Have you ever been forced to a crossroads and felt a lot of pressure to make a decision? I think a lot of people are feeling this way, including my friend Cara.
Many people are struggling with losing their work and wondering what to do next, for Cara, it’s the opposite. She’s working from home 60 hours a week, homeschooling her kids, and seriously struggling to do it all.
Cara is working as an accountant while also in the process of getting her designation. This includes a fellowship and an exam to study for on top of the overtime hours she’s working. Her self-care is sporadic at best, she sees how much her kids are needing her right now and doesn’t feel fulfilled or seen with her work and employer.
Cara is now wondering if she can keep this up or just quit even though she knows no job is secure, even her own because there are layoffs weekly at her company.
As we chatted that night, I asked her a few questions. I could see her light up with each question as things started to become clearer for her.
At one point she said, “Why don’t we make time to ask ourselves the important stuff?” I laughed and said, “That’s why I have a job, because most of the time we don’t.”
The next day she ran out beaming to tell me that she had made a decision and thanked me for helping her.
I know you might be going through something similar right now, whether it’s to pivot what you’re doing, or changing it all together in work or life, so I wanted to share the Important questions I asked her with you too.
1) First thing, you cannot make decisions in crisis mode. When you’re in a stress response your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for all your executive cognitive functioning like decision making, reasoning, and planning, cannot function properly. Self-care is critical BEFORE you answer these questions. Get a good night’s sleep, meditate, move and put nutritious food into your body to get back to a place of calm in your body and mind.
2) What are your options? This is where you do a brain dump of all the possibilities you have without judging or evaluating them. Just write down all different ways you could handle this situation. You’ll prune these later. For Cara this included quitting her job or getting fired, keeping her job but quitting the fellowship and not doing the exam, pivoting and becoming a bookkeeper, keeping her job and putting off her exam and/or fellowship.
3) What are your concerns with your current situation? Get clear on what is not working in your current situation to clarify your priorities and values, while showing you what to avoid moving forward. Cara was drowning in her current situation. She felt a lot of pressure to keep up her crazy work schedule to avoid potentially being laid off. The cost was that she felt her kids weren’t getting what they needed, her self-care was almost non-existent, and she felt resentful and unappreciated at work. She saw that these are priorities that needed her time and attention.
4) What do you love about your situation? I asked Cara what she liked about her work and what she sees in her future if she pursues it the way she is. She loves working with her clients and sees the value in the auditing she does. Eventually she would like to move into bankruptcy counselling because she feels she can make the biggest impact and provide the most support for her clients that way.
5) What is your “worst case scenario”? I asked her what would happen if she did get fired, would her family be okay? She had run the numbers and yes, they would be okay. Just knowing what is the worst case scenario or your bottom line, allows you to see 2 things: what is the minimum you would need to do to make things work; and take some pressure off of “having to” maintain what you’re doing. Cara could lose her income and her family would be okay, that’s not true for all of us, but when we can see the minimum we need to make or the minimum hours we need to put in it creates perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
6) If you stayed in your situation, what would need to change? A big complaint for Cara was that even though she was not a certified accountant her bosses felt confident in giving her complex projects. Her coworkers would compliment her that she was so good no one ever had to worry about giving her anything, she could always handle it. This made her feel resentful and unappreciated. She wasn’t getting paid the same as those who were certified yet she was working much harder projects, and no one ever thanked or recognized her for this. I shared that we can’t make others appreciate or acknowledge us in the ways we want them too (this is a good lesson for marriage too btw), but we can provide that for ourselves. If acknowledgment was what she needed to stay motivated, then how could she give that to herself? Some ideas we came up with were listing her accomplishments at the end of the day, saving thank you notes from clients (this is what I do), or a gratitude practice at the end of each work day.
So, what did Cara end up deciding?
She got a good night’s sleep and let it percolate. Then, she decided to cut her overtime (she figures that she’s done more than enough over these past few months) and continue with her fellowship but put off her exam. She was ecstatic with her decision. It will provide the work life balance she’s been craving and because she really does love her job, let her stay in it in a way that works for her family and her life.
Try these questions out for yourself and see how it goes. Then tell me how it goes in the comments below.
If you know anyone else who’s struggling with the big questions right now, feel free to forward this on to them to help them get clear as well.
And remember, no matter what you decide, there is only decisions not one “right” decision. You can always change your mind and start again. These questions will help you get clear on the most important things so that you can feel confident in whatever choice you make.