Hey, do you ever get stuck? Or wonder how you ended up in a project or situation that is taking up way too much of your energy and is somehow causing you anxiety? Or maybe you’re just not sure what the next steps are or which direction to take?
This used to happen to me all the time. I love pleasing people, and nothing makes me happier than being able to say yes and help people out. As I’m sure you know, the problem with that comes when we start saying yes to everything because we want to make other people happy, or we don’t want the awkward confrontation of saying no. Eventually it can get hard to discern what is true and real for you and what is the noise of everyone else.
Toward Right Action
For years now I’ve been employing a simple framework to guide me toward ‘right action’- the stuff that lights me up, moves me forward, and creates more awesome in the world, and I’m so excited to share it with you today.
This framework can help you in pretty much every aspect of your life- from deciding what commitments you make to people, projects, and events, to how to get unstuck or re-inspired. It’s a great reminder when you find yourself on Facebook for the 16th time in an hour, or if you’ve recently completed a project and are looking for your next move.
All it asks is you take a few moments to check in. The Framework for Aligned Action consists of three questions I ask myself before any business partnership, travel opportunity, major to-do list task, during potentially difficult communications with other people, or really anything when I am feeling stuck or uncertain. This will help you know exactly when to say yes, when to say no, when to take a break, and what to do next.
The Three Question Framework for Aligned Action
Each of these questions is based around a core value or feeling I desire. Energy, Expansion, and Service.
QUESTION #1: IS THIS ENERGIZING?
For every task you are completing, every project you are being invited into, every thought you have or experience you choose, you can ask yourself: Will the work I am putting in and the time and efforts result in energy for me?
Sometimes this is an instant energizer (going for a run when I’m in a slump usually energizes me). Other times, it’s knowing what will fill you up long term (a project might be a lot of time and effort, but if it’s work you enjoy- go for it!) or what will result in giving you energy (obvious- coffee. Not so obvious- answering your backed up emails and returning phone calls so they aren’t weighing you down mentally anymore).
This can also work if you are feeling tired or unmotivated- ask yourself, “What would be energizing right now?” and go do that.
QUESTION #2: DOES THIS EXPAND ME?
This question is like pulling out the heavy artillery. It’s the one I ask when I am resisting something. Resistance occurs for a million reasons- and sometimes because what we are trying to do isn’t in alignment with ourselves- and often it is because the task or situation at hand would result in our growth, in the unknown, in a new way of being.
Sometimes we avoid things because we know they will result in changes, or because they are hard, or we don’t know what the outcome will be. Publishing a controversial opinion. Speaking up about being treated unjustly. Just doing your damn taxes.
I love this question, because there are many things that initially might not be fun or feel good- in fact, they may drain you, so you kick it out of the energizing criteria. But even if, for example, calling up someone to apologize feels draining and scary, will it expand you into a better person?
One year I was teaching monthly yoga and leadership classes to high school seniors. I loooooved it, and was so grateful to provide space for them to de-stress, be silly, and relax, and the feedback I received for how much it helped them was mind-blowing. And yet, every single time that day came around, I found myself anxious and freaked out, looking for every excuse not to go. I always ended up going, and always ended up being so happy I did.
A lot of the time, the most rewarding work is the work we resist. That’s why this question is so powerful. With anything, you can ask, ‘Will it ultimately grow and bring more joy to my work, my relationships, my life?’ If so, do that.
When you aren’t sure what next steps to take, ask yourself what will guide you to get uncomfortable and grow. Chances are, this will probably energize you too (if only from the adrenaline rush!)
QUESTION #3: AM I BEING OF SERVICE?
Service comes in many forms. Service to yourself and your life. Service to loved ones. Service to immediate community. Service to the greater collective. In any situation, ask yourself, “How can I be of service here?”
If you are being asked to take on work, “Will this project serve my mission and desires in life?”
In interactions with other humans, “Am I in service of them and their needs, as well as me and my needs?”
With yourself- “Have I allowed myself adequate self care and self love?” We can’t be of service if we haven’t served our own basic needs first.
In buying something, “Will this product help me serve more of the world on a greater level? What / who are my dollars supporting right now?”
If you are feeling stuck, or depressed, or unmotivated, how can you go serve the world? (Hint: It might be to take a nap. Or it might not.)
Where can you give?
Putting the Questions into Practice
Ideally, the work you do answers YES to all of these questions. When I teach yoga classes, I get tons of energy. It also expands me and asks me to grow by not making it about me, but about the students, and really giving them what they need. Teaching allows me to serve others and share what I’ve learned and to create a collective space and community for those attending class.
Sometimes it may only answer one question, and that’s okay too. Make sure to go through each question when making a decision- something that may not initially feel expansive may be energizing, and turn out to expand you as well. Or something that may not feel like service (stepping away from your work to take care of your needs and recharge), may ultimately end up being the deepest level of service.
In that same vein, if it initially feels like something will be in service to someone (agreeing to help them out or take on a project) but it won’t expand or energize you, it may not actually be of service in the long run. If you will be resentful, or not be able to give your full attention, or feel stuck within it, use these questions as a guideline to really see if something is for you.
I find too that when I aim to do something that answers yes to one question, the other two at some point tend to fall into place. As a reminder, I keep these on a sticky note on my computer desktop so it’s the first thing I see when I log in or close a window. It’s written in my notebook, and programmed as the background on my phone.
With this framework, it’s impossible to remain stuck for long. You’ll find more and more that the projects you agree to, the way you communicate, and the actions you take throughout your day will naturally become aligned with who you really are and what makes you feel alive.