Sticky notes on easel paper

Picking the Right Next Project

I coached a client who struggled to dig into her issues at work. We kept coming back to her divorce. It was taking up a lot of her energy, but she was drained and didn’t want to mentally process these thoughts and emotions.

Our session was floundering, so I asked her if we could pause and focus on something that made her happy. “Do you like puppies?” I joked.

She laughed.

“I know something that made me feel good. I played matchbox cars with my son!”

She talked about how they made car sounds and raced around the carpet. 

She was feeling overwhelmed with work, but instead of picking her son up from school and then logging back on and trying to finish up her day, she decided to play with her son instead.

We dug into what she enjoyed about this time with her son and what opportunities could come from it. After talking about this experience, she was smiling and feeling energized. 

We then went back to her issue with her divorce, and she was able to process and come out with some opportunities for her to be more patient with herself, her career, her son, and her soon-to-be ex-husband.

It’s important to review all the thoughts that might be draining you. You can’t be your best at work if you can’t let go of issues you have in your personal life.

Old Monk

It’s the old story of the monk and his cup of tea…

A prince was struggling with all his responsibilities, so he sought out his wise council. The prince had a monk on his staff. The monk asked him to sit down and have some tea. The prince said he didn’t have time for tea, he needed advice. The monk insisted, so the prince sat down at the table. He didn’t take a sip of tea. He tried to wait patiently.

“I have a question I need answered,” the prince told the monk.

“Before you ask your question, can you humor me for a moment?”

“Ahh, sure. What is it?”

“How heavy is this tea cup?”

The monk held up a cup of freshly poured tea. The prince could see the steam rising from it.

“I don’t know. Maybe half a pound.”

“That’s a good guess. If I hold it straight with my arm, does it get any heavier?”

“No.”

“Then why does it feel heavier after a minute of holding it out?”

The prince sighs, “Because your arm is getting tired.”

“Exactly!” Said the monk. “You must learn to put down your responsibilities and give yourself a rest. “Once I put the cup down for a minute or two and pick it back up, it feels light again.”

The prince smiled at the monk, “Thank you!”

Slowing Down

Digging into a feeling creates a deeper connection to the experience, so you can learn to see the attachment and let it go. It’s about being committed and unattached.

You are committed to doing your best and will accept whatever outcome occurs.

Another way to look at it is… it helps connect you to your purpose, your larger mission in life. You make the decision to slow down, rest, take a walk, etc., because it’s what you need to recharge.

It’s why thinking about a cookie and the potential pleasure gets you off the couch to look for food. You are planting a “thought” seed and then acting on it in order to create the experience that will fulfill your needs. 

Your thoughts and feelings drive you to act, but sometimes they can misguide you if you don’t slow down and process the situation. To make wise decisions, we must learn to step back and not let our emotions drive our decisions. 

You know why you want a cookie and the reward that will occur when you eat it. Simple.

You can do this for any project. You think about why you want to do something and why it matters, and you are more likely to get better results. Then think about what you need in the moment before you act. Do you need to slow down and let go of your expectations? Do you need to take a break and pull out your emotional hooks?

Overthinking

Sometimes we get stuck in overthinking a new project. We want it to turn out great, so we put ourselves in paralysis.  We feel like we are taking action by thinking about it, but we aren’t being wise with our thoughts.

Sometimes we need help in slowing down and thinking through everything. We get stuck in a loop of what positives could occur vs. what negatives will occur. We end up procrastinating instead of making the best decision we can with the information that we have.

I’m curious about how you think through a new project. Let’s say you want to build a new skill at work, like your public speaking skills. I know I’ve struggled to be more outgoing since the pandemic, and speaking in front of a group scares me because I hadn’t done it for so long. 

How do you think through building a new skill in your career? How do you break it down and get started?

You don’t want to plan too many seeds and none grow. You want to be conscious of what seeds you plant in your brain and learn to tend to the right ones and when to let the wrong ones die. In the beginning, some projects that excite us don’t have staying power because they didn’t align with our vision. When we see this play out in our careers, we can learn from these patterns.

If you want to write a book, start a side hustle, etc. then you must understand how this project fits into your career.

Your Why

Dig into why you want to do this project.

Then go a little deeper.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the first five steps you should take to get this project off the ground? 
  • What do I expect my results to be if I do these five steps?
  • How much time should I dedicate to this project each day/week? 

As you go deeper, you’ll see how everything fits together or if it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then you can decide to let it go and focus on a different project or continue and make a go of it. 

Digging into his project with a few good questions can save you a lot of time and energy. It’s valuing this time that you’ll actually do it. 

There is an old story of two bulls in the pasture. The young bull says, “Look at all those cows down there. Let’s run down there and have sex with them.” 

The old bull snorts and says, “Let’s stroll down there and have sex with all of them.”

Summary

As you get older, you are probably seeing the lens in how you make decisions. This influences what projects you say “Yes” or “No” to. As you gain this wisdom, you’ll see how doing a little upfront work can help you reach your goals faster and with much less frustration.

I would love to hear how you decide on a new project if you have five minutes. I created the Picking the Right Next Project survey, so I can learn more about what works well for you and what you could use help with. 

Everyone talks about starting a side hustle or writing a book, but not how to pick which one could drive the most value for your career. This is where most of us make a mistake. If you do the hard work aligning your head, heart, and gut with the work, you’ll have more energy to take on the project and a clear mind to execute your vision.

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