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…
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)