How to Make Personal Fulfillment Your Priority

04/12/2013 03:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013
  • Lisa Arie Author, 'Crossing the Silly Bridge'; Founder, Vista Caballo

Begin by asking yourself the right questions

People who come to our Colorado study center learn that sometimes all it takes to have a different life is a different perspective. Hence the name of our center, Vista Caballo, which means roughly "from the perspective of the horse." If you can see from a new perspective, what you see will be new to you. And this leads to fresh takes and personal breakthroughs that could change your life.

One of the most helpful life lessons I learned through working with horses is: If something is not working, ask a different question.

When I was learning horsemanship, the lesson for the day was to ask your horse to back up. My horse started to do as I asked and then stopped. I asked again. Nothing. Just to be sure, I asked a third time. Nothing.

The instructor stood in front of me. "What am I doing wrong?" I asked. "Is that the right question?" my instructor replied.

I tossed out an alternative question: "Why won't this horse back up?"

"What's your answer?" the instructor asked.

"Perhaps I was not clear. Or maybe the horse doesn't want to back up," I suggested.

The instructor confirmed that I had communicated the instructions clearly to the horse. She also confirmed that horses are, first and foremost, willing. So if there was clarity and willingness without the desired result, what other question could I ask?

I thought about where I wanted to go--in this case, somewhere behind me.

Then I asked myself what was stopping me.

Getting from there to here
I decided to get a good look at where I wanted to go. I turned all the way around in my saddle and looked behind me. I wanted to see everything. I peered at the huge expanse of open pastures; the crisp, clear blue skies that spread over them; the majestic mountains that framed them; and then...the big wooden fence that separated my horse and me from all that. There it was; I had found the answer to my question.

I had backed my horse onto a fence that was now securely tucked under her tail. She had been willing to back up. She simply could not. New perspective gained, I repositioned my horse and we proceeded to happily back up all over the place.

I am often asked how I got from there to here. How did I leave what was familiar and take a leap into the unknown? How did I choose my heart over my paycheck?

I guess it must look like that. But for me, the question was different. For me, the question was: Am I willing to miss my life for a paycheck? That was the question that gave me the confidence to leave the familiar and take a leap into the unknown. I wanted to go "there"--to my next level of life, where I felt fulfilled and actualized as well as financially supported.

I looked around to see what might be preventing me from doing this. The question about financial security was the proverbial fence I had backed up to. The exchange of a satisfying life for a big paycheck seemed to be part of my mind-set. I needed to change my thinking: I needed to stop assuming that life is a dichotomy--fulfillment versus security. So I asked myself a question: Was there a way to feel fulfilled, actualized and secure at the same time?

Feeling secure was nonnegotiable for me. So I started there. I discovered that I equated money--a paycheck--with a sense of security. Granted, it was at a certain point--when I first stepped into the wide world of self-sufficiency. But then it became a tether that tied me down. I knew this because I no longer felt fulfilled. I discovered I needed something else to give me a sense of security if I was going to let go of the current financial lifeline. My paycheck met my financial needs. So I changed my question: Did I trust myself to provide for myself differently?

The answer was yes.

I had reached a point in my self-development where I was ready to count on myself more than my paycheck.

So I did.

I made a decision about which direction I wanted to go in from here on--to live life fully without compromising, instead of merely surviving it--and to make choices that only supported that decision.

What are you afraid of?
So when I'm asked how I made the change I did, going from the familiar to the unknown, I tell people it's all in the questions you ask. Curiosity is the primal instinct that leads us out of survival thinking into thriving and loving life. As Jonas Salk, inventor of the cure for polio said, "You don't invent the answers. You reveal the answers by asking the right question."

So you may want to ask not what's holding you back, but what security is to you? What are you most afraid of, and is there another way you can answer that need? Our primal needs rule us. When you recognize and give yourself what you need, it gives you the space to discover the level of trust you have with yourself. Your level of self-trust is what determines whether you are able to step past your conditioning, your mind-set, and your self-imposed limits. We, more often than not, use the comfort and security of our paychecks as an excuse not to question ourselves about how much we really trust ourselves.

I was taught that if my horse does not do what I'm asking, I am either asking the wrong question or asking the right question the wrong way.

A paycheck is the means to an end. Knowing yourself, trusting yourself and asking yourself the right questions, provide the means to a beginning.

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