Recently, while having a conversation with a client, I wound up having a personal “aha’ (this often happens, by the way). In this particular conversation, my client was sharing two really cool and unexpected opportunities that had recently presented themselves. Both of these were firsts for this person, and instead of experiencing excitement or relishing in them, it was leading to quite a bit of fear and anxiety.
Have you been there? I’m right there with you.
Of course, when we looked under the hood, it wasn’t hard to see what was going on.This person was very attached to being perfect. They were attached to the the image of how it was supposed to look; like they were a total pro in both opportunities. They were quietly rejecting any vulnerability attached, any possibilities of failure, and trying to avoid either of those things was leading them living in perfectionism, which was stifling their creativity, joy and self-expression.
They wanted to feel bullet-proof before they stepped into this kind of exposure.. It was scary to feel like they were falling short. Life handed them an opportunity before they felt ready to knock it out of the park.Before I could even stop myself, the words flew out of my mouth,
“Life isn’t designed to keep us feeling confident. It is designed to stretch us, to support our evolution.”
Life gives us opportunities to continually step outside of our comfort zone, that is the only way we grow, but if we attach to the outcome of these opportunities, or label them as “good” or bad,” rather than squeezing all the juice out of the lessons inside of them, we become blind to their value. We miss the lesson altogether.
Well, then I started laughing to myself because I certainly needed the advice I was dispensing.As many of you may know, I’m starting to think big picture with the impact I want to have in my life, and how I will create that impact. I have been dreaming about speaking more, writing a book, and creating an online program.
Recently, opportunities have popped up in each of these three areas, and I felt myself hiding. I realized, just like my client was, how much I was attaching to the outcome of these projects, and it was keeping me from taking even the first steps in exploring them.
What if I write a book and no one gives a crap?
What if I spend six months creating an online program that only five people purchase?
What if I start speaking more and I bomb?
I realized that I was more attached to looking good in the pursuit of my professional endevours than in growing from them.
Somewhere in my psyche, I believed it wasn’t worth writing the book or creating the online program unless it created a certain amount of quantifiable success ( even though my soul was burning to do it). I realized that unless I looked like a pro right out of the gate (even though I’m a novice with all three), I assumed I shouldn’t bother. I was finding ways to create distractions and obstacles so I wouldn’t have to be present with the vulnerability of being a beginner and living in uncertainty. I was trying to procrastinate, because perfection felt like way too much pressure.
Part of what creates the illusion of failure is the expectation we place upon our actions. We tend to rely on tangible results to understand the value in our endeavor. We fail to see the innumerable intangible benefits that we receive from committing to an opportunity, that eventually lead to tangible results in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and it isn’t always on the time table we have arbitrarily assigned.
I see this all the time (especially in the beginning with my clients).
“Either I lose 20 pounds in the next ten weeks or coaching will be a waste of time and money.”
“Either I book the role or giving 100% to the audition isn’t worth my time.”
“Either I get a second date, or meeting this person for a drink was a bomb.”
But life doesn’t work like that. It is not that black and white, and often the lessons live in the gray areas.
So maybe someone didn’t lose 20 pounds in ten weeks because they needed to dismantle their current relationship with food and rebuild it. But in those ten week, they gained the tools and awareness that allowed them to lose sixty after the program was over, and keep it off.
Or someone didn’t get the role, but they wound up having one of their first empowering auditions on-camera, which led to booking a Netflix series six months later.
Or someone didn’t get a second date, but they learned more on that date about what they didn’t want, which led them to finding the relationship they did.
If we look at each situation in our lives as an opportunity to learn how to become the person we want to be, how to love and accept our current self more, and how to love and accept others more, then it will lead to bigger and better results down the road, because we will no longer hide from opportunities, we will embrace them with open arms, knowing our “failure” (which is inevitable with brand new opportunities) is our opportunity to evolve.
In order to do that, however, we need to let go of tangible results being the most accurate indicator of our success. We need to learn to value the qualities and awareness that emerge from these lessons, instead of whether or not we nailed it. We need to do our best and forget the rest. We need to surrender.
When I need this reminder, I always think about Brené Brown. For those who don’t know her, she is a best-selling author and her Ted Talk is one of the top five highest viewed, well, pretty much ever.
She has BLOWN the lid off of the topic of shame, vulnerability and what it means to live a wholehearted life. Before she was big-deal Brené, she was a professor in Houston and author of two books on these topics. It wasn’t until after she gave a Ted Talk (which she was positive she bombed), that the world woke up to her message. A previously authored book became a bestseller as did her next books, “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong.” It seemed she wrote her first book as an extension of her research and thesis papers. It was not an instant hit but it prepared her for something much larger down the road. Now, she had created BIG impact, not only with books, but on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah, and two online workshops. She is a though-leader in the world of self-development and a cultural icon.
Every circumstance has the power to be our teacher if we open up to that perspective, and our failure resilience (how fast we bounce back) is one of the greatest factors in our ability to succeed. Look for the lessons because they lead to more awareness, and awareness is the greatest agent for change.
Rock On & Be Well,