I’ve spent the last year and a half reading a *lot* of books about business and entrepreneurship, listening to podcasts of the same ilk, and thinking about high-performance output and metrics for success. I began working as an entrepreneurial coach and have increased my consulting practice considerably. A few of the many branches of self-growth and supporting self-growth in others that I’ve engaged in this year. During this period, I’ve noticed a few things about *really* high-level thinkers in the entrepreneurial arena:
- They tend to lead highly organized lives. They are creatures of habit and design.
- They started families later in life, ie not in their 20s or early 30s.
- The metrics for success that they personally hold for living a good life are largely quantifiable.
As I’ve explored the minds and hearts of business folks I’ve noticed a few things about myself, as well:
- I, too, am a creature of habit and design… maybe too much so.
- My connections to loved ones are a huge criterion for how I live my life and interdependence is an evolving theme for me.
- Something is missing for me in the metrics for success that I’m hearing from these folks, even the “creatives.”
As far as that last one goes, it’s not that they weren’t thinking about how their choices impacted their lives on an emotional and interpersonal level, it’s just that their criteria for success in life were not embodied, rather they were theoretical. I found little space for intuition in the common mental models of business-y folks and even less on how we can tell when our intuition is coming from embodied experience v theoretical knowledge. Where does intuition live in their bodies? What somatic clues are their skin, muscles, and nerve endings giving them to make choices? No models, and I’ve read and listened to hundreds at this point, seemed to fit my brain and body. I even read a handful of books on how artists and philosophers, specifically, think and structure their lives. The first set of criteria still held true. Folks may have mentioned meditation and going for walks at a slightly higher rate but still not much on body clues. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I knew something was missing. Where, I wondered, was there room for emotions as data points? I began to test this out first on myself (per usual) with a decision journal (basically just a guided journal entry for how to make a particular decision) where I added in questions for myself about where I was feeling excitement/anxiety/etc in my body at each stage of decision making. One of the templates (borrowed heavily from Shane Parrish’s version of the decision journal) looked like this:
- what’s the decision to be made?
- what’s my gut feeling about what I should do?
- Can I Stop Here and Just Do That:
- Relevant Variables:
- what should I be considering when making this choice?
- Where Do I Feel the Tension in My Body // How Does it Manifest: Energized Focused Relaxed Confident Tired Accepting Accommodating Anxious Resigned Frustrated Angry Relieved Joyful
- what do I feel, when, where, how, and for how long?
- What’s the Latest this Decision Can be Made?
- what’s the deadline?
- What’s Holding Me Back from Making This Decision: Functionally // Emotionally
- dig deep. what, really, is stopping me?
- Decision matrix:
- is this decision:
- Irreversible and inconsequential
- Irreversible and consequential
- Reversible and inconsequential
- Reversible and consequential
- What Are the Options:
- list them out, all of them, even the shit ones, no judgement
- What’s The Experiment:
- what’s my next move? what do i next want to try as a means to make a decision? is it to make the decision? is so, what is it? or is it to take a step that leads me closer to making a decision?
- Check-in at the end of the month, week, day, year, whatever
- notes: provide notes on how the decision played out at the end of the timeframe listed above. What happened as a result of the experiment? How do I feel now and where do those feelings live in my body?
- Check-in at the end of the month, week, day, year, whatever
One of the findings I uncovered was that my gut was not always right. To be honest, I thought it would be a perfect indicator of what I should do, but it wasn’t. I often hadn’t thought of the right move when I answered that question but whether or not I had a strong intuition about something was a powerful guiding force for later questions and often led me to find a path through a knotty problem that I hadn’t previously considered. Among the most valuable info to me was my bodily reaction. My body told me what was holding me back. Something clenched up, usually my stomach or jaw, when I got to the variable that was actually a deciding factor for me. Adding in the somatic check-ins, the question about my gut, and a few other big and small tweaks to the format gave me a more comprehensive idea of what kinds of decisions are hard for me to make and why.
This practice helped me get unstuck on a handful of projects this year. When I was just starting out I used it every day to make some decision or other, even just what to have for dinner. I wanted to see when it was useful and when it was extraneous (sidenote: for me, sometimes deciding what to have for dinner is a stressful decision and I didn’t really know why until I used this format. It helped me come up with a mental model for what to do when I don’t know what to eat. spoiler: it involves checking in with what my body wants and gave me a way to do that that was useful and specific to me.). Once I had a grasp on when the format was useful, I pared it down to twice a week. Turns out I don’t need it that often so now I use it on an as-needed basis but I rely on the fluidity of having lots of practice to allow me to know when I need to make a structured choice that is still deeply rooted in what my body wants and needs.
I started to work with some of my entrepreneurial clients on how to treat emotions as metrics and found that a number of them were trying to make decisions purely based on reason and theory and had been stuck on these decisions for days/months/years. When we added in this new set of data we found greater clarity on their goals and how to achieve them, as well as a deeper understanding of what makes them tick. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on how I cue into my emotions in later posts but I wanted to share this learning with ya’ll! I hope the format is helpful to you, too, and that you take lots of risks in altering it to fit your needs.