How do you know what do you want?

In my coaching practice and in my private life I see lots of people (especially women) facing this situation. After taking a career break, having kids or when changing careers, they are usually told: just do what you want!!

Following your passion and your dream it’s a double edged sword: it’s a gift and a privilege if you know what you want, but it can be very disempowering and overwhelming if you are lost. 

When we have our conversations, I avoid asking about passions, dreams or call  unless they bring it forward and I can see there is a deep self understanding and a level of articulation around it.

Not being able to answer the question usually triggers lots of negative feelings: people think they are lazy, they don’t know themselves, they don’t have a call, they are not special or particularly good at anything…all these feelings go against their own ability to be introspective and to internally motivate themselves, both elements key to understand what you want and be able to pursue it. 

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So, what to do instead? what to ask to help someone to find their path if they haven’t tapped yet in their true motivation? The following steps are suitable both for entrepreneurs that are unsure about whether to take the leap or not and for career and/ personal changes:

  • Give yourself time: change is messy and has lots of consequences for you personally and the people around you. it brings a range of emotions, from discomfort, to worry, euphoria, excitement…one day you believe you can conquer the world, one day you don’t trust yourself. It is the nature of change to be very unsettling, so if you are deciding to launch a venture or to change jobs,  try to persevere regardless of the initial second guessing and mood swings. Anxiety Slayers have a beautiful podcast about the four stations of change: discomfort, introspection, exploration and celebration.
  • Show compassion for yourself and your context: your situation NOW is unique. Try to avoid as much as you can to compare with other people’s journeys and successes. When I was doing my MBA it was very hard for me not to compare with other students’ performance and career movements. But I had a toddler, a baby, I was moving inter-estate and was working part time. My situation was unique and based on what I had going on I did the best I can. Support yourself with kindness and compassion and if you start beating yourself up, don’t engage and stop that voice. It takes practise, but it is easier than you think. Just don’t allow your mind to be a bully to yourself. After all, you don’t do it with anyone else, so just include you in the list of people you treat nicely and with respect.
  • Don’t buy the idea that we all have just one dream or job we are born for:  Emily Wapnick talks beautifully about the idea of having different calls, passions and dreams and to follow all of them. She calls us multipotentialities. Check her website out to get a better understanding of what she means and most importantly, to shake off the guilt of not knowing what you want to be since you were 5.
  • Brainstorm with yourself and hold the judgement: brainstorming is a well known process to generate ideas, in business and in your personal life. So follow the rules to make sure you have a productive session and come up with wild ideas. And as the Greek Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers recommended, try hold your judgement. Focus on letting the process flow without discarding ideas too early. Allow yourself to think it through without telling yourself “this is stupid/silly/impossible to monetize/what my mum would think” or sorts.eb9a2921f8b5df36e09f30e15519c0e1
  • Share it slowly and safely: as much as you want to shout out your new truth, I always recommend it to tip toe a little first. Either with a new venture, project or career move, it is safer to get exposed gradually, when you are vulnerable and quite green. In business, we have incubators to support early stage ventures. A safe space when they can grow before facing the wild world. Apply the incubator metaphor: share your change with people you feel safe with first, get their feedback, go inwards, pivot, digest, evolve and go out again to tell more people. 
  • You will never be 100% sure, so give it a go: but I have so many questions/doubts/uncertainty!! that means you are in the right place to start. No one knows 100% if  their change will work out...the only way to guarantee 100% failure is by letting those questions and fears to stop you rather than help you to move forward. After all, you want to know the answers to those questions right? A tip to navigate this step better is to not engage in what if? thoughts.
  • Prioritize: starting a venture or changing career, requires lots of emotional and physical energy, as well as tangible resources. So if you are facing an important transition put it on top of your list and if possible delay other big personal and professional changes such as getting pregnant, moving country or house, taking on other big project at work, getting too active in your social life. Sounds obvious, but our mind will try to get out of the discomfort of having to deal with the change by immersing itself in other business to avoid the work. That’s completely normal, we humans avoid suffering and seek pleasure, so nothing wrong with it.  Just be aware of it and gently bring yourself back to work. If you feel stuck, take care of your mind and body with meditation, journaling, mindful walks or enjoyable exercise. As much as you can try to avoid entertaining yourself with other projects unrelated with what you have at hand.

This process is hard and can be overwhelming. Coaching and mentoring can make a difference to hold you accountable, helping you to identify the next right thing and supporting you along the way. As much as you can, try to invest in this type of help to guide you and walk with you through your transition.

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