Clients will often come to me to help find a new career and, as you might imagine, that type of decision is so giant that by the time they decide to hire me, they are confused, paralyzed and trying to get out of overwhelm. One of the very first steps we take is to break that down into components (from types of co-workers to natural abilities) and start getting clear on each one.
The same process works for nearly anything. As I realized in my story from last week’s post, it’s easy to remain confused and overwhelmed, allowing something to be so big that you can’t make any headway on it. This week, we’re breaking it down to a step you can do right now, immediately after reading this post.
Step #1: Pick a Big Scary Confusing Overwhelming Area/Problem/Issue
You likely know exactly what I mean already, but just in case: what to do about your endless overwhelm of feeling like you do not have enough time. What to do about the fact that your kids are completely out of control and running your house. What to do about the lingering, nagging feeling that you might want a divorce. What to do about your desire to run a marathon despite never even walking or having any time to train.
Step #2: Pick a Tiny Element of the Problem
Let’s take an example from above – your kids are completely out of control and running your house. Pick a tiny, tiny element of that- maybe they refuse to put away their shoes and just throw them on the stairs after coming in the door, and it bugs you – you and your wife keep tripping over shoes.
Step #3: Envision Your Ideal End-State
In the example above, this might be all shoes not currently being worn are stored in shoe racks in the hall closet. Avoid getting into the full end-state currently – you have angelic children who politely do whatever you say – in order to ensure your mind doesn’t rebel against something currently unattainable. Imagine this perfect rack of shoes, but your kids still throwing macaroni at each other, or smoking pot, or whatever age-appropriate annoyances they are currently doing.
Step #4: Ask for Guidance on an Immediate, Playful Action to Help You Get There
Set an intention to receive guidance on a playful action you can take immediately to get to your ideal end-state. Note that this is not an action you can take in a year, but now. It’s also not an action like “visualize it working” but a real-world, physical action where you will get actual feedback from trying it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love visualization, and if you want to visualize the action having your desired results in addition to doing it, great! However, visualization alone is not going to get you out of overwhelm or confusion, as both of these are often rooted in fear. Visualization can be a great way to hang back and pretend you are doing something while staying stuck, like reading about solutions instead of trying them.
Note that I added “playful” in there, because it sounds like more fun. If you are going to solve a big scary overwhelming problem, you’re a lot more likely to try something new if it doesn’t sound like grim torture.
Step #5: Set a Timer for Fifteen Minutes and Do One of These Things
Pick the one you are most drawn to and try that one. Hold the intention that you will have an action to try at the end of the fifteen minutes and go for it:
Sit still, quiet your mind, and breathe for fifteen minutes. Notice your thoughts but just let them float by, not getting engrossed in a mental drama.
Pick one small area in your home, car, or office that you can tackle in fifteen minutes (maybe one drawer), get rid of clutter, and clean it up.
Take a Walk
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
Doodle, Paint, Knit, or Any Other Creative Act
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” -Mary Lou Cook
“I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.” -Vincent Van Gogh
Set a timer for fifteen minutes, grab a pen and paper (or open a document on your computer), and just dump everything out that is on your mind. This is a particularly great strategy when you feel consumed by undone tasks and plans.
Step #6: Try the Action and Notice the Results
Whatever idea came to you – no matter how bizarre (as long as it’s legal/within your moral code), try it. Maybe the action is to hide every shoe that is not on the shoe rack. Maybe the action is to paint a giant daisy on any shoe left outside the shoe rack. Whatever it is, try it and see what happens.
Step #7: Repeat this Process Until You Reach the End State
Eventually, you are going to have a lovely rack full of shoes in your hall closet.
You can then try this same process on the next tiny element of the giant problem, now armed with all of the learning you earned through solving the first tiny problem.
You can take action right now by leaving a comment with your intention to receive clarity on the tiny element of the problem you are soon to solve.
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