3 tools to help you decide what’s best for you right now
You are in a job you’ve had for a while. Some things are going well, you might love your team or the work that you do or the location, but something isn’t quite right. You try to ignore the niggles because there is so much that you like about the job that it seems ungrateful to even think about the downsides. Every so often, especially in the middle of the night, you try to weigh up your options and make a decision only to flip back into uncertainty minutes/hours/days later. Sound familiar?
I have a few tools that can help you make up your mind:
1. Pros and cons
This is an old favourite but don’t let that put you off because it works. List out what is great and what is not good about each option. Try and be as thorough as you can be, so that you tease out all the genuinely good and bad things about your current place of work versus going elsewhere.
2. Ask your future self for advice
Imagine you could speak to your older, wiser self and ask their advice on this dilemma. What would he/she say? Sit down in a nice quiet spot, take a few slow deep breaths and imagine travelling in time to visit yourself in your later years. Take your time and enjoy the journey and try to take note of the detail of your future life. Ask your elder self to advise you on what you should do now. You may be surprised with the advice you get!
3. Cartesian questions
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. Aside from his famous pronouncement “I think, therefore I am” he also invented a method of deductive reasoning that consists of four rules: (1) accept nothing as true that is not self-evident, (2) divide problems into their simplest parts, (3) solve problems by proceeding from simple to complex, and (4) recheck the reasoning.
You can use that logic to ask yourself the following questions about each side of your dilemma:
The questions are designed to go from straightforward to totally confounding, which helps flip a mental switch and moves people into a much more creative state of mind.
I hope you find these tools useful. I often use them myself or with clients. I'd love to hear your experiences of using them!
Photo by Michael Kaufmann from FreeImages
Life is full of surprises. Some are great (marriage, babies, new opportunities) and some are not great (separation, redundancy, ill health, loss of a loved one) but all of them require adjustment to a new reality, and often a new sense of ourselves. Even navigating through happy changes, a person starts off as single, then becomes part of a couple, become a spouse and/or a parent. All new identities, new ways of seeing ourselves and being seen. Some we just leap into fearlessly and some are accompanied by some degree of trepidation.
Less happy changes involve loss, which often need to be mourned. While the phases of grief are well known: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Kübler-Ross, 1969), having a recognised model for it can help normalise the turbulence experienced in the transformation process. In our society, certain losses, like death and illness tend to elicit more social acknowledgement and therefor support than others, like divorce and retirement.
Martha Beck (2001) suggests there are three phases to making changes once a catalyst for change has hit your life:
Birth and rebirth
Especially if the change is significant, there can be a strong resistance to change and there is a temptation to treat it as “just a blip”. An example of this is seen in unhealthy relationships where poor behaviour gets hidden or excused rather than facing the upheaval required to make significant changes.
A lot of the resistance is tied up with identity and the requirement to change the way we see ourselves. The person in an unhealthy relationship may have many negative associations with being single, not being able to maintain a relationship, etc
Change is only possible when there is an acceptance that the old status quo is unsustainable and needs to be dissolved in order to be reformed into something new and improved. There may be a need for time to mourn the loss of the old sense of self. And to get comfortable with what might seem to be uncomfortable and ill fitting at first.
Dreaming and scheming
In order to move forward, we need a sense of what the future could look like. Having a compelling vision is a great motivator for many people and helps them summon the energy required to make a leap into the unfamiliar.
This phase can take the most time. As you start to take action, reality invariably intrudes and, depending on the scale of the change, the journey could be very choppy and challenging. At some points, adjustments (in either the vision or the implementation) will have to be made. Some options that seemed so promising may turn out to be less fruitful and unexpected opportunities will present themselves. Tenacity and flexibility are key in this phase, as well as the need to keep the origin vision in mind, in order to not lose hope and confidence.
Success! The transition is completed
Time to celebrate and really soak up the sense of achievement!
But be careful about assuming you can rest on your laurels. One certainty in life is that everything changes so make sure you are keeping an eye out for new catalysts (good and bad) that will herald a new transition. But the great news is now you understand how it works and what to expect, which will help you get through it again. Do bear in mind, there are all sorts of experts who can help you through these difficult times and asking for support could well help make the journey less of an upheaval.
In terms of getting support through a transition, I can only speak from a coaching perspective. A coach can:
If you feel like you are struggling with some kind of transition, it's important to get some support where you need it. Culturally we are often reluctant to ask for help but, when you do, it's such a relief to be able to talk it through with some one else. Even the process of hearing yourself talking about it allows you to think about it differently. And most people find that a problem shared is a problem halved. And if it isn't, there are many professionally trained people, myself included, who would be able to help.
Beck, M, Finding Your Own North Star, 2001
Kübler-Ross, E, On Death and Dying, 1969
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues find their happy path at work