A bit over two years ago I changed the course of my career abruptly and completely in one weekend. If someone had told me a week earlier what was about to happen, I would have told them I was too busy for stuff like that. I usually take a very (overly?) analytical approach to decisions, and this started out analytically but ended very differently - with a hostile takeover by intuition.
For many different reasons I was in a place in my life where I wasn't sure where I wanted to go next. I felt lost. Looking back, it's easy to see the steps that eventually led me to change direction, but I can still not say I completely understand it. Can you? Decide for yourself - here are the 9 analytical steps and the 1 intuitive one I took that weekend:
1. Book in "me-time"
We all react differently when we feel overwhelmed. My preference is to be alone and properly think - really embrace my introspective and contemplative side. My parents were away for the weekend and I was dog sitting in a big house with a beautiful view and a full fridge - bliss.
2. Make yourself comfortable
"Outer order, inner peace" is my mantra. It's difficult to let your thoughts flow freely if you're cold, hungry, tired, or wearing bad socks. So I made myself comfortable - I had a good night's sleep, a solid Saturday brunch and put on my comfiest (ugliest) pyjama pants and woollen socks.
3. Write down your feelings
The first thing I did (which I've later learned is a method used in similar interventions) was to just start writing. No specific topic, only one rule: it had to be honest. Even if the text made little sense, at least I began to open up the floodgates (warning: for some this free-flowing writing may be even a bit too powerful!).
4. Create a list (or several)
My free flowing thoughts showed me that I was really struggling to find meaning and "my place in the world" at the time. I decided to dig deeper by creating two lists (confession: I'm a list-addict, so I may have had more than two, but these are ones that mattered): "What are my strengths?" and "What do I feel passionate about?".
5. Take the long perspective
My dad has this three-stage career philosophy, each stage 10-15 years long: "Learn, Earn and Return" - first you make mistakes and learn, then you earn enough to secure your family and retirement, and finally you give back. I love it - it's really encouraged me to take the long perspective. So I asked myself - "what do I want to 'return' at the end of my career?" (in my case this generated a few more lists).
6. Search for outside inspiration
By now I knew a lot more about myself and where I was. Next: the world. What were the big trends? What industries were growing? What type of jobs were posted? A few simple Google queries helped me discover three topics that could fit my strengths, passions, and long-term perspectives: digital health, alternative energy, and machine learning.
7. Take a micro-break
By this point I had exhausted my mental capacity. I wish I could say I meditated, watched the sundown or read some French poetry to clear my head, but I won't lie - I watched funny YouTube clips (among them a really good one with a Swedish comedian and a banana). So do whatever gives your mind a break!
8. Distract yourself
I could have done many things at this point, but I decided to distract myself further and go for a run. While I'm running I often subconsciously process thoughts and many times I come back with some of my best ideas (even if I don't, it's always good exercise -win-win). So out I went.
9. Reach out
To be honest, this step could have come earlier and for many the preference probably is to reach out to others early. While I was out for my run I stopped to call a few people to talk, bounce off some ideas, and simply hear myself explain the situation out loud to make better sense of it.
10. Intuition takeover
This is where the weird, out-of-character stuff happened.
(disclaimer: Most people probably need more time to reflect, discuss and weigh the options before making a decision, so I don't necessarily recommend the 'intuition take over' in all situations.)
But an intuitive decision was made. During one of those calls I asked a spur-of-the-moment question: "What if I joined your team?".
It may have been pure intuition, or then the preceding 9 analytical steps prepared me for it. Whatever it was, that's the road I'm still on today, two and a half years and many adventures later.