I love watching my kids observe the world.
Parents, I know you’ll relate: Isn’t it amazing to notice what they notice? One morning, I could see the eyes of my four month old focusing on the ceiling. They looked alert, interested. I looked up and saw the shadow of our tree outside, moving with the wind. She was fascinated.
It may seem strange, but these moments often stick out to me when I talk with clients who are asking themselves that scary, three-word question: Is this it?
That feeling can alarm us because there’s something so vague about it, right? We’re asking ourselves a question, and we usually have no idea why we’re asking it, let alone how to make the necessary changes to make it go away.
I believe the is-this-it mentality comes from two central places: boredom and restriction. We’re doing the same thing day in and day out, and it loses its luster. Or we feel stuck—unable to do what our hearts are calling us to do.
Here’s where my kids come in. When we’re young, we’re limitless and free. We’re growing and learning, looking at the world around us and noticing things for the very first time. Everything is exciting and fresh.
Somewhere along the line, we lose that spirit. We often begin conforming to our surroundings and forgetting what makes us tick. When we’re asking, “Is this it?” I think somewhere inside, our younger selves are pushing us to find meaning in and feel passionate about our environment.
In his Harvard Business Review article “Two Ways to Clarify Your Professional Passions,” Robert Steven Kaplan discusses how to fight through feelings of emptiness and uncertainty.
“The answer is your passion: it is the essential rocket fuel that helps you overcome difficulties and work through dark times. Passion emanates from a belief in a cause or the enjoyment you feel from performing certain tasks. It helps you hang in there so that you can improve your skills, overcome adversity, and find meaning in your work and in your life.”
To pinpoint your passion, Kaplan suggests an exercise he calls “Your Best Self.” Think back to a time when you were at your best. Write down anything you can remember about that time—responsibilities you had, goals, colleagues, etc. Then think about what made it such a memorable time for you.
What can you take from that experience? How can you replicate it today?
With my clients, I have found the Perfect Day exercise very effective. I invite them to consider how they really want to feel and then write down what it would take in one day to feel that way. I encourage them to be romantic, to have no limits. What is the environment? When do you wake up? Who are you interacting with? What are you doing?
Then, we explore that day. Which themes exist currently? What’s realistic? How can we get there—and sustain that?
Finally, Don’t shame yourself for asking, “Is this it?” Sit with that feeling so you can learn from it, make changes to eliminate it—and return to your happier, more childlike self.
If you’re asking yourself, “Is this it?” a coach could help you determine why. I’m an executive coach who works with clients nationwide. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.