You are feeling dissatisfied, discontent, a longing for something, but you feel unclear about what it is. You know something needs to change. You feel stuck. Some part of you knows you want something and it knows what it is. Otherwise, how could it feel the “wanting”? Part of you knows what you want AND part of you refuses to know what you want for some reason. Most likely, you want something, you know you want that thing, and you think you can’t have it.
So why on earth would you hide things from yourself, particularly things that you really want? These things are things that you want badly enough to feel significant discomfort about not getting it, enough to describe yourself as being “stuck”. It is much more than craving a burger and fries, but being happy enough with a turkey sandwich and chips.
You may have noticed that you have parts. Part of you wants to stay, part of you wants to go. How can these parts be warring when they are both part of the same person? We humans can be simple and complex at the same time, we can know and not know at the same time, we can feel happy and sad about a single aspect of our experience at the same time.
About a year and a half ago, I retired from a long and, for me, utterly exhausting career in corporate Information Technology. For pretty much the duration, I wanted to leave that work so badly I could taste it. I ached for the day I could walk away from it. Before I could finally pull the plug, I had to drag myself to work each day, the weight of the dread getting heavier and heavier. I had to cajole, coerce, sweet talk, bribe and kick myself in the butt to even show up. This was the relentless routine until the glorious day that all the pieces fell into place and I reached my last day of work in that career. It was finally over. I walked out of that cubicle for the last time, inhaled a deep, cleansing breath, and promptly and profusely freaked out precisely because I had reached my last day of work in that career and it was finally over. How can that be? How can I feel so acutely uncomfortable in getting something that I had wanted so desperately for so many years?
Life ain’t so simple. There are at least two sides to everything, and lots more sides than two for most things. I was happy, ecstatic even, to stop doing the work that I was doing, but I didn’t feel the same about the people I worked with. I knew that I was going to miss them. I was also precariously unsure about what my future would look like – and feel like. I just knew that it would be different. I knew clearly what was ending, but I was anything but clear about what would flow into the space created by the termination of that work.
I frequently said dumb things like, “I have no idea what I want to do.” “I don’t know what makes me happy.” “I don’t know what I like.” And day after day I felt even more lost than the day before. I felt like I was wandering in the desert, and oddly enough I kept passing clumps of bushes (no burning bushes with messages from on high, darn it!) that looked oh so familiar. I was going in circles. Until I was reminded that if you want a different outcome, then tell a different story. I began to actually hear what was coming out of my mouth instead of mindlessly droning on and on with the same toxic mantra. I began to get a gut check when I heard myself say, “I don’t k now… I don’t know… I don’t know.”
What you focus on expands in your life experience. I edited my story so that I could perpetuate a new outcome, so I could finally get out of that chapter and into the next one. Telling myself that I don’t know what I want was a way of hiding from myself what I really wanted out of fear that I couldn’t have it. Wanting and not getting can be very uncomfortable. Telling a newer, truer story was the way for me to coax my desires out of hiding, even with the perceived risk of wanting and not getting.
I didn’t force myself to say affirmations that just felt wrong. I didn’t lie to myself. I didn’t tell myself crap I couldn’t possibly believe. I didn’t say, “Everything is perfectly clear and I know exactly what to do.” Because one of those parts I mentioned before would have called B.S. on that part that was telling the lie. I just shifted it to something that was still believable, but that felt better, like “I am finding my way.” “I know I want something different, I know that much for sure.” “Knowing what I don’t want is really good information.” “There are most definitely things that I know about myself regarding my likes and dislikes.” “There are many ways for me to get more clarity about which direction I want to go, and I’m actively pursuing those.” “I’m doing all right, and things are working out for me.” Ahh. All my parts like that story better than that very annoying (not to mention disempowering) “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” story.
Shortly after I shifted my story, my vision became clearer and things began to open up, ideas began to flow. My parts were more in alignment. I found my next step, and I felt confident about it. When I stopped insisting that I didn’t know, I remembered how I loved personal development and the subject of human potential and had studied it extensively. It occurred to me that my next logical step was to pursue life coach training. Which I did, and I absolutely loved it.
I still don’t know the rest of the story, but I have moved to the next chapter. I am in the process of clarifying and defining a new entrepreneurial venture, which includes coaching, and I am excited about it. Not surprisingly, I do, on occasion, find myself tempted to slip into the old record groove of “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” However, remembering to notice my story and intentionally craft a better one comes more easily to me now. So I’ll get to move on to the next chapter and see new scenery instead of walking endlessly in circles around those same darn bushes. My parts are chit-chatting more openly now, at least on that topic.
What story are you telling yourself and what is your authentic emotional response to it? What results and outcomes are you experiencing as a result of the story you are telling yourself? How many times have you passed by the same clump of bushes – and how many more times do you want to pass by that way? What story do you want to tell, and how can you begin to tell it?