Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.e.e. cummings
Why Are We Unsure?
Have you ever been stuck on a decision? What tactics did you use to help you with decision-making?
A pro/con list? Crunch some numbers? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe? The magic eight ball? Read some tea leaves?
Here’s what I see most often when people get stuck on an important decision:
- Do what’s popular (everyone is doing this, so like duh)
- Do what others say you should (and whoever shouts the loudest wins, be it parents, friend or boss).
- Do what you think someone you admire would do (your crush, your colleague, Tiger Woods, Oprah, your favorite social media influencer)
We’ve all done this – myself included (especially envisioning Oprah’s advice). We do this because:
- We are unsure of what we really want
- We are afraid of making the wrong decision
- We are afraid of being judged or embarrassed
All of this means that we are unsure of ourselves.
We don’t trust ourselves to make the call. We’d rather think of what someone else would do in our position to determine the best course of action. After all, if it doesn’t work out, well, it wasn’t our call!
How is Being Unsure of Ourselves Dangerous?
When we relinquish our decision-making power to someone else, we are giving our power away. Each of us is our own life’s CEO.
You hear me? We’re motha-effin CEOs! (that’s the Queens, NY in me).
There is no one else who’s more empowered to make decisions and no one more accountable and responsible and will reap all of the benefits or eat all the turd cakes based on our decisions.
So when we hand over our authority and agency over to someone else to make our important life decisions, we are basically stepping down, or taking a leave of absence as our own CEO in organizational terms. Other terms for this are “lame duck,” “figurehead CEO,” “absentee leader,” “passive leadership,” “captainless ship,” “weak administration,” “failing company,” and “disaster waiting to happen.”
I know, we don’t think of it like that. But maybe it would help if we did, because what’s the difference?
How Do We Step Back Into Our CEO Role?
1. Assess your vision
As CEO of your life, you first need to create and articulate your vision and purpose. Next, you need to assess how much of your current life is in alignment with that vision and purpose and what isn’t. You adjust what isn’t supporting your vision and put more energy into what is so that what you do on a day-to-day basis actually excites you. This is how you breathe life into your vision, just like good companies do.
Revising your vision and purpose is especially helpful as you end or begin a life milestone, a new phase of life, or when you get that gnawing feeling that something’s just not right.
Without really knowing your purpose, what you care about, what lights you up, what you want to experience, what you want to give back to the world, and the message that you want to express, it’s easy to be “all over the place.”
Life is sometimes a beautiful mess, but your intention shouldn’t be. What you want is to live intentionally with your attention and energy focused on the things that matter to you the most.
Like laser beams, when you get focused, you become extremely effective and can make a greater impact more quickly.
2. Assess the people in your life
Companies conduct yearly assessments for a reason. Successful companies understand healthy attrition, which means that companies expect some people to leave or be let go periodically. People leave a company for many reasons, but most of the time it’s because the company and the individual are no longer in alignment.
Similarly, review the people in your life periodically and take notice: Who lifts you up? Who supports you? Who empathetically challenges you? Who inspires and energizes you? Who brings out the best in you? Who makes you want to be a better version of yourself? Who shows you how to change, evolve, and grow? Who loves you when you’re the least lovable? Who shows you their real selves and appreciates your truth? Who makes you experience beauty, love, and connection?
Keep these people around – spend time with them, get to know them more deeply, support them, promote them, and trust them. Not only do these people build and lift you up, but these people are also your source of encouragement and light to lean on during times of stress.
Next, notice the other types of people in your life. These people are: toxic, negative, unsupportive, disrespectful, uncaring, manipulative, abusive, selfish, condescending, indifferent, mean, unwelcoming, takers who suck you dry, bringing out the worst in you, limiting your possibilities because they’ve limited theirs, taking out their insecurities and aggression on you, challenging you to usurp your CEO role, afraid to show their true selves to the world, and will never appreciate your truth.
Drop these dead weights. Just like responsible CEOs do.
3. Audit your time
If you were to split your day into a pie, what would the distribution of your time look like across the activities that you do?
Whether or not you realize this, you vote on what you value with your time and energy every day. But sometimes you get caught up in the distractions of life and don’t realize how little time you actually have left for yourself and what’s important to you. Over time, when you neglect what matters to you, you will feel stressed, anxious, depressed, and unsettled. Here’s an example of a time pie for one of my clients (name changed) who came to me feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, and stressed:
For Amy, she wasn’t surprised by how much work and sleep took up her life. But she was disappointed that she spent more time in the office than sleeping and that social media and watching TV came in third, leaving only a fraction of time for everything else in her life.
I assured her that it’s not uncommon in today’s world, nor is it “wrong.” However, the issue is that when we mismanage our time, we often neglect the stuff that actually matters to us. For Amy, it was her having meaningful time with her significant other, painting, reading, and other activities that make her happy and light her up.
So Amy and I talked about how to work smarter so that she can wrap up work one hour earlier every day. She replaced TV and social media with extended meals with her significant other and read books that inspired both her work and her art. Over time, Amy was able to sleep more, work less, and spend more time with things that were meaningful to her and filled her up. This also magically made her happier and more inspired at work. Bonus!
4. Audit your finances
Just like how you vote with our time and energy, you also vote with da-Benjamins (because money is a type of energy). This is a tough one because we’re fighting an entire industry that invests billions every year to get us to spend our hard-earned cash. So let’s remind ourselves to be gentle with ourselves when we’re looking at our spending habits.
The point isn’t to feel shame and guilt about what we spend our money on, but to be aware that we have the buying power that either supports or detracts from our values. What you discover may surprise you. (Remember, there are titans out there that are playing with our minds to talk ourselves out of our values and into handing over cold cash!)
There are many ways to do this, but here’s one simple system that works:
I affectionately call it the “Not Falling For It” system.
Before I buy something it has to check at least one of the criteria below. If it doesn’t, I tell myself, “Not Falling For It”!
Based on my personal values I ask myself, “Does this purchase…”:
- Improve the health of me and my family?
- Improve the lives of people I care about?
- Help me with personal growth?
- Bring me or my family joy for at least one year?
- Improve my business?
- Improve the quality of life for me and my family?
This is a very personal exercise with no wrong or right answers. Your goal here, just like the time audit, is to first understand how you are prioritizing your dollars and then notice how your buying behavior is supporting your values or distracting or harming what matters to you.
To highlight how this can work, a few years ago I completely removed all processed foods from my shopping list. I realized not only did it NOT check ANY of my boxes, it actually detracted from every one of my values.
5. Use all of your brain
We were given equal amounts of left and right brain for a reason.
So let’s use it.
In today’s world, there is an emphasis on and value given to left-brain thinking (analytical, sequential, logical) over right-brain thinking (intuitive, creative, holistic).
When you favor one brain over the other brain, you rob yourself of your full genius (no joke).
I recommend noticing the side of the brain you typically favor and invest time to exercise the other side of your brain. It might feel painful or uncomfortable, or even scary and frustrating at first, but just like working a new muscle if you keep at it, it will grow stronger and easier with time.
I’m a perfect example of someone who was born right-brain dominant and trained myself over time to become a type A, organized, analytical planner. My left brain skills have served me well, but for many years I was living in my left brain, day after day, for too long, and became disconnected from my whole self. However, I’m happy to report that today I’ve reacquainted myself with my right brain, and on most days dance a happy dance between my right and left brain – whatever feels right at the moment (that’s my right brain talking).
So, congrats for making it this far into the article.
I want to say to you, you motha-effin CEO, you!
You got this. You may feel like you have work to do on yourself, like all of us, but you are your own CEO. What decisions are you going to make to create a life that you love to live?
Don’t go on auto-pilot or abandon your life. Your life needs you. The world needs your unique perspective and message that only you can voice.
So, if you have a decision to make… don’t outsource it. Don’t look to someone else to make it for you. Seek advice and many different perspectives but when decision time comes…
…you’re the CEO. Make the call.
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