Truth-bomb: every single time that I start something new, it’s overwhelming.
Every. Single. Time. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’ve created several courses or programs. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’ve read a gazillion books about formulating the just-right training program for upping my running mileage or preparing for a triathlon. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve attended thousands of hours of coaching as a client.
When I am creating a new course, or planning a new training season, or when my coach challenges me to step into a new way of responding to a chronic life challenge, I think things like:
- How am I going to make time for this?
- I hate feeling this stressed-out.
- Should I have started this? Maybe now wasn’t the right time.
I’m leading with that simple admission, because there’s no secret to be had, no bones about it–when starting something new, we have to make space for the new thing, learn about the new thing, and we will wonder whether or not the investment of our time and energy is worth it, when it comes to learning about the new thing.
Any time we’re embarking on something new, fear arises–and sometimes, “overwhelm” is the code-name for “fear.”
What Successful People Do
Let’s say that we’re defining “success” in this case as following through on those things that are important to you. There’s a difference between those who are successful with making things happen, and those who find that it’s another year and they still haven’t quite found themselves where they want to go:
Successful people actively and consciously decide to learn how to work with overwhelm.
Because they’re more committed to their desires to make changes, than they are to the overwhelm.
I’m thinking of an intensive online course I took awhile ago. There were audios to listen to, new worksheets to download each week, calls to attend, homework to complete between sessions. I’d been excited when signing up for the course, but hadn’t really thought about the actual time commitment that would be involved (uh, mistake #1).
In short, I was completely overwhelmed. Each week, the work was piling up and I was feeling frustrated with myself–and the inner critic voices were piping up to remind me of how “stupid” I felt because I “wasn’t getting it.”
And then, in week four of the course, after having barely put time into the materials each week and after having been skating by, I said: ENOUGH.
I cleared my calendar and found an entire four-hour block of time. Then I sat down during that four-hour block and went through every single one of the audios and homework sheets, and re-did anything that I’d done half-assed.
Overwhelm wasn’t “happening to” me. I was creating the overwhelm, spinning in it through a series of my own choices. I was the one who kept not making time for the assignments. I was the one who kept half-assing them when I frantically tried to complete them before our weekly call.
ENOUGH. I was turning that ship around.
A Funny Thing About ENOUGH
A funny thing happens when we declare “ENOUGH” in our lives: things change, and the mental shift of saying ENOUGH can bring immediate relief.
When you say “ENOUGH,” you shift out of external circumstances for your overwhelm. In this particular course, I was even blaming the medium through which the instructor was giving out materials for some of my overwhelm–I was having trouble finding where things were located, purely due to my own choices. I hadn’t made the choice to actually spend some time really getting familiar with how the course module worked. Of course I didn’t know where things were located–I was popping into the course module for only a few minutes at most, and getting upset when things weren’t immediately right under my nose!
When you say “ENOUGH,” you shift out of blaming other people. You stop blaming your mother, or your 2nd grade teacher who told you you’d never amount to anything, or the person leading the workshop who isn’t doing it the way you think she should. You start walking into every single interaction understanding that while you may feel a normal, human response to the unkindness of others, that’s a response. Your ongoing reaction–the series of choices you make thereafter–are wholly up to you.
When you say “ENOUGH,” you move into more pro-active, solution-based thinking. You’ll decide to find that four-hour chunk of time to get yourself organized, or you’ll hire someone who is great at organization to step in and help you. Pro-active, solution-based thinking leaves no room for whining about how there’s no time or money. Instead, that kind of thinking finds the time, finds the money…and, more than anything, shifts into thinking of time and money spent as investments, not losses.
You Got Options
We so often step into overwhelm when we choose to take on the belief system that we don’t have options. When I was skating by in the online course that I was taking, my head was riddled with thoughts that limited my options, mostly thinking about lack of time.
Translation: I wanted all the benefits the course had to offer, but I was telling myself the limiting story of not having time.
Of course, how much time did it actually take me to get back on track? One four-hour block, and then more conscious scheduling, going forward.
It’s possible someone’s thinking, “But I don’t have that four-hour block. Truly, I don’t! Or I make the time for the four-hour block, and then something else comes up!”
Okay. Deep breath. Lots of love. Here goes:
My friend, if it is important enough to you, because you see clearly that to make any other choice would be settling for a life that is less than you deserve, you will create the time you need.
My friend, if it is important enough to you, because you see clearly that to make any other choice would be settling for a life that is less than you deserve, you will be ruthless about protecting the time that you do reserve for your deepest self-care or ambitions, and in those places and spaces where a completely unavoidable emergency (not a self-justified “emergency,” but an honest-to-cheese emergency) really does hijack that time, you’ll be ruthless about finding another time and space.
These words aren’t an attack. They are truth.
There’s always some way to find your path to what it is that you want, in the way that you want it, while honoring your values. To embark on that is to act with courage, because the decisions are tough and the opportunities to sell out on what you truly desire are many.
But if you really want to find your way there, you will find your way there. Be more committed to your desires, than to the belief systems and behaviors that prop up your overwhelm.
You won’t just thank yourself, for making this choice. We’ll all thank you. A world full of people who are committed to living lives of their own conscious design is exactly what we need.
Registration opening soon: Breathing Space, 2014
The Courageous Living Program? Totally updated.
Updating the Courageous Living Program has been a labor of love project for the past six months, as I’ve gone through everything in the program from content to chapter arrangement, and examined all of the places where I wanted to make updates. I’ve re-written chapters, added chapters, and changed around exercise questions (including re-ordering some of the concepts in a way that closely models the process I take one-on-one coaching clients through).
Even better news? Everyone who has purchased the program gets access to the update, free (check your inbox associated with your PayPal/financial transactions; the download link might be waiting for you). I’ve already announced that I’ve added interviews with Superhero Andrea Scher and Andrea Owen.
Also upcoming additions to the program? Paul Jarvis and 30 Days of Yoga teacher Marianne Elliott–everyone who purchases the program gets the updates.
Meet Paul Jarvis
This is the interview for anyone who knows that something is important to them, and they want inspiration along the way–pragmatic, straightforward inspiration, not “I’ll repeat affirmations in the hopes that positive thinking is enough” inspiration.
I like to think of a talk with Paul as a talk about working through the mental stuff that keeps you from getting shit done, whether that’s mental muck about not having enough time, or your own self-imposed limitations that are whole-heartedly the result of what society tells you is possible.
In other words, prepare to stop “being realistic” about what you want, when you listen to the full interview, and start practicing the courage to actually make your desires your new realistic.
Recently, I texted my friend Valerie. “Can you talk for ten minutes?”
When she called me up, I got straight into it: “I need to ‘out’ myself. My inner critic voices are going nuts.” Then I shared what they were saying and why they were saying it. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves laughing together.
It’s possible that this anecdote might surprise you, a bit. Haven’t I, like, “mastered” those inner critic voices, by now, making them go away, forever?
Answer: Nope. Furthermore, I no longer “want” to.
“Fearless” is bullshit (and just more perfectionism)
“Fearless” is so often touted as the end result of all of that hard, personal growth work. When you’re finally “fearless” you’ll feel confident, at peace with yourself, in touch with your shakti.
The problem is that “fearless” is just used to fuel more perfectionism. Someone starts something. They feel fear, inner critic voices, and the like. Instead of embracing and accepting fear, they work harder–to numb out, to not feel the fear, to over-achieve so as to dismiss the fear, or they outright tell the fear to go away.
It’s all intended to lead to the same end-point: feeling “fearless,” which people associate with feeling confident and put together, like you know what you’re doing.
This is a parallel cycle to that of perfectionism. Someone starts something. They decide they need to do it perfectly. Instead of embracing and accepting mistakes, when those “mistakes” inevitably arise, the perfectionist just works harder–trying ever-more to feel confident and put together, like she knows what she’s doing.
It’s important to understand that this process is not conscious, at least not at first. It’s a process that is only revealed once you start paying attention to it, and once you start paying attention to it, with some horror, you’ll see it all over your life. Most of us go through several rounds of practicing the courage to pay attention, seeing something about ourselves that is hard to accept, recoiling, and turning back to the old patterns of not paying attention.
That’s part of the journey of all this, of course–and it only changes once you decide that you will pay attention in a sustained and deliberate way.
“Fearless” is a dead-end. It’s a lifeless goal. It’s the path of the person who stops taking risks. It’s the way of the person who does not want to lead, voice an unpopular opinion, or try something new.
Being confident and put together, and knowing what you’re doing? These are comfort-orientation states. They certainly aren’t “bad,” and we all like those states when we feel them.
It’s just not realistic to feel them, all of the time–and, more importantly–when your experience of fear is to reject it so entirely that you don’t feel it at all, you miss out on fear’s enlivening aspects, the pieces of stepping into a great unknown that are kind of…sizzling, juicy, sexy, risky, provocative.
The Happiest Choice
The happiest choice I’ve made is one that has arisen slowly, organically, over time, feeling less like a conscious choice and more like the natural progression to sanity: I simply do not try to “get rid of” the inner critic voices.
When I stopped trying to get rid of a part of me that was wounded, I ended the war with myself.
When you choose to do this work, the shift is into that of unconditional love: We will work on this together, you tell those voices. I won’t tolerate disrespect, but I’ll stop disrespecting you by hating you for being afraid.
Click to tweet: You don’t need to be perfect; you need to be whole. http://ctt.ec/vCGD1.
When you choose this path, your life certainly won’t be “perfect,” but it will be more whole, more all-encompassing of all of the truth of your life’s experiences. That’s what really makes happiness possible, authenticity possible, and the truest connection with other people possible.
You don’t need to be “fearless,” and certainly you don’t need to be “perfect.” When you choose this path, you get something whole-heartedly better: being you.