For some reason, the theme of change has been coming up a lot for me in recent years. Actually in all of my life, now that I think of it, but of late the call has been insistent, and this time at least, or so the voices in my head suggest, the change requires thoughtfulness and intention and patience.
No longer will impulse and circumstance do. Not this time. This time what’s called for is more deliberate, more integrative rather than explosive, more spiritual. And so it is that I find myself asking five essential questions:
#1 Am I Living in Alignment with My Values?
What do I mean by this?
Well, first a definition. A value, in my book, is a deeply held belief, a guiding principle, a principle by which you live your life, a principle that you have chosen for yourself, not one handed down by tradition or religion or even by fear, for that matter. A value is both how you are but also who you are.
One of my top values, for example, is integrity. Am I who I say I am (what ever that “I am” might be)? If I say I am a kind human being, do I live my life that way? Do I use my words carefully? Are my actions helpful?
Some people value harmony the most. For them the quality of kindness might look a little different, like keeping the peace–even if peace requires silence. Still others might value accomplishment or adventure or autonomy. We each hold a set of values dear, but we are not always living in alignment with those values, and this can cause disjuncture, dissatisfaction with our lives. It may be time to make a change.
#2 Where in My Life Am I Settling?
I would love to tell you that I’ve lived my life full-out, that I’ve maximized and optimized my every effort, but the truth is that I have not. I’ve often settled for just “good enough.” And that’s okay. To live life to the fullest, every single moment of every single day would be exhausting, even if it were possible. “Good enough,” truly is Good Enough.
But pay attention to where in your life you’re settling. Is it in love? Your career? Are you settling for the safe option–the boyfriend who will not cheat? The job that will not fire you? The “where” will reveal your deepest fears and this can give you insight into what needs to be healed first before you can move forward with change.
#3 What Would I Be Doing If I Wasn’t Scared?
Let’s get one thing straight–Fear is a compelling motivator. It’s what gets us up and out the door when the house is on fire. It keeps us safe. It also keeps us from our wildest dreams. In fact, when we are scared we cannot even dream. I remember an old English professor of mine telling me, “You have first be able to envision it before you can make it happen.” And when we are afraid, we cannot see, so we have no vision. So, of course, first you have to clear the fear, so that you can dream the dream. And once you’ve done that, once you can envision what’s possible, then you can begin the process of change.
The first time someone asked me what I would be doing if my I wasn’t scared, my mind went blank. I could not remember a time when I was not scared. I couldn’t get past the fear to see the dream. And dreams are important if we are to make change.
#4 What Do I Need to Make Time to Learn?
For me, it’s been many things at different times in my life, but most recently, as I am reinventing myself as a solopreneur, it’s been to learn business. What does it mean to run your own business, market it, deliver the goods (and then some), keep the clients happy, take care of technical stuff, and the books . . . all of it. And let me tell you, it has not been easy. Or even much fun. But I’m making time for it.
I dedicate time to book learning–courses, webinars, podcasts, and the paper stuff–but also time for diving in and trying stuff–new systems, technology, tools, and especially developing my skills. The learning stuff is fun. The trying stuff, not so much. I’d like nothing better than to just sit safely in my arm chair and read my way to becoming a businesswoman, but alas that is not the way of the world. I must do. And I must make time to do.
And I do. I make time to understand my clients and how to serve them best. I make time to create a web presence with my website and my social media. I’m not great at it, but I still make time to learn it. I make time to do the books at the end of the month (I lie! I do them all at once, with much f-ing and blinding, in January, just like everyone else). I make time to learn how to create systems, so that I don’t have to analog the running of my business. I make time to hang around other entrepreneurs and learn from their experience.
#5 If I Achieved My #1 Goal, How Would I Feel? And What Can I Do Today to Feel that Way?
This is a biggie. Whenever we are contemplating a change, we need to feel connected to the outcome. Many a well-intentioned goal has tanked, slipped quietly into the night, simply because the person has not stayed connected to the goal. That’s why they tell you to write them down. Writing down your goals has the effect of making them concrete–taking them out of the realm of wishful thinking and pinning them to the page, as if to say, There! Now it’s real!
And here’s the key part–we need to stay connected to how achieving that goal will make us feel! Okay, so I’ve just lost half of you (eyerollers!), but it’s true. Think about it. Think about how you would feel if you crossed that finish line. When I was at mile 23 during the one and only marathon I’ve ever run, I hit the (proverbial) “wall.” And let me tell you, the only thing that kept me moving, one foot in front of the other, was the feeling of crossing the finishing line. (That, and the humiliation I would feel at not making it after having showed off about this event to all my friends for six months–but that’s a story for a different blog). And I mean feel it. I felt it. The ballooned arch over my head a temporary respite from the blazing sun on my forehead, the soft breeze blowing hair out of my eyes, my heart constricting, beating Go, Go, Go!, my muscles slowly easing up, relieved, their work was done. I felt it.
And that’s what kept me going. From Day 1. I stayed connected to the outcome. And each day, each mile I ran, I stayed connected to the feeling–pride, accomplishment, relief. So every day from July to March, every practice run, I felt my body cross the finish line. The pair of tall Eucalyptus trees at the end of the trail served as my marker, and as I approached them, I felt the same euphoria, the same release. Yes, I did it!
So ask yourself these same 5 questions as you contemplate your own change, your own transformation:
- Am I living in alignment with my values?
- Where in my life am I settling?
- What would I do if I wasn’t scared?
- What do I need to make time to learn?
- If I achieved my #1 goal, how would I feel? What can I do in this moment to feel that way?
And let me know how you get on.
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These are really simple yet powerful guiding questions. Thank you.