This article is part 3 of a 3 part series. We started with the commitments we give each other in part 1 and then what we actually do in part 2. Now we get to the heart of the matter. What we think about before we decide.
I worked in the coal mining industry for 12 years. When Sam and I returned from the US in 2005 we arrived in Australia with just our suitcases, two young children and a little savings. At that time I had an idea of starting a business but we had no assets and it seemed more important to find an income quickly. So I found a job as a trainee general manager of a small manufacturing company. This lasted a few months until I successfully secured a prized job in the mining industry. Prized among many because of the high salaries on offer and it was certainly good in this way but there was a nagging problem. In the back of my mind I continued to think about starting a business. With time, however, we accumulated one mortgage and then two and our cost of living rose to match this high paying job. Yet somehow in June 2017 I confidently handed in my notice to move to building a business of my own. What happened?
We are going to talk about how to make big decisions and move even before you think you are ready. We’ll talk about the struggle that leads up to making a big decision and how we can be pulled off course with distractions. Finally we see how changing our perception of reality can help simplify our choices so that we can move with confidence.
Let’s talk about intention for a moment. Intention is what we think we will do. We have an idea of what we want. Sometimes we take action and sometimes we don’t. This is the difference between intention and decision. So what holds us back when we don’t do the thing we intended?
We might know what we should do but we don’t. Why? It can depend on our past decisions can’t it? Sometime we move on our good intentions but often we doing nothing. And the more we do this the more likely it will happen again. We begin to lose faith in our ability to decide. Part of the problem is a lack of certainty or confidence in the expected result of our decision. We don’t know the outcome so we do nothing. Yet we still spend hours and even days going over the options.
You can think of your best intentions as your spirit. When a thoroughbred racehorse is prepared for riding it is important that it’s spirit is not broken. Have you ever heard of a horse with a broken spirit making a good racehorse? You have a similar spirit that can lead you to what you should do and sometimes you act and the rest of the time you listen to your ego. Yet if we just learn to listen to our spirit we would know what we need to do already.
Good intentions and distractions
Intentions have a bad rap. You’ve heard of the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” haven’t you? It is a bit like the surfers who have discovered a beautiful breaking wave who then tell others on the phone that it is as flat as a pancake. There is gold to be mined in your intentions. We might be nervous about this because of our past experiences but intention is where it all starts.
Our intention is rooted in our motivations. Let’s quickly focus on just three things about motivation shall we? We talked about rewards in Part 2 so you already know about that. Two other sources of motivation come from purpose and vision. These are similar but distinct concepts. Purpose is what Simon Sinek calls “your why”. What is your cause? What drives you? Who are you doing it for?
When we were hunters and gathers our why was pretty clear wasn’t it? To survive. And to survive we needed to find safety, food and a community for support, protection and reproductive mates. Nowadays we make it a lot more complicated don’t we? Even though our minimum needs for survival are really quite easily found. The fact that you are even reading this article on a computer right now means you know where your next meal is coming from, right? It’s all our other needs for things like comfort, status and even luxury where we get confused with intention.
With a clear “why” to drive your intentions you can make decisions more simply. But just having purpose is still a bit wishy washy. There is not enough clarity around purpose alone. Which is why we need vision. Vision is the long term goal that we have in mind. Where are we headed? What are we seeking? For instance, the tribal huntsman would not have left the camp to just wander aimlessly around the savannah would they? Not likely. They have in mind the result of dinner. Something to eat. So they left the camp with this vision.
We get tripped up with vision sometimes but why? One reason is that we tend to fixate on one thing instead of focusing on the benefit of achieving the thing. For example, our huntsman might leave in search of a deer and along the way come across an antelope. It makes little difference to the end result of bringing food home to his family. So intention is important and we can develop it by finding a clear purpose and vision. But how do we know we aren’t just deluding ourselves?
Our egos can get in the way of reality. When we lose a little perspective on reality we can delude ourselves into believing all sorts of things. Like the proverbial “dream” of owning your own home. When we are led by our ego we are focused on protecting ourselves and will blame, justify, feel entitled or victimised. Our egos are always seeking to justify themselves. When we are led by our egos our spirited intentions tend to fall by the roadside.
How do we follow through with our good intentions despite all the distractions? It starts with a decision and I’ve talked before about how just the act of choosing leads to more confidence. Imagine being scolded by your teacher with the old chestnut “no-one makes you do anything!”. The simplest lessons can be the hardest to learn. Yet we need to be responsible for our choices on a daily and moment to moment basis. It’s not something we do next year, next week or even tomorrow. It’s your responsibility to make your own choices right now. In the moment. So own your choices. Choosing is a skill that can be developed. It’s like a muscle. It starts with the tiniest of choices. To get up. To move.
Big decisions are always lurking somewhere in the background. We are reminded of them regularly by our spirits. Yet we struggle to make the big decisions because of our egos or a fear of the unknown. Making these decisions becomes far simpler when you have a clear idea of your long term purpose and vision and can see how making the decision moves you closer or further away from that.
In the end, moving out of my safe job to build a business was a simple, rational choice. It was made after quite a lot of debate and discussion with Sam and planning. What made the choice easier was the vision and purpose we see for our lives. And we have fundamentally changed our reality. Instead of working in a high paying, high stress job to service over $700,000 in debt obligations or spending crazy hours commuting we sold both houses to live in a nice rental near a school. Do we have everything figured out just yet? Were we ready? Probably not but if you wait for someone to tell you are ready 12 years can pass by very quickly. So we keep moving forward with confident choices.
The open road
So where to from here? Well you can start by asking yourself this question. What’s your vision and purpose? Whatever it is make it your personal philosophy and then use it when your decide to make your next move from this day forward.