In last week’s article I wrote some tips for feeling good about yourself. The first tip was:
“Find what you love to do. Don’t wait for it to appear. Go searching for it and accept that the process of finding it may be trial and error. It’s all good. Life is a journey; go with it.”
Actually, it’s better way than okay; it’s great! It’s great simply because that’s life. So you either accept that it’s part of life, or spend your time in frustration or a never ending sense of ‘quiet desperation’ (which is when you’re frustrated but in denial about it).
Henry David Thoreau worded it well when he said:
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.”
Was true then. Still true today. Many people (I know because I see it in coaching often) hesitate in going after something they want for fear of finding out that it’s not really what they want to do or they won’t be any good at it. So they assume the position of ‘I might’ but ultimately do nothing for fear of wasting time/money/energy on something that perhaps wasn’t meant to be.
But here’s the thing:
Living with ‘I might’ will cost you more time, energy, and money than giving it a go ever will.
Living with ‘I might’ will allow you to feel safe and stay inside your comfort zone. But it will teach you nothing and the amount of growth involved is practically zilch. Until you actually make a move, you learn nothing. And when you do move, one of the things you’ll likely learn is that you should have moved sooner.
Note here that I’m not talking about doing things on a whim. New ventures should be given consideration before committing to them; sometimes careful consideration. I’m also not giving out free passes today to those people who jump to something new every year (or more often) because they have trouble committing to anything long term (you know who you are). I’m talking today about those things that you’ve been considering (dreaming about) for years.
The idea to write this article was reinforced last week while I was walking with a friend (coincidence – I think not.)
The background to her story is that she had decided, after years of contemplating it, to enrol in a counselling course. For more than a decade, it was something that she had been interested in doing. She’d often thought that counselling would be the type of work that she would be good at and that she would enjoy.
For all that time though she never pursued the counselling path because she already had a career in a completely different field that paid well. Life was good, and there were bills to be paid, so why risk changing anything?
Finally the noise of the ‘what if I’m missing my true path’ became louder than the fear of ‘what if it turns out badly’. My friend enrolled in the course which she then proceeded to work on outside of her normal working hours.
I’d like to tell you here that it was a happy ending in that my friend discovered that she loved her new career in counselling and that she only wishes that she’s done it sooner.
The reality was my friend completed several assignments and did a lot of the reading material and it started to become apparent to her, as she learned more and more about what counselling was like and what it involved, that it was not an activity that she could see herself pursuing as a career.
For a time after that she decided that she would continue and complete the course anyway because she had made a commitment and had already invested time and money. Not long after that however, with a number of other commitments and goals entering into her life and feeling overwhelmed with all that she had on her plate she decided that something had to give. At this point she withdrew from the counselling course.
That was the background to this anecdote. Now fast forward to when I was walking and talking with my friend last week. What quickly became apparent to me as my friend was revealing the reasons for her decision was the amount of guilt that she was carrying around at not having completed the course that she had previously committed time and money to. From one perspective at least, that time and money was now wasted.
In my mind, I thought she was awesome for finding the courage that many never find, and inspiring for being one massive step closer to finding what she loves to do.
At this point I ask her permission to interrupt and to add something to the conversation that I felt she hadn’t yet considered. It went like this…
So many people have things (e.g. careers, hobbies, holidays, activities) that they would like to do; things that they have been considering for years (sometimes decades) that they don’t do. There is some part of them that feels they could really get a lot of enjoyment out of the activity that they have been considering for years, but they don’t really know for sure that they will enjoy it. What they want is some kind of certainty that it will have been worth the time/energy/money. They don’t get the certainty (ever), so they instead continue to dream ‘I might like to do that one day’.
When you commit to something – and show up fully – then, regardless of whether it works out or not, you have given yourself the freedom of releasing the ‘I might’ and developed some muscles about how to live your life.
I love the way Marianne Williamson puts this thought pattern in one of her audiobooks:
“It’s like ‘What job do I do, what job do I do, which city do I live in, what job do I go to, what career, what relationship’. You know, it doesn’t matter. Just go into any one and just show up and work on it. If it’s not the right one, it’ll drop, but you will have developed some musculature about living your life. The worst thing is ‘Should I go there? Should I go there?’ It’s all in your head.”
After my mini speech about not having to live with the ‘I might’ anymore and the value in that, I was pleased to see the look on my friend’s face of a weight having been lifted. A thought process that is so natural to me these days had been given little, if any, consideration by her. She may not have got the happy ending she imagined when she enrolled in the course, but she did take a massive leap forward in her life and that in itself is a happy ending.
I called my friend up a week later and asked her if she wouldn’t mind being used as an example in this article. She excitedly responded:
“You should definitely write about it. I had that sense of failure of starting and not completing it and seeing it only from that perspective. Having done it releases me from having all that wondering. I don’t have to live with the ‘what-if’ anymore.”
I was silent.
“What?” she said.
“Nothing. I’m writing this down.”