As coaches, Rachel and I are all about helping people make decisions based on their own desires, values, and intuition.
As simple as that sounds in theory, the truth is that other people’s opinions and beliefs have a sneaky way of creeping up and clouding your own wants. It can get so bad that sometimes you honestly can’t tell if you actually want something or if you’ve taken on other people’s desires for you.
For example, I’ve had clients who were pursuing a job in law, medicine, or teaching because that’s what their families valued. It wasn’t until they entered the confidential space of coaching that they could finally admit, “I don’t care about this … not even a little bit.”
When it comes to knowing what you want — not what your parents, friends, professors, or bosses want for you — you’ve got to keep in mind these two things:
1. ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION BEFORE MAKING ANY DECISION OR GOAL
I was recently coaching a woman about her career, and one of the first things she said to me was, “I really want my next job to be prestigious. I want to work at a big-name company that everyone will recognize. When I tell my whole family over Thanksgiving dinner what I do, I want them to be impressed and proud of me.”
While it’s true that feeling significant, impactful, and proud of your work is important for anyone, my intuition kicked in hardcore telling me that there was something “off” about this goal of hers. I knew I had to challenge where this desire was coming from.
Instinctually, I asked her, “If you weren’t allowed to tell anyone what your next job was — you were the only one who would know the truth — then what would you want?”
She paused for a moment, and then said, “So no one would ever find out what I did? Hmmm. Well, honestly, that would be a huge relief, because I personally don’t really care how prestigious of a company I work for. I think I’d love to do something really creative. Maybe something like interior design or graphic art at a little boutique company, where I’d get to create something beautiful every day.”
I could physically feel the spark she had on the other end of the phone.
It was simultaneously exhilarating and extremely uncomfortable. We were opening up doors she’d never let herself even look at before.
That’s what happens when you let go of other people’s desires for you and tap into what you really want, at your core. It feels like a massive relief and sheer terror at the same time.
So as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s crucial to ask yourself regularly…
“If no one knew what you were doing, would you still want to do it?”
2. BE SELECTIVE ABOUT WHO YOU TURN TO FOR ADVICE
I’m fairly confident all of you have had this experience…
You have a big decision to make: Should I leave this relationship, take this new job, start my business, move to NYC, etc.? So you ask everyone you know for their advice. You know you can’t possibly think through all the potential outcomes on your own, so you want to combine brainpower with your sister, friends, mom, coworkers, therapist, dog walker.
And you get LOTS opinions back (because, let’s be honest, most people aren’t shy about sharing their views). Everyone seems to have a really good rationale behind their advice, too.
Except there’s one glaring problem: Your mom’s advice clashes with your best friend’s, who’s views are totally different from your officemate, who has tons of reasons why your sister’s opinion is flat-out wrong.
So you started out with one big question, and now you have 12 totally different, compelling answers … and still no idea what YOU actually want. Your search for a solution just exploded into an even more confusing mess than before. Plus, the more opinions you hear, the more you second-guess your own intuition or gut feeling.
So what’s the solution?
I’m not telling you to become a hermit and stop sharing your life with friends and family. But I am suggesting that you become hyper-aware of how often you’re asking for advice, and from whom.
When people give you advice, no matter how loving their intention is, they’re really only telling you what they would do in your situation. Their response may or may not line up with your values and priorities, and it very likely won’t be 100% right for you.
So when you have a big decision to make, consider limiting your advice-seeking to one or two trusted people who know you well. Or better yet, talk about it with a coach or other objective third-party who can give a completely unbiased view and help you get clarity about what you want.
And most importantly, make sure to give yourself plenty of alone time before making a big decision so you can get clear on what your intuition is telling you.
So now I want to hear from you: What’s a big decision you’re considering right now? And how will you determine if you’re making the right choice for you? Leave a comment below to let me know.
Kristen (+ Rachel)
I am 48 years old and I am considering leaving my career that I have had for the past 25 years. I work as a retail store manager and I have had enough of the hours and missed time away from work during the holidays. My father passed away recently and I received an inheritance that would allow me to be off from work for a while to realize some much needed time off and to realize what my passions are that I may want to pursue. I want to become semi retired but I am afraid of the financial and personal aspects of this decision.
That’s definitely a big decision! And it’s great that opportunities are starting to open up for you, John. Sounds like you know what you want, even though the fears might be creeping in (which is completely normal). Good luck with your decision!
I will be graduating with a Master in International Business Management in September and I still don’t know if I should go back to Amsterdam where I had the best internship last year, or take a big step and move to San Francisco to take a chance there… Exciting decision but scary as well! 😉 And I get a different opinion every time I ask someone for help!
Lots of exciting options! And it’s so true that everyone in your life will have a different opinion. Sounds like it might be time to get quiet with yourself to let your own desires stand out from the other voices. Come back and let us know what you choose!
I have lived in New York City for almost 12 years, in which times are very different then when I moved here. I am trying to decide if I should move to Colorado, where my immediate family lives. I have nothing holding me back or keeping me in NYC. However, I have not had much of an attraction to living in CO. It may possibly be needed fresh start…
A great question to ask yourself, Melanie, is, “What’s my #1 desire for the next place I live?” Is it connection and community? Adventure? Comfort? Opportunities? Figuring out what’s driving your desire to move may help you determine the best place for you.
I left a job after 17 years… Technically I quit fulltime, permanent and became parttime temporary. I was so burned out and unhappy that I literally felt like I was going to die at that job (Human Resources in a government agency). I went parttime to be more available for my young child as well so I wouldn’t stroke out (only partially kidding on that second part). I’m still hanging on to the temp job because it’s an income and I still need to bring in money for the family. However, I really am not happy doing the same thing I was doing (just a different department in the same government job, and less responsibility). I really want to work from home reselling antiques and vintage collectibles, or at least I think that’s what I want to do. But my fear of completely letting go of a steady albeit, moderate income is frightening. I’ve already made the biggest step of walking away from a career. I just can’t push myself to take the final step – or leap of faith? But I’m not sure why?
Tish, you are so not alone here! Walking away from stability and a steady paycheck for uncertainty is really scary! Especially when you have a family relying on you. Sounds like you’ve already taken a big leap by moving to part-time, which proves that you have courage and determination. How possible is it for you to start your side business (reselling antiques and vintage collectibles) right now before you finally quit your job for good?
This post came at the perfect time for me. I literally just spent4 hours researching and trying to plan for my Big Decision! I’m a junior in college and I’m not sure what to do after graduation. My heart says it wants to take a gap year and go on a year-long volunteer trip, my head (and my family) wants me to go for my masters and another more practical part of me is saying I should just get a job, because I can’t afford either of the first two. If it was entirely up to me, I would take the gap year and then do my masters. But my financial situation requires me to decide. I still don’t know what I’ll choose.
Glad this came at the perfect time for you, Roxanne! It sounds like you know what you want, but some fears and external factors (like finances) are getting in the way. A great question to ask yourself is, “What’s the worst that could happen if I choose what I most want here?” Oftentimes, our worst-case scenario is easier to bounce back from than we think it is.
I’m thinking of quitting my terrible job and moving to California. I grew up in New York and really imagine myself living here forever but I’m not finding the right opportunities here and maybe I’ll have some luck in California.
Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Gillian! What in particular is drawing you to Cali?
My situation allows me to not have to work for money. My husband has a great job. I don’t know what I want to do with my time: a job , volunteering, etc. Currently, I work in the accounting field but not sure if it is where I belong. I need to answer the question, what do I want to do if I couldn’t tell anyone?
Let us know if you have any “ah-ha” moments as you’re answering that question, Nikki!
I am 21 years old, going to be 22 this year, and I’m a junior in college getting a BA in History. I HATE history. People told me I’d make a good lawyer, I figured, GREAT! I’ll do that, they make money and it sounds fancy. So I enrolled in History with plans to go to law school after. I now know that I HATE my major, I don’t want to be a lawyer, and I know not to make my decisions based on people anymore. The problem is that now I know what I want, but I’m scared of changing majors, spending more money in college, and it’s embarrassing to have been in college this long already all because I didn’t know what I want. It’s so important to not make decisions based on other people’s opinions, I wish I’d realized that before.
It’s so normal to listen to other people’s opinions and advice, especially when you’re in college and still figuring out what you want. So there’s no shame in learning what you want and changing your mind! Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I change my major?” vs. “What’s the worst that could happen if I stay on the track I’m on now? That might clarify things a bit!
I love this post! I had a really difficult time picking which college to go to and ended up listening to my family more than my intuition and ended up having a really rough four years. Then I graduated, worked for a year to save up some money and started really listening to my heart. I decided I wanted to travel, see the world. So I went online to see others opinions with similar values and people who’ve lived my dream. I’m now living in New Zealand (moved from the US) for a year and couldn’t be happier!
I wish I’d read this article before I’d gone to college, probably would have helped me a lot. Now I think it’ll help me with my future career! Thank you for sharing this wonderful advice!
What an awesome story, Lyssa! Contrast is often the best teacher, right? Glad this helped validate a lesson you’ve recently learned on your own! We’re jealous that you’re living it up in New Zealand!
The company I worked at for the past 6 years was sold last July to a company that does not have a great reputation in their industry.
As part of the acquisition, I agreed to be a member of the transition team, transferring the portfolio to the new company. It was a “try-on” period for me and my co-workers with this new company and it provided me just enough time to know I could not work for this organization and ever be successful.
Try as hard as I did, nothing was able to make me feel good about working for a company I did not respect and I know did not value me.
Through this coaching, I have been able to rebuild some of my enthusiasm and rekindle some of the “spark” that makes me who I am. After YEARS of not having any contact with recruiters, I had two contact me in the same week. (I was not looking to remain in my profession; I was so burned out and used up that I had decided I’d rather clean up road-kill than work in this profession ever again.) As a courtesy, I returned the call to the first recruiter, fully expecting to refer her to a few of my former co-workers who were still unemployed. She described the opportunity, I explained my situation, and she asked me to take the weekend to think about it. I called my friends but none of them were interested because the pay was lower than they had been earning before their lay-off occurred. The following Monday, I called the recruiter to tell her I’d talk with them but I really didn’t want to waste their time. She put me in touch with this great little company where I interviewed and found their enthusiasm to be contagious. The longer we talked, the more I realized that I wanted to be there – I began to feel encouraged and excited about the idea of working with them. Then I realized how badly I wanted the job.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I landed the role – it’s in a field where I would have NEVER had interest or respect and all of my years of technical experience will now come together and are completely relevant to this new position!! It has been 3 weeks since I accepted the job and I am still in awe at how the universe managed to align and bring it all together in a way that completely makes sense – yet I would have NEVER figured this out for myself by looking at my resume – I could not have plotted this path for myself. I credit this coaching for opening my eyes and opening my mind to the possibilities that exist.
I have now left the disreputable organization where every day for the past 9 months I was frustrated and angry and undervalued. All I can say is thank you — and to everyone who is posting, please keep hope. Things work out – you have to keep an open mind, open eyes to the opportunities that the universe offers, and keep an open heart. You may have to accept a lower salary than you like – but you may be rewarded in other ways. I now have hope – and I haven’t felt hope for quite a few years. WIshing good things for each of you who are seeking your career hopes!!
Wow! This is amazing, Kim! We’re so excited that things are falling into place for you and that the PPVE helped you get the clarity you needed to make this happen. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂
I don’t like my job, I became manager of the small buisnees property of my brother in law, this because he decided to take a good paying job for a few years. At first it sound exciting, but after 2 years, I have learned that I do not like to be a manager, I do not like to be the boss, I don’t like to be looking after people’s work, I don’t even understand well the work they do!!. I have decided that I want to go back to doing software for a living, I was very good at it, and at this I feel like a failure.
But, on the other hand, If I quit my job the company will probably die, no one will want to do my work here, the company has trouble and I don’t want to be responsible for anything that could go wrong, specially because it’s my dear family the owner.
The good things of my manager position: freedom, I can work from home, it pays above average, and plus I get to travel a little !!
What to do? People have told me to stay here, “are you crazy?… you are the boss!!! ” or “try harder, you can do it” or “wait for a few years and then see….”, or “how I wish I had your oportunity”… etc.
(I’m a spanish speaker sorry for my english)
Dear Kristen and Rachel,
I am a big fan of listening to my own voice, however, I do find myself indecisive from time to time and turn to other people for advice. And sometimes, when I dwell in that indecisiveness too long, I find myself a little more often asking for other people’s advice than I would like too. You are right. The advice you get from others is probably the best advice these others could give you – but it is advice from their point of view. So it is very wisely to choose carefully whose advice you are going to ask for. Thank you. I found this post very helpful.
Lovely blog you two have!
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