If not now, when? 7 Questions to Help Navigate the Unknown
Twenty years ago, I began to stir from a thirty-year sleep. Other than the forty pounds I’d packed on, there was nothing to indicate life was anything other than picture-perfect. But I was miserable and felt like I was living inside an empty shell of myself. Something other than my seams had to give.
After several years of looking for a solution through marriage and career counselling, Stephanie Marston’s book If Not Now When? Reclaiming Yourself at Midlife caught my attention.
It gave me the nudge I needed to do what had to be done. I was not going to live the rest of my life as it was and rust away. My only options were to end my marriage and career. I had to take those first two big steps into the unknown. Then I’d be free to move in whatever direction I chose.
I don’t recognize the person or my life from those days, although I’ve got pictures to prove I was there. I leaped into the unknown and never looked back. Life is still life, however, and presents challenges that push me up against my comfort zone.
Like now, when I’m making plans to ride my motorcycle to Alberta this summer in response to the call of the land I heard clearly last September. It’s hard to explain, yet I must go. That little voice propelled by fear uses its outdoor voice to yell familiar rhetoric. Seriously? Are you nuts? What have you started? You’ll look like a fool. Where will you go? It’s a big province. How will you do it? Where do you start? You’ll likely have to ride on gravel! And the list of predictable questions goes on.
A few key questions help reduce the noise so I can hear the stronger calling and make space for for new possibilities.
If Not Now, When? 7 Questions to Help Navigate the Unknown
- If not now, when? I’ll be 66 in May. I’m healthy, fit, and have someone I love and trust to look after Measha (my cat). Trudy (my Triumph Tiger motorcycle) is all tuned up and ready to go. I can’t go yesterday. I don’t want to reach a day I can no longer do these things and say I wish I would have. Let’s face it. The older we get, the more likely we’ll meet a life-altering experience.
- Does what’s being asked have heart and meaning for you? What else would you be doing with your time and energy? Does it have heart and meaning for you?
- Where does your energy want to go? What is your intuition telling you? Honor it.
- What are your inherent gifts? In particular, what are your inherent unexpressed gifts? This is different than your strengths. I believe we bring a unique set of gifts into the world and they’re meant for sharing. It can take time to peel back the layers of stories we’ve accepted to find those nuggets. I’ve been going through childhood photos, looking at that little red-headed girl so full of potential (and energy) and trying to imagine what she carried. I wonder what has yet to surface.
- What’s the worst that could happen? Without catastrophizing, think about the possibilities. My years in Health and Safety taught me to calculate risks by identifying the hazards, mitigating what I can, then evaluating the probability of something happening and the potential severity if it does. Is that risk acceptable?
- How does it feel if you say yes to whatever’s calling you? How about if you say no? Scan your body and you’ll feel different responses to those questions. Your body doesn’t lie.
- When you look back at your life, what’s most important? One of the powerful exercises in my shamanic Energy Medicine training was a life recapitulation. We role played, imagining we were at the end of our life. What had been left unsaid? Undone? Unresolved? What were we most grateful for? What accomplishments had meaning? Where did we focus our energy and was that meaningful?
When you look back at your life, what’s most important? One of the powerful exercises in my shamanic Energy Medicine training was a life recapitulation. We role played, imagining we were at the end of our life. What had been left unsaid? Undone? Unresolved? What were we most grateful for? What accomplishments had meaning? Where did we focus our energy and was that meaningful?
Use these questions as a guide when navigating change or the unknown. No two people will have the same answers, and your answers will change depending on what’s going on in your life at the time.
What questions do you ask yourself when making decisions? Leave a reply below.