Well, first let’s just get something out of the way: It hasn’t all been done, before, because it hasn’t all been done by you.
The fear that it’s all been done before is really just a fear that when you do your unique twist on it, people won’t like it.
Examine Your Motivations
So why do you want to do your thing, anyway?
Why do you want to become a yoga teacher, or become a life coach, or write a novel, even though thousands (millions?) of other people have done this, before?
This is a serious inquiry. Are you doing it for recognition? Money? Or because you can’t NOT do it?
When I’m reviewing applications for the Courageous Coaching Training Program, one of the things that I’m looking for from our life coach trainees is a quality of “This is a calling.” If the sole reason for becoming a life coach is to have a home-based career, that’s all well and good, but that’s not the heart-based quality that I’m wanting to fill our program with.
Examine your motivations. Recognition and money are lovely. Your longing to live fully in alignment with what matters to you, most, is like having a spiritual trust fund. The currency never runs out.
It Has and It Hasn’t
It’s all been done, before. And yet, it hasn’t. Every moment brings us a new world, and we need a new spin on old ideas that fit within the cultural zeitgeist of the moment.
In other words, every era needs a new band of heroines.
What we really need is more people who are committed to inspiration. Musicians who sit down to noodle a tune are building on the stanzas that came before them, but we’ll be newly inspired by it, today. It’s been said that every story is the same: someone is leaving town, or someone is just arriving, but we need more books that are un-put-down-able. I’m always telling life coaches that our market is people who suffer and who don’t want to stay stuck in the suffering and who don’t want to be alone in the suffering. We need as many people interested in helping with that, as we can get.
The fear that it’s all been done before can be answered with this simple response: “Fear, you’re actually totally right. It has all been done before, kinda-sorta. But it hasn’t been done by us. I’m interested in rocking this in our unique way, not because anyone’s going to give us an award but because it’s what calls to us. Let’s do this, together.”
Your fear that it’s all been done before isn’t coming up because you shouldn’t do it. It’s coming up as the call to inquire deeply about your motivations and see if they’re ego-driven or if they’re genuine.
If they’re genuine, then your contribution is more valuable than gold.
You–we need you. You make the world a better place. Thank you for the generosity that propels you to give of yourself, in service to that.
In interviews and in the Courageous Living Program, I often refer to the “self-help hamster wheel.” It’s that space where you’re spinning furiously in the world of self-help, reading books and going to workshops and trying to learn about yourself…but going nowhere. Each year it’s a new date on the calendar, and last year’s problems are still there. There’s a futility and exhaustion that starts to set in, an increasing sense of doubt.
Successful people understand how to recognize when they’re wasting time. The self-help hamster wheel? It’s a massive waste of time. Rather than endlessly searching for the “right path,” which often only ends up exactly where you started, here’s how you stop the furious race to nowhere.
The First Step
If you want to get off the self-help hamster wheel, the first step is recognizing that you’re on it.
A few clues: you endlessly buy personal development workshops/books/programs without really seeing results. You’re finding yourself more skeptical of your capacity to change, instead of more confident. If you think of a situation that you were angry about a few years ago, you can still tap into that old anger if you think too long on the circumstances. When you have a bad day or a few bad weeks, old patterns quickly resurface: the late-night binge eating, the return to that ex-boyfriend who always made you feel like shit, the inner critic bashing you for even bothering to try something new, in the first place.
Oh, and you’re tired (I firmly believe that being tired is the first sign that something in life is amiss).
Gently, get honest with yourself: if things are basically the same, then there’s relief in just admitting that. The efforts thus far haven’t panned out. When you get honest about that fact, you’re poised to change.
Second step: get ruthless
Start understanding what’s pulling your attention, and get ruthless about cutting anything that isn’t serving your vision. (Don’t have a Life Vision? Time to get one–they up the clarity and purpose factor, big time).
As an example, I recently found myself feeling stressed about how much was on my plate and like there was not enough time. At a certain point, I had to just get ruthless: it was time to start cutting out time-wasters and anything that I wasn’t ecstatically excited about.
It was not easy to cut certain things from my agenda. For reasons ranging from vanity to practicality, I had justifications for why I was doing what I’d been doing–and now I needed to get ruthless about cutting things that didn’t fit my highest vision.
If you know that your soul’s calling is asking you to shift, you’ve got to look around and see what’s currently pulling your attention. If it’s not something orienting you towards what you know you want, most, then you’ve got to cut it. These are hard choices, but it’s part of keeping yourself aligned with a life lived in ecstasy.
Third step: See one thing through.
If you really think about it, most paths are saying many of the same things. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Know what your priorities are, and make choices that align with those priorities.
The self-help hamster wheel can only keep turning because you bail. This time, finish. Review your notes from that last workshop, implement action steps for thirty days. Read the book, cover to cover, and discuss it with a friend. Complete the program. Finish every single exercise, and be 100% invested.
The chances are that it’s not the guru, the program, or the message that’s amiss. It’s your commitment to it. If you’re fully committed, you’ll get something out of it, no matter what. Buck the trend of bailing on something, and instead see it all the way through with a fervor. Tell everyone what you’re up to; ask them to join in. When you’re done, ask yourself if this time, something’s different.
All Paths Lead To You
At the end of the day, the things that aren’t working in your life won’t change because you do external things, differently. They’ll change because you feel a shift, inside. When you’re no longer on the self-help hamster wheel, your energy gets redirected towards your courageous purpose, and it’s living with a sense of purpose that will light you up and make even the challenges feel lighter.
Stoke the flames. There’s something burning within you, desiring change. That desire is healthy. You won’t get there through repentant exhaustion–only through committing to yourself.
Imagine this: a small hole in a wall, perhaps only a half-inch in circumference, and it needs to be patched with spackle.
If you try to repair a small hole with a ton of spackle, it’s useless. As soon as you cram some in, the excess slides out. It won’t fit.
Widening the hole to accommodate more spackle, of course, would be lunacy.
But this was what we do with our desires for more time. We try to subvert the laws of seconds and minutes and hours that turn into days, weeks, months, years. We tell ourselves that we can cram in more than we can actually cram in.
In the meantime, this pattern makes us miserable.
In the meantime, we don’t enjoy anything of what we have, what’s here now.
Two Truths About Time
We all have the same amount.
You cannot create more.
Meditate on that for just a moment. We all have the same amount. You cannot create more.
If you really “got it,” deep in your bones that this is true, what would you do differently with your life?
Would you stop saying yes to the things that feel like heavy burdens of obligation?
Would you buy less, so that you’d have less to monitor, pay for, clean, or otherwise take care of?
Would you feel less stress, and more ease, because you clearly saw the fallacy of believing that if you JUST organize, focus, and quadrant your time into categorized blocks, there would me more of it?
Getting Organized and Focused
Funny thing, this “getting organized and focused” story line–some of the people who get the most done are constantly saying to themselves and others, “I’m so behind; I just need to get more organized and focused.”
They believe it, too.
This borders on something like a disorder. You know how someone with anorexia is unable to see how very thin she actually is? People who get a ton done, who are actually very efficient, tell themselves that they don’t do enough and that they need to do ever more.
Tired All the Time
By the way, are you tired, all of the time?
This “trying to cram more spackle into the tiny hole” pattern is fucking exhausting.
If you’re tired of being tired, at some point you’ve gotta just drop it–all that you’ve been trying to hold, organize, categorize.
You rest. Then you look around, and you ask yourself: “What’s actually important, here? What’s worth picking back up?”
“Organized and focused” is actually a feeling. It’s a feeling that has little or nothing to do with the cleanliness of your house or whether you have reached inbox zero.
When you know what your priorities are, it’s a lot easier to “get organized” or “feel focused.”
So what are your priorities? (Try writing them down).
Then ask yourself: Do I actually live this way?
If you don’t, then consider that what stops you from living in alignment with your priorities probably isn’t that you haven’t found the right time management system, yet.
Also, it’s probably not that you need to organize your desk drawers or trick out your office.
Finally, it won’t really make much difference whether you write out a meal plan every week, or wing it each night in the kitchen.
What will make a difference? What will have you living in alignment with your priorities? How you treat yourself as you go through your day to day. Deal with the inner critic voices, and you’ve officially put yourself in the express lane to feeling more “organized” and “focused” in your life–because your laser focus is poised for happiness. You’re not going about your day, trying to do your thing, all while beating the shit out of yourself in the process.
Getting Things Done
Getting things done is, on many levels, over-rated (I never knew this until I became a mother).
What’s more important–what feels better–is being clear what your priorities are. Not someone else’s obligations are; not what your priorities are “supposed to” be. Yours. What are your priorities, the things that uniquely make you feel more like…well, you? The things that, when you honor them by giving them a central place in your life, bring you joy?
My priorities are my kid, my partner/our marriage, writing.
My priorities are reading as many books as possible, roller derby, and travel.
My priorities are working my way up to CEO in the company, yoga teacher training on the weekends, and
My priorities are doing as little as possible, just breathing, just being.
There are infinite ways to do thing called life. It’s miserable to try to endlessly cram things in; it’s joyful to pare back.
You actually have plenty of time, if you get clear on what you desire most.
(Not clear on what you want to prioritize? Check out the Shift Plan, a free download just for YCL subscribers).