Navigating Growth: Extending Your Branches

I have always liked maps. I love to look at them, to imagine traveling with them, using them to find new and more interesting or pleasing ways to get somewhere. GPS is seriously useful, but not the same. There I said it; judge away. I like to hold and touch and SEE the big picture.

adventure-beautiful-bright-243597.jpgAnd I see that I have always believed that having that big map – the big picture with all of the details for how to get there – for all of my decisions was absolutely necessary. I mean how can you decide which direction to turn if you don’t know where you are going?

My recent experiences fly directly in the face of that idea and all of its conventional wisdom. It has thrown me for quite a loop.

You see, I’m building a community. The idea for my private FB group came to me in stillness (that’s meditation for those of you not allergic to the word – allergy sufferers forget I said anything). I got more inspiration on a walk. I got other pieces in the shower but it didn’t all add up to a map, a detailed plan. It was a little more loosey-goosey than that. So I held onto it, wanting to get the destination firmly in mind, perfecting the path.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there’s good to be found in working on your vision, but sometimes we (I) can get stuck there, moving pieces around mentally and never getting to the trip. It’s like planning a dream vacation your whole life and never actually packing a bag. For many of us the dreaming is the safe space. It is where we can try to imagine how it should be without taking any of the risks associated with trying to make it so.

The dreaming space is where my son hangs out in preparation for Halloween. He LOVES Halloween and he spends months thinking about his costume. He wants it to be whatever he wants it to be: one year scary, another year clever and literary, this year I think he’s going for political satire (yes, that’s my kid) and he works at that vision. He sees the big picture – him going to the door, the adult GETTING it, the candy, the pride. He sees the impact he wants to have. He begins to think of the details associated with the costume. We talk about those details and invariably when we get to about 2 weeks out, he begins to have doubts. He begins to think maybe his idea isn’t so great after all. This year his big worry is: “What if they don’t get it?” Oh honey, I know. Then he moves into the familiar. Maybe he should dress up as something easy, something that comes in a bag with all of the pieces, something everyone will recognize right away. Maybe he’s got the destination all wrong. It is only the time pressure (and maternal nagging) and the siren call of the candy payoff that forces his hand, that moves him out of dreaming and self-doubt into action.

I began to feel this same thing happening with the idea of this community I wanted to build, but with no candy payday to push me forward. I was sort of sitting still fondling the vision, and the longer I looked, the more I noticed the self-doubt that was creeping in around the edges. I began to hear internal message and all of those messages boiled down to some version of “Who are you to do that? Who do you think you are?”

I began to wonder if maybe I needed some training. I began to compile a reading list. I thought of some other things I would probably need to do before getting started in order to be “ready.” Let me interrupt myself (again) by saying there’s nothing wrong with training, reading, or otherwise preparing yourself for a new venture, unless you are doing all of that as a way to 1) delay action indefinitely OR 2) feel good enough to pursue something to which you feel called right now. That’s exactly what I was doing.

The fix wasn’t in more school or a more specific vision. The fix wasn’t in reading the “right” books. The fix wasn’t in preparation. The fix was in releasing the need to perfect the big vision long enough to take the next small step. The way I chose to do that was to change the conversation in my head from “What do I want to do?” which is a super important but LONG conversation that gets all of those internal naysayers in full screech mode TO “What small step should I take next?”

WHOLE different question, right? Reflecting on what small step to take next is far less daunting and while it tends to generate its own mental obstacle course, that tends to look more like confusion than self-abuse which I would argue is easier on the spirit.

“I don’t know” feels better than “No you can’t” AND it can be answered by a question perfectly grounded in possibility and shared with me by a friend who learned it from Iyanla VanZant. “Well, what if you did know?” Pretend you do know what to do next. Now what’s the answer?

It’s such a wonderful question because it sidesteps the fog that our brains use to keep us still. It’s a wonderful question because it brings us back to stillness, to what we DO know, what we can know, what we ARE capable of and out of the hunting and overwhelming picture of the perfection we’d like to create.

I believe the answer to that question, the question of what to do next, is usually quite simple. It is almost always something we already know how to do, and if we can quiet our minds enough, we can access it – either right there in stillness or sometime after like on a walk or in the shower.

It is tempting, when we get an answer, when we see a step that is as small as writing an e-mail or making a phone call, to make it bigger, to turn it into more, to consider everything about it, another brilliantly executed stall tactic by the safety monitor in our minds.

child-costume-fairy-127968If instead, we accept that simple step and execute it, we build trust in ourselves, trust in the benevolence of the universe, and trust in the possibility that we can be enough right now. If we just get the costume we envisioned,  create the props that give costume clues, wear the long johns if necessary, the KitKats and Twix bars will flow and MAYBE next year we will remember that it is okay to do it just the way we want.

When Change Feels Scary

Every time I write here I am suggesting that you consider changing: growing, learning, experimenting, risking. And I mean it. I want all of those things for you – even if your life is already amazing because I believe growing, learning, experimenting and risking will help you continue to build YOUR life, on purpose. With all of that said, however, I’m not completely unaware of the risks involved with ALL of that.

pexels-photo-789555When we change, grow, learn, experiment and risk things can get pretty uncomfortable. They can get uncomfortable for us personally and they can also get pretty uncomfortable for people around us. In fact, the people we spend the most time are the ones MOST likely to get uncomfortable when we change. They have expectations. We have patterns of interaction. There is history. All of that is presumed background at this point and when we change, we disrupt the background, we shake the ground a little, sometimes we even threaten the system.

It is tempting, especially at the system level to just say: “So WHAT?” And I have a good bit of that in my head. If my getting stronger makes it harder to fit me into some system of oppression that someone else is enjoying, so what? Really! I also know, however, that on the more personal level, anticipating how people will react to our change, growth, experimenting and risking can REALLY throw a wrench in our personal development, and oftentimes that wrench is getting thrown because we’re making up a story about what the consequences will be.

Let me make this all a little more concrete. A few years ago I was trying to figure out what my next career move was going to be. I had stayed home with my twins for several years and the more I thought about it, the less reasonable returning to my old job seemed. It kind of made me want to throw up thinking about it, which I usually take as a sign of a bad idea. But THAT had been the plan. I would return to the classroom, with a predictable (if woefully inadequate) salary and summers off so I could take care of the kids. Easy peasy. Except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t easy peasy and it wasn’t right at all. So I knew I had to change. I told my therapist that I couldn’t make a big change like that right now. I couldn’t reconsider my career options. And I meant it – like I really could not, off the table, forget it.

She wisely asked why and I explained that my husband was in the middle of training to make a career shift and therefore I couldn’t do the same right now. “It would be too much change at once” I told her, like this is a commonly known limit – the too much change cap. She gently guided me through that thought and out the other side. I enrolled in life coach training within a month.

heartsickness-lover-s-grief-lovesickness-coupe-50592What I think is interesting is that I had been so busy anticipating that my changing would be a problem, that I didn’t even get specific. It wasn’t until later that I felt out my fears about telling everyone about my decision. It wasn’t until later that I worried about the financial implications of being a brand new entrepreneur. It wasn’t until later that I realized there would have to be some serious domestic rebalancing. And I got afraid of EACH of those pieces. And you know what? NONE of those pieces have actually caused me a real problem. Everything is fine. Nobody judged me (and if they did they kept it to themselves, which I welcome in this day and age). Our household didn’t implode. We’re not starving and the kids are doing fine. None of my stories that kept me standing still in a place that made me want to throw up were true. None of them.

A super smart friend told me that family can be the most difficult place to practice your spiritual awakening. And I think this is true for any change (whether you consider it spiritual or not). We want to belong. We want to be loved. We want to fulfill the roles we’ve been playing because rocking the boat is scary and exhausting. In my experience, most of that trouble – not all, but most – comes from what I’m imagining will happen. The rest of the trouble, well that’s just none of my business.

If you’re looking to rewrite some of your story, change who you are SUPPOSED to be, or combat some of those shoulds, I’ve got a mini book that just might help. How to Rewrite Your Story includes some of my most powerful material on how to change the story that’s in your head so you can change the results you get in the world. Get your free copy and let me know how it’s going.

xo,

julia