The world is so freaking noisy, isn’t it?
So many people are eager to tell you exactly what worked for them, and the implication seems to be that obviously if you were doing it right, it would work for you, too.
As if that’s not enough, our internal voices are often eager to tell us all of the things we should be doing. Maybe, like me, you have a wish list a mile long of changes you’d like to make in your life, your work, your home, your body…
We keep things on the back burner, we start lots of things, but rarely finish anything…
No wonder we get overwhelmed, confused, or stuck!
So let’s talk about that moment, when you’re floundering, doubting, or second-guessing. How can you choose the best idea to pursue? And then how can you stick with it so it becomes more than just an idea?
Step away from the noise.
Everything seems more overwhelming when it’s all flying around in your head, so give all of those ideas a place to land. Write until your mind goes quiet. Don’t worry about ranking or sorting your ideas yet, just pay attention to what they are, and where they’re coming from.
Then, put your ideas through a few filters.
1. Begin with the end in mind.
What is your desired outcome? What purpose are you aiming for? Step back and look at the big picture. What are your priorities in this season?
You’ll start to notice that your ideas fall into categories, and each will serve different priorities and purposes. Which of your ideas best serve the big-picture purpose of this season? Which feel most aligned with your values and priorities? Chances are, quite a few ideas will pass this first filter, but it will give you valuable perspective on which you can eliminate now.
2. Be Fully Yourself
Do you know yourself well enough to make well-aligned decisions? This is surprisingly hard to do.
I have a long history of chasing the wrong goals. For years, I chased promotions in my corporate job because it seemed like the obvious definition of success. Four times in a row, I got the promotion and then wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just be happy?
It wasn’t just vague discontentment. I was out of alignment.
What I really wanted was a position where I could collaborate and connect. I wanted opportunities for growth as a person, not just in my skill set. What I really wanted was mentorship and partnership, and that wasn’t something I could get there.
When you look at your list of ideas, how many feel like a soul-deep fit? Take a moment to be fully present with yourself. Can you picture yourself pursuing each of those ideas? It may feel stretching, but is it a good stretch? Or does it feel like you’re trying to be someone else?
3. Gut Check: How quickly would you expect to see results?
We all wish we could have immediate results. I get it! (Believe me!) But this is a good chance to check your expectations. Realistically, how long might it take to see results?
Often, going outside our comfort zones gets faster results. But if it means doing something you dread for months on end, or over-extending yourself for a year, are you okay with that? Maybe! There is a time and a place to push. This is your chance to be honest with yourself.
On the other hand, choosing a slower but more sustainable approach means buckling in for the long haul. It could be years before you see significant results. Are you okay with that? Maybe! There is a time and a place to focus on enjoying the journey.
It may seem like I’m not giving you any answers, and it’s true. I’m not. Only you know what’s most important to you in this season. And that’s key — the person trying to sell you the exact method they used to achieve results can’t decide for you. Don’t let that throw you off.
As you grow in clarity around this topic, more ideas will be crossed off your list.
4. Be clear on why.
For the remaining ideas, write out why you might choose each of them. Are they well aligned? Do they serve well? If there’s sacrifice involved, are you willing to make it?
This will help you make the decision now, and will help when you find yourself second-guessing your decision. Being rooted in why you made that decision will help you ride out the waves.
Know what to do with the other ideas.
Not only do you probably have a few dozen ideas that you’re not going to pursue right now, but more will inevitably come up. How do you keep from winding up with a desk covered in sticky notes, or ideas lost in the margins of notebooks?
Create a path and a place for all those ideas.
Have a plan for keeping track of them so you can find them when you’re ready for them, but you’re not staring at them every day. This involves answering three questions:
1. Where will you write them down?
2. When will you look at them?
3. What will you do with them?
Think about how automatic it is to pull out your calendar when scheduling an event. Your friend texts you, asking if you want to meet up for happy hour on Thursday. You want to, so you pull out your calendar, and if you’re free, you add Happy Hour to your calendar, and generally trust that you will be there when the time comes.
We need just as predictable a path for all of the ideas and tasks that run through our minds. And it can be just as simple as a calendar! If you need help getting organized, a process like Beyond Intentions may help.
Know where to turn when the going gets rough.
Inevitably, you will encounter challenges and setbacks. There will be hard days. What can you do now to prepare?
For me, faith plays a big part. If you have spiritual practices, keep them strong.
Know who is in your support system, and share your why with them. Keep your why close and review it often.
Keep a menu of inspiration so that when you’re feeling low, you have ideas at your fingertips for ways to tap into encouragement.
What is it that you need to remember? What do you know intellectually that you need to integrate in your life and soul? Create those reminders and those rhythms that will keep you connected to mission and truth.
This is the key to sticking with the big idea.
You have clarity from the start. You made an intentional choice. You know what to do with all the other ideas so they don’t distract you. And you’ve strengthened your support system in every direction.
Ready? Let’s go.