“Would you tell me please. Which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Said the cat.
“I don’t much care where.” Said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Said the cat.
“So long as I get SOMEWHERE, Alice added as an explanation…
“Oh, you’re sure to do that… Said the cat.
…If you only walk long enough…”
In “Fork in the road,” I discussed why it is so important to start walking once you’ve made a decision. Today I want to focus on how best to approach choosing the path you will take in the first place. In “Alice in Wonderland,” the Cheshire Cat (quoted above) appears randomly throughout the story to guide Alice along on her journey after she has fallen down a rabbit hole. While the story line is a bit psychedelic, many of the cryptic observations and suggestions that are offered by this crazy cat are quite astute and worth contemplating.
I chose to start with this conversation because I thought it a perfect way to introduce the concept of making decisions from the inside out; in essence working backwards, because actively managing your decision-making process can help you to avoid ending up at someone else’s “tea party” or enduring any “drastic metamorphoses,” because you didn’t think things through before you drank someone else’s potion!
I am a huge proponent of stepping back and taking the time to sift through what is important to you when no one else is watching. This is obviously not a new concept, but it’s worth your time because it can give you the clarity necessary to make decisions that are in alignment with who you are at your core, preferably before you fall down your own version of Alice’s “rabbit hole.”
Lao Tzu once said, “He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is wise.”
So how do you go about gaining this wisdom that Lao Tzu was alluding to?
One of the simplest and yet most efficient ways to do this is by working through a “values assessment exercise” with a qualified coach. The first pass typically reveals who you want to be and/or who you think others think you are. Trouble is, we all carry so much engrained programming and have created such elaborate facades in the interest of self-preservation, that it can be difficult to decipher what’s real from what isn’t. Let’s face it, sometimes it makes complete sense to put on a “show” in order to navigate socially. It’s when we start to believe and accept our own “fiction” that we run into trouble!
That said, I’ve seen it take as many as half dozen iterations of this exercise to weed out the bullshit from the TRUTH, but I assure you it’s worth your time and effort! Taking this task seriously, and sticking with it until your words feel congruent and RIGHT can prove to be one of the most worthwhile exercises of your life because what you glean from this introspection will pay dividends for the rest of it!
Your “take-away” from this type of exercise can be utilized to create an internal COMPASS by which you can chart any and all decisions of significance going forward. The only other way I know of that is sure to provide you with the same, or even greater degree of indelible clarity, would be a “near-death experience.”
So let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of the assessment itself. First, be forewarned that simply downloading one from the internet can be a fun exercise but its value to you will likely stop there unless you enlist the guidance and support of a qualified coach. Consider just one aspect of the assessment that can keep you stuck on the surface without even realizing it…the words themselves! To illustrate my point, let’s take a closer look at one of many that tends to be laden with “baggage”…
Even top-level executives and politicians will often shy away from adding this one to their list of what is important to them. Why? Because, if one seeks or values power, that must mean one would do anything to grasp it, and that, by default, means they must be a “monster,” right?
…but you get the gist of how the connotation of a word can either encourage or repel you from admitting it “speaks” to you on a visceral level.
Conversely, there are a number of words that routinely will show up even if they have no business being on our list. These are the words we have been told are good values that we should embrace as part of who we are. Regardless of how these false words end up on our list, they are complete red herrings and must be identified and eliminated before any real progress toward living a life of integrity and alignment can be achieved. Their only value to us when they do show up is that their presence can point us toward areas where we may need to work through and discard “other people’s stuff.”
In a nutshell…in order to make decisions that will lead you where you really want to go, you have to take the time to know and accept yourself so you will be able recognize it when you see it. If you put in the effort to sift through and mine for your personal “gold,” (what remains in your pan after you discard the “sand”) will be akin to the major directions on the face of your own personal COMPASS. Once you’ve created one for yourself, you can use it to make any and all decisions of significance to you going forward.
So next time you need to figure out “which way you ought to go from here…”
- Mine for your “gold” (AKA your values) so you can create a baseline compass that will act as the litmus test of your choices going forward.
- Get comfortable weighing any and all decisions of significance against it. PRACTICE USING IT…
- Focus on walking away from any choices that aren’t congruent with one or more of the directions on its face…even if doing so is difficult or causes short term pain or sadness.
- Conversely, push yourself to start walking toward those that ARE in alignment…even if it is SCARY AS HELL to do so!
Until next time,