Last week, I did an exercise where I wrote “What do you want?” at the top of a page. My brain-dumped list of answers turned into a personal article, which is now posted on Medium (in case you’d like to read about my vision for the world, as we now know it).
I found this little exercise both revealing and cathartic. Especially in the professional world, but really in either personal or professional life, it is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day metrics: P&L details, annual growth goals, competitive advantage, etc. I recently spoke to a friend who was so stressed about growing her company. When I asked her why she felt she had to grow, she went silent for a moment. Finally, she replied, “Well, because if you are not growing, then what is the point?”
The point, my friends, is that growth simply for the sake of growth is not healthy. It is not always about adding or finding ways to do, have, or become more. In fact, sometimes the most powerful growth comes from less, not more. When I had my second daughter, I went from being on the road 32 weeks out of the year to being home for four months straight. You might think my absence and choice to forego travel would cause problems in my business, but during this time, not only did I grow as a person, but my company and team also grew. Because of my choice to do less, we buckled down and stuck to the essentials. As a result, we became more efficient, accomplishing more in less time.
By honoring the needs of the present moment, we grew.
Recently, thanks to COVID, I’ve been home-bound once again. As one who is high-risk, I have not left my home for several months. Now that the world is finally re-engaging, I’m finding myself facing new choices: Will I start seeing people in person, or I will continue to stay virtual? Will I get on a plane and travel for work again, or will I embrace the current world (and reduce my company’s carbon footprint) by sticking with virtual speaking opportunities only?
The reality is, we’ve always had virtual options, at least as long the technology has been around. But until COVID hit, there was no reason for us to slow down, stop for a minute, and think about what we wanted. Instead, we spent our lives following what the world told us we should want. We strived for goals a spreadsheet told us we should be accomplishing.
Now, though, the illusion has been suspended. For the first time, we can see our choices clearly. In the dawn of this new era, we are all being called to consciously choose. Will we go back to the same old patterns, or will we step out in a new way? And I’m not just talking about technology, though we all have to make the live-or-virtual choice, too. I’m talking about the opportunity to tap into your deep-down creative urge, step out in a new way, and take bold action to fulfill your purpose.
I’m talking about choosing to make your very soul happy.
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I reflect back on that day and my answer with such awe: even at that young age, my answer was already in line with my passion for making a difference.
However, my answer was also based on what I thought would be acceptable to the adult posing the question (and acceptable to the other adults in my life, too).
Was my fourth-grade answer my real answer? At least part of it was. But how much of what I said I wanted was not what I wanted and was just influenced by the expectations of others?
It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.
Just in case you won’t do it for yourself, allow me:
What do you want?
Not others. You.
Give it some time and thought. Try a brain dump, like I did, if it helps. Then, once you create that list of all the things you want in the world, take a step back. Read the list, and close your eyes for just a few moments. Imagine waving a magic wand, and all of those items on your list magically become reality. How do you feel, envisioning it?
If your answers make you smile…
If they put a glow in your heart…
If they bring peace to your soul…
You’ve found the reality you want.
Now, go make it happen.
And, of course, share your answers to the question “What do you want?” in the comments.
I’m betting more of us want the same thing than we realize.