Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If You Don't Know What You Want, You'll Get It

A very talented client of mine got presented with an unbelievable business proposal by a forceful, enthusiastic sales type. It was all very exciting. New business! A nationwide, maybe worldwide reach! Yet inside, he felt unsure. The deal relates to part of his business he likes, but isn't convinced about how he wants it to fit in with his life. He said that he felt uncomfortable, even though everything sounded good.


"Do you know what you want?" I asked him. He gave me a confused look so I continued. "How do you know if a business deal is good if you're not sure what you want? It could be a great deal, but not for you because you want something else. Or it could be a fantastic deal and you'll miss it because you haven't committed to the direction you want to go."

Nearly everyone comes to points in their lives when there are many paths to choose. Sometimes people allow their spouse to decide the path. Sometimes, as one of my advisors once said, "I've always just gone through the only door left open." Sometimes we wait for our indecision to become the decision thus minimizing our free will.

How often have we been uncomfortable, vaguely dissatisfied, because we don't know what we want and so the good thing that we have feels, well, blah? This situation many find more tolerable, though, than wanting something really, really bad and then being disappointed. If I don't say or work toward what I really want, the reasoning goes, then I won't be upset if it doesn't happen.

Unfortunately, our hearts secret desires tend to bubble to the surface, while we eat the mediocre pie we've made for ourselves by setting the bar so low. We attack ourselves with the woulda, shoulda, couldas. Some call it "shoulding" on ourselves. We "what if?". We feel ashamed for being so cowardly, or indecisive, or passive at the helm of our own life.

Devout Christians or Muslims sometimes take this a step further and excuse the passivity with "well, God willed it" or "it was meant to be" or "En Shalah". It sounds good, but often covers embarassment or fear of failure. Does God really want passive, fear-filled followers? Or is this used as an excuse to cover unused talents and gifts? Just asking.....

The person who waffles about their own life finds that things just "happen to them". Well, things happen to everyone, don't they? It is easier to deal with when on a course than not having a course and being swept away when "things happen". What do I mean?

Say you want to climb Mt. Everest. A daunting task right? But it is something you've always wanted to do and you're willing to work for it. You spend the time, you work out, you buy the equipment, you do everything mountain climbers must do to succeed. The trek begins. Halfway up, a raging, unseasonal, very dangerous storm comes and you must retreat. For today anyway. But what have you done? You've still made it half-way up Mt. Everest! Sure, "stuff happened", but even the disappointment can't take away your effort and accomplishment. Other people, people who dream, but never do, watch and wonder and wish while they read National Geographic Adventure.

By clarifying what you want, you clarify opportunities, too. When a great proposal lands on your desk, but isn't part of your mission, you can get it to someone who would seize it and make the most of it. When a great proposal lands on your desk, and it is the opportunity or financing or plan that you needed, you'll recognize it and spend the energy to make it a success.

These require active, involved, conscious decisions. Choice. YOU decide.

Here is some homework for today: write down your perfect day. I would get up at this time, do this, do this, etc. Then write your perfect week. What work would you do? What tasks would you accomplish? Then write your perfect year. And five years. And 25 years. Maybe starting at 25 years and working backwards is the best idea.

Ask yourself, what will be my biggest disappointment if I never accomplish it? And when you view your life goal, does it fill you up with such love and longing and excitement that you could cry? Ok, you've found it.

Now, make it happen!

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