Looking back at her younger self, Lisa Eaves realized she was a leader by example and pretty good at motivating others. Naturally athletic, she could relax, enjoy team sports, and play well. “Encouraging others, building their confidence and having fun helped everyone to play better. In sports, you learn about yourself, your role on a team, build mental skills, learn about strategies… the skills and experience I gained were a great foundation for any chosen profession.”
But Lisa was surprised when she fell into a career as an IT specialist. “Technology did not come naturally to me. I had to work hard to understand it, unlike technologists for whom the bits and bites made perfect sense.” After earning a BSc in business from the University of Maryland, Lisa secured her first job managing contracts for a consulting firm before moving to Fannie Mae where she spent the next 12 years. She moved up in the ranks, working long hours, which came with higher salaries but not more satisfaction. She liked working at Fannie Mae. The people were great. But she didn’t love going to work every day. It wasn’t fulfilling. It was a high-stress, demanding environment, and Lisa paid the price in terms of personal freedom and happiness. She toyed with the idea of acupuncture as a means to reduce her stress but never thought of it in terms of a career choice. She knew she needed to do something different but what?
Always interested in the spiritual aspects of life, Lisa enrolled in a 5-year Pathwork Program at Seven Oaks Retreat Center while at still working at Fannie Mae. “Through meditation, group-work, body-work, in-depth discussions and introspection, I began to know myself better – my strengths and gifts.”
A turning point came after a 2-week river trip down the Grand Canyon. Immersed in nature, the rhythm of the river, sleeping outside, beautiful hikes and lots of quiet time (no phones, computers, cars …) she had time for introspection. “I found myself returning over and over again to the three questions I carried around in my head from Seven Oaks: How do I love to spend to my time? What makes me feel good about myself? What comes naturally and easily to me? I knew I wasn’t happy and it was time to do something about it.”
A few months after the rafting trip, Lisa enrolled in acupuncture classes at the Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She worked and attended classes, both full-time, until she was certain that this was what she wanted to do. “I had to be so disciplined. But it was a priority. I quit playing soccer and volleyball, was not as social as before, put my head down and placed school before everything else.” After the first quarter, Lisa was able to work part-time and focus more intently on her studies, but juggling work and school was never easy: “I had been a solid B student in high school and undergrad because I wouldn’t give up my sports. But going back to school at 40 felt like learning to walk again.”
Within a year of graduation, at 44 Lisa launched an acupuncture clinic, splitting her time working at Fannie Mae and the clinic 50-50. It was vital to maintain the steady income while building her practice. “I had a really low mortgage and no car payment. I’d been socking away savings to pay my tuition. So my expenses were low while getting my business started. I had never really lived extravagantly, so I didn’t really ‘do without’ anything.”
Lisa remained at Fannie Mae part-time for 3.5 years while building her practice. She got into a rhythm and her acupuncture patients referred new clients. “I got to a point where I thought it was time to take the leap, let go of the financial security of Fannie Mae and devote myself to my new career as an acupuncturist.”
The first 30 days after she left the firm were so scary! “I thought ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ Of course it was mostly fear about the money not being in my checking account every two weeks and not really doubts about the path I had chosen. I wasn’t quite sure about success or even what a successful practice would look like, but after that first 30 days, I knew it would be OK.” She had found her passion and the anxiety lifted. Her friends were supportive and the rewarding feeling she got from helping her patients kept her on track.
Lisa became a founding member and president of the Acupuncture Society of Washington, D.C. and today, at 56, is the owner of Heal from Within, a clinic that specializes in fertility and women’s health. Lisa earns more now than she did in the corporate world and calls all her own shots.
In addition to her acupuncture services, Lisa also runs mind-body workshops, teaching many different types of meditation and using exercises and techniques to reduce stress. “It’s not just about sitting on a cushion. It’s about how you see the world and how you move through changes, difficulties, routine and even the good and easy times. Through the cultivation of greater awareness of both self and others, I believe we can live a healthier, more balanced, and happy life.” As Lisa tells it, she’s been doing this all her life: as a competitive team player, a bit of a goofball, sometimes a show-off, helping her teammates to relax and play well. “I’m doing what I’ve always done: helping people to explore their inner landscapes, tap into their own, sometimes hidden, resources, and motivating them to take better care of themselves…”.
Although I work hard, I don’t have to work hard at it, I love what I do!”
- Live lean, keep expenses low
- Save up!
- Build up your 401k and purchase shares if possible to ensure a sizeable cushion
- Ask for help from more experienced, trusted guides
- Cultivate and learn to trust your intuition