Loving the life I lead
What ‘should’ I do with my life? Lessons learned by walking.
Shoot the ‘should-er’. The should-er is that nagging voice that chirps away incessantly telling us what we ‘should’ be doing. Known by various names – saboteur, gremlin or black crow – to name a few, the should-er makes up rules about how we are supposed to live our life and measure success. When we let the should-er run the show, we end up stressed, depressed and, literally, sick in bed. BTW, notice how should-er spells shoulder – the ledge beside your neck near you ear where this creature likes to perch?
No punishment anyone might inflict on us could possibly be worse than the punishment we inflict on ourselves by conspiring in our own diminishment. Parker Palmer
My story, Part 1:
I lived the first 25 years of my life letting my ‘should-er’ be the boss. I got a university degree I didn’t really want (Business). I spent 20 years in a corporate career that I didn’t really want (Business). (Notice how one ‘should’ led to the next…) Until one day I finally found the courage to leave. I remember driving to work on my last day and I had the inclination to ask myself, “is this what you really want?” My entire body completely relaxed. Like a huge exhale. As if years of stress evaporated. That moment was perhaps the very first time my should-er was silent. My body spoke to me loud and clear. I didn’t know where I was headed but I knew I had made the right decision for me. I don’t know what influenced me to check in with myself that day but I’m glad I did.
Change the question to “what do I want to do with my life? Uh-oh. Re-enter the ‘should-er’ and its best friend, stuck.
How do I figure out what I want?
What if I can’t figure it out?
You mean I actually get to make choices?
Things aren’t so bad. Perhaps I should just stay put.
The should-er likes the status quo, the way things are. We end up stuck. Not moving. Caught in a web of false safety. One way to by-pass the should-er is to ask the question, “what do I want to try now?” and then be patient. Keep asking the question until you feel calm and sureness in your body. Literally. And then try it out. See if it feels right when you take action in that direction. The only way to know is to take a step.
“Walker, there is no path. The path is made by walking.” (Original: “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar.”) ~ Antonio Machado
My story, Part 2:
Since leaving corporate life, I attained a Master’s degee in a field I’m passionate about (Gender and Cultural Studies), became certified as a coach and as a yoga teacher, and completed numerous other trainings in topics that appeal to me – Team Coaching, Leadership Development, Community Change, Deep Democracy, Yoga for Mood, Yoga for Athletes and the list goes on. Seems like a random list doesn’t it? I was thinking that too. And then it occurred to me, at the core of all this training is a focus on helping people develop a positive relationship with themselves and others. How to celebrate our quirks and peculiarities with no judgment about how we ‘should’ be. Of course my first student was myself. All this training was a journey in finding myself. One step at a time …
Trust the process. Trust the unfolding. Here comes the should-er again…this time with its other best friend fear.
What if I’m not good enough?
Have I made the right choices?
What if I don’t have what it takes?
What if I fail?
When we are learning to walk, we fall down many times before we figure out how to walk across a room. We are given loads of encouragement to keep trying and not give up. Through falling we find our balance – a steady place from which to move forward. It takes courage, perseverance, patience, compassion, resiliency and a good nature. And we do it. We figure it out. We fall. We fail. We get back up. We keep trying. That’s how life works. When things don’t go as planned, figure out what the lesson is and then take another step. Other helpful words to carry along the way are wonder, curiosity, awe, equanimity and lots of LOL.
“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up, again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
My Story, Part 3:
Over the last 10+ years, I’ve made mistakes, wrong choices, fallen a number of times and really questioned myself. But I kept going. How did I do it? Three things. First, with help from friends. I had to ask for help. I learned there are people who will help even when, or especially when, we feel most alone and vulnerable. Second, I made health a priority – body, mind and spirit. I got lots of sleep, ate well, exercised, had quiet time and was outside in nature as much as possible. Third, I used my experience distance running as a metaphor for figuring things out. It helped me remember that I could endure discomfort and overcome ‘injuries’. That I literally needed to just keep putting one foot in front of the other to stay the course. That with continued training and clear ‘mile markers’ I’d accomplish my goals. I knew that if I ‘stuck’ with it, anything was possible because the chubby, smoking party girl of my younger years could run a marathon. In fact, many marathons. My mantra became “yes I can!” especially helpful in the moments when I wasn’t feeling it.
Now I am truly loving the life I lead. I live in a small city in the midst of an outdoor wonderland where within minutes I can be skiing, paddling, swimming, cycling, snowshoeing or running along the shore. I’ve integrated all my passions into my work teaching yoga, coaching and creating more equitable organizations and communities. I have a rich and varied group of friends and colleagues. And most importantly, I’m happy with me, just the way I am.
Success rests in having the courage and endurance and, above all, the will to become the person you are, however peculiar that may be. Then you will be able to say, ‘I have found my hero, and [s]he is me.’ George Sheehan
Postscript: While it was a ‘should’ that kept me in a corporate job so long, it was also that job that enabled me to go on this exploration and I’m grateful. It’s a privilege that I acknowledge and I appreciate being able to pass it on in my work helping people create their opportunities.
Laurie Hunt is the founder and director of Zone-In Renewal Coaching + Yoga where she has developed an integrated approach to personal growth and change that combines contemporary leadership practices, motivation and social change theory, positive psychology, neuroscience research, eastern philosophy and yoga. Laurie has a long list of trainings and certifications resulting from her journey of discovery. Find out more about Laurie at www.lauriehunt.com or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ZoneInRenewal