Are we human beings or human doings?
That is a question that my dear friend Sam Perkins used to pose when we’d be sitting on one of our much anticipated “phone marathons”. On the face of it Sam and I were unlikely mates given our natural orientations to life. I’ve always set goals, made plans and driven like hell to achieve them. She preferred a slower pace – deeply appreciating the important stuff in life like friends and relationships - a quality that only strengthened as she faced cancer.
It seems today’s world is more focused on DOING than ever. We are all frantically checking off to do lists, replying to emails and updating our social media feeds. There is sooo much for a self-confessed DOER like me to do and its easy to go for months and even years fulfilling my hard wired need to check things of my to do list. Were Sam still here, she would no doubt observe that people like me more than ever need to make the time to stop and think and reflect.
I’ve realized in the last month that the greatest benefit of throwing myself off the side of the career ledge has been forcing me to do just that. Dwelling in a place of uncertainty is making me really step back and think about the future of my work and my life. Its completely disorientating to be faced with so many unanswered questions!
How will my life and career change when I have published my first book? Will I enjoy those changes? Will new doors open or will old doors close because I’ve chosen to go all in and share many of the embarrassing moments of my personal life experience?! Will I be a big business executive, an author, a motivational speaker or an entrepreneur a few years from now? What do I want to BE when I grow up??!
I am in a phase that I like to call “checking yourself out”. It is not an easy state to be in for a doer like me, but as I have learned from the people I’ve interviewed for my upcoming book ExtremeYOU, there are always hidden benefits in taking the time to explore something deeply. When you resist the temptation to jump at the first opportunity to be “doing” new unexpected doors open up. New insights arise. That is the virtue of patience.
I think this insight applies to visionary ideas too. I finished writing my plan for ExtremeYOU a few weeks ago and have been sharing it with friends and mentors, getting their feedback and input. I expected this would feel good. I’m a DOER, I have a plan and now I can get on and launch a successful platform. But the process has been anything but that.
I gave my plan to Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath, or MnM as I call them because – well – its just easier! They are the founders of STRAVA – the social network for athletes. I recently joined Strava’s board and I am a passionate user of the service to track my fitness and network with all my running mates.
MnM are hugely successful entrepreneurs, starting a business from scratch is what they do. They were wonderfully supportive of the ideas that they saw in my plan, but were also quick to tell me “you do realize – that even though you finished writing that thing yesterday – its already obsolete”.
Now I was jarred back into reality. I was standing at the bottom of the mountain, but there was no clear path to the summit. I’ve been investigating subjects as broad as podcasting and curriculum development. Is this a smart direction or will these be detours on the path that leads to a thriving platform for ExtremeYOU?
At times I feel like I am walking in circles, but I now accept that that when you start something from scratch – there are SO many unanswered questions and every day you learn something new that evolves your thinking and changes your approach. There are so many forks in the road, but there is benefit in exploring them.
Checking yourself out requires the self-belief to face down the worries about your destination and trust that taking the time to develop skills, experiences and even new passions will guide you forward in your life.
These periods tend to make SO much more sense years later when you look back on them than they do when you are swirling around in the middle of them! Being may be a time to reflect and be inspired – but it is also the time when you have to face more of your fears because you are processing more questions than answers.
I admit that I have plenty of feelings of FOMO (!) when I see my friends and colleagues energetically hiking their clear paths. But I do believe that the times taken to step back and BE are what will lead to new passions, new opportunities and greater conviction. So I’m going to trust my process here. I have a feeling that its going to accelerate the pace of my journey up this big mountain in the months to come!