Too Many Cooks In the Kitchen

I’ve got a bone to pick with people. It seems everyone in our society – from baby boomers to millennials, males to females, and execs to admins – decided they needed advice about EVERYTHING.

I’m not sure if it’s the influx of information on the internet or the fact that there is a “study” for everything right now, but something happened that made people question themselves. I don’t blame a generation. I don’t blame technology. In fact, I’m not interested in blaming. I’m interested in solving.

First, let’s get on the same page about what the problem is before I start throwing out solutions:

The Perfect Recipe

I love cooking. I’ve committed to eating most of my meals at home, and most of them not from a package. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I like to create my own food for a variety of reasons.

So, when my husband introduced me to America’s Test Kitchen when we first started dating, I fell in love (with both, but let’s focus on ATK). The way he described it to me: “They just figure out how to cook everything the right way. If you use their recipe and it doesn’t end up perfect, it’s your fault, not theirs.”

Sold. I love doing things right! I decided I would only cook using their recipes. I would follow them to the tee and be a master chef with delicious food for every meal.

But then I noticed something. My confidence in the kitchen started to wain. Because the ATK recipes were so adamant about how to do everything the “right” way, I felt that anything I did differently was wrong. I went to them for equipment reviews and at one point even consulted their website for how to cut a tomato – something I had been doing since I was a child. Seriously?

I became too reliant on the recipe and too obsessed with doing things “right.” I stopped whipping things up with what I had on hand in the kitchen, and ultimately, was cooking a lot less.

I had stopped trusting myself, which made cooking less fun, and made me do it less. On the quest to cook everything perfectly, I just stopped. You know the old saying…I sacrificed the good for the perfect.

But there’s something else here that was happening to me in the kitchen (and everyone everywhere, really).

Losing Trust

We’ve truly lost trust in ourselves. For everything. Instead of just figuring out how to do something or trusting our guts, we google everything. We ask experts how they have done it. And we’ve lost ourselves.

Like my foray into ATK, this is why so many people are stagnant instead of taking control of their lives. It’s so stressful to do something if know you’ll be told you did it wrong. And it’s scary to try something new if you know there’ someone out there ready to tell you how to do it right. And if so, why not listen?

Here’s Why:

I hear complaints about this – from individuals themselves to management and HR – on a number of levels. This is affecting not only your happiness with your life, but also your performance at work in a couple of ways:

On the Daily

At the smallest scale, you’ve forgotten how to figure something out! It’s no secret I’m an avid yoga practitioner and occasional teacher. In a recent yoga class, the instructor used a phrase that I keep coming back to: Be industrious!

Technically, this doesn’t mean what I thought it did at the time or how the teacher was using it, but I’m gonna roll with it. To me, there’s an element of “figure it out!” there, and that’s what we all need to start doing more.

In the office, I see so many people – not only younger employees – who have lost this skill to figure stuff out. They wait to be told how to do something or ask their boss how to do everything.

Troubling for a couple reasons:

  1. Your boss will get annoyed – why did I hire you if you expect me to tell you how to do everything?
  2. 2) You’re unhappy! Solving a challenge in your own way is a key to being happy and engaged in your work. Engagement is at a low in America’s workplace. But solving a problem, answering a hard question, creating a perfect system – these are what make us feel useful and excited about our work. They also keep us growing so we don’t stagnate and become automatons.

 –> Psst! Interested in making challenges a part of your career? Check out the engagement pillar in this guide for how to structure your career to make sure you keep growing!

In Your Life

That’s just the SMALL scale of how listening to others is hurting your career, and it’s causing a couple of huge issues: Performance AND Happiness. In case that doesn’t convince you, let’s take a look at the larger scale.

At a macro level – you’re paralyzed in your life. You stay at your job that doesn’t fulfill you or support the life you want to live because you’re scared to make the wrong decision. You talk to everyone else about what they think you should do, and you ignore the voice inside.

This is tragic. Our inability to listen to our own voice and know what guides us has led to a crisis of identity. Even people that proclaim to others to “follow their path!” and “find their purpose!” are often following a formula they received from someone else or extrapolating on a quote they recently saw on their Instagram feed.

(And because I believe so much in this, here’s why following your passion is NOT the right step!)

And look, I’m a believer that everything has pretty much been said already. Everything we do, write, say, etc., is a variation of what someone else has done, written or said already. And that’s fine.

What’s not fine is not having the courage to find and listen to your own voice and create your variation from within. Constantly searching for inspiration from someone else or looking for the right way to run your life is a sign you’ve lost track of your own voice.

How to solve it

This isn’t sexy advice at all, and I admit that. But the only way to solve that is to step back and start listening to yourself. Find some quiet time throughout your day and start to listen.

It will be hard to hear at first. You’re in the habit of listening to others. Of seeking out advice. Of looking for what’s right instead of what’s right for you.

Practice will make this easier, I promise. Keep up your listening, and you’ll get pretty good at hearing your voice. Slowly but surely, that whisper inside will turn into a shout and you’ll forget you ever had to google “how to be happy in life” and you’ll just know.

If you’re wondering WHY you can’t just hear your own voice, this assessment is a great place to start!

What makes coaching different and a wonderful complement to listening to your voice is that it’s not someone telling you what to do. Coaching is about helping you find your own way. Truly about you – not what’s right. Learn more about coaching here.

My cooking these days

As for me, I’ve found some balance in my cooking. I decided to ditch ATK recipes despite how good they are because of the neuroticism they fed in me. But, I’ve found recipes that I love on NYT and other sites that encourage exploration. I review a few baseline recipes for consistency in technique, then take what I like and add what I want but didn’t see.

Cooking is fun again for me because I’m listening to me. Much like my cooking experience, by starting to listen to yourself, you can find fun again in your career and life!

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