I’m always striving for a goal, always striving for better, to be “better” in a variety of contexts. I was listening to a podcast recently (I’m hooked on Tim Ferris’ Tribe of Mentors) and he mentioned his coffee table is a piece of driftwood on which is etched this quote, “Life expands and contracts in proportion to your courage.”
He went on to offer another quote and pearl of wisdom, “Life is 25% finding yourself and 75% creating yourself.” This really hit home for me and I found it incredibly reassuring. I thought back to a therapy session I had when I found myself in a really dark place after moving to Seattle. While it felt a lot like rock bottom, it was a starting place for better things ahead. I am reminded of Pema Chondron and her wisdom in her book Start Where You Are. One passage in particular has really stuck with me:
WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves— the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds— never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
In this moment nearly a decade ago in Seattle, I remember realizing that I’d always relied on other people to tell me what to do, whom to be and also relied upon the acceptance and feedback of others to determine my worth. It was a low place as I also realized something incredibly terrifying…if I let go of all that feedback, I felt hollow, truly empty. I had no idea who I was, there was nothing, without the voices and input of others.
It was at once paralyzing and freeing. It took many more years of therapy and investing in myself, but in hindsight, it was this wonderful opportunity to deal with my past, understand myself, “find myself” and then move forward to create who I wanted to be, to truly create my authentic self.
More recently as I have now moved to LA, I have again struggled to redefine myself and to once again look at this as an opportunity to be courageous in the face of change, to continue to adapt and grow and embrace the new. I have felt the challenge to find my voice and to speak a little louder, to dare more greatly. For months after moving, I felt angry and resentful and struggled to see the opportunity.
I have since taken some bold steps, starting my own business, starting a coaching program at Fielding University, and starting a Women’s Group to empower and create community. As I sit here and now ponder this shift, I am reminded of the words of Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychologist, as well as a Holocaust survivor, (1905-1997). He was the founder of logotheraphy, a form of existential analysis. His experiences as a concentration camp inmate led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence and thus a reason to continue living. He noted, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
For months, I longed to move back to Seattle, to run home, and I mourned my situation, grieved what I had perceived to have left behind. I have no intention of comparing my challenges or situation with his, however I do intend to learn from his wisdom and to see this important shift in thinking – opening myself to be transformed instead of struggling to transform a place and situation outside of my control. He offers two more pieces of wisdom I have found inspiring as I tiptoe further and further into acceptance of my place and path and strive to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I find it empowering to shift my thinking, to open my mind, and as I have longed for control and felt so powerless, these words remind me, I may not have the total control I long for, but I always have control over how I respond to the situation, the attitude I move forward with, and the direction I choose to move. With this in mind, I choose courage to continue to seek, explore, create and move forward.
Have you experienced this shift in mindset? What struggles are you facing and how might you view them as opportunities? What is holding you back? What does it look like for you to choose to move forward with courage and to be the change that unlocks your next move?