It's rare that a new situation sneaks up on me in my world. I tend to see the coming change/opportunity well in advance. Even so, how do I know which road is the right road for me to take?
First I slow down. Some people meditate or take a long bath to quiet themselves. Me? I take a deep breath and will myself to "let go" as I slowly exhale. (Yeah, I do tend to take the simple approach.)
Second, I focus on the potential change and ask myself, "How do I feel about this?" When I sort through all of the hopes and fears associated with the change and set them aside, I typically feel one of three things - peace, unease, or nothing at all. In my world this translates to the equivalent of stoplights - green (peace), red (unease), and yellow (nothing at all) which translates to, "Use caution but proceed if you think you should."
If I see a coming change well in advance - for instance, a friend tells me of a new employment position that may open up in two or three months - I can begin checking in with this process early on. However, when the moment finally arrives, there are still only two choices to choose from - "jump" or "don't jump." Even when we carefully test the water, at some point we simply have to commit and either get wet or stay on the shore.
So many of our opportunities present themselves as a "jump" or "don't jump" scenario. There's something we really want to do - a vacation to a place we've never been; a dream we long to follow; a person we want to ask out on a date - and we simply keep waiting for the "right moment" to appear. I don't know about you, but the right moment for me is when I find myself staring the opportunity in the eye. For me, it always comes down to "jump" or "don't jump."
When I'm at peace, I jump. I really do my best to live my life without regrets. And, while it doesn't always make sense (especially in the moment), it's always worked out right.
A few years back, my wife wanted to try her hand at running her own business. As we began to pick up regular customers it became clear that she not only needed my help to succeed (it was more work than one person could do) but that it required more time than I could put in while working a full-time job. We talked it over and we jumped together - and I quit my job as a mid-level information systems specialist to do so. As the economy began to slow (talk about timing!) it became clear that in order for us to survive, we'd have to put the business on hold and one of us would have to go back to work. A woman Bri was friends with knew of a job opening and recommended her to the employer. A week later my wife went in for an interview. She and the employer "clicked," ended up chatting long after the interview was completed, and Bri beat out candidates with ten times her experience. She not only got the job but her starting salary was almost as much as I had made after years in IT.
Yesterday, Bri started a new job in IT. Her employer uses a classification scale identical to the one I had been previously employed under. What's really interesting is that Bri is not only working in the field that I left, but is actually in a higher position than I held and bringing home a larger paycheck than I did after a decade of employment. (If anyone is keeping score I'm absolutely THRILLED for her!)
So people ask, "Why did you jump? The business venture didn't work out at all and one of you had to get a job while the other took care of the kids. How could us trust your sense of peace about the whole thing?" That's a valid argument. Or you can look and say, we swapped our current income for a higher paying IT job in a better office AND made it possible for me to have the opportunity to write.
Failure? I don't believe in it. Of course, I don't believe in success either. My first book, Escaping Destiny, has been very well-received. My second, The Awakening, comes out in just over a month. When are either considered a success? They could always do better; they could always fall short of a goal. For me, it's all about the journey. The questions I ask are never, "Can I sell more copies?" but "Can I craft my next novel so that it's even better than the one before?" So many of us worry about things that are outside of our control. We can market until the end of time and still be disappointed with sales; the right break can come along and we're surprised and thrilled with how our novel takes off. If we stop and think about it we realize that we can't force a single person to purchase a single copy. What we can do is step back from the keyboard and say, "That's exactly how I wanted that scene to turn out."
So if there's no failure and no success in my world, how do I measure whether I'm going forward or backward on my path? I don't. It all comes back to slowing down and checking in with yourself. Do I feel that sense of peace? Then I'm right where I need to be no matter what the immediate scenario may look like. Do I feel a sense of unease? Then I need to figure out what I need to change. My world isn't so much about the destination as it is staying in the sweet spot of the river's current, enjoying the journey and successfully navigating through the rapids.
I've heard it argued, "Then you'll never accomplish anything." On the contrary, I find simply by checking in with myself and jumping I accomplish insane amounts of things. While my second novel is coming out in May, I have five novels already written and I'm putting the finishing touches on my first pair of non-fiction books. I've exhibited my photography, completed solo backpacking treks through deep wilderness, learned to sea kayak, have jumped out of planes, and I'm currently learning Spanish and guitar. When something comes up in my world that I want to learn or experience, I check in. Sometimes the unease isn't saying, "No," it's saying, "Not right now." Perhaps there's something that I need to see through to stay true to myself and be able to hear clearly when I check in. Maybe someone in my world needs me and it's time to focus on them instead of focusing on myself. When I use that sense of peace or unease to navigate with, in all honesty, I find as much joy helping someone I love succeed as I do pursuing a dream of my own.
I also use that same sense of peace or unease to decide whether I need to push harder or allow things to play out on their own. Should I increase marketing efforts? Do I need to skip this fun activity to work? I find that by doing so my world is filled with accomplishments and beautiful memories created by embracing the perfect to play.
The key for me isn't worrying about the implications. Trust me; if I'm going to do something blindly stupid, I feel the unease. When I feel that sense of peace, even if the jump is from a dizzying height, I tend to jump. I've never regretted doing so - and I've regretted it each time I've decided not to.
Try it with something small. Maybe you've always wanted to play guitar but, at forty years old think that you're too old. Slow down. Think about playing guitar and check in with yourself. How does it feel? Do you have that sense of peace? Then go for it! If you started today, by the time you reached fifty years of age, you could be an accomplished guitarist. It's never too late to jump.