Is there anything big in your life that you want to start or decide, but have been avoiding? Something that is not that straight forward and easy to tackle? Such as figuring out how to start a youtube channel, if you should quit your job, move to a different country, get a second degree, change careers, start a business, whether or not you should continue a long-distance relationship or other things in this ballpark?
These are all decisions, projects, and undertakings that take time to figure out. They require some serious brainwork and contemplation to get to a sensible plan or a decision with the least amount of regret. Quests like these are usually daunting, as they may involve thinking about schedules, costs, and plans. Part of it is often researching requirements, methods, information, but also more profound things such as thinking about goals, priorities, passions, fears, worries, and risks. Combining all these aspects into a pot and coming up with a solution that makes sense – at least to yourself – can be highly complicated.
Let’s take the example of deciding whether or not to move to a different country. Tied to this decision are many things – a new job perhaps, leaving behind people close to you, possibly entering a long-distance relationship, and not to mention the logistics of moving and arranging a work visa. Despite being eager to move to a different country, you leave this project hanging in a vacuum. The thought of having to sort out all these things just makes your head spin. So you let it be for a year or two. Or three or five. Every time you hear a friend or acquaintance telling you about how they worked overseas for 2 years or went to Japan for a one-year sabbatical, your desire to move overseas at least for some time, resurfaces. But again the thought gets buried in a sea of daily tasks and Netflix.
I would call such a situation having an elephant in your room. Rather than being a problem that everyone chooses to ignore, it is your own personal elephant. And you are the only person you who can do anything about it.
Almost everyone has an elephant or several elephants in their room. It’s not necessarily a problem, but could also be an opportunity that you want to take but haven’t acted upon. It could be a happy elephant. Something that occupies your subconscious, bubbles up to the surface now and again, in between meetings and commutes to work, but you’ve never really addressed. This seems benign, but it’s something that if neglected for a long period may leave you with regrets. So how to finally face this elephant and tell it where to go and what to do?
Having an offsite meeting with yourself is a way to finally make headway with whatever it is that is bugging you.
An offsite meeting is a meeting held away from your regular working space and outside of your regular working hours. It is a meeting that focusses on one specific issue or goal, or a group of related goals or projects. The main process is to lay open all your cards to yourself, which requires full honesty and deep insight into yourself, brainstorm wildly, weigh different options, plan, and prioritize. And most importantly it involves achieving some kind of resolution or closure at the end of it. At least a temporary one.
Why in the world should we spend time to do something this elaborate?
Some smaller decisions and activities are relatively easy to decide, such as how to remodel your kitchen, how to divide household tasks, or adding products to your online business which is already running. You can do these within your regular operating hours and workspace.
Tackling the elephant in your room, however, needs a different approach. It is not merely about improving, increasing, upgrading something within an existing framework, but about changing the framework itself. It is likely to involve a major paradigm shift.
To get into the right mindset with which you can look at things in a fresh, honest, and creative way, you need to remove yourself from your business as usual. And this is most easily done by having a meeting with yourself at a place that is at a distance from your usual working space. This can be a café or a library, or any other place that helps you to get into a clearer state of mind.
You may be familiar with the concept of offsite meetings held by companies. If not, then here is a brief explanation: Companies hold offsite meetings for very good reasons. At the office, everyone is caught up with ‘business as usual’. More often, people operate on autopilot. Once a new project launches or a big change is required from everyone – although everything is already communicated on paper – it is super hard to change the mood and ensure alignment. How to align hundreds of pieces that are constantly moving and occupied with their agenda? The solution is to pull the key people out of their business as usual and place them into a setting that is conducive to opening their minds, brainstorming, and being receptive to new information.
Individuals can also benefit from doing offsite meetings with themselves. I think that the reason this isn’t done enough by most people is that it may sound and feel silly. Sitting alone in a café all day long to figure out something in your life? Not something someone would post on their social media. But this is the same thing that corporations do once in a while. They go for an offsite meeting for a whole day or even several days to figure out something that is crucial to the business.
Your business, as usual, is your daily life. Your day job, meeting up with friends, laundry, a dentist appointment, and so on. Amid all these activities, it is very difficult to quickly step outside of the routine and fully concentrate on figuring out important things. There are simply too many distractions.
When you have an offsite meeting with yourself, you set aside the time and mental capacity. You dissect your endeavor or issue, reconcile the opposing voices and opinions in your mind, and layout all the pros and cons. This way you can make a well-considered decision or craft a sensible plan, which minimizes the possibility of regret.
So who are you actually meeting during this offsite meeting? Doesn’t a meeting require two parties? Yes! That’s the point – there are at least two parties in your head. The reason why sometimes you can’t make a hard decision or start something very challenging is precisely that you have opposing voices and opinions in your mind. To make it simple, imagine that there is a voice A in your head that tells you to move abroad next year, while there is another voice B that tells you to just stay put because it’s not worth it. So during your offsite meeting, you let these opposing voices A and B battle it out. Hear out their arguments and come to a conclusion.