Unchain the Brain

In week eight of the Shattering the Meme novena, we examine the meme of self-limitation.  No matter how much we may say we want change in our lives, we tend to cling white-knuckled to the comfort of the familiar, never realizing how much that is keeping us stuck.

Unconsciously, we believe that we are only allowed a certain measure of success and that anything else is presumptuous.  In our careers, this manifests as a holding back, no matter how unhappy or unfulfilled we might be.  After all, what would your boss think if you said you wanted to own the company one day?  How would a client react if you said at the start of the project that you wanted to have it published?  It is certainly a conditioned response, this self-limitation meme, but did you ever stop to think about what would happen if there were no big thinkers?  We might all still be living hunter-gatherer existences.  It is not presumptuous to think big, it is wasteful to limit yourself.

In our lives we have a total of four resources; time, energy, relationships and money.  Everything we need is acquired by spending one or more of them.  The money thing is pretty self-evident as we live in a cash based economy.  But what about the others?  Well, much as having money wouldn’t do you any good at all if you buried it in the ground and didn’t spend it, you have to spend your other resources in order to enjoy what they can bring into your life as well.  Notice that I said spend not squander and also realize that these four resources are interdependent.  To live at your highest potential you have to understand that these resources (in effect all that you have) must be leveraged by actively investing in the life and career you want to have.

Well, that didn’t work
Failure.  That would mean that we had squandered our big four resources, right?  Wrong.  We operate in such fear of failure that it is easy to forget that it is the only means to success.  Our brain shuts down around the idea of risk-taking, or we dream big, but only at a really fuzzy global level and don’t see how their are opportunities for action all around us that would set us on the path the realizing those dreams.  Part of unchaining your brain from that rock is to cultivate resilience.  Failure of a task or venture is not failure of you as a person.  It simply means that that particular thing did not work out.  You may even be on the right tack and just need to allow for a different variable.  Find out why what you tried didn’t work, make the necessary adjustments and try again.  Even something as big as losing a job or a client does not make you a failure, it simply means that something wasn’t a good fit.  Resist the urge to extrapolate that event to your whole life and let pessimism and “I told you so” limited thinking kick in.  Instead, realize that you always have choices and resources.  Commit to moving forward and take control of the situation instead of being a passive victim.

Kick the “but”
When I work with clients and make suggestions that take them outside of their comfort zone, it is not uncommon to hear the “yes, but...” response.  What they are really saying is that their fear of the unfamiliar is stronger than their desire to succeed.  When you put it like that, all those excuses sound downright silly.  But we don’t very often put our “yes, but...” statements in that context, do we?  Instead, we buy into all of them, we turn our fears into pseudo-facts and talk ourselves right off that ledge.  Did you ever notice the relief you feel in those moments when you can convince yourself NOT to make a bold move?  However, what do you really get by staying stagnant in your life or career?  It’s easy to think that you are conserving your resources of time, energy, relationships and money by playing it safe, but the exact opposite is true.  No matter how much it may cost you to take a risk, think about what it costs you to stay stuck.  Is your energy sapped?  Are you upset all the time?  Do you harbor resentments?  Are you really enjoying and savoring life? 

Stay Curious
Instead of fearing change because you are focussing on what you may lose, think instead about change being the gateway to endless possibilities.  In nature, change is the means of generation.  Do you feel depressed that it is autumn and the leaves are going to fall, or do you enjoy the splendor of the trees cloaked in shades of yellow, red and orange?  You, too are part of the universe and the events in your life are meant to constantly evolve and change. There are cycles of growth. Even when you are in a “winter” it is only in preparation to regenerate again in a “spring.”  Recognizing when your fallow period is related to being stuck or that you are just between leaps evolves cultivating a curiosity and sense of wonderment.  In short, an appreciation of change.  Instead of shutting down your potential with “yes, but...”  reframe that response to say “what if...” and see what happens.  Stay open to all of the possibilities instead of focussing on the problems.

Shatter the Meme:
As human beings, we would be nowhere if we didn’t have a sense of wonderment and the desire to experiment.  It is your birthight to embrace the possibilities that come from a world where change is the only constant.  There is no virtue in limiting yourself and not working to achieve your fullest potential.  Instead, you are wasting your resources and cheating the world out of the opportunity to benefit from what you uniquely have to offer. Let your creativity soar- removing all the obstacles to your time and energy you place in your own way.