WHY GRAD SCHOOL ALWAYS SEEMS LIKE THE ANSWER

 via ourbodybook.com

via ourbodybook.com

Is it safe to say that, at some point, we’ve all felt that if we wanted to make a particular career change, we would have to go to graduate school first? “Obviously if I want to work there, I would have to go back to school first.” “The job postings all require a graduate degree in XYZ.” “I don’t know exactly what to do next, so maybe grad school?” Do these thoughts sound familiar? Even if we haven’t expressed these sentiments ourselves, odds are we’ve heard them from friends, family or other well-meaning people trying to help us figure things out.

Sometimes more education seems like the only thing that can get us from A to B, guarantee us preparedness for the next step, or even get us off the hamster wheel of life for minute. I, myself, did go to grad school for all the reasons listed above. I went because I thought it was the answer to a lot of things. I really went because I thought it would solve the problem of what I was meant to do with my life. (Spoiler alert: it did not.)

I went for one semester. I knew immediately it was wrong, but I assumed it was just me. I was the one missing something. After all, it was a logical means to an end. It was a responsible solution. It meant I was taking steps to solve a problem.

Ultimately, it was none of these things.

SO WHY DID I THINK GRAD SCHOOL WAS THE ANSWER?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is. I’m very happy, for example, that doctors go to grad school. It makes a lot of sense that  21-year old biology majors aren’t allowed to perform open-heart surgery. But, what about the rest of us? The ones who aren’t totally sure what the next “right” step is? Why is grad school an answer we all default to?

Maybe it’s because during our formative years, our whole lives followed a path. Everything was perfectly laid out and the benchmarks for success were clearly labeled and identified. Homework assignments, class schedules–everything was predestined and pre-approved. There was a built in structure and timeline to follow. You never had to think about what to do next.

We all follow the structure of school for our formative years. It is a clear path forward. There is no confusion about what you need to do next. The metrics of how to succeed are very clearly defined. Sure, there might be two electives you want to take one semester and you’re nervous about choosing the wrong one, but there is  minimal unknown in a greater known setting.

And then it’s just gone. After school, there’s just life. Once you leave an educational setting, the structure evaporates and all your choices become your own. Even the decision to go back to school is your own. And oh how scary that decision can be! And, that’s just one decision, and it might land you back in a system where you already know you will thrive.

SO, NOW WHAT?

How do you measure progress after all your metrics disappear? Your bank account balance? Marriage? The acquisition of  a 9-5 job, with a similar structure and similar metrics for success so you’ll always know how you’re doing? That certainly provides a place to go everyday and specific, assigned tasks that can be measured with proficiency, along with feedback from a superior, who ostensibly has done this before and can guide you.

But sometimes these new metrics provide a false sense of security. Because you are an intelligent human being, you may start to think you made the wrong choice because this one single thing won’t satisfy you for 20 years. But, you didn’t make the wrong choice. You just might not be meant to do the same thing for 20 years. You might just get bored. Boredom begins at mastery. Imagine taking 20 years of French class. Yes, you would get an A every time. But you would probably be so bored the long list of A’s would cease to mean anything.

In life, there is no set structure. For some people, especially people who hated school, that can feel like the greatest relief. And for those who loved school, or at least did well in it, that can be terrifying. How will you know what to do? Who will guide you forward? How will you know if you’re doing it right?

THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE

1. Create your own structure: pick someone’s life you wouldn’t mind having and make similar decision.

2. Find a mentor. Talking to someone who knows more than you do, in an area you would like to know more about, can be invaluable. The things you don’t know yet? They know. And even if they don’t, they’ll know what you need to ask to get there.

3. Follow your gut

4. Make decisions.

5. Make more decisions.

More school sometimes feels like a safe answer because it provides built-in structure and metrics that one doesn’t have to think about – or, really, decide –  what you value. Whereas life is deciding what you actually value. What is important to you right now? It’s okay if it’s not important to you in ten years, but we need to start somewhere. What would you like more of in your life? What would you like less of? These are the kinds of questions that allow you to develop your own ideas about how you will measure success. Not necessarily getting an A because someone else decided that was inherently valuable.

Do the thing you think will be slightly more helpful. Do the thing that the person you want to become would do. Maybe grad school is the next step on your path, but it’s still just one step. If we are lucky, there will be many more. All you need to do to take the right steps, is to make sure they are valuable to you. It might take a little longer, it might feel a little scarier, or less certain at first, but ultimately it’s worth it. Because if it’s perfect, but empty, what’s the point?

Related Reads: Do What You – A Reality Check5 Questions to Nail During a Job Interview, and It’s Ok Not to Have a Plan

SARA KRAVITZ helps people who don’t know what they want but know it’s not this figure out if they should quit their jobs so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. She is a career coach, author, and speaker who helps helps people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)

You can download her international, bestselling book, Just Tell Me What I Want, for free here.

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/grad-school/}

THE MORE YOU SEEK THE LESS YOU FIND

 via ourbodybook.com

via ourbodybook.com

“Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it and your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it. You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire Universe. You are indeed the evident book, by whose alphabets the hidden becomes manifest. Therefore you have no need to look beyond yourself. What you seek is within you, if only you reflect.” – Imam Ali (AS)

***

There’s something about the word “seek” that I like. Seeking, to me, sounds noble. It sounds like something smart people do. People who are interested in living life to the fullest “seek” different answers, better answers. They “seek” to understand why they are the way the are, or how they got to where they are. Because once they have the answers to these questions, then they can change them.

Seeking just sounds something we should be doing more of, like meditating and eating chia seeds. Seeking will lead us out of our circumstances. But here’s where the conundrum arises: seeking answers outside of our current circumstances implies our current circumstances (no matter how dreary) don’t already hold all the information we need to change them.

I was working with a client who believes that what was standing between her and happiness is her inability to “figure out the answer to all of this.” The implication was “all of this” was a holding pattern until she figured out “the real answer.” Once she had figured it out, her real life could finally start. There, in her real life, everything would be productive, explainable, and, of course, full of bliss.

Here are a few tips to help encourage you to seek less and reflect more on what you already know. (Pro tip: it’s usually the really obvious stuff that makes us say, “it can’t be that. I already knew that.” Those are usually the kinds of exclamations we’re looking for here.)

DON’T ASSUME EVERYONE KNOWS MORE THAN YOU.

When you seek, you’re sifting through thousands of data points, hoping one might jump out at you. And, sure, every once in a while you might learn something really helpful or something you can incorporate into your day-to-day, but for the most part that’s not the case. You’re sifting through tons of stuff, other people’s stuff (even this essay is my stuff. You’re sifting through my stuff to get to your stuff.) Most if it will not apply to you, but more importantly, more concernedly – it reinforces the message, “other people have the answer.”

ASSUME YOU ALREADY HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO ANSWER ANY QUESTION YOU HAVE.

Seeking separates you from yourself, making answers harder to find, and chipping away at your own trust in yourself. If you’re the kind of person who prefers feedback, make a hypothesis yourself and then bounce it off of someone. But notice what feels best in your body, as opposed to their reaction, or anything that may “sound right”.

BELIEVE THE FIRST ANSWER YOU CAME UP WITH IS THE RIGHT ANSWER.

Even if it’s just this one time you’re trying it because I’m making you. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to read books and articles written by other people, or stare at someone’s beautifully curated Instagram. But, ingesting too much of other people thoughts, ideas, and views of the world can stifle our own. Too much external focus creates imbalance. When we are inundated with other people’s ideas, thoughts, and reflections, we are barely leaving time/space to register our own.

Eventually you need to take all that you’re learning, watching, reading, and do something with it. You will need to put it through the alchemy of your own thoughts, opinions, and lived experience and produce something reflective of yourself. You will have to make something out of nothing.

That’s what creation is. It puts you back in the seat of agency, as opposed to seeking it elsewhere. This is why making art is therapeutic. Building on that, I’ll argue that anything we make is therapeutic. Whether it’s a meal, a job, a photo, an opinion, or an act of kindness, you need to create something of your own. It also includes making decisions. The act of deciding, for no other reason than just because, is healing. You will feel so much better once you’ve done it.

YOU’RE SEEKING SO MUCH, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO FIND IT.

Seeking sounds noble, but it can actually be stressful. We put so much emphasis on the answer being something we just haven’t found yet. We assume it can’t be something so obviously easy, or already within us. The act of seeking presumes other people know more about our lives than we do. It assume that the answer lies within someone else, and it will be lost if I don’t find it. No matter how subtle, there is still the undercurrent of “the answer is in other people’s stuff.” Now you know why people are always telling you to journal more. Journaling can be seeking, but within yourself. It’s a chance to see what your self has to say that maybe you’ve been missing, ignoring, or devaluing.

Instead, let’s assume the answers are right near you. Trust you are much more powerful than you know. You’ve already got a ton of brilliant answers. We don’t need to look for anymore. Let’s use what we’ve got and see what happens.

Read more of Sara’s inspiring reads: Do What You Love: A Reality CheckHow to Eliminate Regrets and Take Positive Action, and The Myth Behind ‘Finding Your Bliss.’

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/do-what-you-love-a-reality-check/}

FAQ's

Just in case you wanted to learn a little more about Sara, here are some answers to questions she gets asked frequently:

Q: What are your favorite quotes/words of encouragement:

A: 1. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us...There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

Love this. The first time I read this it floored me. Still does.

2. “There’s as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something.” – Trammel Crow

Life by design or default. It’s going to happen no matter what. Sometimes things are not our choice, or out of our control, but we can always do something. Or not.

3. "Any advice that doesn’t feel liberating is wrong. Ignore it.” – Martha Beck

This changed my life. This allowed me to stop listening to a lot of very intelligent, very well-meaning people who were speaking about their own experiences, justifying their own choices, and most of it had very little to do with me. Reading this freed me. I could listen to them, thank them for their intentions, use what applied, and leave the rest.

4. “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” – Colette

Just do the best you can and do it with all your heart. We are all going to do dumb things and make embarrassing mistakes. It's fine - don’t take anything too seriously. These things just make for better stories. Don't dwell on any one thing for too long. Just keep it moving.

5. “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” - Pema Chödrön

Pema is a goddess. She knows things and can explain them in ways that are simple, but not simplistic. Fear (not the “held at gunpoint” kind, but the “what if they say no” kind) is how we know we have stumbled on a potential place of growth. Are you scared to call that person? Hmmmm...might be something in there for you. Doesn’t mean you have to. We still have free will, but something cool might happen if you do.)

Q: Why do I coach?

A: Somewhere along the line, I learned I could see things other people couldn’t. Maybe it’s just the natural human blindspots we have about ourselves, but I realized I could ‘see’ people. Not as who they thought they were, or who they would tell me they were, but who they actually are. So when we would talk about the parts of their lives that weren't working so well I could, almost literally, see where they were getting tripped up or stuck. It was usually because they had lost their sense of agency or internalized something that was true for someone else, but not necessarily for them.

A lot of times this can happen when we try and anticipate pain or want guaranteed security or approval. Trying to protect ourselves from pain can cause just as much (or more) pain. As a coach, I guide people to go where they are afraid to go. Once they do this, they can see they are strong enough to handle anything.

The good news is that it’s usually never as bad as you think it will be. Actually, it’s usually beautiful. For me, the thrill of watching someone regain, or reassert, their power and watch them do the exact thing they never thought they could do - it’s a great way to spend your days.

Q: What was a low point in my career?

A: Ha! So many fun ones (said with a great deal of sarcasm). I was at job that, after one week, I knew wouldn’t work. But, I was told to “give it a chance” and that I had to “give it a year so it doesn’t look bad on your resume”. So I listened. I stayed. I cried on Sunday nights. I was angry all the time.

The lowest point was probably sitting in a meeting, listening to my boss stumble through a list of all these things I had supposedly done wrong. He was mad at me for sending him an email, criticizing how he handled something. So naturally was trying to criticize me back (mature!). The problem I’d sent the email about 30 minutes before our meeting, so he didn’t have too much time to compile a list of my faults. As a result, he was awkwardly sputtering and stammering through a ridiculous list he was mostly improvising on the spot. It was such a strange and terrible moment.

Then he asked me to sign something acknowledging I had heard and agreed with his list. I had one of those moments where time slows down, and all I heard was “GET OUT NOW”. So I did. I quit that second. It was liberating and awful, but in that moment I knew that if I didn’t put myself first - really and truly first - a part of me would be changed forever because I hadn’t protected myself when I knew I had to.

I floundered a lot after that. I had, like, zero money for a while. But that’s life. Eventually things came in and filled the void. The great and terrible thing is that everything is always changing.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

A: 1. Ask for the amount of money it will take for you to give it your all, all day, every day, and not feel resentful.

2. You have to take care of yourself. No one else will do it for you. Only you know what’s best for you.

3. No one is self-made. We’ve all received help. Lots and lots of help. 

4. Just say yes, and figure it out along the way. That's what we're all doing anyway.

5. Most people are not thinking about you. They are too busy thinking about themselves.

6. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Even if someone doesn’t like it, they will trust you.

7. The situation is always neutral . It’s your thoughts about the situation that cause you to act a certain way. (Learned via Eckhart Tolle)

8. It never looks the way you think it will look. 

9. Make a good enough decision, and then make another good enough decision. Chances are everything will be fine and if for some reason it's not, the vast majority of things are fixable.

10. There is no such thing as a “safe” choice. Sometimes the “safest” choices wind up being the most dangerous.

Is it Possible to Live By "Hell Yes’s" Alone: THE RESULTS

{Settle in - This is a long one.}

So, just to remind you: Last week, I challenged myself to live by Hell Yes’s aloneDid it happen? Not even close. But I had a great week. (What? How? Exactly.)

Read on for all the details about why it’s possible to make productive, good, enjoyable decisions despite never feeling a Hell Yes.

***
MONDAY: I got a last minute invitation to have dinner with friend on Monday. I thought this would be a perfect time to start. I checked in and it wasn’t a total Hell Yes, but I also knew that I was saying no out of comfort (Mondays, tired, blah blah blah) and I wanted to do something different, and maybe even challenge myself a little. So, I accepted. It was definitely fun, and a nice change of pace. I knew I just had to commit and get into it.

Verdict: Not a “Hell Yes”, but an ultimate plus.

***
TUESDAY: I stayed home and watched first 2 episodes of "Wild, Wild Country". I had heard some good things about it. It seemed interesting, and I knew I wanted to watch it. But, I was tired and not really in the mood to start over with new characters (does anyone else have that? When you’d rather watch episodes of something you’ve seen because you’d rather “hang out with people you already know” Like, they’re your friends but obviously they’re not). I took a breath, decided to get into it, and hit play.

Verdict: Also, not a Hell Yes. But wound up loving it.

***
WEDNESDAY: I had dinner plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She wanted to cook at her apartment, who lives no less than an hour from my house. This fell somewhere on the Yes scale, but definitely didn’t register as a Hell Yes. I brought a new wine I had been wanting to try, a book for the train, decided it would be fun, and it was.

Verdict: True, it was not a Hell Yes. But, bringing treats and fun things to do for the journey was very helpful. The devil really is in the details. Thinking through the experience and seeing the gaps definitely made it more of a Yes.

***
{Editor’s Note, i.e. just me}: We just finished mid-week, and still no Hell Yes’s. Starting to wonder what a Hell Yes actually is and if, in fact, I’ve ever felt one. Am I even qualified to know what one is? Should I be concerned? At this point, what am I even using as a metric?

***
THURSDAY: A company I love released a new shirt. Clearly this is not a big deal, but I had been following it for a couple of weeks and was excited, like Hell Yes excited. Finally, a Hell Yes! Clarity! A success! It all seemed so clear. My life of Hell Yes’s could finally begin.

You guys, I was so amped to love it and ready to buy it the second it became available. I get the email. I open it immediately I get my first glimpse of the full shirt, not just a sneak peek, but the full shirt, on a body, and in all of its glory.

Prepare yourselves. I didn’t love it. I don’t want to buy it. The excitement, the lead up - all a Hell Yes. The actual shirt itself - definitely not a Hell Yes.

But, interestingly enough, I’m still really close to buying it. I have to talk myself out of it more that I should, considering it’s a shirt I actively and consciously don’t like. Amazing to see how the momentum of enthusiasm (and basically deciding in advance that I would love and buy it) is hard to break. Even now, 36 hours later, I’m still 15% considering it. Because I was so excited to be excited about it. My attachment to a Hell Yes is clear.

Verdict: My enthusiasm is a Hell Yes. Reality is a Hell No. But because I decided in advance I would love it, and my the momentum of my excitement was strong, it’s an inertia that is hard to resist. Funny how that worked earlier in the week to build excitement around things I wasn’t initially as excited about. It appears the reverse is also true - once I have decided to be excited about something, it’s very hard to un-decide that.

***
FRIDAY: I have dinner plans with another friend (I swear, I’m usually not this social). By now I kind of know the drill. I will be tired. I will decide to get into it. I will bring fun things for me to do on the way there and back, so I will be prepared to be excited.

For some reason, I suggest a restaurant that I don’t even really want to go to. Definitely not a Hell Yes. We agree, and then 10 minutes later she writes back with a different suggestion. A place I haven’t been to in years, and am way more excited to go to. It’s palpable. I can feel the difference as this one hits higher on the Yes scale. I’m grateful. I give it a Yes Plus.


And, it’s worth noting that the excitement is a nice surprise, an added bonus, but it’s not the deciding factor in whether something will be enjoyable. It’s great to have, but by the end of the week and this experiment I also can see how it’s not totally necessary.

Even if the excitement never comes, I can still decide to be happy about something, or decide something is going to work and be good. I can decide in advance what I want to get out of it (the chance to see a neighborhood I don’t usually go to, an hour to read my book, the chance to try something, or someplace, new). I decide the success will be determined by something I can control (the wine I buy, the book I’m reading, the restaurant I’m choosing - even though I obviously didn’t do great on that one, but the Universe stepped in and saved me there).

Verdict: I can feel the difference in genuine excitement vs. making things work.

***

FINAL THOUGHTS:
So, there weren’t really any Hell Yes’s this week. Even recapping this experience wasn’t a total Hell Yes. Of course, once I got to my favorite coffee shop and ordered my favorite green tea and settled into the groove of writing, it was wonderful and pleasant. But it felt more soothing and like I’m floating in and out of a zone. And the thought of sitting down to write this was definitely not a Hell Yes. What am I going to write about? How am I going to contextualize all this? Will it make sense? How can I not have had a single Hell Yes? But now that I’m here and writing (almost to the phase of “having written”!), it’s all great.

Maybe this means I missed the point of my own experiment, so before I spiral into any thoughts about what does this all mean and why am I not capable of feeling a Hell Yes, or living a life that is CHOCK FULL of them, let’s take a beat. Because it was a mostly positive week. I really enjoyed myself, was productive, was social, and saved myself some money on a shirt I didn’t like.

So, why was this able to happen, even though none of it was an obvious, clear, or sustained Hell Yes?

Because even when the new thing proposed wasn’t a clear Hell Yes, it still had elements of good. Things that I have historically enjoyed, or been good at. It didn’t need to be scrapped altogether. It just necessitated a little planning, some thought to decide what I wanted to get out of it, and then a couple more steps to ensure what I wanted to get out of it (i.e., it's success) could be determined on my own terms, and wasn’t totally at the hands of someone else.

It’s also worth noting that the transition into that new thing (even after I decided what I wanted to get out of it) was never a Hell Yes. The energy it would take to adapt was never a Hell Yes. These were throngs I assumed I wanted to do, so I did them, decided they would become fun, and brought some extra incentives so they would be successful no matter what (a new wine to taste, a book for the long subway ride, self permission to leave at a certain time so I wouldn't be too late coming home, a podcast to listen to).

I made the decision, assumed I would get excited about it at some point, built in some extra fun things just in case and to make it easier, and then let the fun catch up. Which it usually did. And pretty quickly, I might add.

What I really learned is that, for me, even when there aren't a lot of Hell Yes's, you can still have a great time. And it certainly doesn’t mean I forced a decision. A Hell Yes makes things easier for sure, but it’s not the only way know you’re going to enjoy something.

In most cases, once I decided it would be fun, it grew into something fun. And, while there was usually some kind of transition period, it never lasted too long and it was made even easier by the provisions I gave myself. Treats on the way and knowing what I needed to do in advance for it to be successful. Worked every time.

Decide, then go all in and do the work to make it fun. Basically the same as a Hell Yes.

So, what do you think? Is it possible to live on Hell Yes’s alone? How do you know you’re experiencing a Hell Yes? Is that how you make most of your decisions? Should I extend the life of this experiment and do this for another week?

I’d love to hear what you guys do.

DO WHAT YOU LOVE: A REALITY CHECK

Let’s break down a bit of  lovingly-thrown-around, well-meaning advice: “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” It’s lovely, and I’m sure whoever said it first meant well. But if you’re even slightly prone to overthinking, this one can be…well, devastating.

So: let’s take it bit by bit.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE?

First, do what you love. Does this mean every day? As in, all day every day? With zero interruption? My favorite thing in the world to do is eat pizza, and even that gets boring after about an hour. So, do I have to love my work more than eating pizza? Or just be able to love doing it for more hours in a row than I can eat pizza? Can I get sick of it? Or is that also not allowed? There must be a right answer to these questions, otherwise people wouldn’t say this so much. This isn’t making me panic or stressed at all!

And you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Okay, so now we’re assuming I’ve thought of something I love more than eating pizza AND can also do for more hours in a row. So, I have the thing that never gets old or boring, and that I can do for many hours in a row. And, I guess while we’re at it, also makes me a decent amount of money.

For the sake of this game, let’s say this thing that you will love endlessly and will also make you a million dollars is writing. I like writing. I actually love writing. But, real talk for a second, have you ever written anything? Sitting by yourself for hours? While your thoughts race, but your fingers can only move so fast? While you try to say something vaguely original? Let’s say you make it through that first push. You have 1200 words of something. And now you have to read it again. And make it better. But, if you could make it better, wouldn’t you have just done that the first time?

Also, what about the days when you are absolutely positive you have nothing left to say? And then have to let a lot of other people read it? Are we counting those days in this experiment? Because if we are, I’m not sure writing counts anymore.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

So, why do people say, “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”? Why have we all accepted effortlessness as the gold standard in job satisfaction? Work, by definition, implies effort and exertion. So why do we think we have it all wrong if we aren’t head over heels about our jobs each and every day?

Because the simple fact is that if you love something, there is a strong likelihood you will do it. Probably unprompted and with a great deal of enthusiasm. And, as we know, action is everything. People only tell you to find something you love because it increases the odds that you will actually do it and try to do it well. The same applies if you might not love something, but are good at it, or are comfortable doing it.  You’ll probably do it because 1) you’ll be more enthusiastic and 2) you’ll be less afraid. ear can be utterly paralyzing. People tell you to find something you already love because anything you haven’t done before will be scary. So if there’s a greater force to counter the fear, you’re more likely to do the thing that scares you.

The good thing is that your brain thinks that wanting to do something is the same as actually doing the thing. Wanting to do the thing fulfills the same needs as actually doing the thing. And it makes total sense. Because wanting is familiar and safe and keeps you where you are. So your brain has developed a satisfaction level with wanting that’s actually on par with achievement. Not in terms of satisfaction, but your brain is good at making you feel like it’s an equal effort to want something as  to actually try to do it.

Doing something might lead to short bursts of unknown terror, and your brain equates that with the potential of death. As long as you want to get a new job or feel like you should start looking, your brain thinks this is the same as calling up your friends and asking them questions and sending out resumes. Wanting a new job is a lot easier than doing all the things above, so you get the satisfaction of thinking you’re making a change without having to do the hard part. It’s brilliant really. Your brains thinks these two things are the same and will get you the same results. And when you’re reading these words, you obviously know that’s true. But in the moment, that similarity can be trickier to spot.

The truth is even if you love something with all your heart – especially if you love something with all your heart – it will be hard. And scary. And awkward. And only sort of maybe worth it. And you won’t love it every minute of every day, and you’ll get sick of it just like I would get sick of eating pizza if I did it every day. But you won’t know until you try. So, maybe skip the trying to find something you will love to do is to start with something that scares you. It will save you a ton of time. And, I guarantee if you do something that scares you, you will feel brave and strong and that alone might (even just a little) make you love it.

Read more of Sara’s essays: Get Unstuck and Figure Out What You WantYou Already Know the Answer, and Can Changing One Thing Really Change Everything?.

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/do-what-you-love-a-reality-check/}

When Everything is Fine

There are a bunch of things around me right now that are fine. Not a loaded fine, like when you ask someone how they’re doing and they say they’re fine and they’re clearly not. These things are legitimately fine. Like, not exciting, not great, not terrible - just fine.

Maybe I should be grateful that everything is fine. Maybe I should be counting my blessings that things aren’t terrible. But, to me, this is has become a symbol that things need to change. I know that “fine” becomes “blah” real quick. And then “blah” is just a hop, skip, and jump to:

What am I doing with my life?
I’m wasting time.
This is cute and all, but it's probably time to just get a real job.


Delightful, I know. These are my personal demons that like to haunt me every once in a while. Maybe you recognize some of them? Or have your own different ones?(And, just for the record, I have more. I’m sparing you the extended version. These are the highlight reel.)

So in an effort to pump the brakes at “fine” and curb the inevitable descent into “all is lost”, I’m going to try something I’ve heard many people do, but never really had much success with.

I’m going to try making a decision from a place of “Hell Yes, or No”. 

Now, if you’re like me and tend to overanalyze things (to put it lightly), this sounds like something even we can master. It’s clear and obviously self-explanatory. If it’s not a “Hell Yes”, it’s a no. Meaning, if you’re not clearly excited about it, you don’t do it.

Sounds simple enough, right?

And then I get to Day 1, and it all goes to hell. What is Hell Yes? Have I ever felt a Hell Yes? What if it’s not Hell Yes enough? Is Regular Yes just fine? What if it’s a Neutral but I think it’s a good decision? Or is that a Hell Yes?

(Don’t worry, I want to murder me too.)

So I quit seconds later, angry at anyone who loves this exercise and also baffled about how anyone accomplishes anything if they’re always waiting for a Hell Yes.

All that to say, we’re back here again. And I’m giving it a shot. So, if you’re anything like me and want to try a new way of decision-making, at least for a little while, let’s do this.

We can’t possibly mess things up too badly, right? 

Godspeed, and see you in a week.
 

How to Tell if a Life Coach is Good

Coaching is a booming industry with a low bar of entry. The great part is that many wonderful people can become coaches pretty easily and start impacting lives immediately. It’s fantastic because it helps a lot of people awaken and embrace new realities. You don’t have to walk down the path your dad did. Or you don’t have to work in the same industry as your best friend.

The flip side is (at best) wading through a lot of well-meaning people without a lot of experience or training, or (at worst) people taking advantage of those in vulnerable moments.

So, how can you tell the difference?

Here are some tips for choosing a good coach (whether it’s a life, business, career or other kind of coach):

Do They Ask You Questions? You hire a coach to talk about yourself. That’s really the bottom line. It’s an opportunity to shed some light on your job, maybe your relationships, what you want more of - all leading to the outcome you’ve hired them to achieve.

So, are they asking questions to get closer to those answers?

Are they curious about your life? Your dreams? Your stress about a lack of dreams? The reasons why you want certain things, or believe certain things are true or not true for you.

Some coaches are so excited about being coaches and truly want the best for you, and that’s wonderful. Excitement is contagious and I wouldn’t recommend working with someone who seemed jaded. But there’s a difference between a coach who loves their job and a coach who excitedly talks mostly about their own story, expecting you to connect the dots and draw the parallels to your own life. That might be great teaching, and it’s always great to know coaches practice what they preach, but it’s definitely not the same as coaching.

Count the “I” Statements. Personal anecdotes can be powerful. When you’re going through a hard time, sometimes there is nothing more reassuring than hearing how someone else got through a similar situation as you and knowing that you’re not alone.

However, a coach’s job is not simply to talk about how they made it through a similar scenario. Your coach is responsible for looking at your individual situation and creating the best path toward your individual goals, the outcomes that you want to see come to fruition.

This may be different from your coaches goals.

Or they might be the same as your coaches goals, but you require a different path to get to the same place. It helps if your coach can allow for the possibility of something other than what they did.

Do You Trust Them? Is this a person that you want to confide in to? Trust? Check in with over several months? Be vulnerable with? Do they make you feel seen and heard? No, they should not be worried about being your best friend. You hired them for a specific reason and it’s their job to deliver.

Charming is great, but do you believe them? If not, find someone else. There are plenty of coaches out there who can help you get what you want. Not every person is meant to work with every person. Do you believe this person will help you get what you want?

What To Look For: The truth is a great coach is just someone who has led people down the path you want to walk. They’ve gotten people the results you want. They know that people have similar struggles, but sometimes need different approaches to get them motivated and taking action. So can they take your particular situation and create a path to success that might be challenging, but is reasonable for you?

The truth is, ultimately, you are the person who will determine success or failure in your own life. It’s up to you to make changes and do things differently if you want different results. But the point of hiring a coach is to guide, specify, and limit your actions to those they know will be beneficial. You’ve already done the guesswork, spiraled into panic, and run into walls.

Of course you did. That’s how you know it’s time to hire a coach.

Your coach's job is to make things easier. Their job is to show you the path. It’s your job to walk down it (sadly, no one can do that but you). But it is their job to hand you a map, circle “You Are Here”, and show you the fastest route to from Point A to B.  

What If I Make The Wrong Choice: How to Eliminate Regrets

We all have regrets. Here is just a drop in the bucket of mine: I regret not taking the summer after my senior year of college to waitress on Cape Cod with a really good friend. I regret not telling that boy I liked him. I regret not seeing Whitney Houston in concert before she died. I regret not thinking about my college major ahead of time, and instead making one up six weeks before graduation.

As regrets are want to go, these probably show up more on the mild side. They aren’t on the level of not saying goodbye to someone before they left this earth. Or watching the love of your life marry someone else without saying how you felt. But they’re there. And they can accumulate. I think we should aim to minimize the accumulation.

I like to think of this as an “explored life” - a life with lots of stories; that we don’t have lots of questions about. A life that means there are very few circumstances where you can say, “should I have taken that trip to Ecuador?” Because the story is, “I actually almost didn’t make it out of Ecuador because they have a $25 exit tariff and I had no cash and none of the ATMS were working.” Or, “would that have been the perfect job for me?” And not because the story is: “Yes! I did and I loved it so much and I’m still with them today”, but because you can say with absolute certainty, “well, I now know where the expression ‘May the bridges I burn light the way’ comes from.” (Both true stories, BTW.)

“Should I do this or that?” is not a story. It’s not an interesting anecdote that that can help someone else or make sense of an experience for you. It’s just a question that needs an answer. And, honestly, it matters less what the actual answer is, but that you answer it so you can get onto the next question. Do you really want to spend a month on one question? Do you want the only thing to talk about with your friends be this one question? Do you want to be that girl who is *still* talking about this?

Maybe we thought some of the stories would different endings. But they all have answers. An explored life means we prefer answers to lingering questions no matter the outcomes (but bonus points for truly insane and unexpected outcomes).

Doing nothing is just as much of a decision as doing something. Choosing to do nothing means the situation in front of you probably didn’t matter that much in the long run, so it might have been less worth your time to engage with it rather than to set it free and let it live it’s life. Not choosing to do anything because you’re confused or relinquishing your agency is different. It’s the abdication of your power.

And while that’s fine to do every once in awhile, is it a habit that we want to build? As a practice, it tends to breed more questions and less stories. So if our end goal is stories, this really isn’t a helpful method.

Plus, think of all the stories you’ve heard. Aren’t the best the ones where everything goes terribly wrong? Or when someone rises from the ashes and rebuilds, stronger the second time around? Those are stories. I could listen to those all day long.

I fully believe that we regret the things we don’t do. No, it might not have been ideal to spend those three extra years in that dead end relationship, but at least now that person doesn’t get to take up space in your heart as some idealized version of themselves. Now *that* would be a real regret, so let’s take this opportunity to reframe how we think about regret.

I’ve spent money on clothes I didn’t need, trips I didn’t want to go on, and mentorships that weren’t helpful. Do I wish I could have back the thousands of dollars and hours spent on all these things? Sure.. But the catch is I would also be a different person. I would be a person racked with regret for the things I missed and wrong decisions I made. My energy of regret, self-doubt, and self-loathing would have radiated off me like a force field, repelling anyone who came within 10 feet.

So I like to think I spent the money becoming someone I could tolerate being around. And THAT is money well-spent. Even when it goes towards a flight that’s cancelled, and you end up on a bus and you never get the refund. Because the point is you took the trip. You got out of the country, or out of your own head and, maybe, grew as a person.

Take action about one thing you’re hesitating over whether or not you should do. Even if you can’t decide whether or not it’s a good idea, or if you can afford it, maybe the answer is simple: you’ll regret it if you don’t do it. Let that be enough of a reason. Because you don’t know what the experience actually is until you do it.

You could spend weeks or months (or years!) romanticizing it or dreading it, letting it build up to a status in your mind that it doesn’t deserve. Or maybe it will be an incredible experience you’ll love, and you’ll be validated in your choice. But if it’s actually terrible and you don’t do it, you won’t know that either. And then this terrible thing might live forever in your brain with an undeserved status as the “thing you should have done”.

Maybe stories about how it turned out should be the goal of our choices, as opposed to getting it “right” every time. Maybe evidence of what is real is more valuable than our meticulous assessments about how things might go.

So do the thing. Quit the job. Ask the person out. Buy the shoes. Hire the coach. Whatever it is, just do it. Because you have enough information. Because the only thing left to do is decide. You know what you’re doing.  And, even if you don’t, this is how you will learn. So you might as well write a new story for yourself.

How to Get Good at Making Decisions

If you want to figure out what you want, make decisions, even bad ones. Don’t be so worried about “doing everything the right way”. You don’t even know what that is right now. If you’re in a place you don’t want to be (literally or emotionally), you won’t want to replicate your decision making process for getting to that place. So make other kinds of decisions, even ones that might feel irresponsible or frivolous.

After years of career dissatisfaction and trying to figure out what I wanted, it became clear that saying yes a lot is also a way to not have to figure out what you want. Once a bunch of my friends were out and trying to figure out our next move. People were shouting out lots of suggestions. They all sounded good to me. And my friend, Josh, who is one of the most rooted, self-assured people I have ever met, just looked at me and said, “Now you’re just saying yes to everything.”

He did not mean it as a compliment. And he was totally right. Saying yes that much, to lots of things indiscriminately, had become a liability. It was not helpful (to anyone), and it made my word less trustworthy.

Movement is the antidote to stagnancy. And when we haven’t made a decision in a long time, sometimes we just need to practice. It might mean making some not great ones in the beginning, but the good news is that phase rarely lasts long.

Decisions build trust and confidence in yourself, and if you feel like that’s too much right now, that’s why we have coaches.

Saying yes to everything is suspicious. Discernment means you are paying attention. Rarely does anyone want to do everything exactly the same. There is usually a hint of preference. People trust people with informed opinions. Doesn’t meant we have to listen to them all the time (or ever), but it shows you’re both paying attention and telling the truth. Both of these are key to getting out of the dark side. People who say yes to everything cannot be trusted – it means they are not paying attention and/or they are not telling the truth.

Being nice does not always mean you are acting from a place of integrity. Being nice does not always mean you are being honest. Being nice does not always mean you will be liked.

If you just want people to like you, you will end up sacrificing yourself. If you want to like yourself, you might have to sacrifice other people. I believe that the choice between being honest and being nice is not a choice. Our dark sides are much more inclined to take care of other people before we take care of ourselves, because it still thinks we don’t deserve what we want.

But we do.

WHEN FAILURE IS THE BEST OPTION

Raise your hand if you’re panicking about what to do with the rest of your life. Cool. Now, raise your hand if you ate an entire sleeve of cookies last night about it. Cool (me too). Now, raise your hand if you feel like everyone has their shit together except for you and you should really know better by now.

Awesome. Good talk.

For the record: I raised my hand for all three. Because while life can be challenging and we know that our brains sometimes play tricks on us, we also know that intellectually knowing these things doesn’t make us feel like it’s 100% real in the moment. Living a life that is exciting and awesome can be hard. Actually, it’s almost guaranteed to be hard. So even when we read things that encourage us to “fail faster” or “use our failure as fuel”, I think we can all agree sometimes it’s a little easier said than done. And while I would love to use failure as my fuel (because, believe me, I wouldn’t have to worry about running out for a *long* time), it’s not easy. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t teach ourselves how to do it.

Failure is not an amazing feeling. It can feel terrible, and like you’ve done something wrong, or have squandered an opportunity.

We’re scared of getting fired. Having no money. Dying alone. Never accomplishing anything, let alone what we really want to do.

How do I put this? Everyone feels this way. (Does that make it better or worse? Both? That’s fair.)

I think it’s safe to say that everyone thinks they’re going to die alone in a cardboard box at some point (or most of the time). But it’s also comforting because you have to know that if we all feel this way, it can’t totally be real. It might feel very real at times, but it just menas we all share the same 5-6 thoughts. Sometimes there’s a variation, but mostly it’s the same things. It’s actually kind of boring when you think about it.  You’re better than that. I promise you. Yes, risks will need to be taken. But, this is what bravery is. And courage. And exactly what you need to get anything done in this world.

We are willing to do a lot of things to avoid feeling like we failed. However, here’s the catch: Failure feels better than doing nothing.

It’s where all the good stuff is. The lessons (or at least the worthwhile ones). Growth is interesting, plateauing is boring. Energy needs to shift and move; stagnancy is where we begin to suffocate. We are here to be challenged and satisfied because we overcame said challenges and learned what we are really made of. We’re not afraid of work; we’re just worn out by busy work. We’re tired of working relentlessly on the wrong things. We don’t need work to be easy, but we want it to feel significant, like we’re getting somewhere. We want to feel like we are helping, or doing something worthwhile, instead of just spinning our wheels and waiting for something to change. Work gets so much of our time and energy; of course we’d rather it be something we enjoy.

So, what can we do? Here’s my suggestion. Make failure the goal.

Start here: ask yourself three questions. What will happen if I try this thing and it works out? What will happen if I try this thing and fail? What will happen if I don’t try this thing at all?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that what you’re afraid of happening is not what will happen if you fail. It’s actually what will happen if you do nothing. We think it’s the disappointment of failure that will hurt the most. But we’re wrong.  At least, failure gives us an answer. Maybe it’s not the one we had hoped for, but at least it’s a closed loop. Doing nothing allows our brains to run wild with the possibilities of just how badly we could fail. Usually this is a fear that stems from doing nothing.

But, if we actually fail, there are no elaborate fantasies to be had. The answer is we failed. We know exactly how and, hopefully, why so we can do something differently in the future. Failure does not mean you don’t deserve what you want – it means you extra deserve what you want.

Remember, none of this will kill you. It’s all part of the plan. If you want to be brave and strong, these are the things that will make you brave and strong. They never get easier. Ever. The people who tell you it gets easier are lying. You get more used to gearing yourself up to leap. You get more used to what it will feel like if you *don’t* do it. Yes, you might be scared. But I promise you this: you will be even madder if you do nothing.

Read more of Sara’s posts here: You’re Allowed to Change Your MindCan Changing One Thing Really Change Everything?, and Get Unstuck and Figure Out What You Want

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/when-failure-is-the-best-option/}

THE MYTH BEHIND “FINDING YOUR BLISS”: WHY THE PURSUIT OF BLISS CAN BE SUPER STRESSFUL

Somewhere along the line, “finding your bliss” became synonymous with “you should know what you love immediately and be able to make a ton of money doing it without much effort.” Bliss became a term for “thing you are wildly successful at without any work.” You would know you had “found your bliss” when something perfect happened to you that required no effort. And you were somehow supposed to know exactly how to make it happen, without actually doing anything.

This, my friends, is not a thing.

It’s precisely why so many people make themselves crazy trying to “follow their bliss.” They’re scared that the amount of work they’re putting into something means it’s not “their purpose.” If it were truly “their purpose,” it would have worked out by now. So they assume what they’re doing is wrong, or they’re on the wrong path. And because of this anxiety that they’re “doing it wrong,” they stop.

MYTH #1: YOUR RIGHT LIFE REQUIRES NO EFFORT.

Truth: Everything requires effort. Whether it’s pursuing something you really love, or trying to convince yourself that the life you currently have isn’t actually that bad, all of these things require effort and energy. People assume you won’t need to work hard when you love your life, or that if you’re not happy it’s because you’re not trying hard. Both of these things are false. Waking up everyday and living your life requires effort. The real decision is whether you want to expend that effort maintaining your current life, or redirect it toward something new and unproven.

MYTH #2: IF IT’S REALLY YOUR PURPOSE, IT WILL FALL INTO YOUR LAP.

Truth: Maybe this happens for some people, and bless them. For the rest of us, finding our purpose requires some guesswork, some trial and error. Think about how many careers have been invented over the last ten years. Do you think someone knew their purpose was to be an social media manager? Or app developer? These things were *just* invented. Were people in these industries stressed until Instagram Stories came around? Or were they testing out other things until they landed on something they liked?

Also, even if you know that your purpose is to be a writer or a therapist, there are still other questions. What kind of writing? Will you be a journalist? Or write children’s books? Maybe manuals of new technologies? Same with therapist. Psychiatrist? Children and families? Schizophrenia only? All things that still need to be tested.

And, if you think your purpose would really tell you: children’s books in the dining room with a candlestick, do yourself a favor and don’t. Because let’s say your purpose is undisputedly children’s books. You were born knowing that was your thing and you spend 20 years writing beautiful, award-winning children’s books. And then you get kind of bored because you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again for the last 20 years. Does that mean you can’t do something else because children’s books was your purpose? Or that you can’t abandon it altogether because you know that so many other people struggle to find their own purpose?

Maybe you can just try something else, because that’s what intelligent people do. They master something or get tired of it (or both, in that order) and then they pick up something new.

So maybe that’s what “your purpose” really is: it’s the thing you don’t mind doing for the time being. Until you get bored or you master it and want to try something new.

MYTH #3: WHEN I FIGURE OUT MY PURPOSE, I WON’T HAVE TO WORK AS HARD.

Oh, how I wish this one were true. Spoiler alert: It’s not. Sorry.

Once you finally find your purpose, the next set of obstacles will appear. Some people call thisupleveling, some people call it life. Whatever your name for it, it definitely happens. There will be new challenges and heartbreak and fears to navigate and things to learn. The trick about choosing a purpose is that it makes all that stuff slightly easier to tolerate. It makes your efforts, all the time and energy you spend, more worthwhile, more satisfying. It won’t be the same challenges over and over again, the ones you’re used to and might be frustrated with, the devil you know. There will be new challenges. And thank goodness for that. You are smart and curious and capable of a lot. These are the opportunities to see what you can do. Take risks and then look back on them and be impressed by what you just did. Make yourself proud. The only benefit to having a purpose here is that it might help focus your efforts.

When it comes to finding your bliss, the effort part is nonnegotiable. It is 100% here to stay. We can put effort into tolerating our lives, or effort into inching the needle towards something we think we might want, but the effort is a sure thing and it will always be there. The slightest effort in the direction we want can result in something that feels far beyond the what we expected Which might feel kind of magical–that something big could come from something seemingly so small. But that absolutely doesn’t mean it happened out of nowhere.

So where do you want to put your effort today? Is it toward a new job? Is it toward applying to school? Is it toward a path you are not totally sure of but one that feels better than where you are right now?

If the work part is nonnegotiable and the choice is between working toward something you might want and working toward something you already know that you don’t want, which will you choose? If everything requires effort, even the things that are supposed to be blissful and easy and our soul’s purpose, where will you choose to direct your efforts today?

Read more of Sara’s posts here

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/the-myth-behind-finding-your-bliss-why-the-pursuit-of-bliss-can-be-super-stressful/}

GET UNSTUCK AND FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT

There is so much written about getting unstuck these days. Apparently we are a nation wading through super glue, and we are begging for help. Whether this is because of a changing economy, a shift in consciousness, or a dying patriarchy (all great things), it’s still not helpful when you just want to go to work, come home, and be just the teeniest bit excited about your life. Yes, we know that Instagram is just someone’s highlight reel, but you’d like your own highlight reel too.

1. STOP THINKING WHAT YOU WANT IS SOMETHING YOU’VE LOST AND NOW HAVE TO FIND.

What you want, your desire, and your passions are not fixed entities you’ve somehow carelessly misplaced. It’s not like everyone else kept careful track of theirs, and you are the one person who lost yours in a giant pile, like coats thrown on a bed at a party and are now digging around trying to remember what exactly it looked like, and are you accidentally going to take home someone else’s.

You don’t know what you want because you haven’t created it yet. Maybe it used to be one thing and now it’s not that thing anymore. Maybe you got bored of it, outgrew it, or mastered it. That doesn’t mean you were wrong or misguided at any point. It just means it’s time to create something new: a goal, a habit, a theory to test out.

It can be really exciting to find something we that interests us. We think, finally! I’m set! I’ve solved this problem. And then we learn more about it, or learn how to do it and our interest wanes. Sometimes when we get good at something we love, we get bored. Once you learn how to do something, you don’t need to keep learning how to do it. You can keep getting better at it, or you pick something else to learn. That can seem frustrating when the point was to identify something you love so you don’t have to identify any more things that you love. But, once you learn to knit, you don’t keep learning how to use needles and wrap yarn around them. You either make a sweater or put down your needles and learn how to roast a chicken. It doesn’t mean you never should have learned how to knit. It just means maybe you’ve submitted that mountain, and now you need to climb back down and find a new hike to go on.

2. ASK EASIER QUESTIONS. I BET YOU’VE BEEN ASKING YOURSELF LOTS OF GREAT QUESTIONS LIKE, “WHO AM I? WHAT IS MY BLISS? WHAT MAKES ME LOSE TRACK OF TIME? WHAT’S SOMETHING I WOULD DO EVEN IF I DIDN’T GET PAID?”

All good questions, but you need to stop asking them immediately. The way out of this is not with deeply philosophical questions about life and love and happiness and purpose that have no concrete answers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those questions and will be more than happy to talk with you about all of that stuff. But in this very specific, frustrating scenario, those kinds of questions will do more harm than good. Switch to yes or no questions, or this/that questions. Questions that have a definite answer and allow you to track a progression. For example, Is this how I want to spend my time? Yes or no. Do I dislike this? Yes or no. Would I rather be doing (fill in the blank) Yes or no.

The antidote to stuckness is movement, so we want to ask questions that will get us going. Sure, maybe there are better ways to ask questions. But, if they keep us paralyzed because we can’t answer them, they are not better questions. Maybe it’s not the answer for everything, but maybe it will lead to movement or testing or pivoting. All things that feel fantastic in the face of overwhelm. Narrow the problem to what you can solve. Do not broaden it until it becomes unmanageable.

And sometimes narrowing the problem to something you can solve can be just as scary as wallowing in overwhelm. It’s probably even scarier because by now the overwhelm might feel slightly comfortable or familiar. If you have been in this headspace for a while, it’s very unlikely you will wake up tomorrow without a single harrowing or uneasy thought. But you can make navigating those thoughts easier, and you can do that by asking yourself easier questions.

3. FORMULATE A HYPOTHESIS AND THEN TEST IT OUT. LET’S BRING IT BACK TO SEVENTH GRADE SCIENCE FOR A MINUTE.

Take all the answers you got from these easier questions and formulate a hypothesis, aka a decent guess. Keep it at the seventh grade level. We have been trying to keep things simple this whole post, so now is not the time to switch to a graduate level hypothesis. Based on the answers you just got, what is your best guess for a way to move forward? Not the perfect way to move forward, or the best way to move forward, but A SINGLE way forward. Then test it out.

I guarantee you that at this point, the hypothesis is not “find more questions to ask”, “read another article”, or “learn more about this industry”. You’ve done more than enough homework, now you need to send your thing out into the world (BTW, this can be terrifying, but I 100% know you can do this). You need action, and the opportunity for other people (and the Universe!) to work on your hypothesis. I love you and think you’re brilliant, but we all only know so much. Now is the time to get other people involved. And maybe those other people will have answers and maybe they won’t, but they will give you perspective. And that is always valuable.

So, let’s pretend there is nothing to uncover or discover. Let’s assume there is only what we build and create and the reason you don’t know what you want is because you simply haven’t decided on it yet. If you don’t like what you decided on, pivot and keep going. The skill is not only in creating what you want, it’s developing the resilience to keep moving when you are still deciding on an answer.

I promise there is no treasure map you’re missing. There is no pirate’s chest that goes lost and uncovered if you don’t “find your purpose”. The purpose that was somehow predestined before you got here (no pressure!). There is only the purpose you choose. So, ask easy questions to narrow it down. Pick something. Low stakes test it out. Rinse and repeat. I swear, that’s all it is. You’re going to be amazing at it. You just have to give it a try.

Read more of Sara articles: You’re Allowed to Change Your MindCan Changing One Thing Really Change Everything?, and You Already Know the Answer

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/get-unstuck-and-figure-out-what-you-want/}

WINTER IS COMING

Some days it’s easier to trust in the Universe than others. Some days you wake up and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing everything is unfolding just as it should. Maybe there are a few variables or little things you’re nervous about, but overall you trust you are just where you need to be. You understand that the universe is benevolent. You know there is no need to worry; that what’s meant for you will not pass you by.

And some days you don’t. You panic. You get anxious. You start spinning your wheels like a hamster on Ritalin. You grasp and hoard and hedge your bets. This time it’s really too late. You’ve missed the boat and this is now the rest of your life. Sure life is beautiful, BUT IT’S ALSO PASSING US BY AND WHAT IF IT’S TOO LATE AND I’VE MISSED IT.

Those days can be really fun.

But why do we panic? Where does the stress come from? What happened today that is so much scarier than what happened yesterday? What was the ironclad evidence that happened today that proved this is as good as it gets so we should all panic?

Do you think trees panic in the winter when they lose their leaves? Do they think, “this is it! This will be the year that the leaves don’t grow back!” Do you think if a crop fails one year, a farmer just throws up their hands and says, “Well, that was a good run. I guess they’re never coming back.” Think of all the people that used to work at Friendster or MySpace (please tell me you get this reference). Do you think they just assumed that was the end of online profiles? Or, that they’d somehow made the wrong choice because they chose something that didn’t last forever?

Because, honestly, what is actually meant to last forever?

Maybe it helps to think of our lives like the seasons. Sometimes we’re in winter. The days gets shorter, the air gets colder, and it is guaranteed that everything will die, or sleep, or hibernate for a while. Maybe it will be a mild winter or a harsh one, but it will definitely be winter and it will definitely last for a certain period of time. And the thing about winter is that it is always followed by spring. Because spring always comes. Sure, winter might have been extra long this year, but spring did eventually show up. If our lives are cyclical, what if the only thing you had to do was place where you are in the cycle? Would it then be easier to accept where you are knowing it was temporary?

If we can trust that spring will always come, is there a reason to feel stressed? Yes, this year’s winter was really cold and there were a bunch of ice storms, so the power went out a lot, and then the basement flooded. There were probably times when we really and really felt like it would last forever.

But then one day it was fifty degrees. And then a bud popped up on a cherry tree. And sure there were still a few cold days sprinkled in here and there, but all of a sudden we were very clearly headed into spring.

It’s hard to feel stressed if we have trust. Real, true, honest-to-god trust. Trust that spring will come. Trust that is rooted in having no idea how this will all work out, but as long as we have the tiniest glimmer of spring in our hearts that is all we need. Because there are some times when trust feels a little easier because we can kind of-sort of-maybe-see how this might unfold. And then there are the times when you feel like you’re staring into the abyss. Where the abyss is endless winter you are absolutely sure that this time around there will be no spring.

So if you are panicking, stop. Take a breath. Are you in winter? If so, pause. There are things you can do in winter, but you can also only do so much. You can look at the seed catalog and buy some seeds, but you can’t plant anything because the ground is still frozen. So what can you do? And what can you actually not do? And are you making yourself crazy trying to do spring time activities in the dead of winter? Just trust. Spring is coming.

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/winter-is-coming/}

GO ALL IN | WHY IT’S VERY COOL TO TRY

If we are lucky, life will happen to us. If we are even luckier, it will be long, eventful and, maybe even relatively pain-free. So if we’re all operating under the assumption that we’re going to be here for a while, maybe we should make some plans for the time we’re here? If they don’t work, they don’t work, and we can pick some new ones. If they do work and they’re awesome, we’ll still probably have to pick some new ones. But, since it’s going to happen, why not try to make it something at least moderately enjoyable? Maybe you don’t know what those plans are yet, or maybe you have a slight inkling, but here are some tips that might help get the ball rolling.

1. It’s actually very cool to try. Trying is where all the good stuff is. We are here to be challenged and satisfied. Growth is interesting, plateauing is boring. Energy needs to shift and move; stagnancy is where we begin to suffocate. We’re not afraid of work, we’re worn out by busy work. We’re tired of working relentlessly on the wrong things. We don’t need work to be easy. We want to feel like we are helping, or doing something worthwhile, or feel like we’re accomplishing something, instead of just spinning our wheels. Work gets so much of our time and energy; of course, we’d rather spend it doing something we enjoy.

If you don’t know what that is yet, here’s a tip. Get very involved in whatever is in front of you. Even if you don’t love it, try harder. Care more about it. Even if you have to fake it for a while. Be more engaged with whatever it is you’re doing or the person you’re talking to, as challenging as it may seem. More engaged people enjoy things more. Even if it’s a little bit of a lie at first. Pretend like it’s interesting and that it matters, and soon it will be both.

2. Look forward to being bad at things. So many of my clients are afraid of being “bad” at things. I had one client who was so afraid of being bad at her job search and then be bad at her new job, she almost didn’t quit her job. She was afraid of all the things she assumed she didn’t know (and would therefore get wrong). She was almost willing to stay at the job she hated because she believed that she would be bad at the process of change. A process that, yes, might be hard and frustrating, but that is really hard to prove that you did it wrong. She was willing to hate her life for the next however many years rather than risk being bad at something. I mean, it’s scary. I can see her point. But is it really a way to live?

So, we started questioning her fear of being bad at something. What was the worst that could happen? Apparently, it was that she could make a mistake in front of everyone and then everyone would know she had made a mistake. Her credibility would be shot forever, and she may as well quit that job too. If her best friend or co-worker had done that (made a mistake), she would have thought they were being unnecessarily dramatic and basically insane, but yet if she did it, it was all true. She expected herself to be perfect at all times, no matter how much leeway she gave to others.

We thought of previous times in her life when she hadn’t known exactly how to do everything when she started but was able to figure it out over time and be successful over time. Turns out, she had a proven track record in her life of these exact circumstances. This was no different. She knew enough to get started and she would learn the rest as she went through the process because that’s what she had done before. And she did. She quit her job and started a new one that she was very excited about. Totally nervous, but excited about her bravery, impressed with her having done the hard work, and scare-cited about the change she was able to make.

3. You can’t laugh at what you want. Or laugh hard, but don’t belittle it. Protect it against derision all costs. There are some people who don’t have to guts to admit what they want. And those are exactly the people most likely to make fun of what you want. Repeat after me: it means nothing. They are just intimidated and jealous by your willingness to declare something. They are going to use it to justify why they are not protecting the thing they want. There are also many other reasons none of them actually have anything to do with you. But ultimately it is just a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. There will be times when you are the only one who understands something or thinks it’s a good idea. It might be lonely; you might feel misunderstood. Be on your own team. Be all in anyway.

Also, maybe the thing that you want is not your dream. Maybe it’s not absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted. But maybe it’s something to get to the next place. Maybe it’s something you need to take yourself seriously. Maybe it’s a part of the path.

One of the myths that can accompany the idea of following your bliss is that bliss is synonymous with ease. If something does not magically fall out of the sky and into your lap, that it cannot be for you. And maybe some things fall into your lap, and that’s certainly happened to me, but looking back the things that fell into my lap were transitional things. They were the things put there to get me out of one scenario and into another. The other situations, the ones that I really wanted to be in required work. And awkwardness. And declaring my wants so they could be critiqued and rejected. Because it’s very easy to land in a situation, but it requires work to stay there. If we are lucky, time will continue to march on, so we will need to recharge, reinvent, and create new things for ourselves.

If you can be all in on your own life (no matter what it looks like in this very moment) and you can somewhat look forward to being bad at things, and you can try things, even without the assurance of an outcome or that you will be good at them, that’s a pretty good recipe for success.

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/go-all-in-why-its-very-cool-to-try/}

YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER

“LOVE YOURSELF FIRST AND EVERYTHING ELSE FALLS INTO LINE. YOU REALLY HAVE TO LOVE YOURSELF TO GET ANYTHING DONE IN THIS WORLD.” – LUCILLE BALL

Sometimes I avoid making decisions. I wait until things become so extreme that the decision is basically made for me. It mostly takes the guesswork out, but it can also be pretty exhausting. One of my best friends is terrible at letting go of relationships. She will let people walk all over her until having them around is just not an option anymore.

Both my friend and I could be more assertive, but what can I say? Sometimes we don’t always do what is best for ourselves.

The similarity in these two situations is that we both knew what we had to do from the beginning. We just hoped the answer would change somewhere along the way. We hoped to somehow avoid the hard thing – the thing we knew was the answer. The tension we feel when we avoid decisions doesn’t come from being in the dark about what to do. It comes from knowing the answer and wanting it to be different than what it is. The stress comes from seeing how long I can live in this tension. The doubt isn’t a fear of not being able to figure it out because in reality you already have it figured out. You might not like the answer, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know it.

The hesitation comes when you see that you will need to make changes and take risks. You will need to put time, energy, and money into something and not necessarily know how it’s going to work out. Yes, you will need to find a new job. Or start your own company. Or go back to school. Yes, you will have to move. Yes, you will have to spend a lot of money on something that might not work out exactly how you want it to. This is the part that causes us stress. The stress is not spending the money or applying to school; the stress is, how can I avoid taking this next step? How can I go back to the time when the status quo was enough? When I didn’t see there was a road ahead of me that might be scary or weird or humbling? A road with no guarantees? A road where the only guarantee is that it gets me out of where I am? And then where I was might look better. Maybe it will look safer, more predictable. It’s then easier to see how you mastered success in the place you’re about to leave.

Knowing this, of course, a temptation to gather more information would be born. As a life coach, I love to read everything. I read tons of articles, books, listen to podcasts – it’s a lot of information coming in. And, while it’s mostly good information, the effects aren’t always positive. Reading about what people want me to do and think and feel, and learning methods for me to do and think and feel ironically makes me less tuned into what I’m actually doing and thinking and feeling. The desire to consult more friends or listen to another podcast is a stalling tactic. You already have more than enough information. You already know yourself better than your mother or best friend or yoga teacher ever will.

There comes a time when you need to step away and check in with yourself. It can be really exciting to read about what people are teaching and apply what you’ve learned in your own life. But before you listen to me or your friend or Oprah, check in with yourself first. Does it feel like something the highest, wisest version of yourself would do? Or are you hedging your bets or doing what’s familiar? Is this decision you’re making coming from a place of love or a place of fear? Is it the same thing you would do if you already knew in advance that everything would work out?

Having the answer requires nothing. Putting the answer into practice is everything. Knowing you want to be an artist is easy. Doing the work to be an artist is very different. The myth of upleveling your life (making it better than it currently is) is that it will be easy. And, this where we start to doubt our instinctsand assume we must have gotten it wrong somewhere along the way. Change is change. Breaking through to new ground means something still has to break. Even your dreams are work. Especially your dreams are work. You might have all the DNA to fly, but you might fall out of the nest a few times. You might be the last chick to learn to fly. When people say you can have anything you want, but you have to make it happen, it’s by turns soothing and threatening. Trying to do and get things you want is harder and weirder and scarier than maybe it should be. But, when did bliss become synonymous with ease?

You can also decide to do things for reasons that have nothing to do with bliss. You can decide to do things for ease, money, bragging rights, experience – these are all totally fair reasons to do anything. Because ultimately you are the only person you have to explain these things too. Maybe your friends get it. Maybe your family supports it. But maybe they don’t. So then what? Will that change your mind?

What if bliss is really just a general direction to head in? And then the grind is what makes bliss into reality? And then, along the way, “bliss” presents another clue, which in turn requires more grinding? What if we just knew and accepted this as the cycle, and stopped being surprised when hard work and risk follow our dreaming every time?

What if we just accepted that you might work very hard towards something you want and have it turn out differently than you expected? Back when your life was easy and it didn’t really matter what happened, not getting something might have been less painful because you weren’t trying. You couldn’t really be disappointed because you hadn’t really wanted it in the first place. But after taking a risk to make a change failure or disappointed will be harder and sadder. You worked so hard on this thing and it didn’t happen. And now you have to start over. Of course that sounds terrible.

But you do it anyway.

Because what’s the alternative? A year from now, will you still be in this place? Knowing the answer, but looking at how daunting it might be, and pretending you don’t know? Waiting for a better answer to come along? One that might be more agreeable? Or easier? Or just different than the one that’s right in front of you? In a year, there might be even more angst because now the next decision you make has to be PERFECT because you HAVE NO TIME TO WASTE.

Ugh. That sounds like a lot.

SO. Your to-do list is now everything you’re scared to do. Everything you’re hoping isn’t really the answer. The things you’re doubting because you hope they’ll get easier or disappear once you “figure out” the real answer.

Because you already know the answer. Now you just need to go out and do it.

{Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/you-already-know-the-answer/}

YOU’RE ALLOWED TO CHANGE YOUR MIND

 via: http://www.ourbodybook.com/

via: http://www.ourbodybook.com/

This might not be a tactic they teach in English class, but I’m going to go ahead and give away the end at the beginning. It might not be advisable, but I just want you to know right now, in case this is for you, what I’m trying to say. In the event that you don’t have time to read this entire piece, or if you get nothing else from it, you will immediately understand my most important message.

Here’s the deal: You are always allowed to change your mind.

You can change it today, or tomorrow, or five years from now. You can change your mind after you graduate, or after you’ve already accepted a job. Even if you can’t fathom one more decision because you already feel like you are the “flaky” one and people roll their eyes when you proclaim yet another path you are going to embark upon. Even if you think you’re too old. Even if you think you should know better. Do it specifically because you’re too old. Do it because you actually do know better. And knowing better is exactly what’s leading you to consider a change. You can change your mind as much and as often as you wish. Do not let anyone compromise or remove your agency. Your choice is your choice. Period. End of story. You do not have to explain it to anyone.

You are always, always allowed to change your mind.

Okay, now let’s get down to brass tacks. I have an amazing client right now who is embarking on a major life change. She is currently in one of those professions where people have spent a LOT of time and money to get their degrees. Changing her mind is no small decision. We are talking resources, time, money, and careful consideration.

But here’s the other side: it’s not actually even a choice. It’s something she has to do. She knows there is no price you can put on her sanity (and trust me, the price she has already put on it is pretty high), but what we’re talking about was a forgone decision. Because she cannot continue as she is.  And, really, isn’t that all you need to know? You know something has to change. The rest is just logistics. In my client’s case, two weeks after she came to that very decision, an amazing job opportunity landed in her lap.

Changing your mind does not mean that you knew less back then. Did you used to play with Barbies? Or decorate your room with pictures of horses? Maybe you took ballet three times a week? Or spent every Saturday on the soccer field? Do you still do those things? If not, do you feel like you made the wrong choice back then? Or that you somehow didn’t know yourself? Or, do you look back at the person you were and the things you liked, and recognize that, while they may feel very far from who you are now, it’s okay that you’ve grown and are different now? Past you was just making the decisions you knew how to make at the time. Now, if you want to, you can make other decisions. And that’s all there is to it.

Changing your mind does not mean you missed something obvious along the way, and can no longer be trusted to make sound decisions. It just means you have evolved and grown as a person (and thank goodness for that). You might be a very similar version of yourself, but maybe 20% of you is different. And that 20% is making it hard to continue on with the way things are. You can still choose to ignore the 20%. Because no matter what, you will always have free will. But it’s worth thinking about how you might not be a totally and completely different person. Maybe that 20% has just shifted, and you have the option of adapting.

If you’ve been reading about self-improvement, you may have heard about the concept of love-based decisions versus fear-based decisions. The idea may sound very abstract, but it’s actually pretty easy and you can do it right now.

Take a minute and conjure the wisest, most successful version of yourself. This is the version of yourself who has already figured out what you want to know. Take a breath and allow her to take up residence in your brain and body for at least a minute. Now call to mind what’s weighing on you. And then imagine what she would do. Can you act as if you were her?

That’s it. If you already knew that everything would work out for the best, what would you do? Or what’s the next thing you would do? Even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as ordering lunch (because the way we do one thing is the way we do everything), do it like she would. It might feel like it’s not enough, but remember after every decision, there is another. Because it is ever really just the one decision? Or is it the one after that too? And if it really is just one decision, and it’s completely impossible to change your mind, what would the highest version of yourself do? The woman who can do anything, or make anything work, what would she do? Because maybe that’s really all you need to know.

Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/youre-allowed-to-change-your-mind/

WHY FINDING YOUR PURPOSE IS KIND OF IRRELEVANT

I’m pretty sure I should have been a lawyer. Or a manicurist. Or a personal stylist.

I can argue with anyone and about anything for a long period of time. It doesn’t matter how wrong I might be – I am relentless.

I’m really good at painting nails. Not elaborate nail art, or anything too crazy, but if you want a straight-up basic manicure that’s pretty decent, I’m your girl.

I excel at helping people choose outfits for special occasions, work, etc. While I don’t love shopping for myself, when it comes to my friends and family, I can spot things immediately.

These are the gifts that come naturally to me. These are things I find fairly easy. It’s very possible at least one of them is something I am meant to be doing. There is a good chance that something on that list is My Purpose.

And yet, here I am – a life coach, writer, and entrepreneur. You’ll notice none of these things are on the list above.

Other factors to consider: I’m a Cancer and an introvert (an extroverted introvert, but an introvert. Another article, another time). So, I find the need to be consistently visible, put myself out there, remind people of coaching programs I offer and connect with them in authentic ways that also let them know I’m selling something, challenging. If I were doing a skills assessment, it would probably not suggest any career that necessitates doing these things on a daily basis. And yet here I am. So…that’s interesting.

Does this mean I’m not “living my purpose”? Should I be worried? Should I abandon what I’ve been doing and jump to a more sensible role? Should I get more serious about building a career that aligns with my natural abilities?

One of the great things a changing economy has allowed for is the possibility of work that fulfills us. There is less expectation that one job is done for thirty years until retirement and then we can finally enjoy life on our pension and social security. Maybe the role of choice has made things measurably better. However, maybe it also arrived with increased stress as well.

If I now have the choice to pick a career I love, does anything less than “love” mean I’m doing it wrong? Does anything less than My Calling mean I’m working in the wrong job or in the wrong field? Can I be happy if I never figure out what My Purpose is?

So, what if it turns out we’ve actually just been talking about it the wrong way? What if your purpose wasn’t something you had to uncover like a treasure, but something you could choose? Maybe it’s not that you can’t find it no matter how hard you look, but it’s not there because you haven’t created it yet. Maybe you can’t find it because searching for it feels stressful, and stress + more stress does not = carefree happy life.

When people talk about setting their intentions for each day, they’re actually just talking about choosing their purpose. It might not be a huge answer dropped from the sky that solves everything, but it might just be better than that. Creating your purpose, one small step at a time might not be the easy way out, it might be the way out.

For some people, the thought of having to create a purpose might be the more stressful of the two. But for others, the fear of missing out on your purpose, having something that you’ve completely missed, and when you die it just remains buried in the earth forever, is the real nightmare. So, what if your purpose was something you actively chose? Maybe even as frequently as every day?

So maybe you have a purpose now. Maybe you don’t. But what if you just chose one? What if it didn’t matter what it was “supposed” to be? What if it was the thing you wanted it to be? Sure, we have natural skills and abilities, we’re more adept at some things than others, but we also have free will. So maybe just choose something. It doesn’t have to be forever, but what if it happens to be the perfect thing for you right now?

If you could choose your purpose, what would you choose?

Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/why-finding-your-purpose-is-kind-of-irrelevant/

WHY IT’S SO EASY TO GET STUCK

You know when things are fine? Not in the passive-aggressive way when we say things are fine, and they’re clearly not. I mean when things are actually (mostly, almost) good. Like, can’t-complain, everything’s-good-on-paper, everyone’s-employed-and-has-their-health-so-why-are-we-pushing-it fine. Maybe some things could be better, but nothing egregious is wrong. You mostly like your life. Maybe nothing’s amazing, but also nothing’s terrible. You’re not really too excited about anything, but you don’t outright hate anything. You want some things to be different, but you know other people’s lives are much harder, so you feel like you should just accept the shortcomings and be grateful for what you have.

I call this the Chokehold of Mediocrity: the place where things are just good enough that you’re nervous to change them, but not so good because you feel antsy in your own life. The place where things are good enough that you can’t complain, but you still feel like complaining. The place where things could be better, but they could also be worse, so do you really want to risk it?

The thing about mediocrity that no one talks about is that it’s hard work to maintain a life you feel only so-so about. It’s hard for several reasons.

One, it takes energy to wake up every day and work. It takes energy to interact with people all day long, to travel from place to place, to be a parent, to feed yourself and/or other people, to stay positive, and to try to work in a little self-care so you can continue to do all these things. All of this requires a good deal of energy. However, it takes almost the exact same amount of energy to convince yourself you’re okay with all the things you encounter on a daily basis as it does to actually do them.

What? That can’t be right.

And maybe it’s not (even if there were actual math to do here, I would probably get it wrong #whyiwrite). But it’s hard work to pretend you’re grateful to have a job just because it’s a job and so many people don’t have jobs. It’s hard work to spend hours a day on things you used to find interesting, but now bore you.  It’s hard work to do all this and then get in a gym session, or read a few pages of your book, or watch some Netflix because you need to shut off your brain. After all, that brain has been working hard all day, talking you into your life.

It’s hard work to pretend like you care. And that’s something that the DGAF life has given us. It’s not that people actually don’t care, it’s that they care so much more about doing things they want to, rather than what they should do. It’s why self-care is so necessary. We spend so much time separated from ourselves that we need the time to re-connect and put ourselves back together.

If most of your energy is focused on just on maintaining the status quo, and you’re not even that excited about the status quo, that’s a lot. If you want things to change on top of that, that’s even more energy you’ll need to come up with.

It’s okay to be grateful for what you have and still want things to be different. It’s okay to have a perfectly fine job, and still want another job. Sure it’s scary to think about putting yourself in a new environment. What if you do all this work to change and you still don’t like the work? What if you meet all these new people and you still don’t like them? What if you have to make less money? These are all questions you will definitely have to answer.

So, you could do three things:

1. Do Nothing: Stay at the job until you hate it. Stay at the job until you become so bored and annoyed, you get a clearer picture about leaving. Or, stay at the job and continue to feel blasé about it. You don’t have to think. You just roll up to work and get a paycheck. It’s not that hard, and you’re mostly fine with it. Continue to do this because you don’t want or need that kind of stress in your life. Totally fine.

1a. Do Nothing and Hope You Start Liking Your Job More: Stay at your job until you love it. This could happen. It might be a long shot, but it happens. Maybe you’ll get promoted. Maybe you’ll make more money. That’s always great. Stay and see how if these things happen for you.

2. Do Everything: Quit your job. Find a new job. Start a business. Be as radical as possible. Burn it all down.

3. Do Something: Start looking. Ask your friend whose job you’ve always been curious about what their day-to-day is like. Ask them what they wish they had known before they started their job. Ask them how they got their job.

Real talk for a minute: the answer is usually somewhere in number three. Whether it’s creating a new situation for yourself entirely, or shifting your perspective while everything remains the same, doing something other than exactly what you’re doing always seems to shift something.

IT’S OKAY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE AND STILL WANT THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT.

For you, it might look like leaving your job exactly at 5pm because it should only get so much of your time and energy. It might mean looking for, or applying to, one job per week to start generating some momentum without totally overwhelming yourself. Maybe start a side hustle with a friend. Create a standing dinner date with your best friend. Enlist some help in moving yourself out of this situation. Remove one thing that depletes you and replace it with something that energizes you. 

The thing to remember is that you are the Decider. It doesn’t even matter what you decide, just make sure you are doing it because you make the decisions, and you made this one. You are the one who decided that this was how your life would be, your life didn’t decided for you by default. If something doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, it doesn’t mean you chose wrong. It means you have more information to use for your next decision. Just decide on something. Make the next best decision you can. And trust you can handle whatever comes up.

Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/why-its-so-easy-to-get-stuck/

CAN CHANGING ONE THING REALLY CHANGE EVERYTHING?

It’s the beginning of March. We are squarely in 2017. The gloss and sheen of the new year and all its shiny resolutions are getting hazy and it becomes easier to say, “Well…there’s always next year.” Things that you might want to change, questions you might want to answer are starting to feel larger and farther away. You might even be asking: ugh, why bother?

Because the way to change yourself is to change one thing. There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.” I always hated it.What does that even mean? It couldn’t be right, could it? How could the way I washed the dishes be the way I drove my car?

We spend a lot of time in January tackling big questions: what kind of person do I want to become? How am I going to make my life better? A new year is your chance to figure it out and make it all right! Which is great. It’s always good to put some big picture things in place so we have framework for tackling the little things. But big picture stuff can be abstract and intimidating. Of course, we want to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser. But the key question  is “how?”

So let’s play along with the Buddhists for a minute. If the way you do one thing really is the way you do everything, then all you have to do is change one tiny thing. Because, by proxy, you’re changing everything. Which seems infinitely more manageable. Making your bed in the morning seems a lot easier promise to keep then hitting the gym 5 days a week and losing 15 lbs. But, if A = C, then maybe, in some crazy way, making my bed every day will help me lose 20 lbs. (Or not. My math skills are really limited. This might not be how that equation works.)

What if we were to start in the place that seems like it would make the least amount of difference? Say, something you would like to change eventually, but is mostly fine for now. A little thing, a tiny annoyance that seems harmless, but might actually be taking up a lot more (possibly physical, maybe emotional) space than you think. Maybe it feels like that black sweater you keep reaching for. The fit is a little off, it’s slightly pilled, but you continue to wear it. You know you need to get a new one, but you’re not totally sure about spending the money. Plus, it’s a basic black sweater that mostly does the trick. So what if you don’t, like, love it?

***

“THE WAY YOU DO ONE THING IS THE WAY YOU DO EVERYTHING.”

***

I call these tolerations. What are tolerations? They are the things that take up the space of things you want. Big or small, if we only have so much time and energy, and all of yours is spoken for with circumstances you are tolerating, there’s no space for anything else to get in. Yes, we all have 24 hours in a day, but if you need 2 hours after you get home to undo the effects of what you’ve been tolerating all day, you’re already starting at a disadvantage. And maybe you don’t know what you would replace your tolerations with yet, but you really won’t if your whole schedule is packed with them.

So, these things that seem mostly harmless and inconsequential are actually anything but. If we think about our lives, our resources of time and energy are finite. What is the annoying thing that is consuming your precious time and energy? Does it really deserve it? Can you get rid of it? Maybe there’s a way to change it or make it better? Really take a look at your time. How much of it is being taken up by minuscule tasks you’re trying to barrel your way through, or just can’t wait to be finished with?

Sure, it would be great if we all meditated for an hour a day, or ate only organic foods, but if that’s not where you are, that’s not where you are. Start by removing one annoying task so an organic carrot can get through. Don’t tell someone you’ll feed their fish when they’re on vacation. That could be your meditation time. Don’t have dinner with those people you kind of like, and have been trying to schedule something with forever. That meal could be your new black sweater. If how we do one thing is how we do everything, that’s all you’ll need to do anyway.

Originally published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/can-changing-one-thing-really-change-everything/

GUT CHECK | A GUIDE TO FOLLOWING YOUR INSTINCTS

If you’re someone who’s obsessed with self-help books or reading interviews with influential people (my hand is raised too), you’ve probably heard a lot of them say how at some point you have to learn how to follow your instincts. Whether it’s figuring out what you want, or what to do next, most of them mention the importance of learning to go with your gut.

However, they also usually make it seem very simple. Which might be true, but if you’ve never really done it before, or aren’t used to it, it might not feel simple at all. Of course, following our instincts seems like a great plan, but how do we do that exactly?

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

I had a friend with very strong instincts, but because they sometimes led to a different outcome than the one she was expecting, she thought her instincts must have been wrong and couldn’t be trusted.

This is usually where the disconnect happens.

We assume we know where we should end up. We assume outcomes have a right and wrong, and even more, that we know which is which. We have specific ways we want success to look. If there’s an end result we’re really attached to, it’s easy to second guess something that might be indicating differently. So we doubt, and then spend even more time analyzing because we assume our instincts are no longer reliable and therefore shouldn’t be listened to.

In my book, Just Tell Me What I Want, I talk about being let go from a job (actually I talk about being let go from a couple of jobs). For this one job, I was given six weeks of severance, and at the end of the sixth week, I was handed a job I hadn’t even tried to get. What luck! I hadn’t even had to try. Six weeks of paid vacation that led straight into a job I hadn’t even had to work for. Thanks, Universe.

However, there was a catch. I knew it was wrong after a week, but I stayed for ten months. We have opportunities and instincts, but we also have free will. The universe presented me with an opportunity. I took it. I had the instinct to leave, but I had the free will to stay. The terrible job clearly wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but I assumed something that was just handed to me couldn’t be wrong. So I ignored my instincts to leave.

Remember, a gut feeling does not necessarily predict an outcome – it just offers insight about what’s in front of you, or your next right step. You might not understand it, or it might not ultimately pan out how you hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean your instincts were wrong. When we think things need to look a certain way – a promotion, a proposal, a certain income -, we close ourselves off to other possibilities that maybe we haven’t thought of, but might be equally good. Sometimes the Universe has other plans. We assume our instincts mean a safe, happy, predictable outcome that we’ve pre-approved. But that’s not always how it works.

SOMETIMES OUR INSTINCTS LOOK DIFFERENT FROM WHAT SOCIETY WANTS

This can be tricky to navigate. There’s a part of us that is conditioned to function within societal norms. This is the part of us that says “please”, and wants to be liked and maybe to be seen as successful in a specific way through the eyes of a few specific people. What happens when our instincts show up in direct conflict with how society wants us to live or act? What do we do then? Does that mean our instincts are wrong? Or does it just mean what we are being pointed towards be a little uncomfortable for us?

Societal norms would like us to keep jobs for more than a year, maybe go to college, maybe get married – this list goes on. But what if your instincts are leading you away from those things? What will you chose? Instincts will be there. And you can learn how to hear them, but everything you do after that is up to you. It’s still your life, so you can do what you want. Your instincts can act as a guide, but ultimately you always get to choose.

WE ARE A CULTURE THAT PLACES A PREMIUM ON RATIONAL THOUGHT AND THINKING

We are told to stay calm and think things through, for fear we’ll do something stupid. We’re taught to analyze thoroughly, make pro/con lists, and then make responsible choices. So, when you hear someone talking about listening to their gut, it might be easy to think, “Sure, that sounds nice for them, but how does it work for me?”

For the purposes of this article, we’ll define intuition as information that comes from a place other than the rational, or thinking, mind. This could mean physical sensations that show up in the body or a strong sense of knowing that maybe you can’t quite explain. These are all just ways for the brain to get other information from somewhere other than the (reptilian part) of it that’s tasked with keeping us alive. This is a part of the brain that’s totally necessary (and I hope stays there forever), but it’s not everything. It doesn’t know that while looking for a new job, or taking a risk might be scary, it won’t actually kill us. After all, the reptilian brain doesn’t care that we are happy, it cares that we are alive. And when you’re applying for a new job or taking a risk, it might be scary (a trigger for that part of the brain) but it won’t actually kill you.

One place to start testing your instincts could be noticing physical sensations in the body. How do you physically react to certain situations? Do they make you feel freer? Or more drained? Looking to the body for data points can sound very irrational to the thinking mind. But, it might be worth a try.

Also, try to avoid looking for explicit and comprehensive answers about your entire life (wouldn’t that be nice?) Starting looking for small, short  answers about things that are directly around or affecting you. They might also be coupled with physical sensations. Notice how you feel directly after. Intuition doesn’t shout, and it shouldn’t have to. We are very lucky to have it, so remember to say please and thank you (I just like to be polite).

Orignially published here: http://www.ourbodybook.com/gut-check-a-guide-to-following-your-instincts/