A client will sometimes ask me the question, “What should I do?” This can take many forms like “What should I do to be happy?” or “What actions should I take to be a better spouse?” or “What should I do in this situation at work?”
We have grown accustomed to doing and jumping into action to change something or fix something. This problem-solving mentality has become second nature to us. And then there are moments when all we want is to be told what to do. As if all we need is for someone to lay it out for us and give us a specific task or action to get done. There can be a lot of comfort and certainty in knowing what to do and be prescribed a certain solution from a trained professional. In writing this, I am not here to tell you how to do anything, more so I want to help you learn and gain a greater understanding of yourself. That is my intention in writing this.
With all this being said, when I am asked the question “What should I do?” It’s important to hit the pause button. Rather than answer this question and come up with a solution for the client, I like to step back with the client and help them embark on a new process of discovery. As a counselor and coach, it is not my role to give advice, provide them with an answer, or tell them what they should do. More so, it’s about a process where I can come alongside them in their discovery and help them find the answer themselves and even more powerfully, help them find the answer within. And oftentimes on this journey, it is not an answer they are seeking after all, rather it is a new question that they begin to ask. And this new question begins to crystalize and slowly open a door that they did not even know existed in the first place.
What sort of question has the power to open one’s eyes to a new understanding? What kind of inquiry could help solve problems, alleviate suffering, and heal old wounds? Let’s unpackage a new way of approaching these difficult parts of our life and experience that we so often want to avoid or run from.
We think of change often in terms of doing something different. However, rather than change what you’re doing, let’s look at how you’re approaching that given situation, problem, relationship, etc. Specifically, what we’re now focused on is your underlying intention and purpose in doing what you’re doing. We are not concerned with what is being done, but rather how it is approached and who we are being while doing it. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, so let’s look at an example to help bring it to life.
Imagine that you are looking for a new job. This process of getting might seem straightforward. You update your resume, create some well-crafted cover letters, submit some applications, talk with various recruiters/headhunters and possibly network with people in your given field to gain a better understanding of potential roles, what is out there and what is a good fit for you. These are the tangible steps of “what to do.” While taking these steps is important, it does not always guarantee fulfillment, happiness, or satisfaction. You could go through all these steps and find a great job, possibly your dream job. However, you can still feel empty, unsatisfied, and frustrated. Why is this?
There is no attention paid to the meaning behind all these steps. There is no awareness and understanding of one’s underlying intention and purpose throughout this process. Let us now ask a few new questions that help us to identify the root of our experience—our intention, purpose, and the way we’re showing up.
Where am I coming from?
What are my true intentions here?
What is my underlying purpose?
What am I doing this for?
There are countless different places a person could come from. Numerous different intentions and purposes could be driving this process of seeking a new job. Let’s take a look at some of these different contexts, the places a person can “come from” and try them on, much like we’re in a fitting room at our favorite clothing store.
One could be coming from a place of fear and be overly concerned that if they don’t have a job, they will not be able to pay their bills, may lose their home and possessions, and wind up homeless. This may seem like a logical line of thinking. Other fears may be "What if they don't like me? What if I get rejected?" How does it feel to come from a place of fear, anxiety, concern, and worry?
Coming from a place of guilt or obligation may feel something like "I must get a job to support my family or else I am a horrible parent and provider." Once again, this could most certainly drive someone to get a job, but I imagine the process would not be very enjoyable. It would likely feel like quite a burden to carry and a lot of fear of possibly letting other people down.
Shame is a context that holds the belief, “I am undeserving and unfit for a job. Who is going to hire me? I am worthless and pathetic.” Ultimately, this leads to hopelessness and apathy and likely does not provide a satisfying experience.
One could come from a place of pride. From this place, finding a new job is all about getting the best job that affords the highest status and is the best for one's reputation. Finding a new job may be about being better or above other people. It may also be about making the most money. This intention may feel competitive and cutthroat. This could also feel enticing and be quite a motivator for some.
One could from a place of fun, playfulness, and humor. They intend to have maximum enjoyment and pleasure. This purpose creates a completely different set of emotions.
Another place to come from is a place of joy and passion. It would likely be driven by a desire to enjoy one’s experience and lose themselves in their experience and the process.
Coming from a place of love is about contribution, service, and goodwill. Their intention would be to make a difference, help others and improve the quality of life for those around them. This context provides a different set of feelings and emotions. One may feel inspired and a deep sense of gratification.
These 7 emotions and experiences are just a few examples of many different possible intentions and purposes that a person may be coming from. The possibilities are endless. Hopefully, by looking over these examples, it sparks the insight that how we show up to a given situation is perhaps more impactful than what we do in a given situation. It, oftentimes, is not the words that are spoken that are most impactful, but the feelings underneath them. I think Maya Angelou said it so poignantly when she stated these special words:
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
By shifting our focus from what to do, to how we show up and what our underlying intention/purpose is in doing it, we take back the power we often forget we have had all along. Sometimes it is best to step back and let go of focusing on where you are going and merely reflect on where you are coming from. We have more to affect the quality of our life and experience than we often realize and it is in moments of reflection and awareness that can open this door for us. Dr. David Hawkins conveys this quite clearly when he said:
“We are not at the effect of the world, we are at the effect of our own experience of the world.”
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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