel more in control. Like, I think before I felt like a little bit of a victim, maybe even where I was kind of like, how did this happen to me? Blah, blah, blah.
But now I'm, I'm really much more like, how do I make this day the best possible workday for me? And how do I make this career work for me? Knowing what I know now, which is related to my brand, related to my strengths and interests, and working with people that really support me because I found them
I reached out to them, which is another one of your pillars, which was around your people. So, I would say that I really feel like I'm on my way and I know how to do that. I have the steps in front of me and I'm not afraid anymore, and I just feel like I can do it. I really do. And I know that one of the things in your program is that after every so often you might find yourself in a place where what you're doing just isn't right anymore, and that that's okay. And that you then use these steps again to just reframe, you know, pivot a little, reposition yourself, and that that will just happen from time to time. So I think I'm not freaking out about if that happens again in the, in the near future, um, I know that I can figure it out.
Anne: Yeah. So I love that and I think I'd love you to dive a little bit further. No, I, let me ask it this way. You know, in redesigning your career, what had to change? I mean, is it that you didn't know that stuff about yourself before? What mattered to you? Is it that you hadn't thought about it intentionally? Or is it that you didn't know how to put it together? You know, what had to change within you or your awareness and to make the shifts that you did.
Isabelle: So one of your pillars is mindset. And that's kind of where we started because my mindset was, I'm a failure and this has happened because I failed. And what you quickly showed me was that another way to look at the facts was, I've done some really cool things. What am I gonna do next? And how much more of a helpful perspective that is to have.
So I think we really started there and it wasn't so much that I didn't maybe know my strengths or interests. You have a really structured way of, of making that clear to someone and we spend time on that. But for me it was a little bit more about accepting them because I think that I didn't realize how much I was taking cues from the people around me about what was an acceptable profession, what was a good career path, when maybe what I wanted to do didn't necessarily fit that, and I needed to accept that and let go of everyone else's, frankly, opinions, and views on that. And in doing that, what I also realized is that people feed off of your vibes. So if I talked about stuff, sure, maybe not everyone agreed with what I wanted to do next, but in general, they were excited for me because I was excited about it.
And that was a real surprise to me because I thought for sure. You know, everyone, and by everyone I just mean a few people, but they would want me to be the CEO of a venture capital fund, right? And anything less than that was a huge mistake. When in reality, what I found was when I told people, oh, I wanna be a professional organizer. You know, I got a couple weird stares, but otherwise, the people who know me best were just like, wow, that makes so much sense .
And they were happy for me. So I think it was more about accepting. What I already knew to be my strengths and interests and just letting them see the light of day and changing my mindset, which you really helped me to do.
Anne: I love that. I think so often we know, we know who we are. We know the things that light us up and get us going. It's just that we are afraid to do it for any number of reasons. And having people worrying about what people will think is a really common one, especially if the thing that you are thinking about isn't a typical career path within the circles that you have grown up in or been educated in. I think for me that was certainly, you know, I talk a lot about that in my content becoming a coach, becoming a life coach, a career and life coach. Wow. I mean, not something a lot of my friends were doing, and I think organizing falls into a similar kind of category
Isabelle: Yeah, and I think I talked to you about this in the past, but I read an article about Frances Bean Cobain, who's the daughter of Kurt Cobain and how she ended up being an artist and how, you know, obviously she has this innate talent. I'm sure it's genetic, but the people around her are artists, so she's not gonna wake up one day and be like, I wanna be a management consultant. Right? In the same way that if I woke up one day and said, I want to be a rockstar, you know, that would be a little difficult to convince the people around me. So it kind of happens to everyone if you wanna do something that's a little different from what everyone else around you is doing, but it's so worth figuring out what you wanna do for sure.
Anne: Well, yeah, I think the thing is that once you get over that, once you can kind of take those initial steps of saying, actually I kind of wanna do this thing that's different. to your point that you made, if you get on board with it. Other people will mirror that energy. And then plus, coupled with, the energy you get from just doing a thing that energizes you is addictive, right? It's so much easier than doing the thing that you thought you were supposed to do. Suddenly life feels easier. Suddenly you don't feel stressed in the same way. And then you have so much more energy to just live your life and do the things that matter to you.
Isabelle: Yeah. I think one of the things you asked me early on was like, what are the articles that you read about after work or what are the shows you watch or what are the topics you talk about with your friends? And I was like, what does that have to do with my career ? And now I see it and I'm like, you know what? I do click on these articles because I'm really interested in this topic. And that is now my career. So this is like I'm doing work outside of work when in the past when I had jobs where, you know, maybe I wasn't that passionate about them, it was really a slog to read that document or go through those slides and it's just amazing to think like it's my weekend and I'm thinking about like, how can I solve that problem for that person because it's what I love thinking about. Rather than like, oh no, I have to do this thing that's due on Monday . It's just such a different mentality.
Anne: It really reduces those Sunday scaries.
Isabelle: Absolutely. And I think something that you talked about earlier was around fear and being afraid of trying something new and something different. And one thing we worked on was how you collect evidence for the thing that you believe. So if you're afraid of trying something new and going on a different path, and you'll collect loads of evidence as to why it won't work. And I was definitely doing that. For a lot of things. And you helped me to just have the one phrase, I think it was, it could work, and that was like as far as I could go with this professional organizing idea of like, it could work, but that was all I needed to just kind of hang onto, to keep going and to just do the steps little by little to try to build this business. And it really was just a change in, in mindset and trying to collect evidence for, it could work, rather than, this is a really bad idea that nobody else agrees with
Anne: Yeah, I mean maybe you can, cuz you know, obviously you're, you're working in public health and doing the organizing on the side and so I, I'd love you to talk a little bit about how it feels at the moment to be doing these two things. How does that meet where you are right now and work for you? How are you thinking about those two things alongside each other?
Isabelle: Well, I think growing up I kind of had this model of, you know, maybe the generation above us, right? Like baby boomers. They kind of spent a lot more time in one company, maybe their whole lives in one company, and they were very devoted to this one thing. And that was kind of my model. So I did that too, and I threw myself into work after university.
I was like, okay, I'm basically married to this company and I'm gonna be a career woman and I'm gonna travel the world with this. And I really just had all my eggs in one basket. And when I started to feel like I wasn't getting as much back as I was giving in, I was really struggling because I didn't have a lot else going on. And having two things to do now, which is Cepi and professional organizing, really helps me to just be way more balanced because I'm not relying on one or the other to make me happy.
And that's also not mentioning all the other things I do in my life that contribute to my overall happiness. But you know, if something at Cepi doesn't go quite my way, I think I bounce back a lot faster because I have something else that might be going really well at that time or vice versa. So it's almost like I'm more resilient because I am doing two things and they both make me happy in completely different ways. So having a portfolio career or just doing two things, you know, surprisingly to me, Is working a lot better than I thought it would.
Anne: Just to add, you know, Isabelle and I, there is a generation between us and baby boomers. We're not that old
Isabelle: I guess the generation that raised us.
Anne: Our parents.
Isabelle: Yeah, our parents.
Anne: Our parents are baby boomers certainly. And then there's I think Gen x.
Anne: And then,
Isabelle: and we're millennials.
Anne: Millennials, , just to just to date us. Yeah. But yes, I think reframing that you might have multiple interests and you can get your energy, get your kicks by cultivating them in many spaces, right? It isn't just about creating one thing that answers all of your needs. You know, we put a lot of weight on, on one thing, right? A partner or career fulfilling us in every sense of the word. But really this work is about looking at your life holistically and asking yourself. What really motivates me, what interests me? What do I get energy from? And finding a way to structure your career and life so that you can do those things.
Right. What's great about the way that you've structured it now is that your role at Cepi, or the way that you've structured your life allows you to do both things.
Isabelle: Yeah, exactly. And that's within my power to do so, and I think I didn't really quite understand that, and you and I have worked a lot on time management and how to get things done and how not to procrastinate and, and you really just can do, well I found that I could do a lot more than I thought I could because I'm more organized with my time and planning it out and, and it's really just, I feel more in control for sure.
Anne: Definitely, and maybe we could talk, actually, I think you've been on a journey with time management . Yeah. And I know you feel more in control now. But I almost feel like it's control in a different way. Then you were, then you were after when we first started working together. Maybe you could tell people a little bit about that journey, because I think it's really relevant to how a lot of people feel.
Isabelle: Yeah. I mean, I don't know if this also touches on like the to-do list stuff, which I don't know, maybe that's a different topic.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. No, I would consider that part of it.
Isabelle: Yeah, so I guess my relationship with time management, And getting stuff done, there was just a lot of anxiety, I think, you know, I just really was like, I need to get this done. I need to get all this done. I need to get through my to-do list. And I, I really just felt like I was a bit of, um, a servant to that list. And one thing that you helped me to understand is you have kind of like an infinite to-do list and you have maybe a finite to-do list and that concept of these two different lists was just mind boggling to me because it made me realize like, you're just always gonna have stuff to do, right? That's your infinite to-do list, and you're never gonna be done and delaying your happiness until you've crossed all these things off your list. I mean, you're never going to get there. Right?
And that's what's so anxiety provoking is just things get added and maybe you get some stuff done, but there's more. There's always more. And it's just completely fruitless to, to live that way for the future, for trying to get things done for delaying your happiness.
So instead for me it was just kind of like enjoying the process even and realizing that it just doesn't really matter .You can, you can really just have a lot more choice about what you're gonna do and what you're not gonna do. And that was a whole journey because I felt like, oh, I need to be productive. I need to be doing all these things.
I need to be working exactly from this time to that time to be the, the right type of employee. That kind of like morphed into a to-do list rather than time management. But I can talk about the relationship to like, you know, getting work done and on time and stuff.
Anne: That's exactly where my head was. That's what I wanted you to talk about, so,
Isabelle: okay. Yeah. I mean, I think obviously you typically, maybe not obviously, but typically people work nine to five or nine to six or whatever, and there are cultural norms around that in different company expectations. But in general, you're expected to work an entire workday and something that we worked on was me realizing like, actually I'm paid to deliver a result. And if I can do that in less time, then that's probably just better for everyone. And this took me back to the days when I swam in university because I would have practice twice a day, sometimes three times a day. And so I would have to finish my homework much more quickly than other people because I only had a certain amount of time to do it.
And I would watch people do the exact same problem set as me, but they would just take all day to do it. And then they started doing their homework with me and I was like, well, I need to get this done by three. And then they would get it done by three because they could, and they had to because they were doing it with me. So I had forgotten that lesson. Somewhere along the way. And I had been stretching out my work like, well, I've, you know, I'm seated at my desk at nine. I have until five to do this all. So you start procrastinating and maybe not being as efficient, not prioritizing, not being as ruthless with your time.
And it was really helpful to work with you on time management and just realizing like, actually if I give myself half an hour to do this, then I'll probably get it done in that time. And maybe sometimes I'm wrong and it takes me longer, sometimes it takes me even less. But just owning that again and really being organized and planning out what I'm gonna do with a different mindset than just while I'm here all day. So I'll, I'll, it'll just take me as long as it's gonna take me.
Anne: Totally. I, I mean, I think such an important skill to learn because really, I mean, I have all my clients start with this work, but you know, your productivity peaks around four hours a day, right. And what's really important to make you as productive as possible is making sure that you have time for away from your work. Right. Deliberate downtime. This, this whole notion of nine to five was born out of the industrial revolution when people worked in factories. It's a totally arbitrary number, especially now in a post covid world where we're not going into an office and commuting every day and around other people who are distracting.
it's really. You know, if you can focus on getting your work done and then spend that rest of the time decompressing, right? Because that time when you're decompressing, your brain is working in a different way. It's connecting the dots, it's forming ideas. You're gonna come back to the work- work. With a much more refreshed mind with perhaps new ideas. It's, you know, sometimes why we get our best ideas on a walk or in the shower because we're giving our brain a chance to rest. And so I think just learning to let go of that nine to five, and to your point, focus on. I'm here to deliver a result. How quickly can I deliver that result? And what else do I need in my day to feel energized and when can I fit that in?
I think that mindset of starting with what else do I need and I wanna prioritize that first also. Can support you to be productive cuz you know, you have to make it to that yoga class or whatever.
Isabelle: Yeah. And it's, it's amazing when you put your boundaries down, how people respond to them, right? So now if I need to do this yoga class or if I'm gonna do like a swim practice, I put it in my calendar and people get it, you know, it's just they realize that I am delivering a result. I need rest time, I need time away from the computer and I'm gonna be a better person and an employee if I can do it that way, and it's just, you'd be surprised how much people can, can sort of accept when you say this is what I need to do, and you show them that that's what you're prioritizing, it almost has like a ripple effect. You know? I find , like other people on the team are like, oh, well if she's gonna go for a swim, then I'm gonna go for a run. And it just creates like a really nice different culture where you're all doing great work, but because you have this time away from the computer where your brain is resting and thinking about other things and then you come back and sit down and you know, do some really good work at the end of the day or whatever it is.
Anne: Yeah. I really love how you said that with the ripple effect. It's so true. It's so true. And you know, we have to be the change. I think our generation has grown up in a work culture, certainly in the United States, and I know you live in London now, but certainly in the United States, which is always on, you know, nights and weekends, even on vacation. And it's, it's very toxic. And it's unsustainable.
So sometimes you have to be the leader, right. You're the one that's saying, these are my boundaries. This is what I need to do my best work because everyone is like you for the most part. Of course, there's the anomalies who are workaholics and a bit toxic, but for the most part, people want to have time with their family, have time to do their personal things in their personal life, exercise, et cetera. So be the change. Show them what it looks like to set boundaries, do your work more efficiently because of it. . And then I love that you've seen that, right? That people are like, Ooh, I'm gonna do that too.
and this is also the important part of setting boundaries, is if you set and communicate and hold your boundaries, but then people are constantly disrespecting them. Right? Of course, sometimes you need to flex, right for a team environment. But if people are constantly disrespecting your boundaries, you know that this isn't a sustainable long-term future place for you, you know that the culture is toxic. So without you doing the kind of sometimes uncomfortable work of, of communicating boundaries, certainly at the beginning, right? If you haven't ever been setting boundaries, that process can feel uncomfortable. If you don't do that, if you don't try, you're never gonna know if this is a sustainable culture for you or not.
Isabelle: Yeah, and I think that's also part of what you help your clients do and certainly helped me, was to kind of think about what is the lifestyle you want right? So you did that in a really structured way for me, where I could really go back to the drawing board and say, I want, you know To be able to do these things in the day. I wanna be able to do this. This is how much I wanna travel, this is how much I wanna, you know, whatever. It was a list of things about my lifestyle.
And then from there we went, okay, so then what kind of job could we get that would fit those things? Whereas I had never done it that way. I had always done it the other way around where like, oh, well they're giving me this much time off, or these are the hours, so I'm gonna fit everything in the other way. And it's just such a different mindset and it makes me a better employee. A hundred percent.
Anne: Yeah. I, I mean, I think that that's everything, right? Because what this work is about, right, to create the type of career that we're talking about, right? Something that's an extension of who you are, how you wanna live your life, that feels energizing. You have to take the reins, right? You have to shift from being a, a passenger, right? To someone who's fitting yourself into a mold that someone else designed. You have to shift from that. To being a driver, someone who is actively saying, this is what I want , can you fit that in? Let's, let's talk about it. Let's negotiate or let, if not, let me redesign my career and my life so that it works for me. Okay. And this is, this is the shift. And I think it's often difficult shift for, you know, if you think about how we grew up academically, if you're a good student, being a good student is about, Okay, these are the parameters. Like I know how to succeed. They've set out the parameters, and I'm gonna work within these parameters to get the A. Right. This is the content I need to study. This is how, right. These are the courses I need to take to succeed. Right. It's almost like someone's giving you a set of instructions and then you're following the instructions.
And so I think when we are really good student, We enter the corporate world with that. What are the instructions and let me follow them , right? So it's constantly fitting yourself into the mold, but actually this is the shift, is that you need to throw out other people's instructions and create your own. and this is why I think often, I mean this is a vast generalization, but , I'm gonna make it anyways. I think this is why entrepreneurs, if you listen to a lot of, like, you know, wildly successful entrepreneurs, a lot of the narrative is like, I was a terrible student, right? Like the, the school system like didn't suit me, I dropped out or whatever. Because they've always been making their own rules. So I think that this is often, um, if you have been a good student, quote unquote, getting your honors and good grades, then this can be a trap that you fall into in the corporate world.
Isabelle: Absolutely. And I think that's why a lot of people, you know, they're 22, they're in university and they're about to graduate, so what job are they gonna get? It's gonna be something that's recruiting on campus, something that everyone else thinks is a good idea, that pays well, that, you know, xyz, like hits these boxes cuz that's what they've always been doing. And that's certainly what I did. Right? I was a good student. Um, so it was like, where's the instruction manual? I'm gonna follow it really well. And on top of that, I was also a competitive athlete, so it was like, whatever the coach says I'm gonna do and you can't question it. And so going into the career world. I really did that . And maybe that's what you see in your clients who kind of do that for a while and then suddenly they wake up and they're like, wait a minute, actually, I think I can do this differently.
And it's just about learning how to, to throw out that manual and think of your own rules like you were saying, and what do I actually wanna do and how can I make that happen for myself? And I think for me, it did take a while to, to realize that, that was within my power and that I didn't have to just do what everyone else was doing and B, what I was being told to do.
Anne: So good. We've really captured like so much of what I care about and it's been really so fun to work with you. Some other things I wanted to ask you. . What do you think, what do you think was the hardest part of this for you?
Isabelle: Definitely. I would say letting go of what felt comfortable and safe to me, which was what I had always known to be, was the successful thing to do based on what, again, what we spoke about, people around me were doing and what society in my mind deemed was successful.
So letting go of that framework was, was probably the hardest thing cuz it was, it was that manual that I had had for my whole life. And to suddenly realize like, wait this is kind of made up and I can make up a new one was just like a big shift for me. And that, that was like the biggest leap I would say. And then probably coming off of that would be the hardest part, was believing in myself that I could do something else that was different and that was where that, it could work, phrase came in that was like all I could muster of, like it could work. Um, but it was just, it was exactly what I needed to just get started. And, and collecting evidence as I went along that I could do it, and just believing in myself a little bit more each time because I never thought I could start my own business or, you know, do anything different than what I had always been doing.
Right. It was just not on my radar. I went to business school and met all these people who I met you there, and I met all these other people who had their own businesses. And I just thought like, wow, that I could never do that. You know, that's not for me, but I was wrong because I could do that. So I think it was definitely one of the hardest parts was just believing myself to just make a change.
And then I will also say the other thing that was tough, That I'm still working on and still trying to get better at, was learning how to process my feelings. That was, I had never seen that before Anne that was the first time anyone had been like, you should feel your feelings to completion. You shouldn't push them down or ignore them. That was a whole new thing for me. I really had never, ever tried doing that before. It was a big game changer. It still is because I'm still trying to do it. It's, that's very hard.
Anne: Well, maybe you could expand a little bit on what the difference that's made for you so far, even though it's a work in progress.
Isabelle: So I think I had almost secondary feelings, and by that I just mean like if I was upset, I would be upset that I was upset, you know? And if I was sad, I would be sad that I was sad. And so just kind of like exacerbate and give me anxiety. And I think that there was probably a lot of unprocessed things just from my whole life, building up emotions that I never had worked through.
So now that you told me 50% of your life is just uncomfortable emotions and that's just a reality, I was like, whoa. That means that when I'm feeling sad, it's okay. I can accept that sadness and when I'm, you know, feeling anything else, that's uncomfortable, it's fine. I mean, that just made me feel so much better, right?
Because then that secondary feeling was gone. It was just like, oh, I'm sad. Okay. You know? Maybe I would think about why I was sad. What was it exactly that happened? And then letting myself feel sad as you said to me as well, that it kind of resolves more quickly if I just let myself be sad and I don't judge myself for it, and I don't try to push it away or distract myself.
It just resolves and goes away more quickly and then I can move on with my day, right? Instead of just being like, uh, oh, no, I'm feeling this thing that I don't wanna feel, that's not okay to feel, and let's just push it down and go do something else.
Anne: I'm so happy that you're feeling your feelings. It's really insane. I mean, who knows? I I, I'm not putting a child through school right now. So, you know, I don't know really what is being taught, but
Isabelle: hopefully it's being taught.
Anne: Hope you said hopefully.
Isabelle: Yeah. Hopefully it's being taught,
Anne: hopefully. But if you think about our education, I mean beyond, these are the feelings. Happy, sad, angry, surprised, right? These are the feelings besides naming those feelings, were you ever taught how to feel your feelings? I mean, it's, it's insane.
Isabelle: Absolutely not . I was never taught to feel my feelings. That's not even, you Were the first person who introduced this to me and I'm 32 years old. So for me it was always like, you know, stop crying. Right? Or like, you don't have a right to be angry or upset about this. Or like, you know, be grateful was kind of weaponized a little bit to just be like, you have nothing to be sad about. Yeah, I think it was just a complete revelation to me that it's okay to feel these things, and not only is it okay, but it's gonna be there 50% of the time.
That's huge. So that really helped me to just accept myself and try to understand a lot more about what was going on and be more in touch with, with those things, and, and that's related to my career as well because I think I notice things a lot more now. You know, if I get an email that makes me feel upset, instead of like, before maybe I would just kind of be like, oh, suck it up and think about what to reply to this person.
Now I think okay. I'm just more curious about it, like, oh, why did that make me upset? What is it? It's like kind of like learning about yourself and getting more in touch with who you are and what you like and what you don't like, and being curious about that instead of just being like, I have to avoid feeling bad at all times.
Anne: Completely. I think once you learn how to pay attention to your feelings, this is how you ultimately learn to trust yourself and your intuition. Because when you know what feels good and what feels uncomfortable, you're able to move yourself in the directions that are a better fit for you. And I say that, You know, to to the point we're both making life is a 50 50 of positive and negative or uncomfortable feelings.
So it's not always about just solving for what feels good. Right, because, you know, part of the brilliance of this work, learning how to feel your feelings is that, you know, certainly doing anything that requires you to reach and grow and, and be a new version of yourself will inevitably bring up uncomfortable feelings, right?
So when you know how to feel those, it makes the process of growth and going after big things much more available. Because you're okay with feeling uncomfortable feelings, but also just understanding what feels like a yes in my body, what feels like a no in my body. When you know how to trust those sensations, it helps in those, right, we're talking about giving you the tools to continue to stay in alignment no matter how you or your life or your priorities evolve. You know what yes feels like it means that in these inflection moments, you'll know how to redirect yourself because you'll be able to trust what feels like the direction you want to head. And it's not about, ooh, what's my 5, 10, 15 year plan? I need to plan it all out. I need to have the set of instructions right, but just I can trust myself to make the decision that's right for me in the moment because I know what right feels like.
Isabelle: Yeah, absolutely. And I remember the first time I went to go professionally organize someone's home. The first time someone was gonna actually pay me money to do that, cuz I've been doing it my whole life just for family and friends. But the first client, the real client I ever had the night before, I was so nervous. I was just really, I felt ill, right? And I couldn't sleep and I just recognized like, okay, well that's normal. I'm doing something for the first time. It is scary. It's okay to feel nervous.
And I thought, once I'm there and I'm doing it, I will find out if I like it or not, right? To be paid to do this kind of work. And so when I went there, I tried to really pay attention to how I felt about it, which again, is not something that I was used to doing. I was just used to going there or you know, just doing the job and not really thinking about how I felt about it. But when I first started organizing for this client, I felt such joy . I felt like I was self-actualizing. I was so happy that I was doing this, and that really showed me that I should be doing this right now, you know, because it makes me so happy.
And there was really just getting in touch with my gut feeling around this, which is like, I really like doing this. And again, that's not something I had always asked myself in previous jobs. And even at Cepi, I noticed that I course correct a lot based on how things make me feel, right? So if I'm starting to do something and it doesn't quite align with what I feel is right for me to be doing. Then I'll try to see if I can delegate it or, or maybe just take a step back from it, whereas I'm more drawn to the things that I feel a lot of joy in doing, and I know I'm gonna do a really good job. And, and that's, so much of that is possible within the confines of a job description, right?
You can kind of flex towards the things that you're better at and, and that you enjoy more. Do a little bit less of the things that you're not as good at and you don't like as much. And that, that's a new power that I've found that I have because now I know I'm more in touch with what's going on within me, and that's, that's a new source of information, new, new data that's coming at me.
Anne: That's literally everything, right. And because this isn't always just about changing your job to feel better. you know, this is about giving you the foundational tools. To make your career and life work for you. Right? And what you've just articulated is so beautiful to reflect that point because it's when you learn how to trust how you feel, right, which is a key skill, what you've been able to do is make your career work for you, right, without having to change the environment.
Isabelle: Yeah, and then it's so much easier to just tell people, this is what I'm doing, and then doesn't really matter what their reaction is because I know that this is what makes me happy and this is what I should be doing right now. So all of that external validation is so much less important because I'm in touch with. What I know to be what I wanna be doing.
Anne: Amazing. If you had to boil it down to one or two key takeaways, you know, if someone was walking away from this, you give them a piece of advice on where to start or what to focus on, what would you say?
Isabelle: I think that people shouldn't be afraid to try something new and to start again, because that's where I was. I felt like I've been doing this for 10 years, but I imagine it's the same. If you've been doing something for 20,30 or even more years, you really just, cuz you've been doing it that long doesn't mean you should keep doing it. And so you're gonna have to reinvent yourself at some point. And I think continuous reinvention is also recommendable. So stay happy and like to keep adding value to the world.
And it probably isn't gonna be starting from scratch either because you have transferable skills and experience and what have you. So I would say my key takeaway is just because you've been doing something for a certain amount of time or you feel like you need to keep doing it, you don't. And you can figure out a new path and it's possible and sometimes you need help to do that, and that's how I found Anne, and you certainly help me to do that. So that would be my key takeaway for people is don't be afraid to try something new. And if you need help, ask for it.
Anne: I love that. So a lot of my clients are kind of in their early thirties or also early forties, and you know, they're like, oh, you know, well I've been doing it for 10 years, 15 years. And I'm like, dude, you have more than that left in your career.
Isabelle: Yeah, yeah. You do.
Anne: So you don't know, there's, I think this is almost a longer conversation, but I think there's a sense when you, when you reach your thirties, in your thirties, like, oh my gosh, I'm so old. And it's just a reminder that you are really not, you're not, you're super young. It's totally fine. You've literally been an adult for like 10 years, so calm down.
Isabelle: Yeah, absolutely. And it's never too late. I also think that the twenties is kind of like an adult puberty. You're learning how to be an adult in the real world, and I think the thirties is the first time you're kind of coming out of that and you're looking around and saying like, okay, well where am I and what's going on ? So it is a perfect time, and I would say also into your forties and later, there's just, it's never too late. And it's a, the sunken cost fallacy, right? Like you don't need to keep going. Absolutely just change course at any moment.
Anne: I love that you brought in some mba uh, cornels .
Isabelle: I had to,
Anne: had to. It's like probably one of the only things I remember from my mba.
Isabelle: I don't remember accounting, but there are some gems in there for sure.
Anne: It's been an absolute pleasure to talk with you. I've absolutely loved this conversation. You've made some really beautiful points and, um, thank you so much for spending time with me and talking about your career.
Isabelle: Thank you for being my career coach and changing my life.
Anne: I do what I can.
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