Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Discover Possibilities by Doing

I’m aiming to make 2019 my Best Year Yet. So on January 1st I made a list of goals and wrote down detailed action steps. On July 1st I reviewed my goals and progress to see how I’m doing and where I need to put forth extra effort. I know what I’m aiming for. I have a clear path of what I want. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life with this approach. Set a goal. Outline steps to achieve this goal. Work tirelessly to accomplish it. Celebrate. Set next goal.

This method of working back from a goal usually succeeds when we’re really clear about what we want and how to accomplish it. But sometimes life isn’t so clear. This is especially true in retirement. At this stage of life there are questions we didn’t have time to consider or that weren’t applicable when we were working—Who am I without a job title? What can I do that will bring more purpose, direction and meaning to my life? What’s next? When we don’t have answers, a good place to start is with what we already know.

According David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, “we learn who we are in practice, not in theory.” Epstein quotes Paul Graham (computer scientist and cofounder of Y Combinator) stating, “instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations….don’t commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward.” One thing I need in retirement is a greater sense of community. Today I was asked to help support the women’s ministry leaders in my church. This is a promising option that’s available now. I’m going to take it and see where it goes.

Along the same lines, Herminia Ibarra (professor of organizational behavior at London Business School) reasons, “We learn who we are only by living, and not before.” Instead of having a clear path of what we want before acting, Ibarra suggests, “first act and then think….we discover the possibilities by doing, by trying new activities, building new networks, finding new role models.” Epstein encourages us to “flirt with your possible selves.” We don’t have to know the grand scheme.  

So where can we begin to act? What options do we already have available? Let’s approach each situation with a beginner’s mindset, being open to learning and growing. We can quit if something doesn’t fit, and move on to the next experiment. We’ll discover possibilities by doing—we’ll learn by living—and not before.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

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