For most of us life is about options. Paths. Routes to choose. Now, technically, this is a fortunate circumstance. I often find myself reflecting that having options is a lucky spot to be. There are certainly those who have fewer than others. But there's a tricky flip-side to this. One can easily be paralyzed by the number of options, routes, and paths available. Apparently Swami Kripalu used to say that the only path is the path of love. This is a beautiful saying. But I find that it does not, in fact, allow me to choose whether to buy a new (used) car or put money into my current one; whether to go out for speed dating or stay in; whether to stay on my current career path or to venture into uncharted territory. Anyone of these decisions could have a direct impact on my life, my finances, my future. I'm now faced with starting to think about my career path; an area of my life that takes up an incredible amount of time, focus, and energy. I'm struggling with who to listen to. And I'm not talking about the advice and counsel of others. I'm talking about which "me" to listen to...
But first, some background. Generally people fall into one of a couple of camps. The Thinkers and the Feelers (a la Myers Briggs).
The Thinkers are all about analyzing the facts; the data. This camp tends to be the left-brainers. If you're like me, you analyze a decision to death before you make it, but once made there's no looking back. No "did I make the right call?". This may not be true for all thinkers, but for me I'm comforted in knowing that I took in the information (loads of it) and, once the decision is made, it's time to get on with it. The downside for me is that I can sit on a decision for ages taking in all this information. Sometimes I take so long that I have to start over because it's been so long since I started analyzing all the data. You can imagine that something as simple as buying a camera can involve a multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet.
Here's an excerpt from the Myers-Briggs Foundation:
"When I make a decision, I like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved. I like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding. I try to be impersonal, so I won’t let my personal wishes--or other people’s wishes--influence me."
Now don't confuse Feeling with emotion. This is about putting more weight in the people involved and personal concerns that data.
"I believe I can make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation. I am concerned with values and what is the best for the people involved. I like to do whatever will establish or maintain harmony. In my relationships, I appear caring, warm, and tactful. "
Finding the Balance
So, after all these weeks of discovering how much of my life is ruled by thinking over feeling, can you believe that when faced with a key decision it comes down to THINKING versus FEELING?! The universe is continuing its none-too-subtle ploy to shake me into connecting with my inner-feeler. It's really interesting to me to think about decision-making in the context of thinking and feeling. It's intriguing to me how so much of my daily life is driven and impacted by what part I listen to (which, duh, is mostly the thinking side). So now I'm trying to move just beyond the facts and the data; to consider how I feel about my career and my desire to contribute to society; to tap into my intuition and inner-voice that called me to take these six weeks off.
So, the decision on the table is multi-faceted, but comes down to this. Do I stay at my current company, or do I leave? The layer below that is pretty straightforward as well. If I stay, what path do I follow (and there are several options there)? If I go, what do I go to do?
So far this decision has primarily involved Internet research, a spreadsheet (this will not be shocking to those who know me), and conversations with those who have taken one path or the other. But I hadn't taken enough to time to actually look at how I felt about all of this. As I step back I find that one option provides stability, but little to no excitement. While the other is risky, but has me staying up late researching potential options. Put aside the facts and figures for a moment and this is telling stuff. Now, this is me, so I won't be throwing away the research anytime soon, but I'm trying to listen to both of "me". Which, as I describe it, is starting to make me sound mildly schizophrenic.
Career vs. Life
Switching gears a bit, and maybe even contradicting myself, I have a parallel thought process going on. I've debated something amongst friends for some time now about careers, specifically. We're raised to believe that we should find our passion with our careers. Find the thing that's just perfect for us, and we will soar. To be frank, I question whether or not this is akin to finding your soul mate and settling down to have eighteen babies. At which point you will be fulfilled and ride off into the sunset. Don't get me wrong, I want that. But it's not exactly all sunshine and roses either. Is it possible that our careers can be just "jobs"? Just the thing we do to make money so we can live our actual life? Or, is work such an integrated part of life that it's critical we engage in something meaningful? And can we, as individuals, migrate between having work an integrated piece of life to something separate we leave at the office and allows us to live our "real" lives?
At the core of this thought process is the importance of passion during the working hours. Perhaps it's acceptable to do something I'm not excited about if it pays well, provides tons of flexibility, and I construct it in a way that I'm out living my life. The more fundamental question is whether or not I'm personally capable of doing this. Of putting work in a box and not using it as a distraction from all these newly discovered parts of myself. Equally, would striking it out on my own create needed passion, or provide even greater potential for distraction from the personal life I'm seeking?
So, I have lots of questions, but not as many answers. But did you notice the questions I'm asking? They're not quite feeling questions, but I think I'm moving in the right direction. This is partially measured by the fact that the questions cannot be answered by simple math or an Excel formula.
Some final thoughts. I am committing to making a decision before I return to work. Even if it means committing to not deciding and being okay with that for a while. Jim Rohn wrote "It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions." I strongly believe that, for the most part, there are no right or wrong choices. There are just decisions. Which is to say that once you make a choice, you follow a path. And even if you find that path doesn't give you the intended result, there's no way of knowing...(now listen closely here)...there is no way of knowing how the other choice and related path would have worked out. If it would have been "better". You cannot predict what would have happened if you picked the other choice. Option B. Door number 2.
So quit sitting around. Unhappy in your marriage? Don't like your job? How's that whole "doing nothing" thing working out? Decide to go to therapy or geta life coach. Or get divorced or quit your job. Or decide to recommit. Or decide to do nothing and accept that this is the life you're living. But make the call. Pick the option. Open door number 1. Or 2. Just decide. Indecision is a decision. So if you choose it, choose it wisely.
What do you need to decide? Time isn't going to make it easier. Get 'er done. Hasta, sabbaticaljo.