In life, we often feel the need to have all the answers before we begin to take any action. And why would we think any other way? We are taught as students to do our research, create an outline and begin the assignment. Or as young professionals to generate a project plan, involve key stakeholders to gain buy-in and then to take action. Throughout our lives, we are taught to figure it out first and then act. And in fact, I often teach a class about goal setting and the importance of planning and creating vision to allow us to achieve greater success.
So where does exploration come into play?
And why would exploration even matter when we have such an innate need to put the wheels in motion and get things done? Or such a strong desire to be experts? Or feel like we have to have the plan perfected?
Let’s first look at what exploration really means.
ex·plore | \ ik-ˈsplȯr \
1a : to investigate, study, or analyze : look into (explore the relationship between social class and learning ability)
1b : to become familiar with by testing or experimenting (explore new cuisines)
2 : to travel over (new territory) for adventure or discovery
3 : to examine especially for diagnostic purposes (explore the wound)
On top of Webster’s Dictionary, I want to add another concept to the idea of exploration for you. To me, exploration means that you don’t have to have all of the answers, don’t have to be perfect, and don’t have to have a plan before you take action. Exploration means that you have the ability to take a mental pause and while still moving. Explorations means listening and feeling things out.
Imagine a world where you didn’t have the constant pressure to be perfect. What would it be like if you could move away from the concept of perfection into the idea of things being “perfectly imperfect”? What if you could be in a place where you gave yourself the time and safe space to listen to your heart, body and soul?
What would you do differently if you didn’t have to move at warp speed and always perform, deliver and excel?
What if you could apply the principle of exploration to your outlook on life?
What could that mean for you and how would that serve you?
Personally, I can tell you that this concept of exploration has given me the freedom to be an entrepreneur and to experiment with my business model including what percent of my business is coaching vs consulting. It has given me the mental and emotional permission to listen more and adjust along the way – including spending the bulk of this winter couch surfing in warm places to keep my soul alive with much needed Vitamin D! It has also given me the grace to take care of myself while dealing with my condo construction and insurance issues and not needing to always be “on” or my normally very optimistic self.
I can also tell you that this idea of exploration is very powerful when considering a job change and more importantly ways to find greater satisfaction in your life. One of my clients (who gave me permission to share this story) is, like most of us, a high achiever committed to being at the top of her game. That is a huge strength for her and has been instrumental to her success – but was getting in the way of navigating a potential career change because of this deep desire to have it all figured out. By reframing the idea of the job search to be less about permanency and having a very specific plan – and into this idea of exploration – she was able to alleviate a lot of pressure and potential anxiety and give herself the space and freedom to listen more, be more present, and assess what it is that she really wants. With this shift in her energy, she was able to open up to greater possibilities and gain greater confidence in telling her story, seek what it is that she really desires, and alleviate the pressure she was feeling not just in the job search but in other professional and personal situations too. The idea of “perfectly imperfect” has resonated with her and has given her the vision to be very fluid and organic in her approach, tapping into her natural abilities to listen and gain insights along the way.
So, what does all of this mean?
When we navigate life, the idea of exploration can be a powerful tool in our toolbox to support our approach – both physically in the actions we take and emotionally in the ways that we care for ourselves and each other. There are times when having a goal and an action plan is the best strategy and approach to keep us focused, on track and aligned to success. But there are other times when exploring and loosening up the grips on what success means will serve us better.
The key takeaway here is to really listen and understand which tool is the best tool for us to use at any given time. I challenge all of us to consider when exploration and being perfectly imperfect will serve us best. I know that I need this approach to thrive in challenging times and in times of change.
When will exploration best serve you?