If you know me at all, then you know that I’ve been through some tremendous changes in the last few years. First, I took a break from my career as a lawyer to spend more time with my children. Then, I went to life coach training and became a life and business coach. Shortly after that, I wrote two self-help books and became an author. This summer, I took another risk, and am in the process of becoming a novelist.
When I share my story with other women, the question I get most often is, “How did you know you were making the right choice?”
It makes me laugh each time. The truth is, I had no idea.
I still remember telling the uber-nanny that we had hired when I went back to work at the firm after J. was born that I’d be staying home. “I hope it’s everything you think it will be,” she said. Her eyes told me what she really thought. She won’t make it a month.
I had no idea what I was doing when I transitioned to being home all day every day. I spent days organizing the playroom and dreaming of writing novels while the baby slept, and evenings laying awake wondering who I was kidding and plotting my return to work.
When, almost three years later, I started life coach training, I still had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even think I was going to become a life coach for goodness sakes. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t. I just thought that learning to help myself would be cheaper and more effective than continuing to pay my therapist, who by that point, wasn’t helping me much anyway. So off to Martha Beck Life Coach School I went, totally unsure of whether this was a good or bad idea.
Same thing when I launched my coaching practice. I hit send on that email to everyone I knew telling them what I was up to without any clue as to whether it would be the best or worst decision I had ever made.
Or when I published my first book with The Difference Press, I didn’t shop publishers or explore options. I just decided to trust Dr. Angela Lauria and let the cards fall where they may. I still have no idea why. Now I’m trusting her with my first novella without any indication that it is the right decision at all.
When I made each of these – and many other crucial decisions in my life – I had no idea if they were the “right” ones – for me or for my family. This is especially and terrifyingly true if I was using my old metrics of “right” and “wrong” that I had grown up believing were the holy grail of SUCCESS (deliberately in all-caps). At the time I made these choices, I had absolutely no way to judge that they were going to be “right” at all.
But here’s what I did know. I knew that when I thought of not making the choices that I did, something in the pit of my stomach dropped. Some small part of me shrank. I knew that if I didn’t do them, then I was shortchanging myself of an opportunity not just to do amazing things, but to become a more amazing version of myself than I was in the very moment the choice was given to me.
Doing something crazy and brave, even if it only held a tiny sliver of hope for something totally awesome to happen, was the only thing that seemed right to me at all.
So, back to the question at hand. How do you know if you’re making the right choice when it comes to your next step?
I still have no idea.
(This is where I’d totally insert a picture of me laughing if I had one.)
But I’ll share a couple of questions that might help:
- Does saying yes scare the sh*t out of you? If not, it’s probably not the kind of right that’s truly worth pursuing. I’d dream bigger if I were you.
- Does some part of you think it’s impossible? If so, you’re probably on the right track, in all the ways that truly matter.
- Is the part of you that thinks it’s impossible openly affirmed by your immediate family and/or your mentor from your former professional life? Congratulations! You’re almost certainly headed in the right direction – that is, away from everything you’ve been socially conditioned to value and towards what it is you actually want.
- Does the idea of not doing it making some small part of you close inward? Almost like your shoulders are being rolled forward and your stomach is being sucked in? If so, chances are it’s time to just go for it. That inward-sucky feeling will only grow with time. And it tends to indicate the kind of choice you’ll sit on your deathbed wishing you had done differently if you don’t heed it.
- Does the idea of saying yes bring you such nervous excitement and joy that you almost feel guilty about just thinking about it? Awesome. You’re settling into the discomfort of living and loving more fully and joyfully than you ever dreamed was possible.