Feel your way forwards, stop forcing it

As well as learning new skills and developing a new mindset when we leave our corporate role, we have unlearn a whole set of beliefs and behaviours. Things that were helpful, or at least functional, in the corporate world simply don’t work outside. In fact, some of them can actually be harmful to us and what we’re trying to achieve.

One of the hardest things I have had to learn is to use my intuition and to trust that answers to problems will emerge if I just stay with the issue long enough. In coaching, we call this ‘sitting with the problem’. It a very uncomfortable experience, sitting in that uncertainty and ‘not knowing’.

Our response to this is to wriggle out of it, reduce the ambiguities to black and white and end the uncertainty by leaping to a solution. These behaviours have been re-inforced in our corporate life, which operate under an illusion of certainty and control. We were constantly challenged to ‘have the facts’, to ‘bring solutions, not problems’ and an admission that you didn’t know the answer was a seen as a sign of weakness.

The solutions we readily grasp for, the familiar ones, are never the right ones. The ambiguities that we try to flatten out hold the very answers that we seek. In a large organisation we see many of these sub-optimal decisions but the organisation continues, albeit in an inefficient and wasteful manner. However, when we are making decisions for ourselves, this approach can be extremely harmful. We don’t have the resources and momentum of a large organisation and poor decisions can blow us far off track.

This over-reliance on rationality is not how we are in the world naturally. Our intuition is deep wisdom, it is the product of our unconscious mind that is far more powerful and rapid than our intellect. We use our ‘feel’ continually in our personal lives, in our hobbies and pursuits, in our daily activities but we have been taught to ignore it in our business and professional life. Re-connecting with our intuition and re-introducing it into our whole lives takes time and emotional labour but its a very necessary step to learning to flourish after the mothership.

Allied to this is the habit of forcing things. In our corporate life we could ‘make things happen’ though our effort, personality and will. We could pressure people to do the things we needed to do, we could influence events and push things through. This was only possible, however, within the hierarchy and rules of the organisation. Once we are outside of that structure, our attempts to bring pressure on people will simply push them away because they are free agents. We have no hold over people or resources and the only authority we have is that which we generate through trust and respect. Forcing simply doesn’t work.

However, so deeply ingrained is this behaviour that we continue to try. We make plans and forecasts for events we have no control over, we make demands of people that they have no obligation to fulfill. Instead of allowing events to take their course and focusing on the things that we can control, we impatiently try to ‘hurry things up’, to push things through. The consequence is that we often sabotage our efforts. Forcing is a rather unpleasant behaviour and it repels people, it reduces the resources that are available to us and it prevents the serendipity and mutuality that will bring us what we want.

The biggest signal that we are ignoring our intuition and trying to force things is when we are looking for short cuts. When we start signing up for courses that will show us the ten step process that guarantees our objective, when we look for some marketing trick to ‘massively grow’ our lists, or try to learn some sales tricks that will have us ‘closing, closing, closing’. When we are desperately grasping at someone else’s formula and trying jam our business and ourselves into it.

This never works. These always prove to be a waste our time and energy and push us further away from our desired objective.

In my experience, every dead-end is disguised as a short-cut. Avoid them and focus on doing the work instead.

The hard lessons that I have learnt are these: Learn to listen to and trust your intuition and use it feel your way forward rather than trying to think it. And stop trying to force things, just let them unfold.

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