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Our Love Affair with the How

Career support for women

Have you ever been in love with someone or something you kind of knew wasn’t good for you?

I have. In my mid 20s, I was head over heels in love with someone. He was baaaaad but in all the best possible ways (or so I thought!). He rode a motorbike, showed up late to everything (but in a way I thought was cool and carefree at the time) and, of course he was an excellent kisser (sorry if this is TMI) but hey…I had my priorities straight! He was tall, dark, and handsome and a little bit mysterious. Every day was a new adventure. AND he ended up completely breaking my heart. Even though I totally knew better. Even though I totally knew he would. Didn’t matter. I just couldn’t quit him. (Cue violins—thank goodness my husband doesn’t read these letters!). Even though this guy kind of wasn’t good for me, I really wanted him to be. Kind of the same way I see so many of my clients holding onto something that isn’t really very good for them…but they want it to be (is this a weird segue?). It’s the whole fighting with reality thing. Fighting with reality is a terrible bet. But we do it all the time, don’t we? This brings me to what I’d like to talk your ear off about this evening. Grab your cozy beverage and let’s go! Loving “the how” Boy oh boy, do we love a good “how to”. I mean, what is better than a nice, tidy, 10-step action plan that will lead directly to whatever it is we want, right? Something somebody else has tested and worked out so we can just get on with the show. Something tried and true with no obstacles, detours, barriers and definitely no risk. We also want this to come with a guarantee, complete certainty, and most of all somebody to blame if it doesn’t work. I’m with my clients on this! Of course, I want it too. Where do I sign up? Take all of my money!! Give me all the “how’s” of everything! Maybe our love affair with “the how” started when we were kids. That time when we’re constantly told what to do, what not to do, and how to do this and that. That’s the way it was. We were conditioned to ask for reassurance which itself is a self-reinforcing behaviour. The more we do it, the more we believe we need it. It creates a cycle. Of course, even as adults, reassurance in the form of a “how to” is a mere click away. I took apart my dishwasher with only a YouTube Video, a screwdriver, and the will to make the sucker drain. Let me tell you something though. WE KNOW STUFF! Our brains are capable of doing so much more than typing G-O-O-G-L-E. We’re so highly qualified to figure things out and solve the trickiest of puzzles. We don’t need to be certain. We don’t need to know for sure. This is a doozy of a trick our brain likes to play on us—this belief that we need to know all of the “how’s”. What asking “but HOW though?” of something outside of us does is serve to undermine our belief in our own ability to figure things out. Reassurance from something outside of us doesn’t guarantee anything. “How to’s” don’t guarantee anything. They are not our best option. Not even close. But of course, we want the “how”. Of course, we want certainty. It feels terrible to get things wrong. It feels bad to be confused. We’ve been taught to rely on reassurance but we’ve also been taught that feeling our feelings is bad—unless our feeling is happy. Happy is always allowed. We won’t take a wrong step because that feels bad and one thing we’re very clear about “how to do” is be very mean to our self when we screw up. That’s actually the part that feels horrible. It isn’t the thing we did wrong that’s the problem, it’s what we make the thing mean about us that feels excruciating. Our best option would be to have our own back, but of course, we don’t know how. We think having our own back is either too woo woo, or simplistic, or complete nonsense or perhaps too big and complicated and scary. Mostly, we can’t imagine that something as silly as self-compassion could be the answer. So, rather than practice this we distract ourselves with the need for reassurance in another form or we numb out completely by searching for more “how’s” and “hacks” and pretend certainty and guarantees. We stay busy and distracted but we also stay still. We argue with and avoid reality , stick our fingers in our ears and continue on our quest for…. Certainty. Yes, there are things we can and want to know the “how’s” of, but sometimes we need to push back against our need for reassurance. Sometimes we need to try things. At the very least we need to teach ourselves that because we don’t know the “how” of something doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It doesn’t mean something has gone wrong because we don’t know. Of course, we’re afraid. That’s okay. This is all understandable and normal. It’s what we’ve been taught and told and shown. It’s okay. It’s not a problem. What if rather than this all being a problem we could allow something to be right even without having a “how” attached to it? What if not having the entire “how” could lead you on the most wonderful, meaningful, fulfilling adventure? How good does that sound right about now? You don’t need to see the entire staircase to be able to take a step. You don’t need to see the entire road ahead of you…as far ahead as your headlights shine will do. Taking the smallest of steps is what works. Setting the tiniest intentions, practices, and goals. Work on hitting only the minimum baseline every day (your brain won't like it at first, it doesn't have the same seduction as the big, juicy, end game but that's okay- more on this in an upcoming letter!). I would never suggest “Leap and the net will appear”. Hey, I’m not for or against that but it isn’t what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you are the net. There is nothing outside of you that can make you feel safer or more reassured than you. Your own thoughts. Your own belief. In you. How would things change if we knew this, deep in our bones? What would this mean for us, for our kids, for our communities if we simply believed in ourselves enough to have our own backs? I’m not sure but I’m on a mission to find out. That’s almost it for now but one last thing… Every now and then I figure I should introduce myself for the new folks. I’m Christine, I’m a Career Counsellor + Coach who helps smart women (and a few brave men) make smart career decisions, and figure out what’s stopping them from getting what they want from their work. I help them not stay stuck in uncertainty, confusion, overwhelm, guilt, shame or whatever it is their mind is having them believe that’s not serving them. I guide them through a simple process that’s highly effective in creating real, meaningful and lasting change. Whatever it is they feel is missing, we find it. I know that feeling confused and unsure about work takes a toll and that it feels like a big problem to solve—maybe even impossible, but this is what I do. All day, every day and I can help. Thanks, as always for reading. I’m grateful. I know I haven’t met some of you yet but I really am thinking of all of you. If you’re here, I believe there’s a good reason and if I can help, just tell me how (after all, if one thing is clear from this letter, it’s that we all love a good how!) If you think of something you’d like me to write about or a resource I can share, I’d love to hear. I’m able to fit in a few more consultations currently so if you’re ready to talk about your next adventure, let’s go! You can sign up here or reply to this email providing 3 different times you're available and I'll try to accommodate (don’t worry, no motorbike required). See you next week.

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