When figuring out what to write for the final month of 2017, I asked myself what else I want my granddaughter to know. What hard-won wisdom could I share that would help her when she is facing a challenge? If I am not around to comfort her and offer support, what would help?
2017 has been a tough year for me. I have faced several life-altering challenges, and I’ve been stuck and felt hopeless. It felt like I was standing in one place with my shoes glued to the floor. I couldn’t move forward. Everything was confusing and overwhelming. I’ve had some practice this year in getting through a tough time or two.
When my head is swimming and there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer, there are a couple of things I do. First, I gather more facts. When we feel like we are guessing, we often are. For example, I was buying a new car a few years ago, and the entire process was intimidating to me. I’d driven a minivan for more than 20 years, and I loved all my minivans — I mean truly loved them.
However, since my children were grown and I was 50-something years old, I thought it might be time for an image upgrade. I looked at every car on the road and imagined myself driving it. I quickly eliminated all small cars. I’m about six feet tall, and small cars make me claustrophobic. Also, I drive with chart pads, books, and a host of other goodies when I travel to do leadership training.
“Not small” isn’t much to go on. Would I like a truck? Perhaps an SUV would work? I couldn’t make up my mind. It was time to gather some more facts.
I found an enormous pickup truck on sale and went to see it. I sat in it and drove it around. It made me feel tough and powerful. I liked it. However, my oldest son lived in the DC area at the time. It occurred to me that I was often driving down small streets and parking in small parking garages. The truck felt too big for that. Yay! A new criterion to add to my search. The vehicle must be easy to maneuver on small streets and in parking garages. I hadn’t thought of that until I drove the big truck.
Next, I drove an Acura MDX. Swanky SUV. Easy to drive, but a little too small to fit all my training paraphernalia and clothes. AND it didn’t feel right, which leads to my second test when facing a challenge: What does your heart say?
My heart let me know pretty quickly that I felt like a poser in that car. It felt sleek and rich. It was like putting a mink coat over sweats. It just didn’t feel right.
Now I was armed with a host of practical things that I wanted, like a bunch of cup holders, a heated seat, and an engine powerful enough to tow a small trailer. I also knew that it didn’t need to be elegant or swanky. Knowing all of that made it easy to choose Amber – the car that I now drive and adore. Amber is a Honda Pilot. She is small enough to fit in parking garages, big enough to hold my stuff, and she is beautiful but not ostentatious. I love her!
So if my granddaughter, who is now one year old, called me with a challenge in the future (when she is able to talk in complete sentences), I would first ask her, “What do you know for a fact?” Then I would ask her, “What assumptions are you making?” Finally I would ask, “What concrete information could you gather that would help you know what to do?”
Sometimes getting the information that you need can require one phone call. Sometimes it requires the experience of a year. It depends on the challenge and the decisions to be made. We can get stuck in analysis paralysis, but the bigger danger is staying stuck because we don’t feel we have enough information to make a good decision.
What’s important is to keep moving and researching. Maybe a job doesn’t seem perfect or you don’t really know what you want to do. Move forward! Take a job, and pay attention to what you like and don’t like. Next time, get more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. Getting useful information can be a part of finding your path and engaging in life’s journey.
Once my granddaughter had all the information that she needed to make a good decision, I would ask, “What is your heart telling you?”
I would ask you the same things.
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