Although it is actually a luxury, many of us find that having too many options is a problem. Why is that? It is not always easy to know what is the right thing to do. Which degree? Which job? Should I resign? What happens next?
The simple problem-solving strategy of higher, faster and stronger is no longer attractive for many people. For most of us, life is not a ladder leading to the an ever increasing paycheck. It’s becoming more important to learn how to deal with transitions, detours and new beginnings, because often these instances provide the opportunity to do something good. Tina Röbel explains why it’s critical to strengthen our gut instincts. Tina is a coach at Weltverbesserer and works at the intersection of personal development and meaningful life building.
Most of us know those situations where you suddenly get to a point in your life where you have a multitude of potential paths forward. For example, completing school or training, or the feeling that you have when you end a job. Often it’s an inner feeling of unrest that suggests something has to change, because you feel uneasy and constantly dissatisfied.
The good news is that at this moment you have an almost infinite number of different possibilities. Isn’t that exciting? You can make an autonomous and free decision about what you want to do.
The challenge is, how do you know which path to choose?
Let me make one thing very clear. It is not a personal failure of yours or mine that decision-making is difficult. Life has changed. There are many more possibilities out there for us now and that means the course of our lives has changed too. For our parents’ generation or our grandparents’ generation, this is not easily grasped.
Scroll down for a second and have a look at the two pictures. Which one looks more like your life?
Life used to be a ladder. For quite a few people, it was simply a case of climbing one rung at a time to the top. Economics and society changed slowly. It was possible to spend your whole life working in one career or even at one company. When there were changes, it was merely a question of going from point A to point B. Career choice tests were also based on this logic. The idea was that if you knew your strengths and preferences (point A) then a clear recommendation could be made and steps could be followed to achieve this (point B). The first indicator I got that this system is no longer relevant was after my A Levels. I did a career choice test at the job center, crossed off my strengths and the suggestion I received was to become a petrol attendant. I gave that one a miss. So I studied something interdisciplinary so that I wouldn’t have to stick to just one thing.
These days, most people’s lives look more like the next picture.
Rather than always climbing up, we are slowly and cautiously treading forward through life. Knowledge and organizations are changing extremely fast, so much so that today, there are experts in careers that you are unable to even study yet. There were SEO experts before there was even a training course for it. Companies are often highly specialized and you can never be sure if what you are doing is being done in other companies too.
In this environment, personal changes can be described with three questions:
- What is the name for what I do?
- What are the options that I have?
- How do I get there?
Of course it would be wonderful if there was someone who already had the solution. However, it is not that easy. This new and complex reality can’t be created from tests. Even a list of pros and cons isn’t enough to help. Nowadays, more than before, it’s up to something different, something that you can always rely on. Your gut instinct.
I know, it doesn’t sound spectacular and perhaps even senseless for such important decisions. On the other hand, at least those of you who have ever tried online dating will know that there is no algorithm better able to make such precise decisions than your own gut instinct during the first few seconds. Having said that, we rarely let our gut instinct have a say. First, we have to learn to trust it. Be honest, have you listened to your gut instinct in recent years?
Reflexive changes are what we call those moments of upheaval in our lives. Reflection not only means thinking, but also instinct. If something doesn’t seem right, then it’s time for a change. That means you have to pay attention to what your gut instinct says and that only works when you know yourself well. A personality test can be a good way to start thinking about who you are. But you can only go farther by being radically honest with yourself and when you listen closely to yourself during times when things are good for you. What brings you joy? The times when you aren’t doing so great are part of it too. What is it that you are lacking? It can also help to listen to other people. What does your partner mean when they say they want a meaningful job? What does meaning even concretely mean for either of you? The more we rely on our gut instincts, the more likely we are to do good.
The courses of our lives are different these days. It’s not just about reaching the top and that is good. The more we rely on our gut instincts, the more likely we are to do good. No one that is honestly listening to themselves will discover that their heart’s desire is making their company ten percent more profit next year. That doesn’t fulfill us unless you are a social entrepreneur of course. I believe everyone has an inner do-gooder, but we were trained not to listen to them and instead to quantify our decisions.
So what is my conclusion? Life is a process of searching. Don’t wait to find the best objective solution. It doesn’t exist. In the end, you have to make a decision that you are happy with. Something you can live with day in and day out. The important question is not, what is the best decision. The important question is, what kind of life do you want to live? What kind of person do you want to be?
My suggestion is be brave. Do something that you completely believe in. Something that fulfills you. Something you can give yourself to with everything that you can do and everything that is important to you. Be radically honest. How essential is more money in the bank? Of course, sometimes money is a major factor. How imperative is it to you that you change something?
What would you do in 2017 if you knew you would be successful doing it?
And then, go for it!
About the author
Tina Röbel works as a systematic coach with people who want to reach more than the next step on their career ladder. She works at the intersection of character development and meaningful life building. Her focus points are reorientation, life-balance and leadership.
If you would like to see how Tina can support you on an individual basis, send her a request for a phone call, free of charge.
Denken in Übergängen: Weiterbildung in transitorischen Lebenslagen (Lernweltforschung). Edited by Heide von Felden, Ortfried Schäffter, Hildegard Schicke. Springer VS.
Originally published May 19, 2017