All journeys have many parts that we separate out and categorize in different ways. Journeys have a destination – an end which the journey aims at and which gives the journey meaning. Journeys have a path – a particular route the journey takes (detours, re-routes, and all). This forms the journey’s movement and accounts for the actual experience of the journey. And journeys have a sense of drive. This is the dynamic, gathering sense of pace which gives a sense of momentum to the journey.
These are all key parts to a journey filled with personal and professional transformation. However, equally important is the starting point of the journey. And that starting point is a clear assessment of where we are regarding our sense of purpose, path, and passion. They are crucial for experiencing permanent, positive change, but do we have them? And if we do, to what degree?
In this blog series we are walking through a self-assessment overview. This will help you decided if, and to what degree, you know your purpose and your path, and whether you have passion. Part 1 & 2 began with Purpose, and we asked the questions “Am I Scattered?” and “Am I Focussed?” to evaluate the level of meaningfulness in our lives. In this blog we turn to our Path and ask, “Am I Unsure?” to evaluate the level of motivation in our lives. Then Part 4 will continue that evaluation and ask, “Am I Firm?” Finally, turning to Passion we ask, “Am I Stuck?” and “Am I Fearless?” to evaluate the level of momentum in our lives.
There are many different ways to break down a journey. Likewise, there are many symptoms of a life that is unsure. That is to say, a life where we lack confidence regarding the way forward to our ultimate ends. Here, I offer three symptoms that provide a good starting point for assessing your sense of path. Are you unsure about the road ahead? Or are you firm in pursuing your path, filling your life with a sense of movement?
Our life is unsure when we consistently experience a lack of clarity regarding which path we should to take. Sure, we have a sense of the larger things we want to do. (It might be a particular project, a specific ministry or a shift in the culture of our organization.) The problem is that we don’t know how to get there. We walk four steps down one path, but it doesn’t lead where we’re trying to go; and so, we backtrack and try something else to try and get to our destination. Or, we get to the end of an initiative but discover it didn’t have the impact we hoped it would.
And so, we make a million great beginnings, or even complete a million projects; but we never seem to get traction when it comes to the big picture. As a result, the more we try to make progress, the more we feel muddled about what we’re actually trying to achieve.
At its worst, this lack of clarity drives us into a scattershot approach: We try different techniques, different initiatives, even different people, or different jobs. This focus on the new or the next means that we live with a constant sense of failure, unable to celebrate our successes. And so, we harbour a secret sense of floundering. This saps our energy and feeds a feeling of being an imposter. If you feel almost everything you do is an endless parade of dead ends, you might be unsure.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of a lack of clarity try the “Do I Lack Clarity?” self-check quiz.
An unsure life is one where we are constantly on the lookout for permission. We desperately want someone to tell us that it’s okay to pursue the big picture we’re excited about; or even to be who we want to be. We hunt for job titles, credentials, or public affirmations and appointments that will signal we’re on the right track. In the absence of those things, we struggle with an internalized lack of agency. We begin to feel that we’re not the one who should be acting. We see where things could be better, where they should be different; but we hesitate because it’s not part of our remit. At the end of the day, we remain convinced of the merit of our goals. But, we begin to think our role must be to find the “right” person who will make it all happen.
At its worst, this lack of permission becomes a wall that hems us in and blocks us from pursuing our purpose. We make ourselves smaller than we really are and give away most or all of our agency, believing that someone (anyone?) else has the right to act. If you feel constrained or held back, that other people have a right to act which you can’t access, you might be unsure.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of a lack of permission try the “Do I Lack Permission?” self-check quiz.
An unsure life is one in which we regularly experience a lack of power. For instance, we plan or make suggestions and while we might be successful on a small scale, we struggle to get others to appreciate the value in our approach. Similarly, we strive to get people on board with our vision or project, but without organizational clout it seems to be an impossible task. We focus on negotiating the system, but the proper process and procedures never seem to open up the space we need to get our ideas out into the mainstream. Meanwhile, our small, assigned tasks are a grind and we long for the time we might see progress in the big picture. At the end of the day, we might be clear about our ends or even sure we are the ones to act, but we’re left with a feeling of spinning our wheels.
At its worst, a lack of power leaves us feeling opposed and resentful, primed to pursue power for its own sake so we can finally act. In response, we start to view our relationships in terms of their utilitarian value in advancing our agenda, or we disconnect and become cynical about whether we even belong in our community. Regardless, genuine connection with others begins to fall by the wayside. If you find yourself resentful and disengaged because you can’t “make things happen” or willing to scramble to the top so you can finally get things done, you might be unsure.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of a lack of power try the “Do I Lack Power?” self-check quiz.
If the description of these symptoms sounds familiar or you used the self-check quizzes and the results raised some red flags, you might very well be unsure. Of course, an unsure life certainly sound frustrating, but you might be asking why being unsure is so problematic? The answer is movement.
We all want a sense of movement, that we are pursuing a clear path to the larger ends our lives are aimed at. An unsure life where we lack clarity on the way forward, where we are sapped of energy and agency by a lack of permission, and where we find resentment and estrangement rising in the face of a lack of power is a life that leads to the death of movement.
You don’t need to stick it our with an unsure life. There is an alternative. You can shift to being firm in your life by developing a habit of unearthing awareness, by looking for support rather than permission, and by seeking to maximize the push points.
If you are unsure and want to make the move to being firm, coaching can help. Make an appointment or read the next blog: “The Road to Growth: Am I Firm?”