In my last blog post, I wrote about the essential first step of any heroic journey: admitting that you have no idea where to go next.
Simply accepting this reality can open up a lot of new possibilities, and a way forward often emerges naturally if you accept it for long enough.
But what if it doesn’t? What if you’ve let yourself off the hook for knowing what to do and waited patiently but your path still isn’t getting any clearer? How can you find a way to bridge the seemingly unbridgeable chasm of the unknown?
In the case of career change, the long answer is that you can work your way through a 5-step process I developed that gives you pragmatic ways to identify your superpowers, passion, and purpose; discover diverse possibilities; and explore so you know which one to choose. It’s a powerful process, but I have to be honest: there is a shortcut.
I don’t tell many people about this shortcut because most wouldn’t want to take it even if they could.
It requires giving up control (or the illusion of control, as my 12-step friends would correct me, and they’d be right). It also requires a somewhat advanced familiarity with your Inner Wisdom and a trust in the world that I know from personal experience is hard to come by.
But you can only get familiarity and trust with practice, and the only way to practice is to make many messy attempts, so here it is, the only question you need to ask to find your calling:
What wants to happen?
The beauty of this question is that it addresses not only what you want, which is incredibly powerful in and of itself, but also what the world needs, and therefore what’s possible and practical. (There’s another benefit as well, which I’ll get to in a minute.)
Here’s how to do it:
1. Listen In
Ask the question, get really quiet, and see what words, images, or ideas arise, paying close attention to how your head, heart, and body respond to each. You might also consider different possibilities and see which feel most aligned with your Inner Wisdom.
Follow through on the ideas that bring up the most positive head, heart, and body responses or to which your Inner Wisdom says yes. Know that these actions are valuable experiments and will help you find your way regardless of what results.
3. Listen Out
Observe the results of your actions and then reflect: How did that go? Which actions created energy in you and in others? Which gave you satisfying outcomes? Which took on a momentum or life of their own?
The answers to these questions can help you identify what wants to happen in the world—in other words where there’s a need your gifts can meet, a problem your creativity can solve, or a way to work with reality rather than fight against it.
4. Listen In Again
Ask what wants to happen again, but this time in light of what you found in step #3. If you’re not sure, try making a list of all possible options, then feeling into which bring up a sense of energy, ease, or excitement.
Act on those and then repeat the process.
I first tried using this question two years ago, with surprising results.
At the time, I had lots of goals and ideas about growing my coaching business. The problem was, no matter how hard I worked or what I tried, my business seemed to stay about the same size. In the meantime, the stress from striving so hard and failing to meet my objectives was weighing on me and beginning to trigger my anxiety and depression.
At some point it occurred to me that I might enjoy my life a lot more if I got curious about how big my business wanted to be instead of fighting an uphill battle to try to make it the size that I wanted. So I asked the question: what wants to happen with my business? And then I listened for the actions that felt energizing and satisfying and didn’t force myself to do the ones that weren’t.
It was scary, I’ll admit. I worried that my business would want to be so small that it wouldn’t generate enough income. But I’d developed enough trust in myself and the world by that point to know that if that were the case, I could find other ways to make money.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to, as that ended up being my best year to date, both in terms of how I felt and the money that I made.
But there’s one more reason this question is a useful one:
By its nature, it’s an antidote to anxiety.
When we’re anxious, it’s usually because there’s an outcome we want (to run a successful project, for example, or to land a particular job). At the same time, we sense on some level that we don’t have enough control to guarantee that this outcome occurs.
This gap between what we want and what we have power over is what generates anxiety.
Asking what wants to happen is a way of letting go of our death grip on the particular outcomes we desire, or more accurately, the specific ways we think that our happiness is going to be achieved. We get to see that a successful project, a particular job, or even a bigger business are not the only things that can support our well-being.
In fact, with enough practice, we come to understand that there are many ways to take care of ourselves and find what we’re looking for in any situation, so we don’t have to hold too tightly to any one of them.
As the list of desirable possibilities expands, the anxiety gap shrinks.
And as I said in my previous post, we don’t even have to know what all those possibilities are, because when we ask what wants to happen, we invite the world to reveal to us the best one for our current situation, and it’s often even better than what we had in mind.
Want help finding your own answers?
Pathfinders Group Coaching, one of my most powerful and cost-effective programs, is still open for enrollment.
Designed for people who want to identify the work they’re meant to do in the world and start actually doing it, Pathfinders guides you through a 5-step process for finding your calling and helps you build the skills you need clarify what wants to happen, all alongside a group of supportive, insightful peers who are going through the same thing you are.
If that sounds good, then click here to schedule a brief, no-obligation call to learn how the program works and find out if it’s for you.