YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE
If you’ve ever felt the frustration of striving to improve your life—better job, more fulfilling relationships, higher productivity, forward progress on dearly held dreams, increased income, nicer home—while watching as that improved life seems to constantly elude you no matter how seemingly hard you try, then I’d like to offer up an idea that might help re-grease the wheels, in a manner of speaking.
I’ll start by using myself as an example:
I’m a person who always has big dreams and elaborate plans for everything I’d like to do and become. And I’m sure there’s a mathematical equation that compares the speed at which I achieve those dreams with the speed at which I dream them up; an equation that accurately measures the gap between where I want to go, and how far I am on the path toward getting there. Sometimes this gap stymies me. I think to myself: What’s wrong? Aren’t I capable of this?
When I look at people who are doing what I want to do and being the sort of person I want to be, I sometimes catch myself deciding subconsciously that I don’t want the pressure, or the schedule, or the anxiety, or the struggle. You know, like the person who wants to be an author, but they don’t want to actually spend all the time and effort writing a book. (That’s not me, by the way, but it’s a great example!)
It could be that the reason I (or anyone else) can’t get where I want to go is BECAUSE I AM NOT YET THE PERSON WHO IS CAPABLE OF IT. Not that I can’t become that person, but that I’m clearly not that person, YET. Thus, I spin my wheels on actions I’ve already taken to get precisely where I’ve already gone. Why? Because I haven’t changed ME yet. I haven’t changed the material I’m starting out with.
Sometimes we’ve got to change where we’re coming from to properly get to where we’re going. Often, the sensation this carries with it is one of dissonance or disconnect; that feeling that your present life is not synching properly with the future you want, but you’re not sure why. Perhaps it is because you are not yet the person to whom that future would belong, and on some level, you probably know it.
Think of it like crossing a broad river or a vast chasm: you can try with all your might to launch yourself over that great expanse, but unless you take the time and trouble to build a boat or a bridge, you will fail again and again. In other words: you can’t get there from here.
Of course, the boat and bridge are not literal in this case, but metaphorical. You have to change yourself: your beliefs, your thoughts, your perceptions, and your actions. You have to change the vessel, as it were. If you want to get where you’ve never gone, you’ve got to become what you’ve never been. And, believe me, this can stir up a lot of resistance, even if we’re not consciously aware that we have it. (My sister-in-law calls this the “wobble;” that part that we are not totally committed to, for whatever reason, even if we profess to truly wanting to be in different circumstances).
So, if what you want requires discipline, then you must become disciplined. (Oh, snap!) If what you want requires courage, then you must learn to move forward despite your fears. (Groan). If what you want requires a different set of circumstances, then you must take responsibility yourself for creating those circumstances. You must grow in confidence; you must practice consistency; you must look for opportunities to learn; you must slay your demons, demolish your vices, and beat back your feelings of doubt and resistance every time they arise. What kind of person would you have to be to do all this?
That’s the person you need to become.
I touched on this in my blog “Be It and You Will See It,” but this takes the idea even a step further. Because if you don’t yet know how to embody that which you wish to become, then that is the work that needs to be done. And that is the work that goes into your habits, your thoughts, your practices, and your very character.
But how do we change those things?
I remember, many years ago, a friend of mine telling me that she was spending time “doing internal work;” in other words: working on herself. Honestly, back then, I didn’t even know what that meant. I felt that one could work on things, work on goals, but not simply work on one’s SELF. Now I know better. Now I know it is the foundation for everything.
What is it that we are working on, then? We have to think deeply about our motivations, our fears, and the things that trigger us. The background noise that subtly directs our lives, even when we are not aware. The insecurities, the blame we place on others, the feelings of unworthiness—but also our deepest loves and passions that we may have taught ourselves to subvert or ignore. (Often because of those things I just mentioned!) It’s important to get in touch with our genuine way of being and believe again in our own remarkable potential. We must—yes—love ourselves, and trust our capacity to learn, and grow, and improve, and progress. It is essential that we change the internal dialogue and alter the external habits.
Did you hear that? Change the internal dialogue and alter the external habits. That’s the method. That’s the pathway.
If I am telling myself that I would never be able to tolerate a schedule more grueling than the one I already have, then I have subconsciously crossed certain possibilities off my list. If I am telling myself that I will never be brave enough to ask someone to mentor me on some things I’m interested in doing, then I have stopped myself again. If I tell myself that no one is interested, and don’t bother, and you’ll never make it, and there’s no point anyway, then I’m at a dead halt.
What matters is not just what you think about one thing; it’s what you think about everything. It’s not just what you do when you are trying to get a better job; it’s what you do every day. It’s about the integrity and alignment of your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s about your authenticity, and about creating a vision of your best self, and then living like that person every day. Not if you see results, but until you see results—or die in the ring having at least tried. It can start out as simply as quieting your mind (meditation and walks in nature are great for this!), better directing your thoughts and emotions, and exchanging routines and habits that don’t serve you for routines and habits that do.
This is the internal work my friend was talking about so many years ago. We must change the vessel first. We must create out of the crude matter of ourselves a boat, a bridge, a spaceship. Whatever it is that will carry us across that great abyss to the life we desire. And once we have done that—changed, improved, designed, and sculpted ourselves—then we will find that the abyss has evaporated, and the circumstances we have long desired are now the very ones we find ourselves in.
And then we will raise our eyes to the next mountain.