Had a clairvoyant from the future been able to guarantee, in no uncertain terms, one vision from the future, my younger self would have wanted to know this, and only this: that she would make it.
As a teenager, my younger self spent a lot of time worrying. She worried that she would always be poor, living in the same crime-ridden neighborhoods that she’d grown up in, and she worried that calling the police on drug dealers on the corner or the pimp down the street who tried to stuff one of his women into a car–that woman being a neighbor who had been sucked into the drug world and was now turning tricks–would be a fact of everyday existence.
She worried that she would always exist with a baseline level of depression–able to go to work, make good grades, floss, but caught in the silent shame of bulimia, cutting, and thoughts of suicide. She didn’t think she would live past the age of twenty.
Most of all, she worried that hard work and a reasonable amount of smarts would never be enough. She worried that all that would await her after high school and college would be a lifetime of working soul-sucking office jobs, at best.
She worried that a life lived on her own terms would be an impossibility, mostly because her well-meaning parents had warned her to “be realistic” about her options. They had taken steady jobs in order to put food on the table and pay bills, and my younger self remembered many years when they’d scraped by, just to even manage that much.
To dream bigger than that was to dream into a reality for which she had no context.
Yet–I honor her for dreaming, anyway. I honor her for tucking this one pervasive thought into her back pocket:
“I don’t know how it’s going to happen–but I’m sure there’s got to be a way.”
That was the foundation of a lifetime of practicing courage.
I would have wanted my younger self to know that all of the things that she hates most about herself and her life would turn out to be her gold. Her anger and self-righteousness and fear would all cause pain in various ways, but they would also push her to grow.
One day, she would learn that there are benefits to having been poor and afraid; it will make you hungry.
Once you’ve felt that hunger in your body, you will work every skill you’ve got and learn how to leverage like crazy. That literal or metaphorical hunger, depending on how it’s used, can give you street smarts; it can make you wise and discerning when you know that a mis-step could land you grappling two steps back; it will make you look for opportunities and then double- and triple-check that you haven’t missed an option.
In service to letting her know that she would make it, I would also want her to know that the day would come when she would look around at her life and realize that she could…relax. Hunger had served its purpose, making her sharp and edgy in all the best ways, not willing to suffer fools gladly.
But later, the day would come when she could breathe; when she could look around at her life and realize that, if asked “What would you do if you had millions of dollars and didn’t have to work?”, she would look at her life and say that she’d be living this life, right here.
I’d let her cry in my arms with relief upon hearing that, because that’s what she would have done.
I would also want her to know that at her core, she is fundamentally good and wanted and enough, and that her choices have all added up to something beautiful: a life lived on her own terms.
On this side of everything, because I know that the struggles and challenges will be a series of unfolding opportunities to learn something, I wouldn’t take any of them back. “Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now…”
But I would only add this one tweak to the trajectory of her life–the ability to see the presence of God/Universe/Spirit/Love that was by her side the entire time, collaborating with her.
I would reassure her that even at those times when she didn’t know it, there was a force bigger than her that was dancing with her, guiding her, and bringing her to just the right people and places.
I would let her know that the day would come when she could see in hindsight the complete and utter miracle of a life that unfolded absolutely perfectly, just as it should have, not a step out of place.
All of it perfect, none of it to be undone.
–and so it is.
This post is part of a blog series for teen girls run by Ashley over at Your Super Awesome Life. Click the link to learn more about this series and the other participants.
I know how the story goes. I’ve lived it.
- When I finally have more clients, I’ll stop feeling so insecure about my business.
- If this launch goes well, I’ll know that it means I should keep doing this work–it’ll be a sign from the Universe.
- Once I have more social media followers, it won’t be so hard to market myself, and I can finally relax.
These are the “booby prizes,” the “I’ll feel good about my life when…” head trip that gets just about everyone who’s an entrepreneur.
They happen because you’re looking at other people who are farther along in the process, thinking that if you were making the kind of money they were making, or if you were able to launch as easily as they are, you’d be feeling pretty damned good, right now.
Feeling good is an inside job. It doesn’t happen because you have money or followers or invitations to participate in collaborative projects.
Collective Blind Spot
Coaches tend to have a collective blind spot around all of this. We can be on the phone with clients all day, reminding them that it’s not a doting husband, an exciting job, or well-behaved children that will create happiness–it’s what’s inside.
Then we go off and start ramping up our coaching practices and we forget that, hey, this concept applies to us, too.
When we externalize our happiness, we always lose–it just depends on when we’ll notice. Usually, we’ll notice when the externalized thing has shape-shifted.
That’s why it doesn’t work to say “I’ll finally be able to relax when I have X number of followers.” No, you won’t–you’ll worry about keeping them. That’s what happens when happiness is externalized.
That’s why it doesn’t work to say, “When my coaching practice is finally making $X a year, I’ll be happy.” No, you won’t–you’ll worry about how to make that money the next year, or you’ll worry about losing clients, or you’ll have a falling out with someone online and feel insecure that they might have been the reason for your success and without them, you’ll be nothing.
I don’t know what shape it will look like–I only know that when we externalize our happiness, at some point, we always lose.
(*But not in a Charlie Sheen kind of way).
We win at this when we don’t externalize our happiness.
So–how do we not do that?
Don’t make it about anything external.
What is it that you love about coaching? What lights you up about it? What’s the best session you’ve ever had, and why was it so great?
These are the questions to hold dear to your heart. This is what you need to be doing, to feed your soul so that you can feed the souls of others. Coach for free, if you have to. Just keep coaching.
Do you love to write? Talk to people? Make videos? Make art? Take photographs?
Then this is how you really need to be marketing yourself. Somehow, some way, there’s a way to do this. If you’re putting a leash on your photographer self because you think that the only way to market yourself is through writing blog posts, then you’re cutting off your own oxygen–slowly, but surely.
Your New Mantra
Your new mantra is this: “I might not know how, but I know there’s got to be a way.”
Repeat it when you don’t know what the next step is.
Repeat it when you know you need to change a pattern, but you can’t imagine how you’re going to go about doing that.
Repeat it when you just don’t know, because there’s nothing wrong with knowing.
Instead, commit to finding a way.
Then just circumvent the part where you feel insecure about your business–because if you decide to just start coaching people, and that’s what lights you up inside, that will be enough to get you to your next step.
Circumvent looking for signs to prove that this is the work you’re meant to be doing–you know if it is by how you feel when you do it. Just own that.
And for the love of Christmas–don’t worry about numbers, social media followers, and the like. Just keep doing your good work, looking for opportunities to refine your edge, and keep on keeping on while you bask in the glow of doing what you love.
Don’t wait for money, fame, or numbers to legitimize it.
You’re legit. (Insert obvious joke for the context of this post: You’re too legit to quit!).
If you’re legit, start acting like it–so don’t settle for the booby prize. Do the inner work, no excuses, so that you can rock entrepreneurship the way it was meant to be rocked, with you shining brightly.
If you are a Coach, chances are great that you’ll love the Coaching Blueprint. It’s 300+ pages of solid, pragmatic, tried-and-true wisdom about running a practice–not to mention behind-the-curtain insider from 12 other coaches spanning a wide variety of niches, telling you what it really takes to run their businesses.
To “purge” is to release a lot in one deluge, one fell swoop. If you’re purging, you aren’t picking and choosing one little brick at a time–you’re declaring that a complete overhaul is in order, and it’s entirely possible that a foundation (or two) might come down.
The first (and only) step to not needing to purge? Don’t binge. We binge on easy-come, easy-go; we binge on credit cards; we binge on rich foods; we binge on fast money or fast cars or fast (hot) sex.
Then follows the ubiquitous declarations of repentance and the abstinence-oriented cleanses–and when the cycle starts to repeat itself with alarming predictability, you know you’ve got both a pattern and a neurosis on your hands.
But let’s just go straight to brass tacks–if you’re ready to purge, you’re hopefully past repentance. You’re ready to take the structure down and build it back up.
Know What You’re Dealing With
Whether you’re purging clutter, empty relationships, or weight (and we’re definitely talking about purging that is of the “work out and eat better” variety, not the kind that qualifies you for a diagnosis), it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.
Because–what IS up with you that your office is such a mess that you can’t find anything and your husband is (only half-jokingly) threatening to call Hoarders on you? What IS going on with why you’ve surrounded yourself with Stepford Wives and can’t remember the last time that you had a meaningful conversation? Knowing where you’re starting from is important.
Also–have at least one (if not a few) really good, (purging) crying sessions if you’re releasing something particularly heavy.
Don’t Get Paralysis Analysis
At the same time–quit trying to figure out all the ins and outs of how the shit hit the fan. Start making choices in the right direction, and don’t futz around (for too long, anyway) with figuring out what the “right direction” is. Just start with the opposite of the one you were on, and course correct from there.
Maybe you’re going through a divorce; maybe your business is crashing and burning; maybe you are looking around at your life and don’t know who you are, anymore. Great. Now get going, even if “get going” means that you finally take up that meditation practice you’ve been meaning to start for aeons. It’s not about cramming your to-do lists so much as it is about making different choices–and making a lot of them.
Rally the troops. Even if what you’re releasing is a cadre of unsatisfying relationships, you can always hire an ace coach or a hot-shit therapist, start attending support group meetings, workshops, reading more self-help (may I suggest something that’s a little lighter on the b.s. side of things?). Maybe you’ll pray or meditate, more (free, of course) to get through these tough times. Perhaps you’ll take up running or try to sweat out all the toxins (emotional and otherwise) at a Bikram studio. Whatever you do, call up your tribe, or create one of your own.
Don’t try to repurpose it, sell it, trade it, or store it until it goes up in value. Release it.
Have you ever seen an episode of Hoarders? I’ve caught a few. You’ll notice that the hoarder in question almost always says that they don’t want to throw something away because they were saving it for some express reason. Meanwhile, the rest of us can see that they’re never, ever going to find a use for those six cracked ceramic toilet seats sitting in their back yard.
The same principle applies to anything else that we need to let go of, in life. Just release it. Release the relationship. Release the job with the boss that screams at you. Release the paperwork. Release the attachment to an ideal that hasn’t been working for you for far longer than you’d like to admit. I don’t even like the idea of garage sales–just donate, get it out of the house.
Don’t try to repurpose, sell, trade, or store it in the hopes that things will change–just release.
Shit Fits are For Three Year Olds
Release–and release with class. Release with integrity for what that relationship held for you and what it taught you. Release with respect–for the environment (you’re recycling all of that paper, aren’t you?), for the people involved (even if you don’t like them, they’re human beings, you know), and for your future karma (what goes around…).
When it comes to things like releasing mental patterns or weight, take a moment to–of all things!–have some gratitude. Letting go of a tendency to lose your temper? Chances are good that that pattern served you well at some point, maybe helping you to survive a childhood. Honor that. Letting go of 200 pounds? Honor the weight–even the pattern that piled it on–because that, too, was a coping mechanism of some kind.
Create Something Better
Maybe it didn’t go the way you wanted it to, and you feel like life’s in the shitter–it’s all a wonky mess. Beautiful. Now you have ample information about how you don’t want it to be, and you’re in the driver’s seat for creating something better. You have endless tools at your disposal to do this (if you don’t see them now, start honing that kind of vision–when oft practiced, it does emerge more and more naturally).
How could you bless the situation, the person, the experience? Within the blessing, you’ll pave the way to an amplified new vision for how things can work out, next time. Nothing, short of death, is irreversible (and if you believe in reincarnation, even that involves some level of “I’ll getcha on the next go-around” negotiations).
When you release the old, you open up a wide expanse of space to let in what’s new–and this time, with more consciousness and stronger choices. Create something better, something that will make it easy in a few months or years to look back with friends and say, “Remember when it was so tough because…?” with an easy smile.