But what if I have paralyzing fear about making the wrong choice? – Making the best decision for the Future You.

But what if I have paralyzing fear about making the wrong choice?”

I was wrapping up a strategy call with a new Future You Explorer, and I asked her if she had any final questions before I let her go. Then she dropped this doozy on me. This kind of question is not the kind of question I’ll answer in 60 seconds. This kind of question deserves some time and attention, and attention it will get.

I get this kind of question all the time. So spoiler alert, I DO have a tool I’ve created to help people navigate the “choice” portion of this question. We’re going to be talking about it on the March 19th, 2021 show “The future contains no guarantee. How to choose the best future for you.” The learning guide associated with this show will include both the instructions, tools, and templates so you can do this for yourself. I’ll say this; I created this tool for myself in 2010 when I needed to decide between the following options:

1. Stay in my current role. It paid well, knew the team, liked what I was doing but was a bit bored. I had a hard time imagining what the next phase could be. That said, I’d re-invented my role multiple times there, and the leadership seemed to embrace my transformational nature.

2. Join a very early-stage company. Terrible base, huge upside potential; I desperately wanted to work with the CEO (I still do), the role was a massive stretch for me. I had no idea what my title would be, and I hadn’t seen a job description. That said, the opportunity was screaming potential for me and the future of the company.

3. Join a company that everyone said was cool and groovy. When I went to visit it WAS cool and groovy. I wasn’t super excited by the role, but it could grow into something as the company was going places. The hiring manager and I had collaborated on a previous project and ‘got’ the value of each other’s thinking. Collaborating with him would be fun. Compensation and title were comparable to my current position.

4. Join a company that my entire network said was going to go bust in about 30 seconds. I thoroughly understood the problems they needed to solve and had ideas on how to solve them. I had strong feelings (all of them) about the leadership team; it made me nervous. My compensation and title weren’t much of a bump but were heading in the right direction.

I know, lucky me to have had all these options.

When I step back and think about why it’s hard to make these decisions, I keep coming back to what I believe are a couple of fundamental issues.

1. No one can predict the future.
2. We want to be confident in our decisions.
3. The title and compensation don’t paint the whole picture.
4. While it feels like a “forever” decision, it’s not a “forever” decision.
5. Other people’s opinions and ambitions shouldn’t matter but do.

I’ve probably got a book of ideas on each of these statements, but let me unpack them a little for you. My hope is they spur a conversation.

No one can predict the future.
I think this is the biggest lesson of 2020. It’s a lesson we keep learning as a new future unfolds even as we march through 2021. We’re all exhausted by the ambiguity. Can we control any of it? No. 2020 is an example of the impact of broad uncertainty. It’s no less energy-zapping if you’re navigating your own future.
Something to consider – when life throws massive change at you, it’s a call to re-evaluate your operating manual. Did the way you did things in the past truly work for you?

We want to be confident in our decisions.
“I just want to know that this action will manifest this result.” I have a brilliant, slightly eccentric, and ambitious 20-year-old nephew. We were talking about his future and the choices he could make. Exasperated by the conversation, this was his reaction. I wasn’t surprised. Education, entertainment, sports, games – in today’s world, they teach us all, “If you follow the rules, you’ll level up. If you don’t follow the rules, you’re a failure.” Add that people’s successes and failures are now public (hi social media), the stakes are higher. No wonder the most common ask mentors get is, “Tell me how to do x.”
Something to consider – when you look at people who’ve manifested success, the people you admire. Did they follow someone else’s playbook, or did they create their own?

The title and compensation don’t paint the whole picture.
“I want a promotion.” While I’m not dismissing the importance of your title, it’s only one of the markers of success. I’ve spoken to thousands of people over the last several years. What do they want?

-They want to do work that matters.
-They want people to recognize that the work they’re doing matters.
-They want to learn new things.
-They want to be excited and curious about what they’re working on.

A title change and more “organizational power” doesn’t always manifest these things. May I also suggest that titles reinforce the hierarchical, binary industrial constructs of the past. Constructs that no longer serve you or your employer.
Something to consider – If you took the measure of Title off the table. What measures of success work for you? I think ambition is as unique as a fingerprint.

While it feels like a “forever” decision, it’s not a “forever” decision.
“I’ve found the one.” The statistics are all over the place, but the consensus seems that the average person has 7-12 different careers (not jobs) in their lifetime. I did a quick finger count, and I’m on my 9th – early childhood development, tutor, retail, travel, sales, digital transformation, technology development, training, public speaking, author. I am not done.
I’ve met less than twelve people in my life who’ve known forever who they wanted to be when they grew up—even less who’ve managed to manifest that dream. You “date” a career. And you keep dating it until it no longer supports your larger life plan. We all eventually figure out that the “Cinderella promise” of “finding your Prince and living happily ever after..” is a load of hogwash. And yet we replace “Prince” with “job” and wonder why we’re all a bit bummed out.
Something to consider – I look at career decisions more like owning a home. Yes, you have a list of non-negotiables, but you also have to make choices. The biggest question being “Does this fit where I am and who I’m going to be for the next 7-10 years?” My current home fits my life perfectly. It wouldn’t have fit ten years ago. My guess, a little sadly, that it won’t fit ten years into my future.

The power and influence of other people’s opinions.
“They will judge you.” We learn the power of other people’s opinions early in life. Opinions of comparison – other people my age/experience level have done “x” by now. Opinions of the “standard” – well, this is the way other people are saying you should do something, so you should do it this way. Opinions around values – you should take more risks; you shouldn’t take more risks. Opinions around potential – this opportunity has potential; this one doesn’t. These are all other people’s opinions. I have some pretty basic rules I follow. 1. Will this activity injure (emotionally or physically) me or someone else? 2. Does this activity move me closer directionally to where I want to go? Other people’s opinions are colored by their goals, their experiences, and their life. My guess is yours are unique to you.
Something to ponder – I’ll also share that I ask for other people’s opinions ALL THE TIME. But with a catch. Before I ask for advice, feedback, views on the Future Me’s choices, I find out how someone sees my potential. I learn HOW they are ambitious for me. I seek advice from people whose ambitions for me scare me a little. These are the people who can see a Future Me I can’t even see. These people have opinions I want to hear.

And I come back to choices.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to ponder. I hope you come to the show and learn how I make impossible choices a little easier.

But if there’s anything you take from this article it’s this:

The knowledge economy is a double sided-marketplace. While it may feel like others are choosing you, you get to choose them too. So choose you.


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