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Uncertainty, discomfort, and some negative realities are a regular part of life and work. But we're conditioned to avoid that reality in the interest of becoming reactive rather than proactive. We're conditioned to believe that life is meant to be bright and shiny and to ignore the truth until facing it becomes absolutely necessary – the divorce, the lost job, the major illness.
Here are a three things we know about working through uncertainty. We hope they help to inspire you in moving closer to the life or career shift you might be pondering.
1. Accept the reality of situations.
One of our chief ah-ha moments a couple of years back was facing the fact that we needed to slow down. We had found our mojo and didn’t want to let it go.
This client is a referral, so we have to accept it.
We can’t pass up this opportunity?
We can make the time.
You likely know this thinking very well, don't you?
What did we do? Late in that year we stopped accepting new clients for a month. Admitting the need to do that was challenging, but it was imperative. Throughout that year, we had promised to slow down the pace, but it didn't work. A lot of our business’ arms are driven by referrals. Our desire to not let clients down regularly trumped saying no. Because that form of delaying "facing the music" only got us deeper into discomfort, we had no other option but to draw a line in the sand.
We stopped accepting any client work for a month. The reality of our situation demanded it.
2. Practice facing the unknown
Deciding to cease our small business for a month+ was a scary decision. Actually, the first week didn't go so well. We were consumed by the fear that being "unavailable" was sending the wrong message.
In truth, it wasn't. Either way, it needed to happen. As we worked through the discomfort, all of this space opened up for creativity and other facets of ourselves that had been on hold. We had the time to discuss and plan steps we could take going forward,
Facing that unknown was a foundational step in bringing us to where we are now.
3. Focus on the possibilities waiting on the other side
Sometimes you need to get out of your present reality in order to gain perspective. The problem is... that's not easy. When we're in the thick of our lives, it's difficult to see things any other way.
A practice we've taken to – as individuals and as a couple – is writing down what might be "waiting on the other side" if we make a change we're pondering. It's very helpful to get out of your current reality to forecast what might be over the hump if you simply take the plunge.
And you know what? Our experience says that our lists of what might be waiting are accurate 90% of the time.
Being able to say NO is a key part of paving the way for change. How can you start down a fresh avenue if you keep doing things the way you always have? How can you welcome in something new if you don't create the space for it?
The other day, we were catching up with a friend. While we were hanging out, a woman texted him to cancel a first date they had planned.
He was irritated.
We told him he was lucky.
With that seemingly odd response, let's jump right into our first "how to say NO" tip!
#1: Say NO as soon as you feel it.
This is how we explained to our (now doubly irritated) buddy why he should be happy that his potential date cancelled. Why waste your time going through the motions of something that's not going to work out?
As we tell people often, a "positive NO" the moment you feel it can be a very rewarding and freeing feeling.
And boy-oh-boy, do we ever know something about that. In honor of 10 years of No Vacation Required living, we've been working hard to right-size our world by acknowledging that too much of a good thing is too much of something.
As we always say, you can't roll in the new if you don't make space for it.
Say NO. Swiftly. With postiivity.
#2: Schedule everything.
We've individually and as a couple started blocking out the time we need for everything – work obligations (of course), exercising, cleaning, errands, down time. Everything.
When you block off your time, it's easy to say no because you are busy. Your calendar tells you so.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles we got a lot of business done, but we also had loads of time for fun. We hiked a lot, we went to a concert, we toured an incredible museum, we enjoyed our favorite hotel, and we caught up with friends. Had we not blocked time for these things, we could easily get completely wrapped up in out consulting work.
#3: Take time to think.
We are not shy about taking a beat to consider whether or not something will work. Our life is quite a jigsaw puzzle, and it requires that we be extremely mindful about what we get ourselves into (or not into). With often back-to-back-to-back assignments/projects, we have to first consider how we can make things work in a way that keeps us sane and that doesn't diminish our ability to deliver on the exceptional standard of work we promise our clients.
We take a lot of time to think and to plot.
A good first step for people struggling to say NO, is to say MAYBE. We used to say MAYBE a lot. Now that our YES, NO, and MAYBE muscles are pretty toned, we're able to be much more swift about skipping MAYBE and going right to one of the other options. Nonetheless, saying MAYBE is a hell of a lot better than saying YES and then having to back out.
Which brings me to...
#4: Stop viewing NO as selfish.
Guilt is often behind why people say YES more than want to. It's not selfish to say NO. Remember, we're no good to anyone else if we don't take care of ourselves first.
Many people feel a lack of passion in their lives. Social media, movies, and television often glamorize passion and make us feel feel as though it's something we're just, you know, meant to magically harness. As in, if you don't instinctively know what you're passionate about, something's wrong with you.
Well, that's an inaccurate way to model passion and is probably a significant contributor to the fact that so many people are confused about what passion actually is.
Passion is the hum that emerges when your strengths and values are put into action.
We all have glimpses of passion in life. You know what I'm talking about because you've felt it. But when passion is not grounded in self-awareness, it's fleeting. When passion is not rooted in knowledge of your strengths and values, it's impossible to sustain it and elevate it to the most constructive, fulfilling levels possible.
Some passion-fostering questions for you to consider:
Do you put yourself in environments and around people that inspire passion? It helps! If you have passion, putting yourself in these environments is a booster shot. If you're lacking true passion, the inspiration can conjure thoughts that will help you along your path. Sporting events, arts events, conferences, and special-interest clubs are all good places to start.
Do you mistake other things for passion? Just because you spend a lot of time doing something, doesn't mean it's a passion. This is a big problem in today's world with so many of us wasting time, for example, curating presences on social media that are often driven by presenting yourself in a certain way rather than in an accurate, authentic way.
Do you chip away at knowing your strengths and values? Knowing yourself – and in this case, your strengths and values – is something that no one can take away from you, boosts confidence, and unlocks doors.
"Because I'm good at it."
"Because it's something I can do."
"Because I just sort of fell into it."
These are things I regularly hear from clients. People oftentimes "like" what they do and are good at it. But, more often than not, they have no real passion for it. The same can actually be said of people's non-work lives. They often feel happy-ish but not completely on track. Likely, that's because they are not playing to their strengths.
Here are a few thoughts that might help you to sort things out and move forward with a strengths-first mindset:
1) Figure out you. Plain and simple. If you don't have a sense of what you are made of, what your strengths are – how you "plug into" this world – you may find temporary gain but you won't find enduring fulfillment. Ask: What do I do that doesn't feel like work at all? When am I happiest? When am I most free?
2) Strip away what doesn't matter and/or add value to your life. Think lean and focused. Ask: What relationships are draining? What old patterns do I need to let go of? How do I waste time in a typical day?
3) Be a change agent. Agility is increasingly important in the modern world. Additionally, a change mindset helps to keep things fresh and forward-moving. Ask: What am I resistant to change in my life? What's something I can do differently this week? When is the last time I was open to hearing a divergent viewpoint?
Ready to have more Big Thinking mojo in your life? Here are some tips:
Think critically – Mindless group-think is a powerful force that goads people into simply "going along" with things. Question the norm. Make your own decisions.
Don't look sideways – Glance sideways from time to time because it's important to know the landscape. Otherwise, look forward. Paying too much attention to what others are doing immediately puts you in the space of duplication and envy. Find your own version of success. When you're focused on the best version of you and doing your best work – regardless of what everyone else is doing – you're less likely to waste time on time-sucking "because they are doing it" activities.
Define yourself – Don't be limited by others' need to put you in a box. We're all dynamic, multi-faceted individuals. Create the frame through which others see you (and not the other way around).
Have a vision for your life – Want to know a great way to become success oriented? Have a vision for your life. Of course, that vision will evolve over time but always have one. Not sure what that vision looks like? Time for some heavy lifting. Start by monster-hugging life's greatest (and most rewarding!) challenge: knowing yourself. The more self-empowered you feel, the stronger your resolution in the face of distractions and the powerful pull of mediocrity. Living with vision is also a prime ingredient of making major change.
Be honest – Being honest is not about being tedious or unkind; it's about growth and authenticity. You can't grow if you are not honest with yourself. And you can't build authentic relationships based on half-truths and lies. That may upset some people, but they will get over it. If they don't get over it, whose problem is it, really?
Keep it positive – Negativity can be fun in the moment, but the fun is superficial and fleeting. Negativity breeds myopic vision and shallow thinking. Sometimes a vigorous, critical conversation can seem negative. That's okay. Here, we're focusing on the kind of pointless negativity that can saturate a conversation or, quite often, an entire relationship. Negativity is the sinkhole of life. If something isn't positive or framed in positive action, run away as fast as you can. If someone is a consistent drain on your life, give them the chop.