Imagine that you’ve just decided to leave a job that makes you unhappy to pursue a different career path. The next day, you are called into your boss’s office and offered a promotion. Is this a test of your faith? Is the universe poking you to see if you’ll stick with your intention to change? Or is it a sign that you are meant to stay in this field and take the promotion?
What if you’ve just decided to leave a relationship that no longer serves you, perhaps a familial, friend, or romantic relationship, and a new person enters your life soon after? Is this a test, warning you not to repeat the same mistakes, or a sign that this person is coming to you to begin a relationship that will serve you on your path?
One piece of advice I’ve heard to help tell the difference is to meditate on the situation, quiet the egoic mind, and listen for clarity. This is a great first step, but I like to have more than one strategy in my spiritual backpack.
I work in education, and recently I’ve been doing a lot of work around brain-based teaching and learning strategies. John Medina, a brain scientist, wrote an accessible and mind-blowing (pun intended) book called Brain Rules to explain what science knows about how we learn, survive, and hopefully thrive. One of Medina’s most critical offerings is this: we learn best when we receive meaning before details. You can play with this on your own. Write a list of ten items you might commonly purchase at the store and try to memorize them. Now place them into categories (produce, beverages, frozen food) and try again. It’s easier to remember things when they are connected to a larger meaning.
In other words, when we ask ourselves if an experience or a person is a test or a sign, it’s important that we don’t divorce this question from the larger context of our lives. That’s a bit like turning to page 199 of a novel and expecting to understand the entire story.
Ask yourself how this experience fits into the narrative, or story, of your life. If this is page 199, what do the prior 198 pages look like? In the example of deciding about whether or not to leave your job or to take the promotion, reflect back on your life. Do you have a tendency to avoid risk, even when your heart is pulling you in that direction? Do you second-guess your instincts, often to your detriment? If so, the promotion offer is likely a test and it's time for you to take a leap of faith. Or, is the reverse perhaps at play? Is your story one of avoiding discipline in the name of freedom? Could you benefit from greater routine and stability? In this case, perhaps staying the course in your current field has lessons that will serve your highest good.
In addition to following the sage advice of sitting with or meditating on your situation, consider asking the following questions to determine whether you are facing a test or a sign. Writing down your answers or speaking them aloud to a trusted friend will certainly provide you greater clarity.
I bought one ticket. Just one. Because why not?
The latest estimate is $900 million dollars after all. And like all of the other suckers out there, my husband and I batted around some ideas for how we'll spend our winnings.
I was only a little surprised when I heard myself say, "I'd keep doing what I'm doing." There was a time in my life when I would've quit my job in a hot minute if I'd won the lottery. Not anymore. I love what I do, all of it, the mishmash that is my career: teaching, coaching, writing, speaking, and yoga. It might not work for everyone but I have a clear, big picture in mind for the vision of my life: I'm here to inspire others to live their best lives.
I would, however, outsource all of my household chores. If I never unload another dishwasher again it will be too soon. I'd hire an amazing personal chef. And yeah, I'd buy nice things: clothes, cars, trips.
But what if you are one of the people who would quit your job? What insight can you gain by fantasizing about the lottery?
A lot of people say that if they win the lottery they'll quit their job and do nothing.
The main character in one of my favorite movies, Office Space, claims that if he won the lottery he'd quit his job and do nothing, really nothing.
I bet a lot of people would do nothing, at least for a while, because they're so burned out from doing the wrong job, the job they think they have to do instead of the job they were born to do. They're tired: physically and mentally exhausted. Trying to fit a round peg into a square hole will do that.
But my hunch is that after they did nothing for a while, they'd want to do something again, and that something would, in many cases, end of being the thing they were born to do.
In my work as a Career Intuitive Coach, our fearless leader, Sue Frederick, has taught us to ask what she calls the Five Million Dollar Question. In other words, you have a shit-ton of money, now what are you going to do with your precious life? But Sue adds an important catch to her hypothetical question. In order to get and keep the money, you have to work.
Play along. You just won the Powerball (now estimated at $1.3 million and growing). You have to work but you have more money than you know what to do with. What will you do for work? For many people, this will help to reveal your deepest passion and purpose. And in my experience, nine times out of ten, what you choose to do with your money will be in service of others.
So the real question isn't what you'll do if you win the Powerball, the real question is what's stopping you from doing that right now, just as you are?
The quality of answers that we receive in life is inextricably connected to the quality of our questions. Often, we ask questions that are inside of the box that we are stuck in as we search for ways to escape that box. It's an exercise in futility; because the questions come from within our current confines, they are inherently worthless to our quest.
Imagine instead that you find a way to poke a hole in the side of your box and peak out toward the outside world. What types of questions might you then ask?
Here's an example of an inside-the-box question: Should I quit my job?
It's a perfectly reasonable question, but in my experience, people who ask it end up getting stuck on the question like a hamster on a wheel. Around and around they go between yes and no, weighing concerns like retirement benefits, health, family, money, and gaps on resumes. It's the kind of question that most people can talk themselves into and out of about 60 times in 60 seconds.
Here's a better question: WHY AM I HERE?
Now you're on to something. You are peeking through your peephole into the realm of everything that is possible in this world. Outside of your box, perhaps there's a job that doesn't even exist yet that you can create. Outside of your box are your deepest desires.
Once you begin to answer the question of why you are here, all other questions fall into place because now you have the proper context with which to answer them. Should you quit your job? Well, is that job why you're here? Have you survived everything that has sought to harm you, all of the risks that being human entails, in order to work in this job? Did your ancestors work three jobs and still go hungry during the Great Depression so that you can work in this job? Is this job your destiny?
Here are some more examples of ways that we can use our questions to move forward instead of to spin in circles:
Box Question: Should I break up with him/her?
Better Question: What is my worth?
Box Questions: What have I done to deserve this pain or illness? Why me?
Better Questions: What is this pain or illness trying to tell me? If I let it break me open a bit, what magical things might I find inside?
Box Question: When is that person going to stop disrespecting me?
Better Question: Do I want to die angry?
Box Question: How can I get out of this rut?
Better Question: Here, I must turn to the genius of Mary Oliver. She asks great questions.
As you embark on the adventure that we are calling 2016, may you ask and answer the great questions.
I'm taking over the Monday Motivation Blog this morning to encourage all you last minute folks to get moving and sign up for Wednesday's Job Search Bootcamp for Liberal Arts Graduates. In the video below, you'll see why I'm so excited to host this bootcamp and you'll get a preview of the 5-step plan I'll be sharing with you on Wednesday that will transform your job search in 2-hours.
And as a reward to my loyal blog readers, I'm offering a coupon code for 10% off the cost of Wednesday's bootcamp.
Enter code "MONDAYMOTIVATION" at checkout to receive your 10% discount.
Register here: http://jobsearchbootcampforliberalarts.weebly.com
Remember, Bootcamp kicks off Wednesday, June 17th at 6pm EST but registration will close 24 hours before we start. So make sure to register by Tuesday, June 16th at 6pm to reserve your spot.
Have a great Monday!
This blog is focused on exploring ideas around yoga, career, intuition, purpose, and passion. Please leave a comment. Namaste.