the most important question of your life

most-important-question-of-your-life

There’s one simple question that, if you embrace it whole-heartedly, could be the most important question of your life.

It’ll be the game-changer that will elevate your marriage or relationships. It’ll be the question that elevates your business. It can inspire more efficient productivity and focus. It’ll be the question that leads you to greater happiness.

It’s this: In this situation, who do I want to be?

I began relentlessly asking myself this question about six years ago. If I was about to pop off a snippy comeback when I was irritated with my husband, I’d stop. Breathe. “Okay, Kate. In this situation, who do you want to be?”

When I was at a crossroads in my business, feeling the pinch of a shrinking bank account and not knowing what to do, or trying to figure out my next marketing approach, or being asked to endorse someone’s offering in a “you-scratch-my-back” kind of a deal that would feel inauthentic and crappy, I’d stop. Breathe. “In this situation, who do I want to be?”

Trying to decide which project to focus my time on? Okay, then–keep it simple, no need to go bust out a new day planner and try to quadrant my time down to the hour–who do I want to be?

The question is powerful because another question is embedded within it. To answer the question of who you want to be means immediately asking another powerful question: “What will I choose?”

Getting Conscious

The truth is that we’re all already asking these two questions, constantly–but many of us are asking and answering while on auto-pilot. It’s when you’re not stopping to question the capital-S “Stories,” the narratives/beliefs/assumptions behind your answers that you start living life on default.

When you’re not conscious about the process, asking “Who do I want to be, and what will I choose?” looks something like:

I WANT TO BE RIGHT in this argument–so take that!
I want to feel powerful over this other person (by putting her down as fat).
I want to be someone who feels less stress…so I’ll have another drink, thanks.

These little choices, over time, add up. Life will hand you the realization that choosing to be right all of the time can lead to divorce; choosing to feel powerful by putting others down can lead to isolation; choosing to use substances to alleviate stress can create a dependency issue.

Deepening Understanding

There’s another layer to all of this, and it’s gaining presence about how you ended up…right here.

Consider any situation in your life that you’re less-than-thrilled with. There were dozens, maybe hundreds of times that you would have unconsciously asked yourself, “Who do I want to be?” followed by “And what will I choose?”

What do you think your answers were, in those moments?

If it’s tough to figure this out for yourself, consider the other examples I’ve offered up and see what you can extrapolate to your own unique life story.

Someone with a relationship on the brink of collapse has asked herself, dozens of times in any argument, “Who do I want to be?” In the midst of those arguments, how might she have been answering that question? What might she have been choosing, that lead to a relationship that was less connected?

Someone who has been putting others down based on appearance who then feels lonely and isolated has been making decisions about who she wants to be, for awhile. What has she been prioritizing as important? What has she been devaluing?

Someone with a dependency issue has been making choices about how she wants to feel and the easiest way to access that, for some time. How she has answered “Who do I want to be?” potentially fuels the addiction: I want to be relaxed; I want to feel more confident with some liquid courage; I want to be the life of the party; I only feel safe to fully come out as myself when I’m high (what she’s wanting is to be herself).

Yes, there are other factors–life circumstances, biochemical factors, traumatic experiences, the person you were in a relationship wasn’t willing to do the work–but we typically can’t control those.

Try as the human race might, no one escapes life without some bruising, whether it’s from being born into poverty or being discriminated against, having a serious disease, encountering abuse, or getting involved with someone who isn’t willing to help repair a relationship.

Given that you can’t change what has happened, and you can’t correct all of life’s unfairnesses in an instant, and you can’t control other people, what are the powerful options?

The powerful options lie in how you’ll answer this question: “Who do I want to be?”

Get conscious about that question, and every decision gets easier, every hour of your life becomes self-defining, every interaction with another human being filled with kindness. Get conscious about that question, and it won’t be money or success that defines your happiness, it’ll be you being proud of you that creates your joy.

the six-figure myth

six-figure-myth

Do you really need to make six figures?

I’ll just cut to the chase for you, and then explain: No. You don’t need to make six figures.

“Making six-figures” is the holy grail for many entrepreneurs. It’s not enough to have work you love. It’s not enough to quit a soul-sucking job or be home for their kids after school. It’s not enough that building a business feels purposeful.

I see this a lot with life coaching: a lot of coaches have clients they love, their creative fires stoked as they create courses and retreats and envision their TED talks, and yet they haven’t hit six figures, so they’re all saying the same thing: “I’ve worked hard–now show me the money.”

Before I hit my first six-figure year, I used to say the same thing. I used to think that when I finally hit six figures, I’d proudly announce it to the world, celebrating the milestone and relishing how different life would feel and all of the opportunities that would be open to me that hadn’t been open, before.

That’s not what happened. The cliche ended up being true: life didn’t actually feel different. Why? Because the things that make me happy aren’t the numbers in my bank account–they’re the belly laughs I share with my husband, finding free time to write in my Moleskine, the high of a particularly transcendent run, how connected I feel during a coaching session, the creative flow of creating new curriculum for my life coach training program, the camaraderie I feel with my dearest friends.

In essence, all the things that made me happy before I officially grossed six figures are all the same things that have made me happy, after.

I’ll tell you what six figures does come with: more responsibility. It takes more people to sail this ship. It takes more attention and smarter marketing. It takes more forward-thinking about the future, and navigating more fear.

These are good problems to have, of course, but the point is that I’d always thought, and a great many other entrepreneurs and coaches think, that life after six figures is simpler, somehow. It’s not.

What’s Your Happy Money Number?

Instead of having the goal of “making six figures,” consider this: What’s your happy money number? In other words, how much do you need to make to support your happiest lifestyle?

To come up with this number, add up all of your expenses. Pad by maybe 30%. What’s that number? Write it down.

By the way: don’t assume that your “happy money number” includes extras beyond what you have right now.

“But Kate,” you’re thinking, “My number WOULD include extras. I’d be happier if I had a new wardrobe, money for travel, a kitchen remodel, horseback riding lessons for the kids, a new car…”

Nope.

Because here’s the thing: If you don’t know how to be happy making the money you make right now, you won’t know how to be happy at six figures.

Oh, and you want the money so that you can quit that soul-sucking job? There might be some inner work to do, first.

I’ve seen it time and time again, and I did it, too: Life coaches quit their soul-sucking jobs, not realizing that they and their victim-thinking were often what made it feel soul-sucking. If your soul-sucking job feels that way because you don’t know how to speak up for yourself around your crappy co-workers, you’re going to run into that same terrain when you open your coaching practice–there will be crappy blog comments, or crappy hate mail. If your soul-sucking job feels that way because you’re a workaholic, then you’re really in trouble once you’re setting your own hours as an entrepreneur. If your soul-sucking job feels crappy because you don’t believe in the product, you’ll inevitably hit a point of low motivation in your own business and not know how to get re-inspired.

Soul-sucking jobs become soul-sucking when our attitudes are disempowered.

In fact, this entire discussion is about feeling disempowered–because the assumption most people make is that when they hit six figures, that’s when they’ll feel powerful. That’s when they’ll feel free. That’s when the opportunities will be limitless.

No. All of that is an inside job. You’ve got to find opportunities to feel powerful, limitless, and free if your life, in the here and now.

Money & You

Having more money has only ever made me more of who I already am.

It’s brought out more fears.
It’s brought out more generosity.
It’s brought out more challenges.
It’s brought out more leadership.
It’s brought out all the places where I was disrespecting my House of Money.
It’s brought out all of my tools for erecting appropriate money boundaries.
I work fewer hours, but when I am working, I work harder–not for the money, but because I want to.

The Good News: The Pressure is Off

If you really take what I’m saying to heart, there’s some potential good news: the pressure might be off. You might realize that if your coaching practice grosses $2,000 a month, you’re actually golden. Bills, paid. You, happy. That might be enough.

You might even realize that you don’t need to quit your salaried job; that coaching part-time becomes a way to have some fun, make some money on the side, and not have all of the responsibilities of invoicing, marketing, and attention that come with a full-fledged practice.

Let’s say that you’re making $800 a month working with just a few side clients in addition to your salaried job, keeping benefits and 401(k) intact, connecting with women from around the world who are interested in having authentic conversations, feeling a sense of purpose, feeling connected to who you really are, and now you run a business so you can write off some of your expenses (cell phone, internet, office supplies, perhaps even the room you use for your home office), then consider that this might be…enough.

In fact, if happiness is the real end-game, and if you stop insisting that you’re a victim of your salaried job–like if you stopped calling it “soul-sucking”–this might be more than enough.

I’m not suggesting that you aim low or downgrade your dreams. I’m suggesting that before you go off chasing your definition of affluence, you know why you want it.

Small has its merits. Small is not always the consolation prize.

More is not always more, if it ends up as the chasing of the hungry ghost.
More is not more, if when you arrive there you realize that the end-goal is empty.

Before you go after any dream, know why you want it. It takes courage to let go of empty dreams, but it’s a much faster path to happiness.

Want peace? Take radical responsibility.

radical-responsibility

I did business with someone to the tune of many, many thousands of dollars. Long story short? They didn’t deliver on what they sold me on, and after I spoke up about that, they took to social media to be passive-aggressive about it.

I was hurt. I was pissed.

Months later, I noticed that whenever I thought of the person or situation, I felt hurt and pissed all over, again. So I decided to take my own medicine, and do something (courageous) about it: I’d see where I could take radical responsibility and completely own my part, and release anything that I knew was not mine. I started by asking myself, “Where were the red flags that I ignored?”

And pretty quickly, I felt…stupid.

I felt stupid because prior to hiring, I’d known about multiple integrity issues: gossiping and divulging personal information about employees, close friends, and other clients.

I felt stupid because I knew of people who had worked with the person, but hadn’t elected to re-hire, and I’d never investigated why.

I felt stupid because mid-way through the project I knew that the pace wasn’t really working, and had brought this up, but had decided to believe them when they said, “No, no, this is all normal, don’t worry.” Even though everything in me said, “This doesn’t feel right,” I subverted my own intuition.

I knew all of that, yet continued on with the hiring and then the submitting of payments.

Who had made the choice to hire someone who had shown these issues? Me. Who had elected to continue submitting payments to someone even when I wasn’t happy with the work? Me.

That’s…kind of stupid.

Now, here’s the thing: what’s not mine is the lack of integrity. What’s not mine is the inability to deliver on the results they were selling.

When you choose to take radical responsibility, you acknowledge what’s not yours–but ultimately, you keep the focus on what is yours. Why? Because that’s where you’ll find peace (after feeling distinctly uncomfortable)

Radical Responsibility is Courageous

That’s why taking radical responsibility is courageous: you might see some things that are hard to see about yourself, and feel the discomfort of that. When I asked myself the simple question, “What are the red flags that I ignored?” the evidence that this hadn’t been a good idea was overwhelming. I had been making certifiably stupid choices, starting with the fact that things hadn’t felt right in my body, and I’d ignored that fact.

It’s hard to feel stupid.

So…I decided to write a declaration that would lead to my own freedom. At the top of the page, I wrote in all capital letters: “READ UNTIL IT NO LONGER BOTHERS ME.” Then I wrote down all of the things I had known prior to hiring that would have indicated it was a bad idea, and all of the choices that I had made that had co-created the situation, that were totally my responsibility.

To release the hurt and resentment that I felt about the situation, I was willing to read this declaration out loud for as long as it took, even if it was to the end of time.

Really, though? It only took a week.

Radical Responsibility Leads to Peace

We aren’t really ever hurt by others, or mad at what they did. We’re pissed off at ourselves. Again and again, it usually all boils down to subverting our own intuition.

In this case, I knew better–in my body–but didn’t treat that evidence as “enough.” I kept looking for logical justifications for why the situation wasn’t right. And, I guess, because I was looking for evidence, my evidence that this situation was royally screwed up showed up in a pissy social media post aimed right at my head.

“That’s the best gift they ever gave me,” I’d later tell a friend about the situation, “Because it was so over-the-top unkind, I became clear in an instant that I was walking away.”

Getting clear on why I’d walked into that mess in the first place was also important. When we don’t take time to evaluate why we did what we did, and when we don’t create space for releasing it, all of that muck just sits around as background noise, siphoning energy.

Taking radical responsibility is courageous because it pushes you to look at the things that are hard to look at. But once you’ve moved through that, it brings peace; the peace of knowing that it all happened how it did, you owned your part, and now you’re ready to move on.