passion

Tips for Making Tough Decisions

making tough decisions

Confession: I am not always good at making big decisions.

Many of the answers to the biggest questions I’ve ever asked myself have come to me intuitively, which meant that I really didn’t need to decide, because I just knew.

When I adopted my first pup, I wasn’t looking for a dog. In fact, I’d just said to a coworker the week before, “It’s amazing to me that single people get dogs, because I imagine that they really inhibit your freedom!” I was single. And precisely one week after saying this, I had a dog.

I had been picking up two friends’ dog from doggie daycare when I saw his face on a crumpled up flyer, taped to the front counter. As if the words had come to me from somewhere outside myself, I asked if I could meet him. When I met him, I knew on an intuitive level, long before I knew on a conscious level, that he was my dog. There was no decision - just a deep sense of knowing. When my friends arrived to pick up their dog, there were two dogs, instead of one. My friend just looked at me with a knowing smile.

The same thing happened the day I put in my notice at my job. While I was sitting inside of an office, there was a moment in which I swear I saw the clouds part and a big ray of light shine through, at which point I said, “my last day will be May 1st.” Once again, there was no decision -  just a deep sense of knowing, and the words came out of my mouth from what felt like a source greater than myself.

All of this clouds parting, light shining through, voices from above type of clarity is great, but it means that decisions can be incredibly challenging for me when this isn’t present. In the rhythm of normal work and life, it’s not always possible to wait around for this moment of instant clarity to strike. There are timelines and deadlines and normal life constraints that aren’t always conducive to waiting for an answer to appear.

In these situations, I often use a variety of tools and systems to explore the different possibilities at hand, to help lead me to the best decision based on the information I have at the time. Here are a few of my favorites.

Try on the different options.

Imagine yourself in the different scenarios at hand. For example, if you’re considering whether or not to leave your current job, you might imagine yourself staying in your current job, and leaving your current job. What does each option feel like? What do you see in each of these scenarios? What is happening, and how do you feel? And then, after exploring options A and B, push yourself to think about a third path. Is there another option C that could exist that you might not have thought of before? For example, pursuing your passion as a side hustle while staying in your current job? Or, exploring a role change within your current company? Try each of these on as well and notice what emerges. Pay extra attention to how you feel as you sit with each one.

Write to yourself.

Write out the question you’re currently considering, and write out whatever answers come to you, without filtering or judging the responses.

For example, you might write: “what do I really want?” and then allow yourself to write down whatever comes to you as an answer. Write down whatever comes up, without thinking about it or filtering it or wondering whether it’s real or not - just write it down.

Then, when you’re finished writing, you can go back and revisit what you wrote. What do you notice? What are you surprised to see on paper?

Often we know more than we think we do, if we get quiet and tune in.

Check In with your Future Self.

This is the version of us who is 5, 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years older. This process involves consulting our older self and asking about the questions that are are pondering today. What path did she pick? What advice might she give us knowing what she knows now? What decisions led her to where she is today?

Write out Three Different Life Plans.

Write out three possible paths for your life, in 5-10 year chunks.

  • Path 1: the path you’re on right now.

  • Path 2: a slightly modified version of the path you’re on right now.

  • Path 3: an entirely different option - or the “if anything were possible option.”

Check in with each of these three paths. Which one feels most alive? Which one feels most aligned with your values and goals? Which one gets you most excited?

And, what is one small step that you could take toward the path that speaks to you most?

Decide on a First Small Step.

Often big decisions feel overwhelming. If we are considering whether to leave our job, for example, a number of fears and saboteurs often kick in - What if we don’t find anything better? What about the benefits? What if we realize we made a mistake?

The first decision might not actually be to leave your job. It might simply be to update your resume. What if you start there and take some of the pressure off? Usually the first small step can be done without a lot of disruption and under the umbrella of security and safety of our current context, and is much easier than we think.

These are a few of my favorite strategies to use when instant, intuitive clarity isn’t present. Here are a few additional resources that may come in handy along the way, as well:

Good luck as you ponder the big decisions you may be facing right now. Want some help along the way? Please feel free to reach out to explore how we might work together throughout the process.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Following Your Passion When You're Not Quite Sure What Your Passion Is

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“Follow Your Passion!”

“Live Your Purpose!”

We’ve all, I’m sure, heard this advice way too many times to count.

While inspiring in some cases, it can feel like slightly unhelpful advice when we’re not sure what our purpose is, or where our passions actually lie.

Discovering these things is not, of course, an overnight process. For some of my clients, the desire to get more clarity in the above two areas is the reason they hire me as a coach. They’ve usually been wildly successful doing something other than their passion or what feels like their purpose, and together we work to discover what a new path forward might look like.

Hiring a coach is a great way to gain some powerful traction on the above questions. That said, there are some small things we can do on our own, as well, to kick start the process. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pay Attention to Curiosities.

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” - Mary Oliver

I see many people put pressure on themselves to figure out the answers to these enormous questions about purpose and passion in one massive epiphany that comes with a bolt of lightening at 2 in the morning. While sometimes the answers come to us this way, often the answers are the result of paying better attention over a period of time.

The first thing we can begin to pay attention to is curiosities.

  • What are you curious about?

  • What are you interested in?

  • What do you find yourself reading about in your free time?

  • What types of books are you drawn to?

  • What do you find yourself researching online, just because you want to know more?

  • What are the themes of conversations you’re having with friends?

  • Who are the people you find yourself following or drawn to - through blogs, articles, or social media?

Pay attention. Write these things down. Make a list and continually add to it. Allow yourself to simply add to it over the course of several weeks. And then, look back to see what you notice.

Track Your Energy.

What are the things, throughout your days, that give you energy? What are the things that deplete your energy?

Pay attention. Write them down. I recommend making a good old fashioned T-Chart with a list of “+” and “-” and adding to this list throughout your days.

Do this exercise at work.

  • When do you feel engaged and energized?

  • What are the projects you feel excited to work on?

  • Which types of conversations energize you?

  • And, on the flip side, when do you feel that you’re drained or depleted?

  • Which projects or tasks do you dread tackling?

Write them all down on your list.

Do this exercise at home.

  • What are you doing when you feel totally energized at home or around the house? Are you working in the garage or tackling a craft project or cooking?

  • What are you doing when you feel depleted or drained at home?

Put all of these things on the list.

Do this process for a week or two and notice, without judging, what emerges. Are there any trends or patterns? Or perhaps any surprises?

This process is not only helpful for informing your passions and purpose, but also for making small tweaks that make everyday life more easeful and joyful. I’ve made several small but game changing tweaks to my everyday workflows and rhythms as a result of my findings from this process.

Go Back In Time.

Think back to when you were young.

  • What did you love to do when you were little?

  • What types of games did you play?

  • What were your favorite types of toys to play with?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

Think back to high school and college.

  • When were you happiest?

  • What activities were you part of?

  • When were you having the most fun?

  • When did you feel most engaged in what you were doing?

  • When did you feel the most fulfilled?

Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Dig up some old photos and notice what you were doing.

For most of us, there is at least some thread that relates to our passion and purpose. In my case, for example, I played school almost every day. I had an entire school set-up in my basement: blackboard, overhead projector (the old school kind with the plastic sheets and the wipe-off markers - yes, I was that into playing school), chairs, and supplies. All through high school and college I taught water aerobics to adults and swimming lessons and Spanish for kids. I absolutely loved the process of teaching and learning.

While for a long time I thought all of this meant that I wanted to be a teacher within our school systems, I realized in my adult life that I wanted to create spaces of learning and self discovery and transformation and personal growth - for adults - which is exactly what I’m doing today. Putting these pieces together was not an overnight realization - it came after much reflection, lots of additional education, and plenty of time in the corporate world doing something entirely different.

Do Stuff.

Perhaps most importantly, to discover our passion, we need to do stuff that we are passionate about. To uncover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action.

Generally speaking, we will not discover our purpose solely by sitting at home reading books about purpose. We will not uncover our passion solely by reading inspirational quotes about passion, even if they are written in perfect calligraphy (you know the ones I’m talking about).

Rather, we will discover our purpose and our passion by taking action, with purpose and with passion.

Sign up for a class. Take the workshop. Reach out to that person you worked with 10 years ago who is now doing something super interesting and reconnect. Subscribe to the industry magazine. Volunteer with an organization that sparks your interest.

Try stuff. Dabble. Tinker. Allow yourself to be curious, and unattached to the outcome.

Do stuff just for fun.

In Summary.

To discover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action. Purposeful action does not need to mean quitting your job on a whim and moving into a Westfalia van for the next 3 years (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so) or going on a year-long spirit quest in Bali (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so). Purposeful action can mean making a list; starting your day with intention; paying attention to your curiosities; doing things that bring you joy; and noticing what you discover along the way.

Avoiding The Black Chairs (And Doing What You Love Instead of What Everyone Else Is Doing)

 

I recently had an opportunity to catch up with a friend who co-owns a restaurant. She was telling me about the new chairs she recently purchased for her restaurant. As she put it, "It's easy to pick the same old black chairs that are in all the catalogs. But I wanted to put some more thought into it." And she did. The chairs are awesome - fun and unique and completely aligned with the vibe of the restaurant.

The same is true for entrepreneurship. For leadership. For speaking and coaching and doing the thing we do. It's easy to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to look around the catalog and pick the black chairs. Because more or less, the black chairs are successful. They aren't offensive. They're easy to find. While people may not *love* the black chairs, at least they don't have strong feelings against them.

And before we know it, we're seeing those same damn black chairs everywhere we look. Each of them exactly the same.

The question I found myself pondering during and after this conversation was, what becomes possible when we set aside the catalog?

What happens when we stop looking at all of the other restaurants' standard black chairs? 

What happens when, instead, we tap into our deepest passions and the things that make our *own* heart sing?

For my friend, the result was beautifully designed, unique, and fun. For the event I led that day, the result included some Madonna and some Katy Perry.

What is your version of the chair that makes your heart sing....the version of the chair that has nothing to do with everyone else's standard black chairs....the version of the chair that is completely, uniquely you?