Ep161: A Better Question Than What’s Next – full episode transcription
Welcome to episode 161 of The Introvert Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m Beth Buelow, and I’m super happy to be with you for the next few minutes! It’s been a while, right? If you’re a regular listener, you might have wondered where I disappeared to. It’s been an upside-down fall, full of change and the unexpected. The big news is that about one month from now, a moving van will pull up behind our apartment building, load up our stuff, and move us from Tacoma Washington to Muskegon Michigan.
Remember the blogcast from earlier in the year about living on the liminal edges of life? Well, that’s my 24/7 reality right now! It’s really testing my comfort with being in that in-between space, of not going crazy from uncertainty, too many choices to make and sometimes not enough choices that make me happy.
I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that another theme, in addition to living in liminal space, has emerged recently: the tension between what’s now and what’s next. Let me explain in this blogcast episode, titled A Better Question Than What’s Next. Keep listening all the way to the end of the podcast – I’ll share a special deal coming up for my book, The Introvert Entrepreneur, as well as some upcoming guests that I’m excited to welcome to the podcast over the next month or so.
A Better Question Than “What’s Next?”
During a coaching session, a client is describing to me a recent launch party she had for her book. She shares that everyone is excited about the book and congratulating her on her success. In the middle of one conversation, a friend asks her, “So, what’s next?”
My client’s mind starts tripping through her to-do list full of social media promotion, blog posts, trainings to plan, website updates and webinars. What was excitement about the book launch and a sense of accomplishment became anxiety about the growing list of things she had to do, and even thinking and second-guessing herself about what she should have done before the launch even happened!
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the question “What’s next?” It’s something that should be asked eventually. But when we ask it too soon, we deny ourselves something very important. In the case of my client, she hadn’t given herself enough space to settle into her new identity of author.
When I point that out in our session, she says, “oh my gosh, I’m an author!” Mind you, this was a week or so after the launch, and two weeks or so after the book was published. The reality of it – and the joy of it – hadn’t sunk in yet, because everything was focused on “What’s next?”
Why do we refrain from celebrating? Is it an introvert thing? Not everything that is curious about us is related to introversion, but I do wonder if there’s a connection at times. Perhaps you’re an introvert who wishes life had a fast-forward button, who grows uncomfortable in the spotlight of accomplishment. If that describes you, no wonder you want to move on as quickly as possible! And it’s not only accomplishment and being the center of attention that can cause us to beat feet faster than a speeding bullet. It’s the discomfort with the long goodbye.
I believe I’ve shard on this podcast before about my own discomfort with staying in the moment when whatever’s next is peeking out at me from around the corner. Whether I was finished with school or leaving a job, my instinct was to say, “I’m done, thanks for the memories, I’m outta here.” No long, lingering goodbyes for me! As soon as I knew whatever was next, I’d check out of wherever I was. I might have been physically present, but my mind and heart had already moved on.
In fact, I’m experiencing this right now. As I mentioned in the intro, I’m preparing to move across the country. My husband and I have known this was happening since early October, and we were only able to tell people in early November. We pull out of town around December 29. To say I’ve been struggling with the liminal space of the experience – with one foot in Washington state and the other in Michigan – is an understatement! I even found myself thinking, I wish we could say our goodbyes around mid-December and then let everyone think we’re gone, so they could get on with their lives and we could get our heads into what’s next.
Some of that was the introvert in me talking. There’s a lot of energy expended around the holidays anyway, but add to it the fact that I’m leaving 10 years of in-person relationships and won’t see many people I love for quite some time, and it’s enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and not come out.
But then I was sitting in the back row of church on Sunday, looking at the backs of these people I’ve grown extremely fond of over the past few years I’ve been a member. I looked at the bulletin and saw a list of 5 or 6 gatherings I could attend over the next few weeks. I experienced an overwhelming urge to embrace and be with as many of them as much as possible, alongside an almost equally strong urge to snap my fingers, disappear, and move on without looking in the rear-view mirror.
The former urge is more focused what’s now, the latter, what’s next.
And I believe the healthy response lies somewhere in between.
I want to learn from my past mistakes of moving on too quickly, not fully appreciating in the moment how important people were to me, and me to them. I’m not going to go to every gathering, but I’ll do my best to visit with as many people as possible before going. I’m going to try to focus on what’s now as much as possible. It’s the only thing I have, after all. It’s the only thing any of us have. Taking care of the future is necessary and inevitable – I have little choice about the need for housing and other basic logistical needs. But getting too focused on those will cause me to miss being fully present with people while I still can. I need to trust that I’ll figure out the future details even as I try to be rooted in the present.
Whether we’re talking about celebrating an accomplishment, grieving a loss, or in a transition from one state of being to a new one, we have an opportunity. To not get ahead of ourselves, to not be pre-occupied by the what if’s and to-dos and I should be’s. Think about that – to be pre-occupied means to be occupied in advance. And the word has an undercurrent nuance that implies that the advanced occupation, instead of planning or being in implementation mode, is a distraction.
Let’s disrupt our tendency to be pre-occupied. Let’s take time to acknowledge whatever it is that’s shifted and introduced a new layer of identity, emotion, or awareness into our lives. To say “I’m an author,” “I’m a graduate,” “I’m a parent,” “Today, I live here and love these people who are right here in front of me.”
If we can trust that what’s next will be addressed in due time, what does it mean to live in the What’s now?
It means that if you take care of the present moment, and the next moment will reveal itself. In my mind, to take care means to do the best you can with the information you have. I remember hearing Hillary Clinton give an interview shortly after her husband’s term was completed. She was asked what she was going to do next. I loved her answer: she basically said, and I’m paraphrasing heavily based on my memory: I don’t know. I’m still processing where I’m at now. I want to see what evolves. I’ve learned that none of us can predict the future, and if I do what I know to be best moment by moment, then what’s next will become more obvious as time goes on.
Hearing her say that, I felt validated. Surrounded by people who always were looking ahead and setting very specific goals, I felt my lack of drive for doing that must have meant I was at best being Zen about the whole thing, at worst, a freak. Her perspective helped me to realize there was nothing wrong with my attitude of doing my best in the moment, trusting the future would build on that best effort. And I’ve basically operated that way ever since!
Living in the What Now also means you’re taking time to OWN whatever is happening. It often says something about your identity – how you see yourself, how others see you. That’s not something to rush through. It’s like you’ve had a new side or dimension added to the prism of your life. You want to give that time to find its place in the light and reflect something back to you. In the spirit of becoming whole and becoming our fullest selves, we need to make space to integrate that new slice of identity into our lives.
We also need to give ourselves space to celebrate and feel into the moment. Gather enough energy from the win that whatever comes next feels like an expansion and an evolution of that win. That’s why I’ve always liked the shape of a spiral. It incorporates everything from the beginning and builds layers. Those layers will be celebrations, losses and everything in between. And it grows, it expands. The more space you leave between the layers, and the more you allow them to breathe, the bigger your spiral – and your life – will be.
A client shared with me this week that she’d recently heard a Swedish phrase—lagom, which translates to enough, sufficient, adequate, just right. As Wikipedia puts it, it implies a state of appropriateness, rather than scarcity. It’s not about having barely enough to get by, but enough to feel gratitude. You could extend the concept to mean being content with what you have. To me, that’s directly related to being able to be present in the moment. When we say “What’s next?” there’s a bit of grasping, a touch of “more, please” or “I want something different.” I want to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with either of those two thoughts! We just have to remember that there are two sides to the coin, a healthy and an unhealthy way to be with the question. Sometimes “What’s next?” is impatience or scarcity disguised as ambition. We think if we’re not asking the question, we’re not demonstrating motivation or drive. If we’re moving on because of fear – and that fear can be of intimacy, success, admiration from others – then we’re missing an opportunity to fully welcome a new piece of our identity.
Remember: life isn’t a series of boxes that you check off – it’s an evolution of experiences that build on one another.
One of the best ways to enjoy the ride is to remember to regularly ask yourself, What’s now? What do I want to acknowledge in this moment? What is happening now that will serve me moving forward? Commit to staying grounded in and appreciating the present moment, trusting that what’s next will grow out of that in unexpected, wonderful ways.
I’ll do my best to keep the episodes coming even in the midst of the transition from Pacific Northwest to Midwest. I have some great guests lined up, including talking with Jeffrey Shaw of the Creative Warriors Podcast about his new book, LINGO. Communication Coach Grace Judson will share thoughts on empathy and connection. And Marion McGovern will give us advice on how introverts can thrive in the new gig economy.
Other things you should know about: the final Virtual Networking for Introverts for 2017 will be Thursday, Dec 14 at 4pm PT/7pm ET. We’ll hear from sales expert Steve McCullough, who will provide tips for an introvert-friendly sales process to make your 2018 strategies better than ever. Registration will be open December 2; visit www.TheIntrovertEntrepreneur.com for more details and to register.
In the new year, I’ll have a new monthly virtual offering, title to be determined. It’ll be a series of masterclasses, each featuring a guest speaker and large/small group time to explore how you can immediately use the information shared in practical ways. More information about that will be available very soon, so please stay tuned!
And finally, I’m excited to share that the electronic version of my book, “The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success on Your Own Terms,” will be on sale for $1.99 starting December 10 – just in time for holiday giving! The best way to make sure you don’t miss it is to sign up for BookBub.com, which sends daily emails about bestsellers on sale. Or, just mark your calendar for December 10 and go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, or wherever you buy your eBooks. I’ll also be sending a notice out to subscribers of my every-so-often newsletter, so you can sign up for that if you want a reminder. (And here’s how to gift an eBook on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201964280 … search your platform-of-choice for directions on how to give the book as a gift!)
OK – I think that’s all for this episode. I have to keep purging and packing while focusing on What’s now. In this moment, I’m extremely grateful to you for having spent this time with me, and for Paul Messing, my fearless podcast producer.
This is Beth Buelow of The Introvert Entrepreneur. Thanks for joining me, and until we meet again, remember that success is an inside job.