While there are always parts of life we can’t control, I believe that shouldn’t stop us from imagining what’s possible with the parts we can. In that precious space, you have an opportunity to design your life.
That idea led me to rethink my career and jump into entrepreneurship, starting (and still building) 321 Liftoff.
It’s been on my mind throughout 2020, as my family learned to make the most out of staying at home due to the coronavirus.
And, it was a guiding principle for me over these last few months as my wife and I weighed the difficult decision to move our family across the country.
On November 21, 2020, my wife, Lauren; our soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter, Talya; and our dog, Gemma; and I, loaded up our car and waved goodbye to our Twin Cities home for the last time, starting a five day journey to Phoenix, Arizona (we made it, by the way, in case you were curious – no easy feat given our current pandemic).
So much had to be true in order for this move to be possible. But, it’s how we arrived at the decision that I think matters most – lessons that I hope you’ll apply as you design your own life.
STAND IN THE FUTURE
While Lauren and I have, for a long time, flirted with the idea of moving west to be closer to family and start a new adventure, there was one thing that finally made us pull the trigger: Talya.
We were having an honest conversation about what we wanted her childhood to look like. We put ourselves in her shoes, stood in an imagined future, then described to each other what we found there: cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, birthdays, holidays, and other big family moments.
Our hopes were realized within minutes of arriving at my sister’s house, when Talya and her cousins gathered around a small picnic table, playing and giggling together. Lauren and I gave each other a knowing look – this was why we came.
If you want to design your life, envision the future you want, and ask yourself: what would have to be true for me to get closer to that future? You won’t achieve that future in an instant, but you can start chipping away at it with your first steps.
WHAT WOULD WE DO IF WE WEREN’T AFRAID?
After weighing the pros and cons of a move, after considering the possible time-tables, Lauren – a budding coach in her own right – asked a question that arrested my thinking: what would we do if we weren’t afraid?
Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes, the thing you’re afraid of is right there in front of you. And, sometimes, it’s hidden, underneath the surface, waiting to reveal itself to you with the right question.
We were afraid to move. In part, because there were so many easy reasons to stay – all were variations of “we have a good thing going here.” But, sometimes, you have to walk away from good to get to great.
If what you’re doing today feels good, what might feel great? Designing your life requires that you acknowledge your fears and start something new. Critically, fear doesn’t need to be vanquished, just named, so you can move on.
SEPARATE WHAT’S CHANGING FROM WHAT’S NOT
Across all of the organizational change projects I’ve supported, I’ve seen people (myself included) assume that because some things are changing, everything is changing. Of course we do. We’re human and we’re pretty good at imagining possible outcomes.
But, change can often bring fear, and fear causes this natural human strength to run amok. A useful tactic to calm things down is to ground people in what’s not going to change.
I sat down with Gemma (again, our dog), for example, to have a frank and honest conversation: “we’re going to live somewhere new, and we still love you, and we will still play and take long walks, but you will be trading squirrels for lizards.”
Lauren and I also agreed to keep things in place where possible, like our financial goals, our standing weekly game night, and my hopes for what 321 Liftoff might someday become.
Carve out space to make change possible, but set limits. What will you keep?
DESIGN YOUR LIFE
As I’ve explored here before (see How To Help In The Pandemic), life is short. What do you want to make of it?
Does all of this change sound scary? That’s normal. You might want to read two more posts.
First, How to Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone, which was inspired by Andy Molinsky’s book, Reach: a New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence.
Second, How To Confront Your Fear And Put It In The Backseat, which has practical strategies for combatting your inner-critic (it’s their job to keep you safe and hold you back).
So, how will you design your life?
ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line.
It can feel messy – it zigs and zags, it starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok.
It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself.
And, that’s why it’s worth it.