My client sat before me, shoulders slumped and eyes downcast. She sighed heavily with an air of somber resignation. Just moments before she had been brimming with enthusiasm, her posture erect and her voice alive with possibility. Together we had brainstormed different ways she could explore an idea she had about work – not a practical idea about ways she could improve her current job, but a sparkly idea for an entirely new form of work. Work that might fulfill her sense of purpose and nourish her soul. Work that could nudge her lovingly out of bed in the morning. Work that would allow her to develop her innate talents and creativity. Work that that might even be fun.
We’d just gotten started and were building a nice spiral of positive momentum when, suddenly, she stopped. It was as if she’d taken a pin and popped the expanding balloon of our conversation, leaving a flat and lifeless scrap of rubber on the table beside us. I asked her what happened, and she said – after the shoulder slump and the somber sigh – “This is typical of me. I get all excited about an idea, and maybe even follow up on it for a while, but then it gets lost in the day-to-day stuff of life. I just don’t have what it takes to make any real changes in my life.”
Ah, the old “I just don’t have what it takes” routine. It’s quite a familiar one, but the fact of it being so commonplace doesn’t for a minute change the deeper truth that it’s a fraud, a counterfeit rationale whose only purpose is to keep us stuck. It’s easy to fall prey to such a belief, and many of us can point to a mountain of evidence to support it. After all, here we are, still in the same life we were living years ago when we first realized we weren’t quite fulfilled. Nothing seems to have changed, and so we conclude we don’t have what it takes to change.
But here’s a little-known and truly miraculous thing about change: it can happen in an instant, and the only thing required to initiate it is our willingness to see things differently. And in particular, to see ourselves differently. To see beyond the surface level and perceive the greater truth that lives in our core.
And the truth is, you do have what it takes to change. So does my client. We all have what it takes to live our best lives. It dwells within us as passion and longing and creativity and generosity, and it’s evidenced in every moment we gain a fresh insight or allow ourselves to be inspired or reach out for support. It’s evidenced in every moment we honor our truth or give freely of our gifts or choose from trust rather than fear. It’s evidenced in every moment we are willing to love and be loved. It’s evidenced in every moment we allow ourselves to be fully present.
While it’s easy to be distracted by all the times we failed to follow through on our soul’s longings, the deeper truth lies within all the moments we did connect with those longings. Those moments count, each and every one of them. They count because, if you think of your life as a series of moments, every moment you spend in joy contributes to a joy-filled life. They count because they are touchstones for what is real and true; they create memories we can call on to remind us of who we really are and what we’re here to do. They count because we can choose for them to count by honoring them. And the more often we make the choice to honor them, the more easily we can create them.
And here’s another reason why those moments count, as infrequent or fleeting as they may appear to be: they are cumulative. Each time you connect with your truth and your longings, you crack open the door to your soul. Each time you allow yourself to be inspired or challenge yourself to see greater possibilities for your life, the door opens a little further. Each time you are kind to yourself it opens even more. And even if you turn and walk away from that door, terrified of crossing its threshold, it remains just as you left it. So when you go back there it is, open and inviting and awaiting your choice to simply walk through.
You see, the apparent failure to make positive change in our lives is not a matter of “not having what it takes” – it is only a matter of learning to honor, support and cultivate what we do have. It is a matter of learning to recognize and cherish the transformative power of our passion. It is a matter of developing deeper and deeper levels of self-compassion and self-advocacy. It is a matter of exploring what inspires us, and then deciding to make inspiration a priority in our lives. It is a matter of being willing, again and again, to face that door.
It would be difficult to overstate the number of times, on my own journey of creating a life I love, that I’ve lost my bearings and turned my back on the door to my soul. I’ve wandered in a fog of doubt and fear and cynical reproach – “Who do I think I am, trying to succeed at doing this crazy work I love?” – convincing myself that I just don’t have what it takes. It took a while for me to figure out that feeling inspired and focused and trusting is a whole lot more fun than feeling small and inept and defeated, so I started looking for ways to stay inspired and focused and trusting. And while I could probably write another whole article on what I’ve discovered about how to do that, I’d like to share this one bit of wisdom with you right now:
In each moment that you feel clear, alive and connected with your true passion, take a small step. Any step. It could be simply writing down a new insight you’ve gained, or talking with someone who can help you expand an inspired idea, or saying “yes” to that intriguing opportunity you’ve been hemming and hawing about. It could be signing up for a class, or scheduling some time in your calendar for meditation and prayer, or just taking a few deep breaths and fully enjoying this precious moment of clarity and aliveness. It doesn’t have to be the perfect step, just something to genuinely acknowledge that this is your truth. This feeling of being inspired and connected to a larger purpose is your true nature, and you’re taking a step to honor that.
Then, as the doubts and distractions of everyday living surround you once again with their clouded and miserly perceptions of life, you can simply stand still and wait for them to recede, as they always – eventually - do. And as they fade away, you’ll realize that you’re standing in a new place because you took that one step. And now you can take another one, and then another. Just keep walking toward the door. It doesn’t matter if your steps zigzag in crazy circles or stay in one place for what feels like a terribly long time. It only matters that you take a step each time you are clear and inspired.
Each step counts. Each step matters. And each step affirms that you’ve got what it takes to live your best life.
Copyright © 2009
Suzanne E. Eder