39 - How to Make Big Decisions When Timing Is Everything

Whether you’re trying to decide if it’s time to have a baby, move to a new city or make a career change you know the anxiety that comes along with big decisions. Welcome to Episode 39 of Take the Upgrade with Leanne Peterson. Thanks for joining us!

Leanne is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Houston and she works with clients all over the country. She is committed to helping you find peace in the midst of difficult life situations and transitions. Using powerful insights into health and energy alignment, Leanne helps you create the beautiful life you want!

Today’s discussion really centers on managing our opportunities. We have more choices now than ever before and so we feel a lot of pressure to take advantage of all the things and live an amazing life all of the time. Leanne wants to empower us to trust our intuition when faced with the new phases life offers. She teaches us how to really hone in on what is right for us.

Have a question for Leanne? Email her at connect@leannepeterson.com

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We’ll be back next week with another dose of soulful guidance!

Here is an edited transcript of the podcast:

Leanne Peterson: Hello everyone! Welcome to the show today. So someone asked a while back how to know if they should have another baby, and it made me start thinking about all these things in our life that we don’t know what the right timing is. How do I know when I should get married? How do I know if I’m with the right person? How do I know if I should have a baby? How do I know if I should take that job in a different state? How do I know etc, etc, etc. There’s so many things and choices that we have in our life, and it could be so confusing as to what the best path forward is.

Today I wanted to talk about that uncertainty that we all face, and how do we handle the unknown?

So I have a little baby, and I think a question for me a lot is how do I know when I should have another baby? And I’ll google, “What’s the best age gap? Is 2 years the best age gap? 3 years? 4 years? 5 years? What is the best age gap?” And it feels like there’s so much pressure on this decision. You know, it makes me think of when I was picking a grad school, and I was trying to decide what grad school should I go to? There were all these choices and all these options, and what one do I pick? Aaahhh! It was so hard to decide. Again, everything at the beginning with my husband—how do I know when we should get married? How do I make sure this is the right person for me? My first job, how do I know if this is the best first job?

We all have so many of these question marks in our lives. Once we’re a career, how do I know if I should switch careers? How do I know if I should stay in this career? There are so many questions, and things pulling us that we can decide.

I was listening to this person, and he was talking about this idea of opportunity, and he was saying that with the world moving so fast, there are more opportunities now than ever before, and that opportunities are increasing at a rapid rate. So if we think 100 years ago the chances and the opportunities for inventing something, there weren’t a ton of invention possibilities, and there weren’t a ton of people you could marry, there weren’t a ton of places you could move because it’s 100 years ago. You’re kind of limited. But now, there’s so many opportunities, there are so many things you can create, and we see all these new entrepreneurs popping up, and all these lifestyle choices popping up, and all these options everywhere.

It can feel really overwhelming. Even hearing this guy speak about all the opportunities made me anxious. I’m like, “Oh my gosh! We have to grab them.” But what he was saying was although our opportunities are increasing, the quality of the opportunities we have are decreasing. So there are less great opportunities, there are more general opportunities.

I think that’s really important for us to be aware of. What he was saying is how do you know what opportunity is the best opportunity for you to take? It’s what is your biggest goal?

He was talking about an example he gave, and this is even pagan, and he was talking about if you want to get married, and you’re looking to be dating, you have an opportunity maybe to go play basketball with your friends and hang out, or to go to a dating event or a dating situation. What he was saying is in that situation, if getting married and having a relationship is your top priority, then you’re going to need to take that opportunity over the opportunity of hanging out with your friends, because we need to be prioritizing the things that are really important to us.

So I love this template for when you’re making these big choices, and asking yourself what’s the right time, when’s the right time, and what is the right thing?

There’s going to be so many opportunities for you to do so many things. What’s going to be increasingly important in the coming years is for us to become really clear on what do we need? What are we going for so that we can draw a straight line to that point instead of zig-zagging all over the place.

I think about my cousin. So I was starting this new business, and I’m like, “I’m going to be a matchmaker. I’m going to help people find relationships. I’m a matchmaker.” So I decided to start this matchmaking business. My cousin’s in marketing and I said, “What if I was going to start a newsletter, or a newspaper thing, like an online what’s happening, so I could use that to promote my matchmaking site?” And I was talking to my cousin who’s in marketing, and he gave me this really great advice. He was like, “You don’t want to start one business to promote another. Just promote the business you really want.”

Right? And it just, at the time it seemed like it was such a good idea, like I’ll just create my own marketing source, but that’s so much work when it’s not what I really want.

I think in today’s world, it’s so easy to get distracted by what we don’t really want, but we kind of do that instead of going right for what we do want, and we end up using all of our time and resources on the thing we didn’t even really want.

So when people are asking what should I do, or what should I do first, or should I go to grad school, should I not? To me, the first question you want to be asking yourself, and this is sitting in meditation, this is tuning in, this is talking to someone about it, this is really kind of that deep level work, because you’re going to want someone to help you tease this apart, is what do I really want? What is my goal for myself? What’s the most important thing for me?

I say that because often, too, we’ll trick ourselves into thinking what the most important thing for ourselves is. You know, I hear a lot of people nowadays wanting passive income, wanting financial freedom. All those things are great, but if you’re like, “I want that so that I can enjoy my family. I want that so that I can travel.” It’s like, okay, well that’s good, but maybe look at how you can travel now. Get that started. Maybe look at how you can set up your family life now. You don’t have to wait for this thing to do what you want to do if what you want to do is different.

That’s what I really want to tell everyone is find what you really want so that you can go straight toward that. If you really want to get married, but then you have this opportunity to go to grad school, maybe you do that in the meantime, or maybe you say, “Let me put some of my resources, and give myself a year to really meet someone and do that. Then I can see what my next goal is.”

I know this is going to sound horrible, because it’s, “Oh my gosh, you’re prioritizing a relationship over personal development,” and if that’s what you want, yeah. If you want a relationship, you better prioritize that over everything.

What I see all the time is people who want relationships but aren’t prioritizing finding a relationship, and then are feeling frustrated when everything else is going really well, but they don’t have that relationship they really wanted.

But this could be the same for a career. If you know you really want to do well in your career and that’s more important than anything else, awesome. Focus on that. Go to grad school, do that stuff. Do those things. Get where you want to be in your career, and then you can see where to go from there. But if you really want to be successful in your career, and that’s your most important thing, but you choose to get married and have kids, it’s going to sidetrack, potentially sidetrack your career and get in the way of your #1 goal.

So we’ve got to find out what is our #1 goal and priority, and how are we going to pursue that, and take the opportunities to lead us down that path as opposed to doing everything that’s shiny, and glittery, and gold.

Natalie Pyles: Oh, but it’s so hard because we want more than one thing.

LP: We do, but according to the book that we all read for the book club, The One Thing, we can only really do one thing at a time, and I think when we start to own that, that we get to do one thing really well, and we can put our attention and time into one thing, it allows us to understand there’s one thing, and what is our one thing going to be right now? That is the key: right now.

I have achieved a lot of things in my life by doing one thing at a time. When I was in school, I wanted a relationship so bad but I wish I could have just told myself, “Stop. This is not the time, because what you want more than a relationship right now is this career as a therapist.” That was my dream from high school. That was always my dream, to be a therapist. That was my #1 important thing in school, and to go right into grad school was really important because I wanted to get into this career that I’d been wanting forever. So at that time, my one thing was school, and I think I would have enjoyed school more if I understood and really owned that that was my thing. And it was the perfect timing for that for me.

So I did that one thing. I got established in that, and then amazingly I met my husband, and it’s like I got my degree, got my first job, and then I met my husband. It’s like, “Okay, I handled that one thing, and then my one thing with my husband.” And then my one thing at that time was having a really good relationship. So we built this great foundation. Then my one thing became, okay we have this great foundation now, we moved to Houston, I want to have a really successful practice. So that was my one thing, building this practice. Then I did that, and it shifted to okay, now I want a family.

It kind of almost came naturally, and then I’d done all the other things, and I’m like, “Okay, well I guess I’ll move to that thing.” So it’s not that by focusing on one thing we stop the progression of other things, but we give each thing the attention they deserve. Does that make sense?

NP: Yes. And almost even knowing that this isn’t going to be your thing forever, like this is my thing for the next 5 years, or 3-5 years, or whatever, knowing that there’s an end in sight. Not that it’s miserable. You’re loving it, you’re doing it, it’s just that you know it won’t be your thing forever.

LP: Exactly. It’s exactly that. It doesn’t have to be your thing forever. I think that puts way too much pressure on our things. Just what right now, what is that one thing you want to go for, and what’s the quickest way to get there? And don’t distract yourself.

I always talk about this. So often we’ll fill voids in our life with other things, so if you’re wondering, “Should I go to grad school?” But it’s because you really haven’t been able to get the promotion you want at your current job, and you think you need to go to grad school to get that promotion, that might be true, or it might be like you want to put more energy and attention into your current job to get that promotion instead of putting all your energy and attention somewhere else.

NP: Okay, so back to your original question of how do I know if it’s the right time to have another baby, or how do I know if it’s the right time to go back to school? Are you recommending that people sit down and make a list and think really pragmatically, or are you recommending the exact opposite, like they go to a meditation room and they just think about what they want, and then walk out of the room and trust yourself?

LP: That.

NP: Okay!

LP: I love it. Yeah, because I mean, logically things might seem to make sense, but if they’re not in alignment with your—again, it ties into our last episode, if it’s not in alignment with what you really want, you’ll sabotage it. You’ll say you want to go to grad school, but you really wanted to have more friends, and that’s why you went to grad school. You might not do as well in your classes because you’re busy hanging out with friends.

NP: I love that. What if their one thing right now is just to make a lot of friends? That is so awesome.

LP: Right? That’s a great one thing. And if you own that one thing, and not try to distract yourself with something else, like if you want friends, make friends. You don’t need to go to grad school to make friends.

NP: Yeah, my 11-year-old son’s thing right now is destroying frozen water bottles. That’s what he loves. That’s all he wants to do.

LP:As a parent, that’s the best thing ever.

NP: I know. All my friends are talking about how their kids are advancing in piano, or advancing in ballroom, or soccer, and I’m like, “Yeah, my kid loves to see how high he can throw them up, and see if he can get them to break and leak all over the driveway.”

LP: That is the best thing.

NP: And how demolished he can make them.

LP: I love that! There’s a kid living his best life.

NP: So that’s what 2019 is going to look like for him.

LP: Right? And we don’t know where that could lead. Maybe he’ll be this awesome, I don’t even know what that would lead to, but firework person. Pyro- what is it?

NP: Pyrotechnician? Yeah, please think about this for me and let me know how I can direct him knowing that this is so exciting for him.

LP: Right? And it’s like, you know, it’s kind of, what do they say, water always flows downhill?

Like can we just find where the energy’s already flowing and jump onto that, instead of trying to force ourselves into a place that the energy is not flowing? If you can really encourage your son and be like, “You, we don’t know where this is going to go, but you’re loving it, and that’s cool, and you’re going to figure it out.”

NP: “And you’re the best at it.”

LP: Right? No other kid can do it that high, and get it to shatter that hard. If we can just encourage that in him instead of trying to say, “But you know what, you really should learn to play piano because So-and-So’s learning to play piano, and everyone needs to know how to play piano, and then So-and-So’s playing soccer, so you should really learn how to play soccer.”

That would be really crappy to say to an 11-year-old, but how many of us are saying that to ourselves?

NP: Aw, yeah.

LP: Right? “It’s good that you like that, but that’s not for real, so do something for real. Give up what you really love and do something for real because that’s how you’re going to really survive in this world.” That’s not true.

NP: Mm. I don’t know, sometimes in my life, I’ll be like, I’ll be really trying so hard to make the right decision, you know, whether that looks like I’m praying a lot, or I’m researching a lot, or I’m thinking a lot, and then it just comes down to, “What do you want? Probably what you want is the right thing, so just do what you want.”

LP: Yes. And again, that comes down to trusting ourselves, right, and listening to our intuition. It’s exactly what you said. “This is what I want, so what if I just do that?” Instead of making it so much more complicated.

That’s what I’m saying, and I love what you're saying, is when you sit in prayer, research, reflection, all of that, it’s what do we want when we sit with ourselves and really tune in? Journaling’s a great opportunity to do this, to journal out, “What do I want?” Because there’s so much clarity within that, and I think we get so much further when we’re actually tuned in. Not what most of our default would be, “What should I want?”

And it’s, many articles are talking about this, but this idea right now, just overworking, being productive all the time, that’s really being glamorized. That’s what I’m saying. I would hesitate to trust your first response, because it’s probably this programmed response of, “I must keep busy. I must keep going. I must keep doing.” You know, that’s the outside world.

When we tune into our soul level, and we tune into ourselves, it’s like that’s much more about our state of being than our state of doing. So if your answer goes into a doing place, then you’re going to be stuck in a doing mode, and we want you to go into that being place, of like when I’m just in my place of being, what resonates with that space?

For me just kind of talking about this with the conflict, right? Like this idea of having a second kid for me is a big question mark, because on one hand I know I want this bigger family, and that’s exciting to me. On the other hand, I really love my freedom, and having one kid for me has been really freeing. It’s awesome, I love him, and I still have a lot of time. I know that when I have a second kid, I won’t have that same amount of time. And that freaks me out. So my initial reaction would be like, “Nope, I’m just not going to have another kid. It just doesn’t line up with what I want, and it kind of prevents me from being really productive, so I’m not going to do it.” I remember, I was with my son, we were in San Diego over the break, and he, this is a long story to say that he doesn’t sleep as well in a pack-n-play as a crib. So to help him get to sleep, I was laying on the floor helping him calm down in a new place. I’m lying there, not doing anything, so I connected into a place of being without really wanting to, but I needed to because I’m there, I’m on the floor waiting for him to calm down, being there for him.

So I’m in this place of being, a little meditation, and I’m just lying there, and what came to me was, “Leanne, you need to make space for another kid. You need to make space in your life for this thing. It’s not about all these other things, about your free time and all this stuff.” It’s just about making space for this next step that’s for my bigger goal of having a bigger family.” That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not some practical answer. It’s not some pen-to-paper, running numbers answer. It’s just a knowing within me that the lesson for me in this is about making space, slowing down to make space for something else, and to get out of my mode of having to go, go, go, and having it look the way I want it to look.

So that was a really important reminder for me, and lesson for me, that I need to shift modes and create space for this bigger goal of mine. I need to not overlook the opportunity, because we can’t have kids forever. I’m in my 30s. I can’t have kids forever, and I have to think about, am I going to take this opportunity now or am I not? There’s no right answer. That’s what I’m saying. I could have easily been guided to like, “This is good. You’re good.” That would have been just as right of an answer.

It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about what is my goal, and then who do I need to become sometimes to fit my goal?

NP: Yeah, we do, we get caught up in the right and wrong. I think you’ve maybe even called that to my attention quite a bit on past conversations that we’ve had, because I fixate on right and wrong. I want to make the right choice, or do the right thing. I love that you kind of blow that open sometimes. You’re like, “No, there is no right or wrong.”

LP: Exactly. That’s the answer to all of this. When should I go to school, should I go to grad school, when should I get married? All of these things. When should I have a baby? There’s no right answer. There’s no wrong answer. So the key is to get in alignment. When you’re in alignment with yourself, what does that mean?

For me, again, the decision to have my son and to do that came out of a soul retreat in Big Sur, California, and I went there for a whole weekend, and it was really amazing, and that’s where the clarity came. This is my next step, and this is important for me, and this is the opportunity that I need to take right now. So it was through getting in alignment that the answers came to me. It wasn’t through logically trying to figure it out. Logically, it didn’t make a lot of sense. But when I just tuned in, I’m like, “This is what’s right for me.” It was the same thing with grad school, and the same thing with my first job.

So I invite you to think first about getting in alignment, before you try to make any decisions.

NP: Okay. And that might mean you have to become happy where you are before you can really make any decisions about what will make you happy in the long run, right? Don’t they say we need to make decisions out of a place of wholeness, so that we don’t think the next step will make us happy or whole?

LP: I think the only thing I’d tweak, and they do say that, the only thing I’d tweak is we need to be at peace with where we are.

And accept where we are. We don’t want to be running from where we are, but I think certain things are going to bring us more happiness. Like happiness studies show that good relationships bring us more happiness, whether that’s better friendships, better colleagues, better partners. That’s going to make us more happy. But can we be at peace with where we are so we’re not just trying to frantically run to the next thing so that we’re, because we can’t come into alignment if we’re not coming into peace with this space. So I have to be alignment in this moment before I can be in alignment with moving forward.

NP: It is so awesome about how you were talking about how right now, we are confronted with so many opportunities. I loved when you were talking about how he was listing all of the opportunities, it made you have anxiety just feeling like, “Oh my gosh, I’m missing out on all these things I should be doing.” That made me think of, like you mentioned, lifestyle choices and about how people will sell their house and then drive around the country for a whole year, and just explore, or go live in Europe for a year or something, and how that might seem so appealing, that might actually seem appealing to everyone, but it’s really not right for most people. So you know, let yourself fantasize about it just for a little bit, and think, you know, about how that really would be fun in a lot of ways, and then come back into alignment for what you are, who you are, and if that adventure is really right for you or not.

LP: Exactly. And asking yourself, too, like, “Ooh, that’s really cool,” but what part of that is the most appealing?

And the part that might be the most appealing is seeing new things. It’s like, again, coming to peace with where you are. “Well, I’m here in Houston, Texas. What new things could I explore here?”

NP: Yes. Like, what adventure, what day trip adventures could I go on here? I get it, it’s not Europe, it’s not the laptop lifestyle, but it’s a piece of that. Can we distill down, “What am I really wanting?” It’s like when nutritionists talk about when we’re craving something. Sometimes it means that we’re missing an important nutrient in our diet.

LP: Right? If you’re really craving red meat, you’re probably low on iron. We can do that cool thing with ourselves that we give ourselves what we need. And that’s what I think, if we can look at our desires as cravings, and we can ask ourselves, “What is it from this that I’m needing?” we can get a lot clearer. Because if you go all the way to Europe and you like the exploration part but you don’t like the constant traveling part, then it might not be as fun as you thought. Because, “Ooh, maybe I don’t like all of this.” There are so many things in life we like the idea of more than the reality of.

NP: So true. So you could end up recreating that experience just in your own life now, on your own scale.

LP: Exactly. I’m often looking at that when I feel envious of someone else, or desiring something. It might mean yeah, I need to do that. But often it means, “Oh, I just need a piece of this. What is that piece that I’m needing?”

NP: For example, I don’t need to go buy a whole new outfit. I just want to feel pretty. So just go do your hair, and get dressed, and that will fulfill the thing that you really want right now.

LP: Exactly. I want to feel pulled-together. Okay, find your thing that’ll make you feel pulled together. Awesome. And if we can get that, then we stop this exhausting search that we’re all in of seeking for the thing that will make us happy. Seeking the thing that will fulfill us. Because often it’s just a mirage.

I read this article, and this guy developed an app and made millions of dollars, and he from there quit his job, and bought a fancy car, and a year later, he went back to work as a normal software developer.

NP: That’s totally what I would do.

LP: Right? He was like, “I’m bored.” I always think of that, like I really love what I do, and if I won a bunch of money and quit, I’d feel so unfulfilled. This is my purpose.

NP: Oh yeah. I would find myself being an elementary school janitor or something within no time.

LP: Right? So when we realize that, this kind of illusion of when this happens, it’s like listen, we gotta find it now, we’ve got to find ways to bring ourselves what we need now, instead of always chasing these mirages that will only disappoint us.

NP: This is so neat, because this conversation started about being about timing, and picking our one thing, and knowing how to make pretty hard decisions, and now I’m not feeling so overwhelmed. I feel empowered that I’m going to be able to lead the life that I’m supposed to lead if I just trust myself. I’m feeling, I don’t know, I think this is a good conversation.

LP: Yay! Awesome. I’m so glad to hear that. It is just this great reminder that again, you can’t mess this up. Even if you pick the quote-unquote “wrong thing” something will happen and it will twist it in your favor, or you’re going to learn something or figure it out. So instead of getting so caught up on what the right thing is, first figure out what your main priority is.

Second, figure out what the straightest line to that is instead of distracting yourself with other things. Like me, don’t create one business to market another. Just market the business you really want. Don’t create different pathways in your life to get the thing you really want. Just go for the thing you really want. Figure out how to put your attention and energy into that!