You already know what you want
Last year I did a masterclass with one of my mentors, John Lees, career strategist, author and teacher. At the beginning of the masterclass John shared a quote by Richard Knowdell:
“Everybody in the world knows exactly what they want, only half of the world hasn't found the words yet to describe it and the other half is too frightened to say it”
One of the things I always share with my clients before we start working together is that as a coach, I do not give advice or tell them what I think they should do. Not because I don’t want to help (obviously), but because they are the only person who knows what’s best for them.
We live in a world of abundant information, which is great on one hand, as it allows us to learn and grow, but at the same time we have become so used to and dependent on seeking answers ‘out there’. So much so that we even ask google questions like: “Should I quit my job?” “Should I leave my partner?” “What should I do with my life?”, but here’s the thing – the one thing we can’t outsource is our own knowing.
We are culturally wired to lean on ‘learned knowledge’ and to be valued for how much we’ve mastered, and so we often tend to underestimate our ability to KNOW things that don’t come from extensive learning or research. It’s true that if you’re planning a big event or solving an engineering problem you might need to spend hours upon hours reading, researching, and outsourcing.
But when it comes to questions about your life, you are the only person who can answer them. There is no quiz or checklist you can follow that can tell you what your heart wants. Neither Google nor your mom, brother, spouse or teacher can know what’s best for you. You're the only one who knows. Which is good as it's your future, not theirs.
“If only I knew what I wanted, I’d go ahead and do it” is a statement I hear quite often. While it feels so true to the individual expressing it, I also know, from guiding so many clients through their journey of figuring out what’s next, that somewhere, deep down, they ALREADY KNOW what they want.
They just don’t know how to translate it into something tangible, or, they are too afraid to realise it, or both.
The truth is that even if you think life will be amazing when you finally figure out what you want, deep inside you might be afraid of knowing what that is. What you want can sometimes be really uncomfortable, because it often requires you to step out of your comfort zone. In many ways, it’s so much more comfortable to not know what we want.
Think about it, if you don’t know what you want, you don’t need to do anything about it. You can’t fail at something you aren't trying to get. In an attempt to keep yourself in your comfort zone, you’ll (subconsciously) look for distractions that will keep you from listening to your desires.
So when people say they have no idea where to start, so often, even as they say that, there’s some insight waiting for them if they summon the courage to look inwards –
To put aside others' expectations and the fear of letting people down.
To drop down, even if just for a moment, the daily constraints and realistic thinking.
To challenge the beliefs and stories they tell themselves about who they are.
To let go of their outdated dreams and what they thought they should want so that they connect with what they truly want right now.
This is the space I hold for my clients. And in this space, we’re creating a welcoming home for their dreams, longings, and authentic self, and then we slay the dragons that get in the way of them living a life that is a brilliant expression of that.
For me, coaching is not advising or instructing. I don’t have the content expertise to know about every single client’s career field. I don’t know what you should do next, I don’t have those kinds of answers.
What I do have is this: I know what we look like and sound like when our truth speaks. I know how to help you remember what’s at the core of you, and to live it. I know what it sounds like when we access inner wisdom. I have a toolbox filled with questions and tricks that can help you get away from the anxious, chattering voice in your head (the fear, the inner critic, the self-doubt) and connect with the voice of wisdom, instead. That’s where the advising lives.
(it’s one of the things that is most satisfying in my work as a coach – witnessing the magic of an answer that at first looked so out of reach, becoming stunningly clear)
It’s not that we are always supposed to know what we want. That’s not the point. It’s in the not knowing, on this journey to find our answers, that we get to discover things about ourselves. These seasons of question marks, they all lend themselves to finding deeper insight into who we are and why we are here. They bear a message about the things that bring meaning to our life.
The true search is for who you are and what you believe in.
When your heart is engaged, the inevitable doubts and second-guessing that show up become tolerable and don’t derail you from connecting to your answers. Let your brain be your heart’s soldier.