how to become an explorer by letting go

I work with people who are trying to figure out what they want to do next, either in their lives, careers or both.  But, with the fast pace of technology, it can all get a bit overwhelming.

But, on the plus side these are perfect conditions to bring out the explorer inside of you. 

Think back to when you were a kid and everything was new and exciting and possible.  This is what’s happening now with all of the exciting innovations in technology.

Last week, the animated tattoo was making the rounds.  It turned out to possibly be a fake produced by Ballantines Whiskey, but still, that’s not your average full page ad for alcohol.

Or how about the LED moving picture coat?

When I was in college studying art history, I yearned for an earlier time, specifically the 1920s in Paris when so much in the art world had yet to be done.  (No surprise that I loved Woody Allen’s recent movie, “Midnight in Paris”)  But, when I see these digital innovations, I realize how much there is to discover.

Technology has brought so many new ways of thinking.  Often someone will tell me that they don’t know how to program a web site so they are out of the loop, unable to join in the fun. But, we all have the ability to use the technology or read about it or look at it. When we interact with it, we give ourselves the capacity to think bigger. If you can’t physically build it yourself, assemble a team.

You can be the captain of your very own exploration.

That’s why collaboration is so important.  Just look at Kickstarter or If We Ran The World to get an idea of all that’s possible with the help of an online community.

But, even if you agree with all of this, it can still be painful to not know what’s next.  After all, you have bills to pay. You’re no longer that kid with a stick poking anthills on the playground.

We’re told that we should have goals and a plan, and you don’t have one.  But sometimes those goals can be limiting.

We can’t always think as big as we can potentially be.  As Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, said in a recent article in the New Yorker:

“The reason I don’t have a plan is because if I have a plan I’m limited to today’s options.”

Isn’t that so true?  Did you have any idea you’d be where you are now when you were 21? I sure didn’t.

This doesn’t give us license to sit on the couch, eating cheetos and watching Desperate Housewives all day. Inspiration needs to be fed and probably not by anything on TV. (That’s better for unwinding).

We need to explore.

To help with some of the internal exploration I do several exercises with my clients.  I ask them how they want things to not only be, like walking down the hall to your office, or commuting on your bike, but how do you want to feel?

What often happens is a client will figure out the details of how they want things to be — i.e. flexible, creative, collaborating with other people, nice open office space, but they don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

This can be really frustrating.

Here’s where you have to do some LETTING GO:

  • Let go of what you already know, “I’m a great creative director in advertising.”
  • Let go of your expectations:  “I should know what I want to do.”
  • Let go of others’ expectations: “Must be nice to have all that time off. What are you going to do?”
  • Let go of your fear: “I’ll end up picking trash from a dumpster for dinner.”

And instead, OPEN UP:

  • Open up to owning your experience: “What do I bring to the party?”
  • Open up to being curious about:      Who you are…what do you love to do? NOT, what are you good at, but where do you get your mojo?    What other people are doing…don’t be afraid to ask. People love to talk about their projects.      What’s new around you…speaking of all that technology, are you hooked up somewhere so you can find out about all these cool things going on?
  • Open up to being uncomfortable: It’s not fun. No doubt about it, but it’s a necessary part of growth. If you’re uncomfortable, chances are you’re in the right place.
  • Open up to going with the flow: Sure, if you have some sort of a vision, that’s great, but don’t be so focused on that picture that you miss other opportunities.
  • Open up to keeping your eye on the ball:  That contradicts the above point, but creative people sometimes go with the flow so much that they get off track.  You know yourself well enough to know when you’re getting off track.  Just be aware of your tendencies.

How do you feel about this?  Do you have trouble coping with a murky vision of what’s next?  Are you holding on to something that might be holding you back?

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6 Responses to how to become an explorer by letting go

  1. I love your articles Anne!! They always come along at the exact time when I need that kind of advice :)
    Thankyou!!

  2. admin says:

    oh, thanks so much, Serena! I’m so happy you stopped by.

  3. JT says:

    Great advice! I think a limiting factor can easily be what we’re good at, especially in our jobs. We’re good at it so we keep doing it. The key is figuring out how to apply what you’re good at to what you love.

    Thanks Anne!

  4. Lynette says:

    A short anecdote about being uncomfortable:

    I was just talking to a friend who is a first-time CEO (and younger and much more together than me) about navigating new things (tasks, decisions, billing) in your career. I was like, “Sometimes [in my freelance career] when I’m doing something I’m not sure about, I feel like I’m gonna throw up.” He said, “But then doesn’t that mean you’re doing something right?” While I don’t think fumbling my estimates is “right”, it’s definitely an uncomfortable experience I’ve learned from.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article, Anne :)

  5. JT says:

    Lynette,
    I’ve also noticed a striking similarity between the excitement jitters I feel in my stomach when I’m doing something I absolutely love and the fear jitters I get when I’m doing something out of my comfort zone.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks for your comments, Lynette and JT. I also agree that excitement jitters and feel jitters can feel the same. Sometimes when i’m feeling scared, I tell myself that it’s excitement just to keep moving forward.

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