We all want to “know.” To know the answer. To know what’s happening, next. To know who we are. To know our purpose. To know how to…XYZ.
Confession: I, too, have invested much of my life into “knowing.” As part of the quest to know, I was one of those people: Degrees, awards, certificates and certifications. Internships. Volunteer positions. Committees. Workshops. Books.
The quest to know, when it turns into a quest to nail down life into a series of guarantees and absolutes, is one that is exhausting. At the same time, everyone I’ve met who undergoes that quest, pretty much has to travel the same road: the road of trying to nail it down, arrive at solutions, create a world rigidly fixed with safety…before figuring out that that just isn’t possible.
I don’t remember what prompted it, but I still remember how dizzy with terror I was in the moment when I clearly understood that there was no workshop, book, teacher, leader, or path that would save me. Prior to this, I’d finally understood that the degrees and certifications, much as they can grease the wheels and open a few doors superficially, did absolutely nothing for me in terms of my inner landscape or my personal happiness–but the realization that even the self-help work was part of my quest to have some kind of certainty and that on a fundamental level it didn’t exist, stunned me.
But here’s what happened, next, the gradual unfolding of the next several years:
I have become a better listener, because I’m less likely to think I “know” what someone is going to say, next. Especially when I’m trying to work out a conflict, there’s a gentle voice that sites beside me that says, “Breathe. Just listen. You’re okay.”
I’m less defended, especially in those moments. Practicing being less defended, I see more clearly that there’s nothing I’ve really needed to defend. No one is ever trying to tear me down; they are trying to express themselves in whatever way they know how.
My coaching practice took off sometime after this. I stopped seeing client work as “The client and I are trying to arrive at answers” and instead started to see the work as “The client is undergoing an exploration, and it’s the privilege of a lifetime to be beside her as she does that.” I came to see that my basic skill-set as a coach was not to help someone find the answers they were seeking, but to be a vehicle for asking deeper questions, challenging assumptions, and facing fear/practicing courage.
(P.S. I also found that, paradoxically, the clients who were rigidly attached to answers typically didn’t find them; the clients who were interested in curiosity and exploration without attachment tended to arrive at landing spaces in their lives that, for all intents and purposes, we might describe as “answers” of sorts).
When people do unkind things that make absolutely no fucking sense to me (not to put too fine a point on it), my default reaction is still usually judgment and a sense of taking things personally, but that response dissipates more quickly than it used to. It has become easier to understand that I just cannot know what’s up for someone, not really-really-really. My favorite quote, which is appended to all of my emails: “Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears as bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” –Miller Williams
Finally, I’ve started to see needing to know or “needing to figure it out” is a huge sign that fear is at work. When fear is at work, that’s my sign that courage is called for. When courage is called for, that’s my sign that love is called for.
And love? I used to think I “knew” what love always looked like–that it was endless loyalty to a relationship, dropping everything when someone needed something, or swallowing my feelings or needs so that a connection could be preserved. Love meant contact.
Now I understand that sometimes, love looks like releasing a relationship, honoring boundaries, or speaking into a truth that all past experience indicates the other person might have a hard time hearing, and letting them choose their response to whatever it is that I say.
The form love takes shape shifts, but at its core there’s always a fundamental energy of dancing with some kind of mystery, something that says, “You know, you don’t actually know how this will turn out, but let’s choose whatever is peace in this moment.”
“Knowing” can have its good points–it can feel comfortable, and comfort is not an inherently bad thing. But as Pema Chodron says, “Comfort orientation murders the spirit.” When it’s the fundamental place we operate from, or what we’re always striving to maintain, something vital and alive in us dies.
At the core of it all, there’s pure pleasure in not knowing, not needing to know, not needing to figure it all out. If you go deeply within and ask yourself what it might feel like to not need to know or find an answer, chances are very good that the word “relief” will rise to the surface.
When you don’t need to know, you release the tension and what’s left is the relief: the relief that you are good and whole, and that whatever suffering arises in your life, you haven’t brought it on yourself because you’re a wretched human being who needs to lash the whip harder to “know” how to “fix” it.
You are good. You are wanted. You are needed. You matter. None of these basic truths about your existence require knowing. What a relief. What pure pleasure.
Originally, this piece was going to be offered exclusively to the Courageous Coaching Training Program participants, but the feeling behind it became more expansive (and grew into being a full-fledged audio). Download the audio, hit play–and lather, rinse, repeat as necessary)
I know this, like I know nothing else: if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
Of course, this does apply to getting “things,” but there’s more, here. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to…to be it. To embody it. To feel it. To make it a lifestyle. To touch it. To hold it. To breathe it.
If you want it badly enough, there’s some way–and it might look different for you, than it does for everyone else, but there is some way–for you to get it.
Furthermore, there’s some way for you to get what you want that feels…good.
Enlivening. Perhaps even natural or easy.
People mis-characterize statements such as “If you want it badly enough, there’s some way to get it.” They assume that this will mean that a bunch of narcissists will start trampling on everyone else in a bid for their own self-interests.
That’s not the way of the courageous warrior. If the price of winning your heart’s desires is trampling everyone else along the way, that’s not truly winning.
The fear that you’ll turn into someone awful in the pursuit of creating the life you desire is the fear that limits you. It holds you back. This fear is an illusion that keeps you from those desires.
I’m telling you, because this is truth: if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it. You’ll find your way. You’ll find the way that is in harmony with your inner guidance, the people you love, the environment and sustainability, and your finances. You’ll find the way that, true, might not make everyone else happy because you can’t please everyone, but you will find the way that brings your desires to fruition while practicing love, compassion, and total integrity.
If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
Maybe at first, when you look at what you’ll need to do to get to where you want to go, you’ll think, “No way.” It’ll be new and unfamiliar, and fear will be calling the shots in that moment.
Courage emerges when you take a deep breath, let it be okay that the fear exists, and say, “Okay. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I only know that I’m going to. I want it badly enough. If I want it badly enough, there’s some way to get to what I desire.”
If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it–hold this as an anchoring statement in your life, and you’ll find that new ideas come to you, you meet the people you were destined to meet, and something that initially seemed like a setback will turn out to be the very best thing that could have happened.
You won’t have to force yourself to believe this–you’ll truly see that it’s true. You’ll truly see that because you had the courage to follow your desires, to make what matters most a priority in your life, and to refuse to give up on what you want even if it’s slow in coming, things start to shift and change.
It won’t be the so-called “Law of Attraction.” It won’t be your zodiac sign. It won’t be anything other than the sheer beauty of you, standing in all your courageous power, holding the simple conviction that your desires are your birthright, they are worthy, they will bring good to the world. The fear stops being, “What if this doesn’t happen?” and starts being the exciting fear of realization that if you want it badly enough, you will find a way to get it–and having figured out that way, you’ll see the sheer force of your unstoppable nature.
If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
So now I ask you: What do you want for yourself, more than anything?
I recently posted this to the Your Courageous Life Facebook community: “How you relate to your fear teaches you where you stop short of showing others your love.”
A few lovelies in the community said: “Tell me more about that!” and naturally, I aim to please.
Fear is not a comfortable experience for anyone (anyone I’ve ever met, anyway). In dealing with that discomfort, we all relate to our fear in different ways.
- Some of us hate it and want to tell it to fuck off.
- Some of us knuckle under to it, feeling controlled by it, while resenting that it exists.
- Some of us avoid it as much as possible through every imaginable avenue of denial, pretending not to experience it while immersing oneself in every possible distraction.
There are other options for how to relate to fear. The point is that there are parallels, here. How we treat the experience of fear itself, when it arises in the body and when the Stories crop up in our thought processes, mirrors how we react to the people we love.
In that way, how you relate to your fear shows you where you stop short of showing others your love.
Creating Better Relationships
If you sincerely desire to create more loving relationships in your life, more connection, more happiness and fulfillment, then look at what gets in the way: fear.
Then look at what you put in the way, yourself: your response to fear.
Fear arises naturally, when confronted with challenges and situations that feel new or vulnerable. What you do with it becomes your experience of life.
If I want to love my husband, sister, partner, brother, mother, boss, co-worker, neighbor or the guy who just cut me off in traffic, it would do me well to see where I draw the line with being willing to love my fear. Wherever I’m unwilling to love the parts of me that are hard to be with, I’m drawing a line and saying, “I’m unwilling to love the parts of YOU that are harder to be with.”
Love Your Fear
Love your fear, Kate? you might be thinking. That sounds crazy!
Well, let’s get a little crazy. Love your fear. It certainly could use it, couldn’t it? Is there any part of you that needs more love, than that? Have you ever seen a detriment to offering love and compassion to anything or anyone in the world that is sorely in need of it?
By the way, we don’t need to confuse love with “do whatever the other person wants, even when it doesn’t feel right, to me.”
- You can love your fear, without doing what it says.
- You can love your relatives or in-laws or ex-husband, without agreeing with what they do.
- You can love people of the opposite political persuasion, without voting for them.
- You can love anyone in the world, while also making the choice to limit contact with them and not choose to be in the same room with them.
The practice of love and and the decision to agree or disagree, or to take a particular course of action, is not inherently linked.
This, by the way, is incredible courage: to know yourself well enough to say, “I’m going to prioritize what matters most to me, while also giving you a healthy ‘no.’ ”
Click to tweet: Fear is actually the call to love bigger, not to shrink within. http://ctt.ec/vZaqc
Fear-Courage Connection Exercise
I call this the “fear-courage connection to everything you want in life” because whether you’re going for the tangible or intangible, how you react to fear dictates what choices you make and how smoothly getting what you want in life actually goes.
So ask yourself: What is something I’ve long wanted in my life, that has long eluded me?
Then ask yourself: What are my habitual reactions to fear?
Now connect the dots: Is there a relationship between how I treat my fear, and where I stop short of really finding my way to this thing that I’ve long desired?
Finally, ask yourself one more question: What would courage choose?
(This is a double-sided question, really. You’re really asking, “What would love choose?”).
Your fear doesn’t have to go away, or not exist, for you to make this connection and step into more of everything you want in your life. You can drop whatever energy has been exhausting you–because boy, does avoiding fear, or hating fear, or distracting from fear become exhausting.
The practice of courage doesn’t start on the day when your fear is long gone. It starts now. Today. Whenever you want it. Dive in.