I want you to channel your inner Spice Girl for this one.
I’ve noticed a theme recently with my coaching clients, and it’s a familiar one for me personally as well: it can be damn hard to figure out what we want. What we really really want.
(Before I go any further – if you are wondering what the heck a Spice Girl is, please go to your closest internet search engine and look it up, then come back. I’ll wait.)
On the surface, this seems like such a simple question, right? All you’ve got to do is just tell me what you want! Decide what you want. Identify some hopes, map out some dreams, consider how you want to spend your Sunday evening, figure out what to order for dinner. But the truth is many of us have been conditioned – by life, family, teachers, faith-based organizations, well-intentioned bumper stickers – NOT to ask for what we want. Then we get the opportunity to do just that, and well, turns out it’s not quite so easy!
I struggle with this, too, sometimes, so in case it’s helpful, here are the six steps I take to get down to what I want. (What I really, really want.)
1) Get still. I mean, literally, stop moving your body. Notice your breath, check in on your heart rate, adjust your posture into something more comfortable. Feel into the bottom of your feet and pull that awareness all the way up to the top of your head.
2) Calm down. Usually the act of getting still and noticing my physical body from bottom to top will help me do this, but not always. Sometimes I’ll need some extra time breathing deeply and evenly, or I may repeat a mantra I find soothing. A guided meditation may be in order, or perhaps some yoga or relaxing stretches. Regardless of method, invest some time in nurturing that nervous system of yours and helping it cool down.
3) Apply your filters RIGOROUSLY. By this I mean build your awareness of who else’s voice is entering this internal conversation. Mom’s? Your boss? A partner? An overbearing social media influencer? Take stock and apply a heavy filter to make sure your voice is being clearly heard.
4) Give your inner voice plenty of room to speak. No editing or filtering here, give it lots of space. Preferably verbally or in written form to get some clarity from the mind chatter going on between your own two ears. Let it all out so you can sift through it.
5) Next, notice what’s happening in your body as you listen to what this inner voice is sharing. Your physical person will hold clues as to how you truly feel about the options in front of you. Consider one and notice – do you tense up? Relax? Exhale a sigh of relief? Scrunch your nose? Use these physical hints as guideposts for your next steps.
6) Head in the direction of what feels best, and write yourself a permission slip to try it out. Consider it a test run until you’re ready for full commitment
If you are REALLY stuck, there are two other tactics I like to try.
First, I give myself something to “push off of,” meaning I’ll either ask someone to make a decision for me so I can see how I feel about it, or I’ll flip a coin or draw a straw or something of the like, and then I notice how I react to it. Often, all I need is something definite (that’s really not all that definite at all) to help push me in the right direction.
Last, if I just can’t make headway, I’ll adopt a playful framework to help me through. I’ll either ask myself – what just sounds like the most FUN? Then I’ll try that on as my preferred option. Or – I’ll literally stop working on trying to figure out what I want to do and go do something playful that’s just pure fun instead. That often relaxes the mental blocks I’ve erected and also quiets down whatever other voices or sources of input are crowding the conversation.
Oh, and if you find you’re STILL stuck – drop me a note. That’s what coaching is for, and I’d love to help you out.