How to Find the Answers to Big Questions
You know those questions that pop up suddenly in your mind, and then refuse to leave? The ones that get your wheels turning about possibilities, and won’t leave you alone?
Am I happy at this job? Should I go back to school? Am I getting what I need in this relationship? Am I ready to take ____ leap?
At first, the question seems innocent enough. “Everyone has thoughts like this. They don’t necessarily mean anything.” But then instead of just fluttering away like so many other thoughts we have throughout the day, this one starts to feel sticky. It orbits your mind, and softly pesters you for an answer.
For me, the sticky question lately has been about a specific opportunity, and whether this is the right time or the right way to invest in myself. (B-School, anyone?)
But to be clear, this isn’t a blog post about B-School. It’s not a blog post about my decision regarding B-School (haven’t made one yet!) or even about why I’m considering it in the first place.
It’s about snapping out of an indecisive funk, and figuring out what we really need.
It’s about what it feels like to wrestle with a choice that won't leave us alone, and how to stop the Pressure to Decide from clouding our judgment. It’s about how to tell if the question we’re wrestling with is the fix we really need, or just a sign that something bigger needs our attention.
I’ve been wrestling with this particular question this week because I’ve been feeling a bit creatively stuck lately, like a car engine that won’t quite turn over or a fire starter that won’t ignite. It’s that feeling of having a ton of potential right there waiting to be released, but not having the juice to really get going.
That feeling of untapped potential – of knowing you don’t feel as fulfilled as you want to, and not really understanding why or how to fix it – is frustrating.
On Tuesday, I was especially in it. I couldn’t stop thinking about this unnamable creative itch I can't figure out how to scratch these days. I’ve been craving an ‘answer’, and more clarity about the next big thing – what it looks like, where I should be putting my energy, and how to start feeling like I’m making some progress – but all I’ve felt is stuck.
It’s a weird feeling, and the answers weren’t coming. So in that moment I decided to just let myself be undecided, and to step away.
“This too shall pass. I’ll figure it out. Just not today.”
The rest of my evening was pretty ordinary. I spent some time moving my body, to get out of my head. Joe came home. We made dinner and watched some This Is Us, and I gave my mind permission to relax and wander – wherever it felt like going.
It quietly meandered, looking for something to latch onto. And in that time, I felt a few little ‘dings’ in my center. They were pings of hope, and energy. Tiny sparks. The ones that say, “Hey! You may be onto something here.”
But from what? What was igniting those little flickers? I gently listened inward, and the answers really resonated.
It was the thought of diving into a new course.
The prospect of learning the ins and outs of something new.
The idea of building something meaningful. Of making stuff.
I realized these are simple, meaningful hints at what makes me feel lit-up and energized. Little piece of data that lead me back to bigger truths about myself. Maybe not ‘answers’ to my question per se, but clues with a bigger purpose.
Here’s the thing: those little pings of lightning we feel are reminders of how to come home to ourselves, and feel charged-up again. And when we know how to do that, we can get grounded and clear-headed in a way that will guide us to the ‘right’ decisions.
Let’s talk for a minute about those tried-and-true ways we can come home to ourselves. I think of them as my personal outlets.
You know when your phone battery is dying, and you just need an outlet to plug it into to bring it back to life? It’s like that – they’re the things you know you can come back to over and over, to ignite that little energetic spark that gets you back to feeling like yourself.
My list or trusty outlets is constantly growing and evolving, but right now it looks something like this:
Being a student, and learning something new.
Nourishing my body.
Making a plan, or charting a path forward.
Putting ideas into words.
They’re the areas of my life I can reliably plug into for a little jolt of refreshed energy. They ignite a little something in my center, and get me back to feeling the way I like to feel – engaged, hopeful, chomping at the bit. Centered and clear. Ding ding ding.
It’s not that I think of these things as ‘fixes’ to a problem, or shortcuts to a solution. But I can rely on them to reboot the system, and introduce some fresh energy where maybe I was feeling stuck.
If I feel deadlocked about a difficult choice I need to make or how to get out of a funk, these are sources of energy and clarity I know I can come home to.
And I’ve found that mixing up the specifics can be the biggest secret to finding traction:
For making stuff – writing a blog post might feel more like a grind than a release, but hand-making a card for a friend or making design tweaks to my website might get the feel-good juices flowing.
For nourishing my body – if my same-old exercise routine is feeling stale or daunting, I might try cooking a super delicious meal with fresh ingredients, or opting for a lower-impact stretch routine.
When I can consciously choose to step away from whatever has me in a funk, and redirect my energy to these things that hit my 'reset' button, I almost instantly feel freer and clearer. It’s not an instant ‘fix’ to the problem or question I started with – but let's not forget, the goal isn’t to 'fix.'
The ultimate goal is to learn to come home to ourselves, and trust that the answers to even our toughest dilemmas will reveal themselves when we get there.
This week, I want to invite you to gently explore what some of your tried-and true outlets might be. Those things you can come back to time and time again to get you out of a funk, and back into a clearer, freer state of mind.
A few questions that might help get your wheels turning:
What were you doing that last time you remember feeling especially lit-up, fully engaged, and energized?
Can you remember a time you got yourself out of a funk? What did the trick?
If you had a Saturday to spend by yourself, and money was no object: what would you do?
If you were handed $1,000 tomorrow, what would you spend it on? (This one might feel random, but I believe where we spend our ‘fun’ money can tell us a lot about what we really value.)
Then, look for themes among your answers. What do you see popping up repeatedly?
Making plans with friends?
Letting go of plans?
Moving your body?
Making things with your hands?
Beautifying your home, or your surroundings?
Going on adventures?
Making time and space to relax?
Jot them down. Sit with them. Experiment with them. And don’t be afraid to come back to your list and make adjustments as you learn more about yourself.
Remember, it’s not about ‘getting it right’ the first time – it’s about committing to getting to know ourselves and cultivating that relationship over time. Because when that relationship is strong and supportive, everything else starts to feel easier.