Monday, June 27, 2016

Sustain-ability: Putting By

This past weekend a booth at the farmers market had a sale on berries. Six pints for $10. I bought a dozen pints of huge juicy Boysenberries and took them home.

I have a deep love for berries that, looking back, may actually be responsible for me living in the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in Southern New Mexico (spitting distance from the future site of Trump's wall -- lol!) we had copious amounts of corn, chilies, tomatoes, and even strawberries. But other berries (blue, black, ras, boysen, marion) would not grow. And they were always shockingly expensive in the stores, which meant that growing up I rarely had any.

(Back in the day, kids, when not every place had every single thing every month of the year)

So now I live in Northwest, where berries are copious (and in some cases considered invasive species). But however fresh, 12 pints of boysenberries is not going to last very long. So that meant I had some work ahead of me.

I have a love-hate relationship with preserving. On the one hand, nothing gives me more personal, deep satisfaction than looking at a shelf of food that I put up. That I saved -- literally saved from rot -- and turned into something amazing (or at least not poisonous). On the other hand, every single time I set to "putting by" there's a moment, usually in the middle when the kitchen is very hot and steamy, when I'm like "why the hell am I doing this!?" But six months from now, when we are having boysenberry pie on a miserable grey, dark winter day, I will never question why.

Eating well is expensive and difficult and buying in bulk when it's in season and making it last are how you save money and make it easier. When you have more, you save some so that you can access it when you have less.

And it's this aspect of preserving that is a fundamentally magical act. I touched on this in my Magical Eating post and my Routines and Habits post. Because food isn't the only thing you can "put by."

We all have times when we are ahead of the game, feeling great, getting shit done. And then we have times when it's all falling to bits and behind and stressed and feeling like shit. One week the laundry's all done (my canary in the coal mine) and the family's happy and things are humming at the office. Two weeks later and there no clean underwear, the baby's got colic (or the teen's got hormones or the dog's got fleas or the spouse's got an attitude -- whatever) and work is on fire. Boom.

When are you more likely to do magic? The bad weeks, right. Things suck, so you want to fix them. Out come the spells and rituals and offerings. But what if you could simply go to the pantry and grab a jar of magic ready to go? Metaphorically speaking of course. Well, that would be awesome, but you'd have had to put it there first.

Yesterday I had my weekly meeting with a lovely witchy friend of mine. She'd been having a great week and took the opportunity to do a bunch of the sort of magical housekeeping that we should all do from time to time. Cleaning and reconfiguring working and worship spaces, reevaluating symbolism, and so on. And she made a very wise point: The act of doing all this made a huge difference in the energy of her house... even without having done any official work yet.

It reminded me of the comment I made recently about how having a plan is more important than following it. That situations change and plans change, but having a plan in the first place is critical to success.

Anyway, unlike my friend I've had a difficult couple of weeks. And I found myself going to my magical pantry to look for some stuff to help me out. Some of my stockpiles were OK and helped me, but some things were sorely lacking. It's actually a really interesting exercise to examine which is which. And this doesn't just include purely magical stuff. It's all connected. So if my personal stockpiles are low (nutrition, sleep, etc.) that impacts everything else. This kind of systems analysis is valuable and should be ongoing (I know, easier said than done) because the things that are always running behind or not cared for are the things that fall down first when times get rough.

The week ended strong and things have mostly sorted themselves out (or been sorted out). So this weekend and coming week I am making a point to make sure my magical pantry is as well-stocked as my physical one. The household altar has been cared for. I've been taking better care of my body (when stressed I tend to ignore my physical self). I caught up on laundry and sleep. I ate well and moderately. I made some traction on some magical goals and identified some new ones.

It seems like it would be nice if every week was calm and predictable. But this would be neither likely or even healthy. Variation and stress are important, as much for shaking out the weaknesses in our own systems as providing avenues for new opportunities.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Whether the Weather

I've never understood that people think astrology is a way of telling the future. It's not. Astrology doesn't tell you what's going to happen. It doesn't even tell you what will happen if you do x, y, or z. No, astrology tells you when the right times for doing things are. Which is why I love the term "space weather." Astrology is a weather forecast. Whether you go out without a coat is your business.

Take an umbrella why don't you?
So one of the very first posts I ever made (no, not here, on a long ago blog) was about "The Gambler." Yes, the song, stay with me here. See, "The Gambler" is a bardic-style ballad about an initiatory experience, and a passing of knowledge from one magician to the next (yes it is, go read all the lyrics). And the wisdom in the song is that you have to keep an eye on the weather. You have to know when the best times for doing things are and you need to do things during those times.

Back in ye olden days TM, it was critical for many professions to be able to foretell the weather (sailors, farmers, ranchers). And the ability to do so really well and accurately bordered on magic. My husband's grandfather was a bit of a weather buff. He had a little collection of weather tools in his house: thermometer, wind meter, glass bubble barometer. You need tools to check your weather as well because as a magician, reading the weather is a the first step in deciding what to do and -- maybe more critically -- when to do it.

Astrology: I love astrology as a weather forecast and follow several different astrology blogs (Austin CoppockRob Brezsny's Free Will AstrologyAstroblogick). You'll notice that only one of the three has advice by sun sign and that's deliberate. I'm more interested in macro level weather than micro-climates when it comes to astrology. Personal preference, your mileage may vary.

Tarot: Of course. I have several readings that I like for forecasting the weather including one from Keywords for the Crowley Tarot, which includes some great layouts (though I don't personally read with the Thoth so the bulk of the book isn't relevant to me). This reading has you laying out a row of cards that is to represent your path over time. Another common reading is the wheel of the year, where you layout a circle of 12 cards, one for each month. Finally, you can do a general "what should I be focusing on during the coming <timeframe>?" Celtic Cross.

Omens: I find that omens are often shorted in these sorts of discussions. Not because they aren't useful, but because they are so very personal. My crow dead on the road isn't your crow dead on the road -- it's all how you interface with the liminal and living world around you. Of course there's a long history of collecting omens, which make for interesting research. However unlike tarot or astrology, you don't have to do anything to check this weather. It's the magical equivalent of looking out the window to see if it's raining. It's a push model instead of a pull one. You just have to pay attention.

Personal cycles: I've talked about this before, but there are certain times of the year where I need to be doing certain things. Always. Who knows why, but I've learned to avoid fighting (as much as possible) my urges to socialize, nest, plan, etc. Journaling is a great way to get more in tune with your personal weather -- this is micro-climate.

Intuition: Another one that sometimes gets short shrift. It's important that we trust our instincts. Because what we're really doing is processing all kinds of subtle input that we aren't even conscious of. This isn't the hurricane blowing your roof off, it's the whisper of a breeze stirring the hairs on the back of your neck.

So, once you know the weather, what then? Well, there are a couple of strategies:

Float with the tide -- sometimes the easiest way to get things done is to just roll with whatever's indicated. A time to work and a time to rest, a time to kill and a time to heal. A time to laugh and a time to quote Bible versus that will get a hippy folk song stuck in your head for the rest of the day (you're welcome).

Rest in the shallows -- other times the best thing is to do nothing, and wait for better weather entirely. I'm typically a proactive sort, so the idea of doing nothing is uncomfortable. Still, it's sometimes the exactly right thing to do.

Tack into the wind -- you can maneuver against the prevailing winds, but you need to be strategic. Sometimes you just can't wait for the right time. Sometimes there is no right time. You have to do what you have to do.

Finally, and probably most interestingly, you can change the weather.

Despite me having made the claim that literal weather magic is a bad target (which I still believe), metaphoric weather magic is a good target. Starting when things are favorable, you can do magic to attract the kind of weather that's good for what you want to do. You can also work to calm any coming storms. I talked about enchanting for the future already and this is related. And when the weather is crazy, you can try to change it from the eye of the storm.

That said, there are times when the weather is what it is. Into every life a little rain must fall and all that. So you'd better have both a slicker for now and some thirsty plants to bear fruit later. And that's critical, because when the time come for the big break or major opportunity, you need to be ready.

Stop singing, I mean it.
Are you casting spells to make things happen or to make the right time happen for those things? Or, back to the gambler metaphor, are you enchanting for aces or for the round that gives you the whole pot? Because every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser and the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sustain-ability: Worst Case Scenario Planning

There are times when I realize how my experience as a PM really colors the way I interpret things. A recent, very visible, example was the situation at the Cincinnati zoo that resulted in the death of an endangered gorilla. I doubt there's anyone who hasn't seen the news coverage (and resulting social media frenzy) so I won't belabor the basic facts. I should say, however, that I do not live in Cincinnati, I was not at the zoo that day, and I have no more information than most of us did -- the shaky camera phone video and news footage.

Now most people reacted to the story in one of two ways a) they shouldn't have shot the gorilla, the parents are to blame b) they had to shoot the gorilla, this was a terrible accident. Social media mayhem ensues.

I, on the other hand, saw the story and thought: I wonder if this was covered in the zoo's risk management planning?

Because if I ran the zoo, the first thing I'd want to do as part of the incident post mortem (unfortunate choice of words, but that's what they call them in business) is review the response plans for various scenarios to see whether they were complete, up to date, and well-known among staff and security. For example, it's clear that screaming spectators can make an animal nervous. It's also clear that video camera footage can make for a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. So how quickly did they clear and cordon off the area (or did they? I assume they did at some point)? And do they have a checklist for animal risk assessment when choosing a lethal or non-lethal response? A checklist they can use to a) make decisions when the heat is on and b) use to validate their decisions later to outraged PETA members and their lawyers? Do the staff responsible for making the call whether to shoot an animal perform regular scenario training?

Again, I wasn't there and I don't know anything about the zoo's risk management. They may have done all these things because, you know, stuff still goes wrong despite planning. That's not my primary point. What I'm trying to convey is:
  • When you start to view the world in a PM sort of way things look very different.
  • When something goes wrong the most important thing is not what happened, but what you do next. How you handle it and how you adjust for next time.
  • You have to plan for the worst case scenario, even if that scenario never happens. Because the act of planning strengthens both your current and possible future situation.
The other day I ran across a family I am acquainted with. I hadn't seen them in some time and was sorry to hear that they'd had a run of bad luck, including some illness and injury. In addition, one of the adults in the family had just been laid off. 

I'm familiar with that particular career field and pointed out "well, at least the hiring market is pretty strong right now." The response was that, unfortunately, hiring managers were looking for skillset A, B, C, and D and he only had A. I suggested going through the unemployment office to see about reduced cost training (when I was dealing with a stint of unemployment during the winter of our discontent -- AKA 2008/2009 -- I took a certification course that helped strengthen my resume and paid only a fraction of the cost). He agreed that this might be a good idea. Then he said "it was hard enough finding this last job nine years ago."

Now, approaching things with a PM mindset, who can identify the issue here? Yeah, if he recognized the risk nine years ago, why didn't he spend the intervening years building up his missing skills? It would have improved his prospects in the event of the worst case scenario, but it would have also strengthened his position at his current job, potentially reducing the risk of a layoff. Finally, it's a lot easier to access training when you are employed because you can often get your employer to pay for it (or a portion of it). It's a win-win-win.

I'm not talking about some BS, make yourself a better employee and they won't lay you off idea. That's pure mythology. You can be great and still get canned. I'm talking about making yourself more valuable to increase your options no matter what happens. That might mean being the very best at what you currently do, broadening your skillset in your existing field, or even going orthogonal and getting a skill in a totally unrelated field (which might be the most anti-fragile option). I'm thinking of engineers studying permaculture or teachers learning locksmithing or bus drivers going to night school for HVAC certification.

I've tried all three methods. When I was young, I worked at being very, very good and collecting references. Then I realized that to keep my interest up I needed to branch out into related areas and get certifications and skills. I've already pivoted three times in my career, within the same broad field, but in markedly different areas. Now I'm visiting ideas for orthogonal skills as well.

It's the same with magic. Your primary ongoing target should be yourself and your family. First, it's the target you know best. People aren't actually that good at knowing themselves, but they at least know themselves better than they know a near stranger. Plus you can more easily judge the effects. So you spell for a different job and got it. Did it make you happy? Are you more fulfilled? It's easier to work incrementally and respond to feedback when you are the target of your energies.

Second, you're going to be the most amenable to your workings. It's hard making people do things they don't want to do (shoot it's hard getting people to do the things they want to do). For example, I consider binding one of the least effective techniques in magic. It's very difficult getting people to stop doing what they want to do through just the force of your will. If I want you to stop doing something, I'm going to either harm you directly, throw up obstacles in your way, or enchant your enemies to get you. For example, if a serial rapist is operating in my area, I'm not going to try to bind him to stop raping. No, I'm going to curse him and I'm going to do magic to get him caught by the police (who are motivated to do what I want them to do already, and so are much more amenable to my influence and help).

Third, there's not a lot in the world you can count on. The career you just spend 8 years training for could disappear. The place you wanted to live forever could change for the worse. And people move away, die, and change. But you can always count on you. I'm not talking about being selfish here. Other people matter and you probably have a small cadre of people who you can count on like you can count on yourself. But when you work on making yourself better, you tend to make yourself a better friend/spouse/relative as well.

So look at your personal worst case scenarios and see if there's anything you can do about them now. A layoff? Strengthen, broaden, expand your skills before that happens. Housing crisis? I wrote a lengthy post on thinking through that challenge already. Bad health diagnosis? Don't make me mention healthy eating again. Even if it doesn't change the outcome, it will make you feel better now and stronger whatever comes to pass.

I wanted to wait to make this post until after all the emotional furor from the zoo story died down. But it's strange posting it today, when people are watching the news and thinking that sometimes you can't plan for the worst case. It's true. Sometime the worst case comes for you and you can't anticipate it. Terrible things do happen with no warning. You can't control everything (and that pains me to say it, since controlling things is kind of what I do) but you can control you... and you should. When you work to make yourself a better person (more employable, healthier, KINDER, MORE LOVING), MORE TOLERANT) that's a very good thing. And you control that. That's all you.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: The Chaos Protocols

I'm overdue for a review of Gordon's other book. Since getting my preordered copy, I've read it twice through, revisited particular sections, and have tried several of the magical rituals and ideas. But I'm finding this is a much harder review to write than the one for Star.Ships. Because for me, The Chaos Protocols is very much preaching to the choir. It's not that I didn't learn anything new. Far from it. But because our worldviews are much in alignment, I have to avoid just gushing about the book and try instead to put myself in the shoes of a reader for whom this territory is not so familiar.

First of all, fair warning: this is not a coherent system of magic or religion. It is unashamedly a chaos magic book and doesn't purport to teach or instruct to much as inspire and share. That said, the working part of the book is a survey of useful techniques that are all informed by the same coherent philosophy. And it's this, covered in the first chapters, that will prove the most shocking or upsetting to many readers. It's an interesting book indeed where the economic perspective is potentially more controversial than the instructions for calling on the Devil at the crossroads.

While I haven't tried that particular rite (I have enough cross-road Deities in my life) I have tried several of the others. The rite getting the most attention seems to be the Headless Rite with the invocation of the four Kings. I tried the rite twice so far (once with a minor adjustment) and found that it was solid and path-agnostic. I also set up an altar to Fortuna (as part of our household altar), based on the book's recommendation and some great sync at the Archeology Museum in Frankfurt shortly after reading it.

Gordon plucks Gods, Saints, and Spirits from various locations and times, so you should be able to find something that resonates. More interesting is the sorts of classes of beings he recommends. His basic message is that you need a posse and that this posse should include certain skillsets. Still, he's definitely espousing a relationship-based model. Find the ones who resonate and see if the feeling is mutual.

In terms of spellcraft, Gordon is best known for his sigil work and this section of the book didn't disappoint (though the content will be familiar from the blog). I'm a long-time fan of sigils and very much appreciate Gordon's suggestions for improving their efficacy. I've had good experiences implementing his ideas and I like his suggestions for phrasing and activating sigils (which are based in research and his marketing/advertising experience).

Finally, as someone who's also a long-time fan of the tarot, I enjoyed his section on divination and found that the background research he quotes matches my own experience with the cards. He also has some great suggestions that I want to try using multiple decks (until recently I was a tarot monogamist -- one deck at a time).

Overall, this is a very readable and useful book with lots of great ideas for magical practice. However, in the end it's the first few chapters that will prove potentially the most useful for readers. I don't think of the book as difficult, however I've seen enough feedback that I interpret as misreading so recommend a slow and thorough first pass. It's not so much that it's hard to follow, but it may be hard for you to swallow. So chew on it and take a good look around you -- Gordon it right and his view of the world is pretty accurate. Fortunately you are a magician, so you have options. This book is a very, very good one.


Monday, June 6, 2016

PMPM - The Work you are Called to Do

I had an amazing experience yesterday. For the first time, I applied my corporate skills in a professional way outside the corporate world. Or that is to say, I had my first PMPM consulting session. I've long been an informal consultant for some of my friends (who know better than to call when they need sympathy, but do call when they need advice on implementing projects or reaching goals). And of course I do this sort of thing all the time at work.

But this is the first time I've had this opportunity to help someone directly in a more formal way. It's actually really exciting. I've accumulated tons of tools over the years, but only a small subset are the best ones for any particular situation. Having been at my job for a shockingly long amount of time (four years, but that's like ages in my industry) there are lots of things I don't get to use. But this is a new situation and different tools are suggested. In addition, while I always view my job as helping people (the people on my teams, my boss and grand-boss -- who are both awesome) I'm still really, in the end, helping a corporation. It's refreshing to help an actual person meet their goals.

The best part is that the person has set themselves a wonderful goal -- to do the work they are called to do. And they let me help them, how cool is that? But here's the especially synchronous part, by helping someone else do the work they are called to do, I get a chance to do the work I'm called to do. 

I've been going through a lull here at CircleThrice... not a posting lull (at least not much of one) but a business lull. I like helping people, and I know my readings do that (or at least that's what people tell me). But it's incomplete. I can warn or suggest, but a reading doesn't help people reach or do. That's the wonderful thing about project management -- in all it's myriad forms. It helps people do things. Helps them change their environment in accordance with their wills. And how is that not magic?

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

PMPM: Qualitative Analysis

Projects (whether magical or mundane) are usually, in the end, about solving a problem. And there are several common types of problems that people try to solve.

Reaching a Goal: Frequently, projects are launched when a large goal has been set. So you want to get your MBA, develop a new phone app to help people walk their dogs, or start a coven? You know your goal and you know, roughly, the steps to get there. Your problem is making sure you get there on time and on budget -- you have to make it happen. And you have to combine flexibility with discipline as you go. The tools of traditional project management work well for this situation.

Finding the Path: Another type of project happens when you have a goal, but you don't know the steps you need to get there. Lose weight, be happier, increase sales. These are all projects where you might have an end in mind, but aren't sure what will work to get you there. Your problem is figuring out the path from here to there (note, you should start by better defining that end goal -- so lose x lbs by summer, improve my Authentic Happiness Inventory by x% in a year, increase sales by x times in the third quarter). Agile project management is the best way to proceed in this case.

Finding the Goal: Finally, you have situations where you don't know what the goal is. You know you need a change, but you don't know what kind. In this case, your problem is, well, defining your problem so that you can fix it. Let me give you a few examples:
  • You hate your job, but you don't have an idea for a better one. You don't know what metrics you should judge a job by (money, free time) and you don't know what sort of job will make you happier, more fulfilled, or more prosperous. You don't know what you want to do with your life.
  • You don't like where you live. But where else will you go? What are the options? What risks and rewards are there? What will it take to actually uproot yourself and move... and if you do, will it be worth it? Or should you stay and make where you live better (or better for you)? This problem can be at any granularity from neighborhood to continent.
  • The people around you drain you and don't help you be your best self. Do you jettison them? Do you replace them, and if so, with whom? Can you learn to ignore them or keep their impact to a minimum? What if some of them are related to you or provide you with some kind of support (financial, emotional) that you need?
For this sort of problem, you don't need project management. You need to do a research study.

Corporate clip art is the most fun
There are two broad categories of research: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative is what we typically think of as the "science fair project." You ask a question (does artificial food color impact the behavior of mice?*) you post a hypothesis (yes, it does) and then you run experiments with constants and variables to see if your hypothesis is correct. The key is that you need to have measurable results (speed of running a maze, activity level by measuring the turns of a hamster wheel, etc.) in order to do numerical analysis.

* FYI: yes, artificial food color impacts the behavior of mice. It makes them more hyperactive. It also make them smell terrible compared to the mice on a natural diet (who don't smell all that great to begin with). Don't ask me how I know.

Despite all my rage...

But most personal questions like the ones above don't work that way. You aren't going to be able to run a science fair project on whether and where to move or how to deal with toxic people. For that you need to do qualitative research. Qualitative research seeks to answer questions that don't lend themselves to strict numerical analysis. Questions like: "how do different societies view drug addiction and what are the benefits and costs of these views to the society?" "what are the ways in which a university might grow and foster a diverse student body?" "how should we compensate our sales team in order to foster a balance of collaboration and competition?" -- squishy questions.

OMG, we're all so liberal arts!

Qualitative research is more common in the 'soft' sciences as well as marketing, government, and business. It's also the best technique for solving the squishy questions in your own life. So how do you do it? Here's the typical process:
  1. Figure out the problem space -- the set of questions you are trying to answer. If the problem space is reasonably sell-scoped and understood, then you are looking at an issue. I talked about solving issues here. For the types of major problems we're talking here, things aren't that simple.

    In most academic research, you are supposed to pick one question, but in real life your own issues are probably much more complex. So, should I move? how far should I move? how do I know where to move? where should I move? what does moving mean to me?

    Figuring out the problem space is actually really important -- as important as creating a sigil or creating a spell. As a magician, you know that "I get a raise." "I get more money," "I am prosperous," and "my financial needs are met" are all very different in terms of possible results. This is even more complex because it's not just one thing, but a whole set. Imagine launching a major magical effort to overhaul your entire career space... that's the kind of effort we're looking at.

    Define your problem space as a list of questions: should I move? where should I move? what changes if I move? can I afford to move? will it be worth it? should I stay? what do I do if I stay to make things better? how do people decide where to move? how to you know the costs and benefits of moving? where should I move? what are the benefits and costs to moving?

    Seem overwhelming? Prioritization will help (I think I'm going to add this to my list of personal life mottos) as will identifying the results of answering each question. So you need to know if you should move before you decide where to move and you need to know where you would like to move before you know the specific costs and benefits.
  2. Perform a literature review. See what others have written about your question. Unlike an academic study, you don't necessarily need to read a lot of dry research. But google "how to figure out where to live" and you'll find plenty of stuff.
  3. Decide on the scope of your analysis. You need to decide your budget (money, time, energy). This is critical because, unlike a project, a research study doesn't have a defined goal or end date. You could spend the rest of your life researching where to move and end up dying in the same crappy apartment. So you need to come up with some scope right from the start. For example, you may decide to finish your study in six months and may allocate funds to visit three locations that might be candidates for a new place to live.
  4. Finally, you need to decide on the methodology you will use for your analysis. There are all different kinds of methodologies, but only a few make sense for personal problem solving. For example, you probably aren't going to figure out a new career choices by doing an ethnographic study. And phenomenology (looking at the world through someone else's eyes) can be useful, but in the end it's your life, so you can't just rely on that. Here are three methodologies that might be most beneficial for your research study:
  • Case study analysis -- this is research performed by studying the situation in its current context. If you can ask the question "what is your typical day like" you are doing case study analysis. this could be interviewing people in likely career fields, talking to people who have moved about their challenges, and reaching out to people who live in a place you may be considering. In terms of your toxic relationships, you may just need to talk to those people to better understand their context. You can use magic to draw the correct people and situations to you. Enchanting to "bring me the person who knows what I need to know" is very powerful.
  • Action research -- this is research through the act of solving the problem. Similar to agile methodologies, this is part of the  "try it and see" school of thought. The difference is that with agile, you usually have an end result in mind, but here you are trying things out to determine what the end result should be. So you volunteer or intern in fields to see if they are a good fit, visit some places to see what they're like, and reduce interaction with certain friends to see how it feels. Again, magic can be the tool to get you the opportunities. 
  • Divination -- not your typical qualitative analysis tool, but a useful one for the questing magician. You want to perform research by doing divination, preferably of several different types and sources. You probably already tried divination of the "what should I do?" or "what will happen if I do x?" variety. If these don't help, try "what questions should I be asking?" "who holds the key to my next steps?" "where should I look to discover more?" If you are really stuck, try asking "what do I value?" and throwing down nine cards -- you will learn a a lot about yourself.
Obviously, you can use more than one methodology, but the idea is to work through your list of questions one by one until your complex situation has been resolved. Notice that the methodologies I recommend are all active. This is important. You can do a research study by just looking at other research, but it's incredibly risky when it comes to your own life. For example, deciding where to move by using Money Magazine's Best Places to Live and a Cost of Living Calculator -- picking a location without ever having been there -- sounds logical, but it a terrible idea (again, don't ask me how I know). Sure, it's interesting and educational, but it may not get you to the solution you want.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it's your life. The other alternative is to simply act and hope for the best... but lots of people don't end up at 'best' so a little forethought probably isn't a bad idea. Plus thinking about making your life better and planning to make it better, usually makes it better even if your original plans fall apart. In fact, it's one of the secrets of project management that the accuracy of your plan is less important than having one to begin with and the best plans are the most flexible. In fact, this is so important that I suspect it will become it's own post soon.

In the meantime, avoid artificial food color and get busy making your life better. It will be fun and interesting, no matter what ends up happening.