This is important. Take a minute or two to really consider it. Do you have the sneaking suspicion that there is something wrong with your life, but that you can’t put your finger on it? Not ringing any bells? Here is an illustration. It is the emotional equivalent of having a pair of shoes that you really like, but that don’t fit right no matter how many times you try them on. Need another clue? It is akin to someone looking good on paper, but something about him just doesn’t feel right.
While not everyone is willing to admit it, this feeling unfortunately is quite common. It happens when the vision we have for our life does not match with the day-to-day reality. It happens to the person to whom follow-through is important when he has numerous unanswered emails. It happens to the person whose heroes are modulated and steady when her behavior is reactive and unpredictable. For all of us, when we live a life filled with choices inconsistent with our values, everyday is trying to put a square peg into a round hole. It is exhausting.
The mistake most people make is that they want to take immediate action to fix the problem. They want to take action, devise a strategy and take steps to do away with the underlying discontent. No one wants to pause to take the time to really understand the issue, to measure the depth of the big black hole.
Part of the reason for this is that we live in an instant gratification world. We have lost our capacity for deliberation. Not so long ago, it took 14 hours to fly coast to coast, now it takes under five. Just yesterday, we had to visit a bookstore to purchase a book, now we can have one in nine seconds. Our careful consideration muscle has atrophied.
Moreover, people like making decisions, any decision, because it creates the illusion that they are doing something. Although treading water and running in circles both qualify as doing something and while they may deceive you into believing that you are moving forward; neither gets you anywhere that matters. In the end, they just waste the energy you need to live the life you desire.
While it may be counterintuitive, to achieve congruence between what you believe and the way you conduct your life you first need to stand still. For many, this is a scary proposition.
To begin, try recording your vision in a journal. If your vision is murky or if you have nothing to say, you hang in there. Hold yourself accountable. Do not get up from your seat, do not close the book, do not pass go and collect two hundred dollars until you fill one page – every day. Think about what matters to you and what you want your life to look like it until your head hurts. It doesn’t matter if your brain is screaming, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” Stick with it until you are able to scream back, “It is so clear.”
The next step is to share your dream for what you want your life to be with someone else. Did you bring them to tears? Were they at least a little moved? Touched perhaps? Ask for feedback. Find out how you ranked on the compelling scale. Did they describe you as matter-of-fact, to the point, chronological, logical, practical, and realistic? Sounds like your head not your heart was doing most of the heavy lifting. Try again.
Alternatively, ask the other person to tell you what they heard you say. Determine whether you provided them with enough detail so that they were able to accurately express your ideas. At the end of the story do you still have unanswered questions? If so, you need to work on filling in the blanks. Most important, did you like the way it sounded coming from someone else? Was it “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom” good? Or “I won’t send the meal back, but I am not coming to this spot again” good?
When you close the gap between what you believe and the way you live, there is no mistaking it. The days of blisters, band aids and uncomfortable shoes are behind you and the future only holds comfortable sneakers, your favorite sweatshirt and close friends. Achieving congruence feels good, but more importantly it impacts your professional performance. When you live consistent with your values, you are unstoppable, motivated, and driven. Who among us couldn’t benefit from that?