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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On consequences

Cause and effect. Whatever you do, there will be consequences. Sorry if that is a bit of a turnoff, but it is how things are for adults that don’t have people constantly mopping up after them.

You are likely going to find once you start sticking your neck out, speaking up about values, culture, politics -whatever it is you care about, there will be reactions. Not all of them will be positive. And often, the reactions will say more about the people doing the reacting than they say about you. Still, they will land, and some of them might hurt.

Or, you might find you need to make changes in your surroundings. Leave that toxic relationship, that soulless job, that energy-sapping organizational culture. Again, not everyone will applaud. And that pay cut you took when changing industries is going to be real. Things will change. You might not “get your old life back”. And there are likely going to be things you won’t enjoy about that change. This is not a pick-and-mix.

And once the reshuffling slows down a bit and somewhat stabilizes in a new(ish) form, you might actually find you like it better, and that the trade-offs were worth it. Or that you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams with your new calling. Or that you don’t miss your former capitalist trappings one bit. Or some mix somewhere in between that feels a bit different each day depending on your general mood (this is how it plays out for most people).

Values and purpose can sustain you emotionally, making shifts, standing strong in something that feels more true, more like yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be ups and downs. And while exploring your calling and making decisions that are true to your values might not automatically guarantee everlasting and ongoing happiness, NOT doing it is likely not going to lead to the same level of fulfillment. The struggle is worth it.

Also true: Everyone has that, whether they are doing this consciously or not. If you are not doing this consciously, taking those pauses to look inside yourself and then realign what needs realigning, you might find yourself slapped round the head with a formidable midlife crisis at some point. Don’t let people’s instagram feeds fool you. This is never smooth, this is never all roses and unicorns. This is your life. This is not a dress rehearsal. Live it like it matters. Because it does.

Want to go deeper? Ping me for coaching.
Check out the values worksheet here. 
Or get the whole book 🙂

Uncertainty, curiosity and decision-making

The goosebumps, the shivers. The pleasure and the discomfort. And often, a bit of both. Uncertainty and curiosity and how you relate to them are key to every decision making process. And, for that matter, to a happy, engaged and fulfilled life.

So, what is the link to decisions: Some things are just too vast to comprehend or hold in your rational mind. Depending on how deep you drill, even something like “soup or salad” can become quite complex indeed.

For the big decisions that matter: Allow the situation to actually touch you. Tune into the context of your decision. Don’t go hiding out immediately in your rational mind, in the cells of an Excel model. In the face of uncertainty and complexity, it can be very tempting to start narrowing things down very quickly to get out of the discomfort. Stay with it. Resist for a while and keep on breathing. See what comes up (the curiosity bit). And then stay with it some more (a minute can feel quite long – it isn’t) and see what else comes up.

When difficult decisions need making, the first thing is rarely the best one. If it was that simple, you would have already worked it out on a soggy cocktail napkin for themselves. Resist trying to jump to conclusions too quickly. Stay with the curiosity. What if? But what about …? I wonder…?

Want to go deeper?
Check out the values worksheet here.
Or buy the whole book.
Or ping me about coaching

Stillness and deep listening

What do you really want? Like, deep-down really? If-you-knew-you-couldn’t-fail really? If-I-could-start-over-again really? We often don’t take the time nor space to listen to what is inside ourselves. This requires some stepping back, removing yourself from your normal routines, from the kind of conversations you are always having.

And just sitting with it. As Rilke said, “live the question”. Sitting with the discomfort. The not being able to explain (yet). The end of your rational problem solving capabilities – this is not that kind of a problem. This is not that kind of a question. And you know it. You just don’t know what to do with it yet, and now you feel you somehow have to do something.

Doing is one thing. Being is the other. We have tons of to do lists – very few of us have a “to be” list. Start with that. Make some space. See what comes up. Go for a walk. Sit and breathe. Listen to music. Go look at some art. Get a massage or do something to get you back into your own body. But don’t fill that void too quickly with more “stuff”. Sit with it. This is a key part of how something new emerges.

Be gentle with yourself. You are entering new territory and that might feel awkward. “But nothing is happening”. “What a waste of time”. You are learning something new, you are being different. Like everything, that might take practice or quite a bit of “unlearning” from your super busy day to day.

Make that space. Start paying attention to what comes up. Take notes, draw, create, record a voice-memo of your stream of consciousness. Just do it and capture it. At some point, this will coagulate into themes, or an insight will pop up. This then gives you the next bit to start exploring further.


Want to go deeper?
Check out the values worksheet here.
Or get the book.
Or ping me for coaching

(yep, the first iteration of this was written in 2018. We used to take flights then…  I still love the picture for the overview)

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.