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Soul Tuning & Life Design

I have this tendency: when I’m facing something for which I feel an intense, visceral dislike, I want to pivot in a big way into something completely different. Life is way too short for things we don’t like, right?

When I chose journalism as my major in college and wasn’t into it, I almost dropped out freshman year. I was going to become an ultrasound technician because my mom said they made good money and the coursework was easy.

When I started my career in technical writing, I realized that pension software is mind-numbingly boring. I was thisclose to quitting to become a boutique wine sales gal.

Ultimately, I didn’t wind up doing either of those things. And since then (and through lesser changes), I’ve learned how to read the tea leaves in those internal pulls toward big pivots. Now, I recognize them as signs that I need to do a little more inward reflection. I try to tune in to what my soul is saying, and tune out the external noise.

So, instead of dropping out of university, I switched my major to English and International Studies. Instead of rebooting from tech writing to wine sales, I switched to web strategy. My soul-tuned internal compass helps orient my goals toward life design instead of a specific title or a specific field. I seek out work that supports my life, not work that defines my life.

But satisfaction is the enemy of success. The various corporate recruiters who spam my Linkedin inbox regularly remind me of this. With the limit on international visas, travel restrictions, and other factors, headhunters are hunting with increased ferocity. It’s tempting to tune out and sell my soul for a bigger paycheck.

In the face of temptation–or, when it comes to jobs, negotiation–it’s important to have your BATNA battened down. 

Using the BATNA Method for Soul Tuning

BATNA, or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, is a term used in different industries but applies to just about any situation in life where you need to come to a mutually-beneficial agreement. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher is a great resource to learn more about high-powered negotiations as a whole. But, as the BATNA applies to your job negotiation, here’s what it means:

BATNAs are vital to negotiation because a party cannot make an informed decision about whether to accept an agreement unless they understand their alternatives. While a BATNA may not always be easy to identify, Harvard researchers have outlined several steps to help clarify the process:

  1. List all alternatives if your current negotiation ends in an impasse.
  2. Evaluate your alternatives based on the value of pursuing an alternative.
  3. Select the alternative action(s) that would have the highest expected value for you.
  4. After you have determined your BATNA in Step 3, calculate your reservation value or the lowest-valued deal you are willing to accept.

Imagine that you’ve been offered a new job for a company that is interesting, but not overly compelling. You would prefer to stay with your current company, but want a promotion. The potential new job is the BATNA. Figuring out what you really want to ask for as part of the counteroffer from your current organization is the soul-tuning. What will keep you there versus accepting the new job?

I find the BATNA helpful to keep from becoming overly emotional about a job. Having the ability and clarity to walk away from a bad deal is a skill. It’s very easy to fall into the sunk cost fallacy. Too often we irrationally continue on a road or a path that isn’t meeting our expectations simply because we’ve invested time and resources into it. It’s why so many people stay with organizations that don’t value them. Even if walking into work every day feels like a gut punch or a visceral sensation.

“Work Needs to Stay In Its Place”

The BATNA is a great tool to tune into what your soul is saying. It taps into how to get what you want and need out of your work. It’s a way to leverage those visceral feelings, those gut instincts, and turn them into advantageous negotiations.

I thought it sounded crazy to make this distinction. But I’m finding more and more like-minded folks in the business world turning to esoteric ways to explain the current phenomena.

Sara Watcher-Boettcher of Active Voice conducted a survey with exciting results in March 2022. Titled “Work Needs to Stay in its Place,” the report details how attitudes and ideas about work have shifted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a report worth reading, but one of the essential things I’ve taken from it is that folks have found a kind of clarity around work-life balance.  And that clarity is reflected in a maxim often tossed around. But not truly espoused until we, as a nation and a planet, became enshrouded by millions of worldwide pandemic deaths: life is too short.

Want to learn more about my application of this methodology? Reach out today! 

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