Every year, every day, even every hour — we have a bounty of choices on our table. Today I am praying for wisdom to make choices that help me, my family, and my business thrive. It’s an ongoing rotation of decisions. If I say “yes” to this thing or this person, I say “no” to another. It’s an awesome realization when you think of all that you’re squeezing OUT of your life by saying “yes” all the time!
So here we are, a month into the new year. My commitments for the year are “Listen and Build.” I’m determined to get this right: “Listen to whom?” and “Build what?”
Confused about how to make a difference this year? Clarity is closer than you think.
A little background…Today I arrived at the gym late for my pump class and so I had to bust it out on free weights and machines on my own. As my old friend Serendipity would have it, I ran into a girlfriend/business owner I hadn’t seen in awhile. (Judging by her biceps, I should have been working out with her, but instead we just chatted about our home-based businesses. HA!)
Her business is growing, she told me – a great problem to have — and she’s unsure of her best next move. She compared her business to driving around with a dog in the car. “Now what?” she exclaimed. She has a booming home business, but she hit her own glass ceiling. Unless she hires someone, she’s maxed out.
Time to stop and deal with it, we both agreed.
As soon as I left the gym for home, my sister called, also at a point in her professional career where she’s ready for a transition. Now, you have to understand this woman is the smartest, most capable person you’ve ever met; she could fill just about any shoes she tries on. She described her situation and I had nothing to offer. Hers was a soul-searching transition point.
What I usually say is, “Go big!” because that’s what I help my clients do with their online marketing and launches. But today I tempered my enthusiasm because I realized that too often “Going BIG” means running in some general direction without a very good reason, and that’s a waste of energy.
I’m working on better decision making. Or instead of running in one direction, maybe strolling a bit… at least until I’m feeling it.
Too Many Choices!
We’re living in a time when we have almost unlimited choices to do, be, and have whatever we want. It’s a huge responsibility to choose wisely.
Today, I was very careful NOT to say, “Go big” to my friend and my sister. Instead, I want to say, “Go intentionally,” Because that’s what I’m hearing in my own head. Usually when God has something to say to me, He puts someone in front of me who needs to hear that same message. As the words come out of my mouth, I realize the real divinity and grace at work.
[Aside: I’m so tired of getting smacked hard because I did not listen to that little voice. While I know I can’t give unsolicited advice to everyone I meet (nor do I want to!) I’m sharing this because I’m right in the middle of learning it myself. If my intuition says, “Wait. Stop. Listen and then build – with intention,” then that’s what I’m going to explore right now. I’ve been knocked back too many times.]
If you’re at a crossroads in your life (even a tiny crossroads), the common advice is to waste no time and “Go big.” It’s what all the gurus and inspirational speakers tell you to do. Grow! Expand! Influence! You’re ready! Run!
But then there’s that tiny whisper… “Are you running in this direction just because the way looks clear? Is this “an offer you can’t refuse?” Better be careful. This is where it pays to stop for a minute and ask yourself some soul-searching questions before you make a decision that could end up wasting your time and resources, or bring more confusion than clarity.
But first, for your enjoyment, just so you know that I really have been there myself, here are the words that usually get stuck in my head as I’m embarking down the wrong path…
Decision Making Strategies That Never Work
- “It’s only for a little while.” (Coming from where I’ve been, this is the scariest one. It smacks vaguely of the phrase, “I can quit any time,” which I never want to hear anyone say again.”
- “It’s a good opportunity.”
- “It gets me exposure.”
- “I haven’t earned the right to do what I really want to do yet. I haven’t earned my place at the table.”
- “It would …grow my business, pay some bills, be an account I’d like to say I’ve worked on (even if I don’t enjoy it)”
- “My last ‘thing’ didn’t go so well, so this must be what I’m supposed to do.”
Can you relate? OK, then. There’s that rat trap.
Now, here’s what I’m s-l-o-w-l-y learning to do:
Last year’s words were “Breathe” and “Ask.” (Yes, it takes me a full year to absorb the simple stuff.)
This year it’s “Listen” and “Build.” They seem to be the appropriate next steps to last year’s focus because then I really needed to just get clear about my work and making sure I understood and had support for all the little tasks involved. Asking for clarity and asking for help, two things I put tremendous effort into – and it paid off.
Now, a few ideas keep banging around in my brain like gas molecules. This agitated state always precedes a radical turn. Sharing is like cooling them off, so that they fall like drops of ideas onto my page. (I’m always grateful for the clarity of writing.)
Tough Decisions Call For Tough Measures:
Here are my “Listen and Build” decision-making questions I’m asking, thoughts I’m paying attention to, and actions I’m employing now, in no particular order. Feel free to use as many as you wish:
- Is this the “One Thing”? The book by that name has me asking what my one thing is from all the choices before me. You may not know what your one thing is, but if you can shove the stuff off the table that you know are NOT your One Thing, then you have a good start.
- Are you listening with your heart? I’m very good at listening with my ears. As an auditory learner, sounds and stories attract me. But sometimes they stay at the top of my mind and get skimmed right off by the next good one. When you get your hooks in a thought or idea that piques your interest for real, jot it down or record it, so that you can meditate on it and move it further down into your body. Sit with it awhile and listen to your heart or gut. Just absorb it and listen.
- Have you asked while on your knees? I am not kidding. Listening on your knees is different from listening standing up.
- Do I discern with my head and heart, based on my OWN past experiences, or am I imagining the future based on someone else’s story or truth? What a friend of distant family member “wants” for me doesn’t count for much. Decide whether they get a say in it and then move accordingly.
- Say NO to what you won’t tolerate, and don’t qualify your decision. I know because I’ve been there…you think you can compartmentalize that little part you don’t like into a room and feed it just a little, so it stays quiet, while the rest of it — the part you DO like – gets all your attention. I have news; you can’t split some things up. It’s like a dog at the pound that’s cute, friendly and trained, etc. The only annoying detail is that the fur ball barks incessantly. Well, guess what? Those adorable eyes will never make you happy as you’re lying in bed listening to ever-present yapping. Some decisions are easy, but we pretend they are difficult. Just say N.O.
- Does this further my purpose? I’m not talking about paying your dues because you are new at something. A lot of people are walking around thinking they shouldn’t have to do some work that needs to be done just because they understand the first thing about how to do the next job up. Some things need to be done in order, and you’re wise to accept that. That may mean doing work you don’t love on the way to doing work you DO love. However, if there’s no purpose behind it, i.e., if the task is completely irrelevant to what you’re meant to be doing at some point five years from now, let it go. Someone else should be doing it to further their purpose, so leave it to them.
- Is this fun? Does it feel easy and make you say “Whee!” like a kid? (I hope you don’t really say “Whee” out loud, but I hope you think it.)
- Does it get you through the day-to-day? Does it sustain you, financially, and logistically? Is it realistic? Can you live with the income, the drive, the boss, the three-meetings-per-week, etc. really? Or will it quickly kill your spirit?
- Would you proud to tell your mom or dad you’re doing this?
- Does it push you? Do you feel bigger and better because you choose it?
- Is it scary? Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote might apply here. “Do something every day that scares you.” OK, now I totally don’t think you should do something that doesn’t feel morally right, or that scares you shitless. I think she was talking about risk. Does it feel like, if you tried it, you might succeed, but then again, you might fall and look a little foolish… then, what the heck… go for it!
- Does it bring you into community with the people you want to be like? Do you enjoy the people your decision would plant you next to? Seriously consider this answer. I almost hate to say it because it’s so overused, but do you want to become like those five people you spend all your time with? Because you will.
- Does it challenge you to do or become something better than you are doing or being now? I’m a firm believer in PUSHING yourself. Every. Single. Day. I don’t care if you stay in bed all day. (Read a book that broadens your mind.) I don’t care if you need a day off from your regular grind. (Make, create, or invent something, even if it’s just a batch of cookies.) And if your aim is to relax, then relax like you’re the Queen – like you’ve never relaxed before. Always be leveling UP, however you define it.
- Will your decision enable you to have the most impact in the world, or your corner of it? You want this decision to give you traction. This one is a comparison test against whatever you’ve done in the past. Hopefully you have noticed and learned that some things stick and some things seem to have no effect at all. I used to like action for action’s sake. The point was just to be moving. Now I measure results. Who am I helping the most, and how? Can I easily be replaced? Deciding on a course of action is one thing, but action is irrelevant unless you are also considering its effect. Even if it’s a small effect, strive for influence on your surroundings, the people you’re with, and your family, community and world. That’s what we’re here for, so make sure there’s some results associated with the time you invest. Don’t waste it.
- Will you regret NOT doing it? Ahh, one of the biggest regrets of dying people…the things they never tried. OUCH. Avoid, avoid, avoid that with all your consciousness and power!
So that’s my list for making a big life decision like a career change, relocation, or a significant commitment involving another person. It certainly works inside your home business, too. Feel free to add on. I’d love to know what helps YOU make a decision that matters.