Because if you don’t know — and tell people soon — it may be too late. So make your list and check it twice. And it’s not just Christmas we’re talking about here. Seriously — what do you want?
What do you want?
As I was walking through a Portland neighborhood this morning, I overheard two young girls, each about nine years old. The first girl was emerging from the front door of the house. And she said, excitedly, “Ava already has her Christmas list done.” And the second girl sat up and said to the first girl, “But it’s summer.”
Do you want people to listen?
Because if you want people to listen, tell them a story. And no — your story doesn’t need to start with “Once upon a time.” In fact, the best stories start in the middle of something. Because a ball is already in play. And all you need to get that ball rolling is a want. Because whether you know it or not, at the back of your brain right now is a question. And that question is: “What does Ava want for Christmas?” Because Ava knows what she wants, and we want to know what that is — and what on earth compelled her to make her Christmas list in July.
And the same is true of your story.
Or maybe you’re thinking. “What do I want for Christmas? Better get that list going.” Because you are the protagonist of your story. So we need to know what you want. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of blah blah blah. And this is true not only for your external audience. It’s also true for your internal audience. In other words, the Scribbler inside of your brain, who is working desperately to make sense out of all the otherwise random events of your life. Because unless you know what you want, your Scribbler gets confused, and then you get bored with your own story. In fact, this may be the problem right now — that you’re not clear about what you want. So you don’t know where your own story is going. And so, you’ve become a strange cocktail of confused, overwhelmed, and bored — and it’s giving you a headache.
So please do this.
Please get out a piece of paper and write down what you want. And don’t roll your eyes at me, Mr. I see you. Because you know that what I’m saying is true. You don’t really know what you want. And so you feel anxious and out of sorts. And you’re not sure what to do about it. And maybe you didn’t sleep all that well last night. And maybe you’re wondering: should I be taking melatonin? Maybe. But it might well be that what would help even more is to take out that piece of paper and write down what you want — and start getting after it.
You want more confidence, but you don’t know where to get it. Here’s where you get it.
First — What is confidence, anyway?
Confidence comes from training and repetition. Plain and simple. For example — I am typing this blog without looking at my fingers. Some call it “touch typing.” Very convenient. But the reason that I am able to type like this is because I took the time to train my fingers to move in concert with my thinking brain, without looking at my fingers. The initial training took some time and effort. And then I typed over and over and over. In other words, training and repetition.
Which isn’t what you might have thought.
Instead, you might think it’s some kind of innate belief in yourself that comes from some mysterious place. Does it come from my father? Does it come from my genetics? Why are some men more seemingly confident than others? And the problem is, when you think about it like this, it remains unreachable — in a mystical realm. And you might lose hope if you haven’t got the magical key to the mystery. Because where would you start to find your confidence with this frame of mind?
But confidence is not mysterious.
So by now, I’m hoping you understand that confidence is not mysterious. Nor is it in the domain of a few lucky ducks. Instead, confidence comes through training and repetition. So if you’re still with me, let’s go on to the next step of how to get the confidence you came for.
Want more confidence? Do it again.
Because you’re not quite out of the woods yet, are you? But you’re getting closer. And here’s where you get the confidence you came for. You choose. That’s right, you choose. But what on earth does that mean? It means that because you only have so much time and energy, you’ve got to choose what you want to be confident at. Because confidence is not some magic blanket you wrap around your whole lived experience. Instead, confidence is something you have in a few select areas of your life, and it comes through — you know the answer, don’t you? Training and repetition. So you need to choose what you want to be confident at. And then get out there and start doing it.
Just for fun
You might enjoy watching this short clip from the movie “About Time,” which highlights the idea that confidence comes from repetition.
You do realize that regret is a choice, don’t you? So why do you keep choosing regret?
The statistics are in: 9 out of 10 men regret major portions of their lives. And what is the major reason for this regret? You might be surprised. Because it’s not what they did that gave them the most regret. Instead, the majority of men had deep regrets about their life for what they didn’t do.
Want to stop choosing regret?
Great. And if you’re still reading this article, it’s because you have some pretty deep regrets yourself. And the truth is, you have those regrets because you’re not very good at making choices. Choosing is the problem. And no — it’s not your fault. Because chances are good that no one ever taught you how to make good choices for yourself. So you bumbled along through life, at times marveling at how well life was rolling out, and at times being horrified by it. But you never really got good at making choices for yourself. But — you can start making better choices today, which will lead to a better life, with far fewer regrets. Here’s how.
First, watch this talk (or not).
This short talk is the basis for the takeaways below. It’s a good talk, but if you’re in a hurry, I’ll cover the three main takeaways from the talk below.
Then take these three steps.
1. Ask for what you want.
This is actually the main takeaway. But, as Kimberly Rich says in the talk, you rarely ask for what you want. And why is that? As it turns out, the reason is pretty simple. It’s because you’re afraid to ask for what you what you want. Which is silly, but true. Because there you are, a grown man and still afraid to ask for what you want. But remember this: if you don’t ask, the answer is always, “no.”
2. Think different.
Like the man who invented the phrase, (Steve Jobs at Apple), you can get yourself out of regret remarkably quickly by simply taking the time to make yourself think differently about anything. This technique can help you get out of the rut you’re in. Sound difficult? It is. But it’s not that difficult, and is definitely worth the effort. The main challenge is to stand back and observe yourself. And the best way that I’ve found to do this is to spend some time writing. Just sit down and write about a decision coming up. Because when you write about a decision, and then read what you’ve written, you’ll be able to observe how you think. And if you’re looking for another resource to help you with thinking differently, you might try this book.
3. Trust your gut.
And this will be tough for some of you. Because you you’re not used to trusting your gut. Instead, you’re in your head most of the time. But the problem with being in your head too much is that you overthink most things. And because you’re smart and creative, you have more options floating around in your head than the average guy. Still, you can start today to take small steps to trust your instincts. So try this. When you need to make a decision, notice what your first instinct is. And then go with this first instinct more often over the next few days and see what happens. And if you want more help in this area, check out this resource.
And feel free to be in touch.
As an experienced men’s life coach, I’ve dedicated my professional career to helping men just like you, who are struggling with regret. So feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll be sure to get back to you.
If you’re satisfied with pretty good, there’s no need to read this article. But if hearing that phrase — pretty good — gives you an ache in the pit of your stomach, stay tuned. Because if you’re feeling squeamish about “pretty good,” it means that you’ve still got some fight left in you. And you want something more. So read on. Because here’s where to get what you came for — or to get it back.
Are you satisfied?
You’ve been working pretty hard to get where you are today, haven’t you?
And it’s reasonable for you to want a good rest.
I get that.
It makes sense.
And I guess that’s why there are holidays like the 4th of July —
To rest for a moment and catch your breath in the midst of the battle.
But if it’s a hard choice — one without a clearly measurable best answer — then turn from logic to personal values.
And remember that not all hard choices are big.
In fact, sometimes, they’re small — like what to have for breakfast.
What differentiates an easy choices from a hard choice is that easy choices can be decided by logic, whereas hard choices are best decided using personal values.
And also, remember that hard choices aren’t hard because you’re stupid. Instead, they’re hard because they require a different framework — a framework that you’re not accustomed to using (but can learn to use).
Tell your story.
And I’m pretty sure you heard what Dr. Chang was saying about hard choices and personal values — and about intelligence.
Did you buy it?
Do you believe that it’s possible to create your own value system —
A personal system in which you can define what is true for you —
Even when it doesn’t necessarily match what is true for me?
Don’t give in to fear.
And here is where she said that you might be tempted to take the safe (traditional) route.
But resist deciding based on the allure of the safe route.
Because if you do accept her premise, then you will have a new framework for making hard choices —
You will have come through the dark tangle of the woods, and into an open clearing.
And in that clearing, it’s no longer a matter of logic, but a matter of living by your own personal values — what’s right for you.
But who am I?
This is the basic question in the framework for making hard choices.
Who am I?
What story uniquely describes me?
Because in your own story, you get to say who you are.
In other words, rather than asking “What should I do?”
In it, she outlines a plan for getting through the pain you’re in right now
Because what you really need right now is something for the pain.
In other words —
What you need to get up again is something more powerful than what you’re currently using.
And that something is belonging.
And yes — that sounds a bit woo woo.
But the fact is, you need to know that you belong — no matter what anyone else says or thinks or does.
But how can I plan to belong?
Belonging, Brown says, is finding a way to connect with something deeper within you —
Even when you don’t feel like it.
For this, Brown has created an acronym for being brave — what she calls “braving.”
And while I’m not usually fond of such acronyms, this is good stuff.
So here are the 7 parts of braving:
Boundaries—In other words, if you’re not clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay — ask. And on your own behalf, be willing to say no.
Reliability—This is when you do what you say you’ll do. Which means being aware of what you can do and listening to limitations so you don’t overpromise — so that you’re able to deliver on commitments — while balancing competing priorities.
Accountability—Meaning that you own up to your mistakes — which includes apologizing sometimes — and making amends.
Vaulting—This can be a tough one. Vaulting means you don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. Because we need to know that our confidences are kept — and that you’re not sharing with me information about other people that should be confidential.
Integrity—When you’re working toward belonging, you choose courage over comfort. It also means that you choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values — rather than simply professing them.
Non-judgment—This is when you can ask for what you need — and I can ask for what I need. And we can talk about how we feel without judgment.
Generosity—Which is actually the key to the whole thing — meaning that you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.
So get real.
Because yes — you’ve been hurt.
You’ve been hurt at home and at work and in the places in between.
And there are days when you don’t feel like getting back up.
Because it’s a lot easier to just crawl into your hole.
But when you do, it’s not good for you — or anyone else.
So get real.
Look back over this article and make a plan to use the braving tool — in whatever measure you choose.
But do use it to get real.
To belong, to be brave — while you’re working on opening your heart to courage.