I participated in a controversial conversation recently about why we [women] tend hang onto people and situations that no longer serve us, such as jobs, business ideas, or personal relationships that are soul killing. It was prompted by this question:
"How do you know when to take the horse out back and shoot it?"
The truth is I used to be an exhausted workaholic giving away every ounce of myself to my organization, keeping crazy hours and unnecessarily compulsively checking my Blackberry on weekends. I reacted to whatever came at me. I had no boundaries. Looking back, I know that this arrogant behavior was linked to seeking a sense of self-validation and insecurity of not being enough.
Someone told me this week they were learning to be "happy in their misery." That comment lingered, I was saddened and curious. Misery is a cunning little master, or are we just so damn delusional that we don't know when we are miserable and fight moving away from it at all costs.
I believe I have related more to the latter...
Realistic reflection serves as a motivator to move us forward into what we want and need. We simply need to get comfortable with stepping off the edge and trusting the landing.
A friend gave me this quote during a very uncertain time in my life, it has helped me jump off a few cliffs.
"When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly." Barbara Winter
We can all generate a list of how when we overextend ourselves, personal or in business, we feel at our deepest core something is WRONG, yet decide to ignore it to focus on that deadline.
We begin to feel alone; we wonder if we're being naïve; we wonder if we're misinformed [or we want to believe that we are]; we anticipate "push back" if we raise issues; we worry about being ostracized or worse, not appearing to be a valuable player.
Then it happens... we further tighten our grip... we normalize the effect of every stressful or devalued encounter, we sweeten up the words from those bitter dialogues. We desperately try to hang on -- to people and situations that we KNOW are not for us.
Over the years I learned to consciously shift my focus on more ease, space and self care. My preference is to move through my week in a way that helps me stay focused and enjoy the tasks at hand. I am also more mindful of how I feel when I work, because I now recognize how it impacts the end result. My health suffered.
When life and work gets crazy. When we get off track... we stop trusting our decisions. We return to those shadow default behaviors. It's called being human.
So here are some field notes from my journey on the dirt road.
Check your need for approval
We all have an Inner Approval Junkie. NO we aren't being nice women, or merely people pleasers, we are being approval whores -- there's a BIG difference. When we will do anything to get affirmation and acceptance from others we hand over our worth. We need the high.
These situations reinforce our dependence on the kudos. We barter our time, energy, and personal preferences to make it work. Learn to respect what makes you feel good. You are not required to attend every fight you are invited to. Engage only in what you love, in the places you love, with the people you love. If something feels hesitant or heavy, it's probably not right.
Know the Shortest Route to the Exit [code for, admit when it's over]
Have an escape plan. Whether it's a business idea, job, or situation that isn't working for you, make the exit quick and painless. Listen, I have personal experience with being the QUEEN of "I can fix this" OR "I can behave my way through it"... NO you can't, at least not long term without a cost to your well being. That flawed thinking is soul killing. It's arrogant. Accept the gift of good-bye. I swear it's the tenth spiritual gift. Start believing in good-byes. Get comfortable with executing them swiftly and painlessly.
Know when people's part in your story is over. Stop trying to resurrect the dead. Recognize the disguised well meaning social vampires and vultures when they show up. I have a physical reaction to these types.
Sort the Trash
Fear stops so much in our lives. It causes us to hang onto familiar dysfunctional situations. Fear throws us into questioning ourselves -- am I just a fool to sit still or walk away? Did I hear this message totally wrong? If none of these situations belong, my intuition will always strike with the truth first, when I am attuned and on track I pay attention. Find a positive mantra and repeat it until you believe it and can execute it early any emergency situation.
Stop and Breathe in the love.
This practice holds space for empowering moments to show up. It transforms feelings of self judgement or frustration; it gives us our power back to deal with those growth stunting behaviors we bestow upon ourselves and others. It prevents us from lingering in the vortex of self-doubt and creating those bullshit stories that steer us toward making those comfortable bad choices.
Drop the Rope
You are struggling because you are changing. You feel the tension between staying where it is comfortable for others. You may feel the need to win the tug-of-war by dragging your opponent across the line. If the tug-of-war becomes destructive, the way to truly win is to drop the rope. This is my favorite method of dealing with those who need to win at all costs. As soon as you feel that crazy sense of walking on eggshells, fend off your anger and STOP. Drop the rope. Walk away. There will be no kumbaya moments, so let go and move on. You'll win your sanity.
Step off the Roller Coaster
When we turn our dependence on external success we become more vulnerable to fearing failure. The cycle of good and bad is like the rise and fall of a roller coaster. What goes up inevitably comes down hard. When our objective is to constantly stay at the high points of the roller coaster we are in serious trouble. When we begin to defy our sacred selves to achieve or compete for the unsustainable highs we are in deeper trouble. That desire is our need for perfection in disguise. Reality comes from being able to enjoy the whole stomach lurching ride and learning when to climb off... This act of guts and grace helps us heal rather than hurt -- and is a legacy we are interested in leaving.