While traveling recently, I stopped to have dinner at a Chinese buffet that claimed to have more than 100 items on the menu. I figured that with so many choices, I’d definitely find something delicious to eat. But as I looked over the buffet, I discovered that most of the dishes were either swimming in gravy or oil, or were deep-fried. Since that’s not the type of meal I was looking for, I soon realized that my options weren’t as plentiful as I’d expected.
If you’re in the process of deciding what you want for yourself—and you’re looking for advice, guidance, and information—you may feel overwhelmed at first, but then you’ll realize that your choices are as abundant as a 100-item buffet. The sheer number of them may seem like too much to consider, but as you look more carefully, you’ll start to sort through those choices and quickly eliminate the ones that aren’t right for you.
It’s only natural that we respond to so much information and so many options by wishing for the one thing that would solve all of our problems and lead to success, fulfillment, and contentment. Life would be much simpler if there were something out there that was always guaranteed to work, but one size doesn’t fit all.
Even those handy hints you can get on the Internet or in magazines may not be appropriate for you. For example, I once came across a list of tips for losing weight that included “Never eat after 8:00 P.M.,” which would be hard to do if you had a job where you worked until 7:30. Another tip advised putting a photo of yourself at your heaviest weight on the refrigerator to discourage you from snacking . . . but I’ve also heard that you should put a photo of yourself looking your thinnest and most fit on your refrigerator for inspiration.
Contradictory advice is everywhere. The best dieting tip I probably ever heard was: “Eat less, mostly vegetables.” Wouldn’t it be great if every dilemma in life could be solved so simply? But actually, even that advice isn’t so simple. Should you cook the vegetables or eat them raw? If you eat less, does that mean less food altogether, or just fewer calories or junk foods? And shouldn’t you actually increase your intake of items that are full of nutrients and fiber? I could go on and on.
While you may crave simple answers, unfortunately they’re rare. You may be able to find some general guidance that makes sense to you, but what’s the best process for sorting through all of the overwhelming opinions and figuring out what works for you? I believe in following the three-step approach of sort, match up, and modify.
Sort Through Information and Potential Choices
The first step in sorting through huge amounts of information and potential choices is to slow down and listen to your instincts—you see, there’s a reason why you were drawn to this book and not another, and why you’re attracted to one potential romantic partner and not another. If you’re feeling good about yourself and confident that you’ll make the right choices, you’ll have less trouble with the sorting process. You’ll be able to listen to your gut and go in a certain direction instead of second-guessing yourself or calling your friends and making your decision according to what they say.
Whenever people start to tell me about all of the contradictory advice they’ve been given, I ask them to stop for a moment and listen to what their instincts say. It’s amazing how often they know what they want to do but think that they should check out all their other options. Often, this inability to separate out what is and isn’t right is rooted in negative feelings such as fear, guilt, and low self-worth. If my clients don’t trust that they can make the right decision, they’ll avoid making one at all. If they don’t feel good about themselves, they won’t honor their desires and passions, and they’ll look for the choice that they think others will approve of—but when they do, they’re likely to take the wrong road for them.
If you are trying to avoid making a decision, are overwhelmed by all the possibilities, or are longing for someone to help you simplify your thought process, stop and identify what you’re feeling. Generate positive emotions such as love, faith, and confidence; once you do, you’ll find that it’s easier to see which choices aren’t right and focus on those that suit you.
Curiosity is also a positive emotion because it opens you up to a wide range of possibilities. When you go into a large bookstore, for instance, you may feel excited about all the volumes on the shelves and tables and be eager to start checking them out. Even if the number of choices makes you feel overwhelmed and confused at first, if you listen to your gut, you’ll know what section of the store to gravitate toward and which books to pick up. Let your instinct guide you, because if you only listen to your head, you’re likely to overlook the influence of any negative subconscious beliefs, such as: People like me don’t read about stuff like that, so I’m not going to walk into that section—someone might stare at me, or I really ought to be reading books on this subject even though I’m not at all inspired to do so.
Follow your instincts whenever you’re confronted by a range of choices, and then let your mind chime in with its ideas. Decisions that are in alignment with your true self are never wrong, even if they lead to situations that cause you to learn difficult lessons. Your head and gut, working together, will help you settle on which selections are good possibilities and those that you can disregard.
Match Up Your Wealth of Choices with Your Inner Desires
The next step in creating your winning formula for fulfillment, happiness, and success is to go deeper into your self-awareness so that you can identify those values, desires, and talents of yours that can be too easily overlooked. You can’t know what choice to make unless you know what you want.
In my many years of encouraging people to achieve their goals and dream big, I’ve discovered that most have a sort of amnesia about all of the wondrous gifts they possess. For example, not long ago I had a client who was a dream to work with. He followed my suggestions by immediately acting upon his decision to achieve the next goal in his plan, and constantly thanked me for all that I was doing for him.
What he didn’t realize is that I was only pointing out to him what I perceived were his most obvious skills and talents. He had never taken the time to examine what his strengths were and hadn’t actually considered himself a hard worker, yet that was my main impression of him!
You may have noticed something similar with someone you care about, because people so often underestimate themselves. When they’re feeling scared, vulnerable, or insecure, they’ll totally forget the marvelous things they’ve accomplished, which I think is due to so many folks not receiving a lot of praise in the early stages of their lives.
You were probably scolded or criticized when you did something wrong, but how often did your parents, teachers, relatives, or older siblings congratulate you for doing something right? You may have begun to take your skills, talents, and positive characteristics for granted . . . until they eventually dropped out of your conscious perception of who you are.
Part of being reflective is taking the time to notice what you do right. Did you treat your children well as you drove them to school today? Did you handle a conflict with a peer by starting a healthy and productive dialogue? Did you use your creativity to solve a problem?
Also take note of what you’ve done in the past that was positive and admirable. What talents do you have that you’ve forgotten? I’m always fascinated to learn that someone I know has an interesting past, having triumphed over a huge challenge or mastered a valuable skill. As you identify the gifts that you’ve been overlooking, you’ll find that you’ve discovered tools you can use to achieve your personal goals.
It’s helpful to have a friend, coach, therapist, or peer who’s able to remind us of our positive qualities, since we so often only look at ourselves one way. Not long ago, my sister bought me a makeup mirror that allows me to change the lighting to see what I look like in daylight, indoors, or at night; and I can flip it over to see my face magnified five times. I never realized how much different I look when the light changes or when I’m peering closely at myself. We often aren’t even aware that the way we see ourselves is much different from the way others perceive us.
While it’s beneficial for others to remind us of our worthy characteristics, it’s also helpful for neutral parties to point out any contradictions between what we say our values are and the choices we’re making.
While this may not be easy for us to hear, it’s important that we do. We need to be as aware as possible when weighing choices—our decisions should always be made consciously so that they resonate with who we truly are.
When It’s Hard to Make a Choice
When you’re feeling panicked about making a choice, the tendency is to do it quickly so you can then relax and shift into a more peaceful state. If you approach a crisis or problem in this way, however, you’re likely to make the wrong decision. You see, you can’t access your inner wisdom until you first become calm and have faith in yourself – only then will you have an inner awareness of which path to take.
One of the reasons why we sometimes panic and come to quick conclusions is because we’re uncomfortable in the moment. Here’s an example from my own life: I don’t like the Canadian province we’re currently living in because I don’t speak the language and it’s very difficult to find a doctor here.
Denis and I have made the decision to move after Michel graduates from high school, but I’ve already been doing Internet research on neighborhoods and looking at houses for sale. I know that when we get closer to that time, we’ll find the right place; even so, I’ve been feeling particularly anxious about moving, so I keep having the urge to call up a real-estate agent and take the steps toward buying a new house now.
Fortunately, I have two good friends who know me well—whenever I call them to say, “Hey, I found a great house in Ontario and I’m thinking that maybe I should check it out just in case,” they gently remind me that this would not be in keeping with my personal, winning formula at this time in my life.
Part of me wants them to say, “You’re right, Peggy, it is a fabulous house. Forget your plans . . . I think you guys should move right now!” But then again, if they did tell me that, they wouldn’t be such great friends. I’m thankful to have people in my life who will stop me from making rash decisions by pointing out that I’m acting out of alignment with the Won Thing that’s unique to me.
Sometimes we just don’t like the choices in front of us at the moment: I don’t want to stay where I am, but I don’t want to move yet, either, because it would take Michel out of his school and away from his friends. I know that in time, circumstances will change, and I’ll have different options, but since I’m not happy with my present situation, it feels as if nothing will never happen. I know that instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I need to be aware of what I do have and feel gratitude and happiness right now.
Modify the Won Thing as Your Needs and Desires Change
The Won Thing changes over time because life changes – and so do you. In fact, modifying your winning formula according to the shifts you make on the inside – creating a new mix of elements that works for you – is something you’ll do throughout your life.
When feelings of dissatisfaction creep in, it’s a sure sign that you need to reassess your Won Thing. Maybe you’ve always loved traveling for your career but now want to settle down. Maybe you’re feeling that you’ve been too focused on fixing the problems in your life and haven’t spent enough time simply enjoying all its blessings. Or it could be that you want to devote more time to building financial wealth now or giving back to the community. If you’re aware that it’s time for a change, it’s very important to focus on creating positive feelings so that you’ll know how to adjust your personal formula for fulfillment, joy, and success.
People often become unhappy when they need to alter their Won Thing, because they’re afraid to make changes. They can become fearful and pessimistic. Unable to see the possibilities for creating better situations for themselves, they only focus on all the obstacles blocking them from happiness. Yet as soon as they create more joy, they can start to see ways around those roadblocks, since positive emotions trigger our creativity.
There are countless ways for people to use their resourcefulness to initiate opportunities for self-gratification. For example, I teach people how to make money online. The way I see it, the Internet provides limitless opportunities for using the imagination to create wealth through selling products, services, and information. The World Wide Web gives my clients access to customers all over the globe, along with all sorts of portals to help them find the ones who would be most likely to respond to their particular message or products. I see many of the Web’s possibilities because I actively choose to foster my own positive emotions, which puts me in a very creative state.
Now, I realize that it can be easy to buy into the notion that your current circumstances will never improve, but that’s simply not true. Everything changes. You must ask yourself, “Do I want to react to changes that are imposed on me or take charge and create the life I want for myself?” Keep in mind that doors open and close, but at least one of them is always open somewhere. So if one shuts on you, access your curiosity and confidence so that you can persevere in discovering a new opportunity.
You might discover that your customer base has dwindled or people’s needs have changed, you’ve relocated to an area where the circumstances for achieving your goals aren’t quite as obvious and abundant, or your financial situation has changed. All of these will affect your Won Thing, of course, but try to remain confident. Your winning formula will always be based in your core values, and sometimes you just have to take a step back and look for new openings. And be patient as you work to discover new avenues, because ideas won’t always come to you immediately.
Obviously, you’re not who you were yesterday, the day before, 5 years ago, or 20 years ago . . . and you won’t be the same in the future. Yet people tend to forget this, often fearfully locking themselves into a limiting definition of who they are and clinging to it for dear life. For instance, insisting that you’re just not the type of person who can do that offers a false sense of security. Are you sure you’re not that “type of person”? Exploring whether you may in fact have what it takes to achieve your goal is exciting and energizing if you remain in a creative state and open to possibilities.
Sometimes what you need in order to create the life you want are the skills and talents you already have but have been overlooking. Then again, what’s standing between you and the life you want may simply be fear. Change often requires you to give up something, whether big or small, although you’ll most likely gain something as a result. For example, although you might have to give up some money, time, or sense of comfort to achieve your Won Thing, think of what you’ll be creating for yourself!
Never sacrifice your deeply held dreams and values. You do not have to compromise your integrity to make money or hide who you really are in order to find a romantic partner. When you stay true to yourself and follow the process of sort, match up, and modify—always generating positive feelings and thoughts—the circumstances of your life will begin to align with your intentions.
Checking in with Your Feelings
As I conclude this chapter, I want to stress that whenever you’re trying to decide if something is in alignment with your purpose or your Won Thing, take a moment to reflect, and check in with your gut.
Do you need to change your emotional state from negative to positive? In other words, you may know exactly what to do, but perhaps you first need to build up your confidence and self-love so that you can find the courage to begin moving forward. If you’re afraid of the unexpected changes that might occur as you start to head in a different direction, reflection will allow you to discover that. For example, if you decide to change careers, go back to school, or relocate to another area, it’s going to affect some of your relationships. If you’re too afraid to explore the effects of your transitions, you’ll either move forward in denial or avoid making a change altogether.
When you’re contemplative, you become aware of your initial response to your goal and the changes you’ll be making, since your emotions are a valuable source of information. If you feel very excited, you’re probably about to embark on the right course for you. Even so, you have to keep checking in with your feelings. Are you truly excited, or are you talking yourself into being enthusiastic because you think you should be? Are you worked up but at the same time a little scared? If so, explore that feeling of fear, because sometimes it’s just a brain blip that’s rooted in an old belief. Go ahead and take a look at that belief—consciously and bravely—and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t have anything to teach you, as it could just be clutter that you need to get rid of.
Being nervous about a change doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. For example, you may decide that you need to develop a new skill in order to reach your goal and, being enthusiastic, you immediately hire someone to teach it to you. Then, once you begin your instruction, you start feeling uncomfortable because you encounter some old ideas about what you’re not good at, or the instructor is simply not the right one for you. By exploring those beliefs that are connected to your fears and insecurities, you can definitely learn something.
In fact, you might realize that the actual lesson you were supposed to glean from this experience is not what you thought. Maybe, because of your insecurities, you’re too quick to trust someone who impresses you for the wrong reasons, since you realize that the teacher you hired doesn’t know how to effectively teach what you need to learn. Thanks to this experience, you’re now very clear on what you’re looking for, and you go on to hire the perfect instructor for you. Whatever your discomfort is, consider that it might have something to teach you, because revelations and insights often arise from listening to your instincts and feelings. As long as you learn from your missteps, they weren’t taken in vain. Sometimes the wrong path leads you in the very direction you’re meant to go!
Whatever path you take, you won’t walk it alone, because you’ll always need assistance from others who support you in various ways. In the next chapter, you’ll learn how working with other people is an important part of your winning formula, your Won Thing.
Excerpt from the book The Won Thing by Peggy McColl.
For more information visit: The Won Thing
It will look like this: The Three-Step Process for Creating Your Winning Formula