Have you ever wanted something so much, you were willing to do anything to make it happen? Where do you get the incentive? The drive? The focus?
What do you need to actualize your dreams and make them a reality?
What do you do when everything you try, and I mean everything, doesn't seem to make a difference?
What do you do?
WHAT do you do?
There have been more than a few times when I was so focused on a goal, I was willing to do anything to make it happen. I worked my ass off, in fact.
Sometimes, I hardly lifted a finger and things magically fell together.
Other times, I worked and worked and did everything I could think of and it still didn't seem to make a difference or make things come together. These can often feel like the most difficult experiences. More difficult than not trying at all is trying and feeling like it was wasted effort.
Unless I reconsider that line of thinking...I encourage you to, as well.
Sometimes we learn everything we need to from giving something our best effort, even when it doesn't pan out the way we thought we wanted.
When I was 20, I applied to do my student experience abroad. It had been a dream of mine to go to South Africa since I was about 13 years old but never in a million years did I think I could afford the cost. So, I listed my choices of destination in this order:
1) Ireland (because I'm half-Irish) 2) England (because it's close to Ireland) 3) South Africa (because...it was my dream destination)
When I got the required GPA and necessary other items, the last part was my interview. They asked me, "why did you list South Africa last?"
"I'll be paying for this trip myself," I said. "It's the most expensive. I don't think I will have enough money."
A few weeks later, I received my letter in the mail and saw my assigned destination: SOUTH AFRICA. I still have the letter tucked safely away in a memory box.
Instead of giving up or backing out, I was motivated beyond belief. I wasn't going to let some little old money stand in my way. That summer I got a job as a server in a small family-owned pub and worked every possible double-shift I could get. I earned about $4,000. Well over what I needed to go to South Africa the following winter.
When I returned home from that incredible trip, coincidentally Winnie Mandela was visiting my school. I raised my hand and addressed her in front of a huge crowd and earned the chance to take a picture with her. Effortlessly, that amazing experience came to me. Also still have that picture.
The trip experience proved to me that hard work begets results. When I want something, I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
And yet, sometimes things just aren't meant to be. No matter how hard we work.
I've developed severe acne not once but twice in the past 6 years. Both times it was a very difficult experience because I was an adult and it was really embarrassing! Why was I experiencing this major skin issue so late in life? The second time around, I was an experienced health coach and did every single thing I could think of:
1) more greens 2) more water 3) more exercise 4) more sleep 5) less sugar 6) less meat 7) more meditation 8) energy healing sessions 9) therapy 10) every topical cream and lotion on the market, from both drugstores and natural food stores
Nothing made a damn difference. I was defeated. Discouraged. I was damn pissed.
Days turned into weeks which stretched into months. After almost a year, it finally started to go away.
I wish I could tell you the magical formula or solution that finally seemed to be the remedy I'd been wanting. I wish I knew the precise mixture of "all the things" I tried. I know more about what didn't work. In this instance, unlike with the South Africa thing, the harder I worked the worse things seemed to get. It was incredibly confusing and frustrated the hell out of me.
This time, the thing that seemed to work was my decision to surrender. My decision to stop trying.
I've seen the same thing happen with my clients. Sometimes they set a goal and take action step after action step and make incredible progress. Sometimes, they do all the right things and still feel like they aren't getting anywhere---and then they stop trying so hard and focus on something else and suddenly things fall into place.
Sometimes we have the conversation that they may not actually need or want the thing they thought they wanted and they change their goal. They surrender to the process and go with the flow a bit more.
It seems the best thing you can do, when you've tried everything, is to do nothing at all.
This can be especially difficult for people afraid of failure. Or people who want to look good and are afraid of looking bad. What does it say about us if something doesn't pan out? Are we a failure if we don't persevere enough?
Or, are we persevering at the wrong thing and surrendering our efforts is actually the best thing we can do?
I definitely found that giving things some space and time, and turning my attention and energy to other things like self-care and relaxing a bit helped whatever was "stuck". Ironically, I guess, doing less and not more was the cure for whatever ailed me.
I read this quote over the weekend while I was eating and literally had to put my fork down:
This means that the highest forces of energy, any kind of extraordinary energies there might be, become absolutely workable rather than taking you over. This is because, if you are not offering any resistance, there's nothing to take over. Whenever there's no resistance, there is a sense of rhythm happening. The music and dance happen at the same time.
-Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
What's your experience with this? Have you ever seen this happen in your own life?
What would happen if you tried it with something that isn't working right now?