Not knowing is a most uncomfortable state of being but it remains essential for taking on hard things and showing up at our best.
If you’re like most people, you will go to great lengths to try to know what is going to happen before you leap. This includes shoving down dreams, denying deep longings, keeping incessantly busy, and plodding along in a familiar rut for the sake of staving off even a hint of discomfort.
- Not knowing if I could successfully write a book kept me from making the effort until four years ago. Spoiler: I wrote a book.
- Not knowing what the response would be kept a client from reaching out to her robust network to see who could help her land a job better suited to her talents and values. Spoiler: she did reach out and it resulted in a position she relishes.
- Not knowing kept a colleague from picking up the guitar again. Having played when he was younger, he didn’t know if he still had it. Spoiler: he picked it up again and has been playing in small clubs with a band. For fun.
There are infinite examples of what happens when you change your relationship with not knowing. This is the way it happens–you try and move through the discomfort.
From the outside, it often appears that others have it all figured out. That it comes easily. Others seem to jump from success to success.
I’m a coach who has worked with leaders for twelve years. I’m here to tell you–like the message on your car’s side view mirror, images are not how they appear.
In actuality, what goes on behind the scenes is a series of small actions that add up. The will to break through inertia and to break down a big goal into manageable parts.
Given our affinity for safety and comfort, it’s something to celebrate every time we face fear and do it anyway.
Steven Pressfield, whose books like Gates of Fire and The War of Art have sold millions of copies, explains in his new book Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be, the rather unspectacular and low-key process of creation. “When I sit down to write in the morning,” he writes, “I literally have no expectations for myself or the day’s work. My only goal is to put in three or four hours with my fingers punching the keys. I don’t judge myself on quality. I don’t hold myself accountable for quantity. The only questions I ask are, ‘Did I show up? Did I try my best?’” [Fun fact: I have read almost every book Pressfield has written. The War of Art is a book I’ve read a half dozen times and I’ve gifted it more times than that. I sent him a signed copy of my memoir and he wrote back a personal and generous reply].
The philosopher Seneca wrote that the path to wisdom could be walked by finding just one thing a day. One quote. One story. One conversation that makes you better.
Again, it’s not what we see when we notice others’ accomplishments. It might not seem like much, but small efforts over time add up. And once we show ourselves that we show up for the small banal steps, we see how it translates to whatever is in your heart–getting in shape, improving a company or a relationship, doing improv.
Please, take your longings seriously, show up with consistency, and don’t give up too soon. Celebrate wins, no matter what size. I’d love to know what you claim for yourself, without apology, and if there is any way I can help.
What I’m pondering: from poet and author Annie Dillard on the value of a schedule: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”
What I’m reading: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. A fun, mostly true adventure memoir that had me laughing aloud. [one of many new book recommendations I brought back from the writer’s conference attended in August].
What I’m streaming: The Empress on Netflix. My husband and I are fans of period pieces. If you are too, try this compelling one set in Austria about the irrepressible Queen and dysfunctional Hapsburg Dynasty.
Tool I’m sharing: How to Increase productivity
List I’m re-visiting: Alexandra Frazen’s 50 ways to be generous. Because being generous matters.
What is ONE tiny action you will focus on? How does it relate to a larger vision?
Wishing you well. Do things that empower you. Honor what feels most meaningful. Don’t give up too soon.