Play outside the fence

We all have our routines, our events and networks, our ways of making sense of the world. It all kind of makes sense in our little patch, we know where things are, and that is why we like it. Nothing new happens here.

I am going to propose something different: Go somewhere else (this might well be virtually). This research is absolutely crucial if you are looking to make changes in your life and your work, as part of your research and networking and exploring where you might fit. 

Find out where your field of interest is gathering and playing, and go where they are. Dive into what matters to them. Embrace the discomfort of too many abbreviations and half-forgotten theories from way back when, in a different time and country. See who their luminaries, gurus and hotshots are. Who they like and don’t like, and why. How they see the world and what significance they attach to the same outside reality. Suspend your snappy inner judge for a bit and just roll with it.

I’m updating this post in early spring of 2021, where life is still largely virtual. That actually makes this a lot easier as there are plenty of opportunities to join a webinar and you won’t have to take a half day off from your current job to go somewhere. Find more of these opportunities. Use the flexibility that this online world gives you to research. A lot of this is free. Make the most of it. 

Curiosity and genuine interest are always a good look, so whoever you are, and whoever they are, go for it. Get yourself in there. You will be fine. Listen and learn. Whatever you are interested to find out more about – find where people meet, go to their (virtual, for now…) events, conferences, and consume their media, hang out on their platforms. Meet some new people. Network magic is in the weak links, not in the folks who know your jokes and finish your sentences.

The way things are going, these boundaries between disciplines will soften, and we are likely going to work in more portfolio-type of setups. We might have several different careers altogether, as one path weaves into the next, or a disruption resets the dial. You are going to need this, so get your practice runs in. It is also a whole lot more fun to work like that anyway. There are good people everywhere. They might be completely different from you in every way, but you’ll find they are people who care and who want to do something good that makes sense, and who have a craft they hone and that they use to make things better. I always take great comfort in that realization, it makes me appreciate the diversity and vastness of the human family.

What is something you are curious about? Anything that tickles your curiosity? An industry you are curious about? A hobby you are looking to take into something bigger? A passion waiting to become a potential business? Or a friend or colleague with a hobby completely different from your own?

Get your antennae out. So much is happening online and a lot of this is free. Take that time as your R&D time, immerse yourself, make some new friends. If everything goes wrong, you will have stories to tell. If everything goes well, things to read up on and lots of new friends. And even better stories. In every case you will learn more about the new space, the rules there and the people in it. 

(I wrote the first version of this in 2018 where most things were face to face and doing this kind of research was time consuming and expensive. 2020/21 is offering much more opportunities to start putting feelers out at a much smaller scale, to learn, meet, mingle. Go use it!)

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Our many roles and how they affect our decision-making

Who am I? Good one, right? Let’s narrow it down a bit. Which role am I playing as I am making that decision? We all wear multiple hats, and sometimes we are not conscious who we are, or “which one of me” I should be in the moment I decide. Most of the time it is not that simple anyway.

Am I making this decision as an immigrant, a local, an academic, an auntie, a LGBT person, a taxpayer, a neighbour, a department head, a person on a zero hours contract, a parent, a tech guy, a person of faith, a lover, a Manchester City fan, an XYZ investor, a member of a particular political party, an XYZ survivor etc etc. – all these examples of different roles people play or ways they think of themselves, and one can be most of these things at the same time.

For some decisions, it doesn’t matter. For some it does – and when it does, it is usually very crucial to our identity at that time. And sometimes our many different role identities can be in conflict, they can pull in different directions for a particular decision. Or one might be strong that is called forth in another area of our lives but is not really meant to be that loud where you are right now.

All of that is perfectly normal by the way. We are multidimensional beings, and that is great. And the more conscious we are what is going on inside of us, the better we can come to decisions that align with our many roles we play, and what truly matters. Particularly during times of change this can be a helpful practice to develop.

Often the change you are looking to make might be to rebalance some of these roles, so it’s a good idea to get to know them better as you are negotiating that shift. Ask yourself: Which roles am I playing right now? What does that decision touch? What gets triggered? Any surprising “guest appearances” popping up? Try to name them. Then write down what is important for that role. (When I do this, I literally either sit on different chairs for each role, or move around, stand in a different place etc etc) You are likely going to find that some core values, core criteria are the same across roles. Others might vary. For example your parent role might request a bigger “safety margin” than your adventure traveler role, who might advocate for anything that relieves boredom.

When looking at this for decision making, for the moment ignore what is in alignment or lukewarm. Zoom in on the extremes as relevant for your decision. This points to elements or key criteria you need to be mindful of, these need to somehow feature in your decision making. Look closely. Also, as you are working on bigger changes, ask yourself if you are looking at this from your past (known) or from your desired future (unknown).

There are probably lots of solutions and options out there that do have a bit of safety margin AND can have excitement or something new, to stick with the above example. What would this have to look like to have some of both?  Get creative (and possibly rope in people that embody these extremes for additional input where this is an option).

This makes it clearer which criteria need to be on the table, and allows you to take decisions that are a bit more balanced and that reflect the entirety of your big, beautiful and multifaceted life.

How do you ensure balance in your decisions? Please share.


Want to go deeper?
Check out the values worksheet here.
Or go deeper and get the book.
Or ping me about how coaching might help.