The other day, I stopped by a local restaurant for a bite to eat. It’s the kind of place that’s always crowded at lunchtime. Tables of friends and business associates gather to talk about nothing, to reconnect, to plan the afternoon meeting or to strategize about their next big project. It’s a busy, vibrant place, teeming with positive energy and the aromas of good, wholesome food. I like it for all of those reasons and because it has lots of big, floor to ceiling windows that let natural light stream through. There is something about a bright, naturally lit, restaurant at lunchtime that feels good to me.
Unlike a lot of restaurants where you have wait for the hostess to seat you, this place employs the cool approach of self-seating. I like that; you look around and see where you want to place yourself. I did just that; I looked around for a table and saw nothing. I walked to the other side of the floor. Again, nothing. I walked back to the place where I began my search and still, no empties.
Suddenly, I saw a woman motioning to me. Then she called out, “Come. Sit with me. I’m here alone. The other half of the table is still clean,”she joked.
“Okay,” I said feeling relieved. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” she said. “You look like a nice person and I think you’ll have a long wait today. This place is packed. It seems everyone arrived at the same time.”
We introduced ourselves and chatted back and forth. Katy seemed to be a nice person, too. A software designer and project manager, she consulted with major corporations on really big projects.
We talked about our career choices – the pivot points that brought us to where we are today. One of hers struck me as especially important, so I want to share it with you.
Katy approached a critical juncture when the company she had been working for downsized. Like many people in that situation, she struggled and scrambled trying to figure out what to do next. She admitted, “I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what I wanted for my life. I had the worst trouble deciding which to direction to go in. I would say to myself, and anyone I talked to, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was really terrified.”
“Then, one day it hit me. I was focused on the wrong thing. I was putting all of my energy into ‘I don’t know what I want.’ I decided to change my attitude. I began saying, with real openness to whatever the answer would be, ‘I want to know what I want.’ I want to know what I want,” she repeated to emphasize the pivot point – the reframing and redirecting of the matter in her own mind.
“Within a month, through some deep, personal reflection, and a series of conversations, it all became clear. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and the right opportunity showed up and I took it.”
There is a world of difference between, “I don’t know what I want,” and “I want to know what I want.” Katy’s first statement was loaded with fear and angst. Each time she said it, she reminded herself of the fact that she did not have what she wanted. In so doing, she unintentionally raised her level of anxiety and frustration. It was a disempowering statement and process. Her second statement, the one that redirected her thinking, was an invitation for inner truth and clarity to surface.
The differences between these two statements – “I don’t know what I want,” and, “I want to know what I want,” – may seem insignificant, but as I discuss in “LIES That Limit,” the subtle is significant. As Katy shifted her mindset and language, an affirmative statement of her real desire began to align her intention with the positive outcome of knowing what she wanted.
My chance meeting with Katy, in that crowded restaurant, reminded me that the subtle is indeed significant, and with a shift in the way I think and talk about the challenging situations in my life, I can energize and empower myself.
What about you? Take a few minutes right now and see how Katy’s wisdom empowers you.
Identify one situation in your life that you have been struggling with. Maybe you’re wondering about a job or career change, whether to stay in a relationship, how best to guide your children or what to do about a financial challenge. Whatever it is, write it down in just the way you’ve been thinking and talking about it, in your head and/or to others. Now, ask yourself, “How can I think and speak about this so that I’m focused on the outcome I really want – NOT what I don’t want or don’t have or am worried or frustrated about.
This is a personal growth practice that will serve you well in all parts of your life, for the rest of your life. Doing it well will take committed practice.
If you would like support, send an email to me at email@example.com. Let me know how you think and talk about the situation you’ve been struggling with, and provide two examples of how you can think and speak about the situation so that you’re more empowered to create the constructive outcome you really want and deserve. I’ll happily help you with refinements and fine-tuning.