The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘Questions For Exploration’

How Do I Trust Myself? Let Me Count the Ways

Posted by Karen on February 16, 2010

Last November I wrote a post on the importance of self trust (which begs the question: where does the time go?).

I had some interesting responses to that post, with some follow up questions along the lines of “How do I trust myself if I don’t trust myself”? Good question.

Trust is this really quirky little quality that requires you to do something before you get something back… i.e. to trust before knowing if the other person or the path is trustworthy – and if you can trust yourself to handle what happens if you choose to go forward. Moving forward safely takes courage and practice. It takes a high degree of relatedness with your “inner knowing signals” – that is with your body’s feelings when you are grounded in your decision at all levels.

It is something you can get related to by observing and practicing everyday. Start by learning to trust yourself on the smallest decisions, such as what to focus on in your day or what you eat for lunch. By feeling the small wins when you know you chose the right thing for you, you will become more familiar with your process to know when you’re ready to make a decision and if it’s the right one.

And I certainly didn’t learn to trust myself all by myself. I had some excellent coaches and friends who listened deeply to me when I was trying to decide something (big or small) and reflected what they heard both in the content of what I was trying to decide and also an “emotional” read of where I was: when I sounded scattered, anxious and frightened versus when I sounded grounded, coherent and calm (sometimes all in the same phone call!). Having a “mirror” to my inner state helped me to hear myself in new ways and to begin to recognize when my decisions became settled and certain.

So how do you know that you are “self-trusting”? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you “tune in” to where you are in the process:

1. Do I trust myself to handle what might come up in a new career path? Such as new information…unexpected detours…or fearful feelings about starting something new?

2. Do I trust myself to gently pull myself back if I go too far beyond my comfort zone? Do I know what it feels like to be “comfortably” outside my comfort zone?

3. Do I trust myself to recognize the signs when something is “off” or wrong for me at this time? Can I name the feeling in my body when this occurs?

4. Do I trust myself to get out of what is not right for me once I recognize it? Do I know my blind spots around letting go of something that isn’t working?

5. Do I trust my decision-making process? Do I give myself time to process emotions as well as thoughts? Do I recognize when “information” comes with an emotional undercurrent that needs to be understood and processed? Do I give myself the time and space to visualize myself fulfilling on the decision and experiencing the resulting feelings to see if I’m in tune with my decisions?

6. Do I recognize the feeling in my body when something is “right” for me? Can I identify other times I’ve known that in my life and regularly recreated that feeling for myself so it’s familiar?

7. Can I let things unfold organically or do I often try to force outcomes?

8. Can I trust myself to listen to another point of view with an open mind, knowing that I will make the final decision that is right for me?

9. Do I find smaller and less “high stakes” times to trust myself first before tackling bigger life choices like my career?


Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Questions For Exploration, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Spaciousness or Just Drifting?

Posted by Karen on September 8, 2009

(Shout out Renata and thanks for waiting for this one!)

So I’ve spent my summer (supposedly) working on this wonderful question from a “Job of Your Life” reader, who, in engaging with the new step of Spaciousness asked “How do I know if I’m being spacious or if I’m just drifting?”

Because that’s the concern, isn’t it?

In The Job of Your Life I’ve outlined the idea of Spaciousness – of allowing things to occur inside of a structured inquiry – which sounds really meaningful and important. But then you could just as easily be calling it “Spaciousness” when what you’re really doing is avoiding the decision or maintaining the status quo with a great excuse or drifting along thinking you’re getting somewhere but really just fooling yourself.

And really, in our chaotic world of “go, go, GO!” it does seem self-indulgent and new-agey to “just go with the flow” or that’s how it feels maybe when we’re trying to explain to people about our lack of perceivable action. And if it’s hard for other people to tell if we’re being “spacious” or just being “drifters”, it can be even harder to tell ourselves, since in this area of career exploration I find that people often feel like they’ve lost their proverbial mojo anyway – that inner sense of knowing that you’re going in the right direction.

Ironically the very reason WHY you’re career exploring is exactly why you feel so confused; you’re looking for a new direction you’ve never considered before.

That’s also why you can feel pretty vulnerable to the vagueness of the process, the wondering “Am I getting it right?” and the sense that other people would be doing a lot more fancy action steps. Plus we really don’t value spaciousness, ever. Our world has become so instantaneous and responsive, we have problems understanding why someone can’t “just get it together already” and make a choice. So measured by that standard, we get very unforgiving of ourselves if there’s any sense that we’re not in constant motion.

So here’s a way of evaluating whether it’s drifting or spaciousness:

1. A Created and Stated Intention: When you move into spaciousness, do so with intention. That mean, be clear on your outcome (not rigidly but with some specificity) such as “I allow new ideas and opportunities into my working life. I stay open to when these new ideas and opportunities arise”. Intentions are the structure, the silent backbone – it allows you to become spacious and allowing “with purpose”. If you want to know more about the power of intention, check out/read The Intention Experiment. It will scientifically both prove my point and blow your mind.

2. Follows an Intense Period of Breakthroughs: Spaciousness is often required if you’ve been doing some deep inner work. That takes time for your system to process. It may be that other, unexpected things came up, things you didn’t expect to be related to career. It may be you saw new things about how you relate to work, or your self-identity, or made progress in your personal self-development. Following the natural ebb and flow, this means letting things settle before leaping into the next stage.

3. Continued Personal Work: Spaciousness can still mean that you’re working with a coach or doing other kinds of personal work. I do notice that there are times that clients step away from regular meetings with me and need a few weeks or months to process what we’ve worked on. Or they may find an alternative form of therapy or personal work that they resonate with and want to do work with that for a while – this might require some spaciousness.

4. Keeping in Touch with Your Needs: Learning how to listen to yourself is one of the first hurdles of an inner exploration. If you know how to tune into yourself and when you tune in you are clear that you still need space – take it. Your mind might get impatient (mine always does) but I soothe it by showing it the undeniable truth – I’m not ready and I won’t be ready until I’m ready. And there’s no sense trying to hurry it.

5. Other Things Are Happening: Often we get impatient with ourselves at the weirdest times – like when you’ve had a big breakup or you’ve moved or you just had a kid (that goes for Dads too) or lost someone close to you. Everyone else is like “slow down, take it easy” but we try and crack our inner whip on the career thing, like that’s going to make a difference. I think we just have a deep human desire for emotional events not to touch or change us and so we reach out to things that we feel like we can control, like career decisions, even if it’s more appropriate that we spend time processing or getting through what we need to get through in the moment. If your moment is demanding your attention elsewhere, give it in trust. You can always check in with yourself if the demands continue to keep you away from your career exploration.

6. You Feel Engaged Even If You’re Not in Action: I always associate this one with writing. I have books in me that I don’t yet have time to write, but when I check in, they are there, waiting for me to be ready. I don’t feel like I avoid them; I feel like they are a delicious thing in my future that will flower at the right time (pardon the mixing of metaphors – I suppose you can eat a flower but maybe it won’t be delicious). If you check in on your feelings about the career exploration, and you feel positive about it – that some part of you is engaged, feeling like this change will be good and it’s coming – you’re likely in spaciousness.

7. You Get Unexpected Breakthroughs or Synchronistic Events: Spaciousness is the opportunity for your subconscious to process all the learning you’re doing about yourself and the possibilities and opportunities that might fit you. So you can be in a period of spaciousness and suddenly get a new insight, apparently out of nowhere, or get into a great conversation with a woman at the dentist’s office, or hear a program on the radio that seems like it’s speaking to you, even if nothing else seems to be happening. These are signs, also called termed God Winks and other various names, that let you know you’re still on the playing field even if you don’t feel geared up and carrying the ball (see…there go those metaphors again).

8. Ask Yourself – You Know the Truth Without This List Anyway: We have a deep knowing as human beings if we are doing something for the “right” or the “wrong” reasons – we just keep ourselves from knowing that truth by keeping ourselves busy and on the surface of our minds. If you have the courage to look inside deeply, you’ll know if you’re creating spaciousness or if you’re merely using the idea to keep you stuck.

It’s totally natural to doubt yourself, particularly when nothing seems to be happening on the surface. Spaciousness is the ultimate practice in trusting yourself – and trusting the Universe – that all will happen in right timing. Your insights are happening deep below the surface. Your job is coming. Stay peaceful. Stay connected.

All is right with the world.

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Recognizing Stagnation and How To Shift It

Posted by Karen on February 17, 2009

Someone mentioned to me the other day that while reading “Now, Discover Your Strengths” she found the line “input without output leads to stagnation”. That captured my imagination immediately, because the opposite could also easily be true: output without input leads to stagnation.

What is stagnation? And what’s with all the A/V club input/output metaphors?

Let’s start with the word “stagnation“. Stagnation is the opposite of growing. Stagnation has this sort of “stinky” connotation- a green film of algae coating a still pond on a windless day. Stagnation in people means to me that feeling when you start to get that feeling of dull and dreariness to your being. That you are slow and sludgy or that you are feeling less than inspired by yourself.

Input without Output

My client’s example was that she feels stagnate when she spends lots of time reading and getting new insights and ideas, but instead of sharing them she lies on the couch. That’s when we take in, and in, and in, but we don’t let what we have percolating out into the world. Sometimes it’s important to give yourself time to percolate unmolested by the world’s challenges, but at a certain point what are you learning it for if you can’t apply it, test it, see it in action? The ideas and insights stagnate without use.

Output without Input

My example here is teaching yoga. I am always in love with my yoga, but there are times I have gone too long without new “input” – that is either new postures, new variations on postures, new bursts of creativity in movement and flow or conversely no new input in the insights of yoga – new explorations of how to describe the movement of energy or meditations or themes that carry through the yoga. The class feels stuck – like the class was still good but not exactly inspired or revelatory.

Interestingly, in both cases what’s “off” is the balance between what goes in and what comes out.

If you are taking in and taking in and taking in, but allowing no space for it to be “out” in the world – either space for you to let it bubble out (some people, myself included, can “over-stimulate” – try and read and take in too much, without allowing time between each new to process and let new insights reveal) OR in sharing it in such a way that you get new energy and purpose from the sharing.

If you are giving out too much without nourishing the core, without giving yourself time to find new sources of input – a book, a course, an idea, a workshop, a conversation with someone in your field – you may find yourself going slowly stale.

 Stagnation is part of the cycle…the Indians call it tamas one of the three gunas. While no one likes feeling it, it’s a reminder from yourself that it is time to get out there and either feed yourself or feed the world with yourself.

If you are feeling stagnation, start with this question…is it your input or your output that needs adjusting?

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Two Career Exploration Questions To Get You Started

Posted by Karen on February 11, 2009

If you spend some time with a question – really spend time getting a handle on it…not only getting an answer, but also another layer down to the insight beneath that answer…it can bear a lot of useful fruit.

I ask a lot of different questions in Career Exploration  and the recent workshop I did at The Yoga Loft reminded me how powerful questions can be. The tricky part is that you can’t put pressure on the answer to take you somewhere directly or to solve the overall career question. You have to just hang out with the question and see what emerges. I call it “meditating” on the question rather than thinking about it. Thinking about it gets you the logical answers, the first round of the answering process. Meditating to me speaks of letting yourself go quiet – letting the question sink in deep, and letting your subconscious get working on it. I find the next layer of “answer” floats to the surface of your consciousness between an hour and three weeks later.

Sometimes what comes to you is mind-blowing and sometimes its useful for clarifying something for yourself. Either way, it keeps you in the conversation with yourself. I’ll tell you this though: it’s the little insights, coming one by one, that add up to the whopping big breakthrough you’re looking for.  You just don’t get to know when the big wave comes.

So keep on asking yourself questions and spend some time with each one to see if there’s real juice in them (sorry for all the mixed metaphors…I’m riding end of the day fumes where waves, juice and meditating all come together as one big happy explanation).

Okay…here are two questions to get you started:

1) What, right now, do you KNOW about your next step or next career?

2) What, right now, DON’T you know?

Try writing one thing for each. Then come back to the exercise and try adding a few more for each question.

One of the aims of this exercise is to see that you DO in fact know things about your next step, even if you don’t exactly KNOW what it is. You are in a process…you’re really in it…and some things are clear to you (even if it’s “I really don’t want to do THAT job ever again”) and some things aren’t. The questions act like guideposts to where to look next.

For instance, if you are having trouble writing your resume and you sat down with the question “What don’t I know”, and what you don’t know is what exactly you’re applying to…well, now you know you need to step away from the resume and do some other exploration first.

Treat the “don’t know”, as an observation, not a judgment of your progress. Your judgments about how far along you should be in the process by now get in the way of you hearing deeply what is needed next.

Let me know how it goes!

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