01 Jan Paying Attention to What Matters
When the universe whispers and you don’t notice, it speaks to you in a million subtle ways, until you get the message. It gets louder, with signals that grow more and more obvious that things are off. Obvious to everyone else but you that is. You’re not paying attention. You’re too busy with keeping the status quo. Busy keeping up with the life you thought you wanted. Then more loudly. And if you still haven’t taken action, it screams at you.
It did for me when I left the high-flying exec life. It screamed loud, in the form of life and death and family. The same day I made the decision to follow that burning desire to make a move deep, my mother learned that she was dying and she needed me to help her live. Technically, I heard it and made a move before, albeit only hours, before I got the call that she needed me like she’s never relied on another person before.
Paying attention is a lost art for so many. For me it was.
When I look back 18 months ago, I almost put off leaving another yet another three months. For quarterly bonus. Then I may as well stay another few months for year-end bonus. For projects that I could take on to challenge myself. So I could be seen as being even more competent, more capable of leading.
But something inside–that nagging feeling that I was lying to myself–I couldn’t shake. This wasn’t where, and what, I wanted to be. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. The company was terrific, beautifully led by a great CEO. Surrounded by truly competent and collaborative colleagues. Just not for me anymore. Not being able to shake that feeling off of day in day out was what motivated action. I needed to go. I made the choice. And now I just needed to take action.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far from listening and taking action in my life:
Your gut knows what your brain doesn’t – Anytime I’ve followed my gut it’s always the right path. Maybe some initial doubt and questioning at first or for some time thereafter. But in the end, as Steve Jobs says, the dots of your life come together to make a picture, and the more you live by following your gut and trusting yourself, the more meaningful that picture–your life–will be.
The universe – The universe whispers at you and that grows stronger and stronger until it’s screaming at you. I don’t mean spiritual mediums looking into crystal balls whispers. I mean literally everyday examples that may not be as extreme as a loved one dying. I’m talking about people reaching out to you asking you for advice in the same area over and over, the same area where you have been thinking about writing a book or starting a business. Or someone asks to hire you for exactly the thing you’ve been wanting to spin up yourself on your own, and they just randomly ask you if you’re available even though they know you have a full-time gig. That’s the universe telling you something. Don’t ignore it. Before you know it, it may be screaming at you, and while it’s never too late, you create unnecessary angst for yourself and delay in making your dreams a reality.
Make choices. Take action. If you don’t take action you’re making a decision anyway. Better to be in control. Dream. Decide. And do. Be brave, even when you’re too scared to be. For me, the tug for self-exploration and meaningful work that’s more aligned with soul than with bank account is worth it, and thankfully didn’t go ignored.
Once you pay attention, make the choice and take action. When you don’t choose, you drift to something. Drifting means being a victim so that you can blame someone else for where you ended up. Choosing means you get all the blame and the credit. Which is more intentional? Which is the road where you’re really awake and paying attention? Like your life depends on it.