“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I’m stealing this quote from my fellow blogger Diana Schwenk, who writes at talktodiana.com. I love Diana’s “down-to-earth, talk about real life” style of writing. I must admit that I never thought of looking to J.R.R. Tolkien for a purpose-driven quote, but here we are! I had actually been planning to write about this topic next, but it was with respect to a quotation from a much more philosophical source.
Wait for it – annihilation or metamorphosis. –And until that time comes – what?
– Marcus Aurelius
When Marcus Aurelius wrote this, he was referring to death. I find it curious the way he phrased it – annihilation or metamorphosis. Ceasing to exist or emerging in a new form. I love the application of this more metaphorically, especially in combination with the Tolkien quote above. I like to think that it was his way of saying – “grow or die“.
Aurelius went on to say it is possible to live an untroubled life if we are willing to grow, can think and act systematically. That we do not assume it’s impossible because we find it hard, but to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, we can do it too.
So if we combine the thoughts from these two great writers, we arrive at two pretty interesting questions:
- What are we still expecting out of life?
- What is life still expecting out of us?
While both are great questions it is the second one that challenges me more. It is much easier for me to look for what else I haven’t experienced or taken from the world than it is for me to acknowledge what it is that I have to give to the world that I haven’t yet found a way to put out there.
Why? Because usually it isn’t all that easy. We know how to be who we are today. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge that we are willing to put that security aside to attempt to live into our fullest potential. That we are willing to grow!
As a coach I work through this challenge with others. I ask questions like “what would you do if you couldn’t fail?” and “what’s going to be hard about that?” But it doesn’t make it any easier for me to do for myself.
The roadblocks are real, but they are often created within ourselves as reasons to remain where we are. While that may be true, if we take the word apart we also see another truth … that they are simply blocks upon our road. Once more we can look Marcus Aurelius:
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
So if we can know what our fullest potential is and imagine ourselves living into it, and we can identify those things that are holding us back, we are halfway there! Now we need to create strategies that have us shift our thinking from seeing them as roadblocks to seeing them simply as blocks on our road to where we truly want to be.
Once we have convinced ourselves that we want to move past this block on our road, there are many strategies that we can employ to get there. I won’t go through them here, because we are all resourceful and each situation demands a certain amount of creativity.
What we should talk about next is to acknowledge, as Aurelius did, that we will at times find it hard to move around the blocks on our road and to develop skills to notice for ourselves telltale signs that we are waning in our determination to do so.
- Status quo – we might find ourselves acquiescing to the way things are, with our inner voices saying things like “things aren’t so bad the way they are … we’ve been living like this for years so let’s just keep going.” As we notice this sign, it is important to go back to the pull of our vision and the positive energy associated with it and hold that up against the status quo in our minds, reminding ourselves that it is something worth doing and thereby re-energizing our efforts.
- Self-doubt – this is our inner voices at work again. As we listen to these critters, we may hear simple things like “this is too hard!” or “this isn’t worth the effort!” If we listen more deeply, we may hear the more fundamental voices of self-doubt like “I’m not good enough to do this!” or “nobody values what I do!” These are tough voices to deal with as they are deep-seated and have likely been with us since our early days. Turn these voices back on themselves. When we ask ourselves questions like “what would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?” or “what would I do if I knew that many people were waiting for me to complete this important work?” we find our motivation to get back on the road and find the way around the block.
- Faffing – I love this word that our Aussie friends are so fond of! It means that we are spending our time doing something that is not important instead of the thing that you should be doing. It is tough to spot sometimes, as we do deserve down time and relaxation. But I think we all recognize the difference between those states and when we are avoiding something. When we catch ourselves faffing, look behind it. Ask some tough questions. “What am I avoiding right now?” What about that thing don’t I want to do?” “What about that thing would make me want to do it?” What’s stopping me right now?” The trick really is to shift away from the thing we don’t want to do, and into thinking about the end state that we really want.
What stories do you have of roadblocks that have stopped you from having what you want? What examples do you have of successfully moving around blocks on your road?