Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's holding you back?

“It is the truth that offers us this freedom, the freedom to test what we are taught, to accept what we feel in our hearts, to believe what we know in our bones, and to love ourselves—including the worst aspects of ourselves—until we see through enough of our illusions to discover who we were really meant to be. At that point, we will have dismantled the biggest lie, the most profound denial of all: the denial of our own inestimable power and value.”

— Martha Beck, The Joy Diet (Crown Publishers: 2003)

What have you been putting off? Is it something that, once you do it, will make a substantial difference in your life? An exercise plan that will give you more energy? A talk with someone about a relationship that’s out of balance? A project that will move you to the next level of fulfillment and/or prosperity?

For me, a big one is marketing myself—getting out of my cave and letting people see how my talents can make a difference in their lives and businesses. Letting them see what a funny, bright, likable guy I am if you look past my shyness. I will meet someone I could collaborate with or get a lead from a friend and then … nothing. Six weeks can go by and I haven’t followed up.

And the stories I tell myself! “That probably won’t work out anyway, so why try?” “I’ll get to it when I’m ready.” “I’m not prepared. I don’t have the right business cards, website, presentation, credentials, references, resumé.…” In other words, I believe the lies I have learned to tell myself. How sad.

Bottom line: I’m scared. Scared I’m not experienced enough, talented enough, smart enough—yes, good enough—to be accepted and valued. And so, to avoid the pain of that, I put things off that would help me live a more joyful, prosperous, peaceful life.

The truth is that I sometimes feel inadequate. It is also true that there is nothing in my experience that shows that I actually am inadequate. That’s just a story someone taught me long ago.

Exploring the edge

I am learning to move into those tight, uncomfortable places that are the door to freedom. Yesterday I went to a entrepreneurs’ networking lunch. Beforehand, I was nervous. “What if they don’t like me?” Once I got there I was fine—relaxed and articulate. I came away feeling I had made new friends. I am in the process of trading services with two of them in ways that will help us all succeed. Go, Gene!

To progress, I have to work mindfully and skillfully at the edge of my resistance. I go to that edge and watch with curiosity and kindness to see what inside me is holding me back. As I watch, the edge softens and a space opens. I find new thoughts, new energy, new opportunities, new willingness, new possibilities. I move into the space, right up against my faithful edge, and wait for the next opening so I can move again.

Practice invitation

Pick an area in your life where you feel unfulfilled or know you could do better. It doesn’t need to be high stakes.

Where’s your edge? When you approach this thing, where do you first meet resistance? What story do you tell yourself about this? “It’s not that important.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have what it takes.” “This is just the way I am.”

What do you usually do as a result? Fight against it? Distract yourself? Tell yourself you’ll do it some other time when you’re feeling stronger, more confident, less stressed …? How well have those stories worked so far?

Try this: Stop pushing; stop running away. Stay with the discomfort and see what is really true. “I don’t want to do this because ________.” Don’t believe the stories that say you can’t have what you long for. They’re like blind ghosts giving you bad directions. Instead, be creative. Try something new and see what happens. What have you got to lose? The lies never kept you safe; they only kept you imprisoned.

Each time you confront your limits, you reclaim part of yourself. And the world gets better because there is more of you to give to it.

Thank you for all of us.


Gene Smith
Life & Wellness Coach
Life Turned On™

Wild Life

The Wild Life monthly practice group meets this Saturday, June 20, 1:00-3:00 PM, in Asheville, NC. We'll have tea and explore more deeply how we can go beyond the limits we create for ourselves. For details, click here.

Copyright 2009 Eugene Y. Smith, III. All rights reserved.