Much like its four-letter counterpart - growth happens.
Sometimes we go looking for growth. Sometimes growth comes looking for us. And sometimes, it just plain happens as a result of, well...life. Whether we are intentionally seeking out a growth experience or find ourselves challenged to embrace one, I find there are four powerful questions to help me navigate times of growth:
What would feel good right now?
What do I actually want?
Where can I relax?
Where is ___________________ trying to find me?
These questions are deceptively simple! They may seem innocuous on the surface, but utilized regularly, explored fully, and applied intentionally, they can jumpstart your personal growth in transformative ways.
What would feel good right now?
Let’s start with “What would feel good right now?” That should be easy to answer, right? Well, slow your roll. Oftentimes we ask this question, and while we may have an inkling of what our truest answer would be, all of a sudden the space between our ears is crowded with other voices! Someone ELSE’S idea of what would feel good for us pipes up, saying, “You can’t do that! What would everyone else think?! You really should do this instead…” Suddenly, that clarity of what really would feel good for us gets a little muddied. It might even lead us to doing something that feels okay, but not necessarily good. Asking the question “What would feel good right now?” and then honestly listening for YOUR truest answer can be a powerful catalyst for growth. It helps align you with authentic action. Listening carefully for your answer will also help you learn to tune in more regularly and more powerfully with what your inner guidance is sharing. Bonus: you’ll actually start doing more of what truly feels good for you, and that will feel GREAT!
What do I actually want?
“What do I actually want?” is another question that can shoot you off in the direction of your authentic desires faster than you can say personal growth. In much of my coaching sessions I find that this is a question very few of us stop to ask, let alone answer. There is a tendency to get carried away with the day-to-day or swept along by the plan that was already in place (regardless of who put it into place!). Pausing occasionally to ask “What do I actually want?” ensures that you’re staying on track with YOUR vision of where you’re headed. Full disclosure here, answering this question truthfully and acting in accordance with the answer may cause some disruption for those around you, but as you play with this question and its answer in both small ways and major ways, your inner compass will help align you more concretely with your true north.
Where can I relax?
I’ll pause here to let some of the reactions stream in:
I don’t have time to relax!
How could I possibly relax? There’s too much to do!
Relax my high standards! Not a chance!
I don’t deserve to relax!
Relaxing is for lazy people. I’ve got stuff to accomplish!
I’m just not a “relaxing” kind of person
I’ll relax after the (massive, gargantuan, never-actually-ending) to-do list is done!
There’s a whole lot more to add to that list, but you get the idea. And, listen. I get it. I DO. I have had every single one of those above reactions in response to that question, “Where can I relax?” AND - I have also tested out that question and my responses to it time and again, and I find that every time I look for somewhere to relax something (no, not EVERYTHING. At least not at first!) and then actually do it, I am rewarded and affirmed that not only is all well, all is going to continue to be well. And I don’t have to be a control-freak, frantic, spinning maniac in the meantime! Exploring where you can relax doesn’t mean you suddenly have zero standards or become a Jeff Spicoli clone, eating pizza with your feet on the desk when you should be working or at the very least paying attention to something important. It does mean that you might find a little more ease in how you are approaching your days. You learn to lighten your own load you are choosing to carry. Can you relax your approach? Can you relax the mental monologue you’re listening to all day? Can you relax (even a teensy bit) some of those “That’s just how I am” standards? (If your first STRONG reaction to that last one is HELL, NO - I lovingly encourage you to explore that a bit. I spent a LOT of time over a LOT of years adhering to standards and expectations no one else held for me that did absolutely squat for me except create a lot of unnecessary stress.)
Like I said - the very idea of relaxing can be radical in and of itself. Enjoy the ride exploring that one!
Where is ______ trying to find me?
I left a blank space in that last one for a reason. This one is actually more of a strategy, but framed up as a question. To maximize the benefits of this question, identify some feeling, quality, or experience that you want more of in your life. Joy, calm, ease, laughter, adventure...whatever floats your boat. Then, insert that in the blank space as you ask yourself, “Where is ___________ trying to find me?” I currently have “Where is peace trying to find me?” taped to the bottom of my computer monitor so I can see it frequently.
Asking this question accomplishes two important things. First, it helps us identify something our soul is craving. Yes, even if it’s something simple! For a few months, that blank space was filled in like this, “Where is silliness trying to find me?” When I took the time to ask myself what I was wanting more of in my life, I realized things had gone down a pretty serious path and my inner Dictator had taken over and shoved my inner Joker all the way to the side and buried her face down in the mud. It was an important realization that I was ready to lighten up.
The second thing this question accomplishes is tuning our frequency towards more of what we want. And then, this lovely little thing called confirmation bias kicks in, helping us realize how much of it is actually already present around us! By intentionally asking, “Where is silliness trying to find me?”, I suddenly realized how many silly things were already around me! Heck, it even transformed the massive mess I made in the kitchen that resulted in us needing to order takeout from something frustrating into “Holy crap, that was the mother of all messes! That was actually pretty epic!” Turns out life wasn’t just bleak and weighty and confirming just what a dunce I was and that I needed to focus more. No way! It was actually saying, “Hey, Nicole - check this out! Isn’t this the most ridiculous thing ever?!”
I encourage you to print out or write up all 4 of these questions and keep them prominently in your view for a couple of weeks. Consider it field research, and just notice what happens when you start to play with them. It’s not a mandate for major life changes, but it is an invitation to a more authentic connection with yourself. That authentic connection will lead to aligned action. And those aligned actions will accelerate your personal growth, hurling you forward into the type of life you want.
Nicole Lance is a women’s leadership development expert, facilitator, executive coach, speaker, strategic planner, and promoter of self-care. She is passionately committed to helping organizations and individuals succeed in reaching - and reaching beyond - their goals.