New Leaf Blog
Wise words from wise people
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it” Chinese proverb
There have been times in my life when I have been ‘the person who says it cannot be done.’ This is partly because I am smart and thoughtful, and smart people’s brains can always come up with a million and one reasons why one should not do something they care about and really want.
But however true those reasons are, they often exclude a deeper truth. A truth that can be covered up, hidden in the depths of our souls for a long time, but which continually struggles to emerge until we have the courage to take it out and look it in the eye. And having had that courage, the message changes from ‘it cannot be done’, to ‘I don’t know how to do it, but I will find a way.’
What that deeper truth, that powerful sense of purpose, is will differ for each person. But if you are still reading, perhaps it is a sign that your purpose is ready to be found and put into action. That truth is the thing you MUST do, even if it seems impossible.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you can not do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The irony is, the closer we get to those things, the more we are likely to resist them, even as we yearn for them too. About ten years ago, I was working in the railways in a job that was quite fun with colleagues I really loved, but doing something that didn’t feel like it mattered enough to me. After years of questioning what I cared most about, I finally decided to go back to university to study careers guidance because I’d realised that ‘what I really wanted to do was help people do what they really wanted to do’.
So there I was, on the point of taking a real, practical step towards something that truly mattered to me. My partner had agreed that he was happy to pay the mortgage on his own while I studied (I had to tackle some dependency demons to deal with that one) and there was no practical reason I should not go ahead.
Why, then, did I find myself on the kitchen floor sobbing about how selfish I was and how I couldn’t do it?
“Whether you THINK you CAN, or CANNOT. You are absolutely right.”
Ironically, this reaction was actually the sign I was getting close to what mattered to me. Rather than being a warning not to go ahead, it showed how important it was that I carry on. I was breaking the status quo and taking the biggest risk of my life – the radical decision to be myself.
And luckily for me, my partner held me, looked me in the eye and said ‘No, you have to do it.’
His certainty touched the part of me that was also certain. I stopped crying and listened and knew he was right.
“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome.” Samuel Jackson
We put up our own emotional barriers to change. These barriers are usually harder to overcome than the practical matters we need to address to make something happen. People who have made a commitment and have confidence make it look easy. Usually because it is easy – in practical terms. Only our minds make it hard.
When I did do the career guidance course, it started me on the track of a career that I love. Perhaps now I would express it like this: “What I really want to do is to help people to be who they really are, and so do what they really need to do to be themselves.”
There have been twists and turns in the path, but whenever I have followed what I really care about life has become easier. It is when I ignore it and get diverted that life gets tough and miserable.
So, what are you ignoring and avoiding that would stop you being miserable? Knowing it might be as simple as deciding to know it. What is your deeper truth – the thing you must do?
And let me look you in the eye when you waver, and tell you ‘No, you have to do it.’
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Dr. Napoleon Hill
Write a comment on the website, on Facebook or send me an email and share what it is you ‘have to do’ – however clear or unclear you are about it right now.
And if you do have some clarity about it, tell me and tell other people. There is a power in telling others. The power of commitment and accountability. The power of hearing yourself say ‘I will’, ‘I am going to’ rather than ‘I wish.’
Then, and only then, need you engage with the how. Embrace the adventure of setting out, not knowing where you will end up. Let go of the past, so you can seek out the future and make it the present. In the words of one who lived this way himself:
“It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt