Back in California, I had a friend and mentor named Sheva Carr. Sheva taught heart-math, which is the practice of syncing your physiology and emotions through your heart rhythms; It’s a fascinating science. Sheva and I spent a lot of time talking about my love of acting, as well as my ultimate desire to help people.
Naturally, I had concocted a whole strategy on how I would do this.
“First, I’ll redo my resume. Then I need to get a new agent, and maybe a new manager, who’ll help me get a role in a series. From there, I could get cast in a movie, and then I’ll finally be famous enough to help people,” I said, rather proud of my plan.
“Can’t you just do the last step?” said Sheva.
“No,” I said. “That’s what I have to do to get famous.”
“I’ve noticed something about you, Sonia,” she said gently. “You think you have to go ten extra steps before you get anywhere. It can never be just one step for you, can it?”
She hit the nail on the head. That was my M.O. I made mountains out of even the tiniest molehills. (I do love mountains… maybe I need to learn to love molehills just as much.)
“Maybe I do that sometimes,” I said, mulling it over. “But in this case…”
“Do you really have to be famous to help people?” she said.
When she framed it that way, it sounded ridiculous.(which it was)
It’s not just me. We all do it. I see it in my clients, my friends, my family. It’s like we’re wired to stress ourselves out.
We make things so much harder than they need to be. We think that if something is meaningful, it has to be difficult. So we make it difficult. Or sometimes we make it difficult to avoid doing the things that will really make a difference.
I once read an interview with a writer who struggled for years to finish her novel. “I would do anything to finish it, except work on it,” she said. “I’d take long vacations, I’d stop eating meat, I trained for a marathon. I even tried to talk my husband into getting a puppy, thinking that would inspire me to finish it…he just looked at me and said, ‘The only way to finish your novel is to finish your novel. Not get a puppy.’ He was right.”
It sounds ridiculous, right? But we do things like that all the time. We pile on extra tasks, thinking they’re necessary to achieve our goal.
This kind of thinking comes in all forms. Sometimes we add thirty unnecessary steps, like I was doing.
I can’t move to a different neighborhood until I get a new job.
I need to be ten pounds thinner before I start dating again.
I can’t work on my art until I finish law school.
Sometimes, we put off our happiness for years, thinking it has to come after something else.
When my business takes off, I’ll finally take that vacation.
When my kids are grown, I’ll start that business.
When I’m married, I’ll feel good about myself.
When I’m rich, I’ll be happy.
This kind of thinking is dangerous, because it can keep the things you want most in the future – when they could be in your present. It can make us waste an awful lot of time, both on a daily basis, and in our lifetime.
Don’t get me wrong – there are steps to achieving a goal. I’m not saying you can jump straight to point Z every time. But so often, we put ourselves at A, when we could start at M. Or maybe even Q.
We might not be as far from what we want as we think.
Today, right now, I invite you to simplify your life.
To let go of all those unnecessary steps. To cut straight to that thing you want, past all the detours and roadside attractions, past all the dillying and dallying, all the tasks that might make us feel productive, but are really just stalling tactics.
I invite you to look at your own life, as we head into a New Year. What goals are you wanting to reach? Then ask yourself these questions:
This can happen in small ways too. One of my favorites: cleaning. Have you ever “needed” to scrub down and organize your whole house before you could start taking the necessary steps towards your goal? Or do you need the full, micro-detailed plan before you can take a small step? I’m all for tidiness and plans, just make sure it’s not at the expense of advancing towards your core goals.
It’s actually where I recommend using one of my favorite questions, What if it were easy? Really, what if it were easy to reach your goal, what would you do? The answer often cuts to chase and gets you where you want to go faster. It also, taps into what you already know deep down is specifically right and best for you.
Instead, dump those thoughts in an imaginary bucket and put them outside. (yes, actually go to your door- the physical movement helps) This might seem trivial, but it is a really important step. It gives you permission to temporarily stop ruminating and assures your brain those thoughts are still there if you want to get them later. (I say, leave them outside but it’s your choice.) Then decide on the most important action, block out a realistic amount of time to complete the action, build in accountability if you need and go do it.
Now it's your turn. Go out, simplify, and shine.
PS. And let me know how it goes...I love to hear your stories!
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