Five Steps for Getting and Staying Out of the Weeds
In my last post, I wrote about the dynamic of getting stuck in the weeds, like the debris that clings to the side of a river instead of floating along with the current. It piles up and attracts other debris, and grows ever more stagnant and smelly.
Are you stuck in the weeds? Do you find yourself working really hard, but not getting much done? Do you hear yourself saying at the end of the day, “Well, I didn’t get to what I really needed/wanted to do today, but there’s always tomorrow.” And then uttering those words again the next day? And the day after that too?
We are all called to live lives of greater meaning, purpose and significance. It beckons to us each and every day. When we answer that call, we feel energized, invigorated and deeply gratified. And when we hesitate and resist, we are tired, overwhelmed and frustrated.
The problem is that we don’t always realize when we have strayed off course until we find ourselves stuck in the weeds, becoming dormant and becoming increasingly irritated with ourselves, our lives, and everything/everyone around us.
This can happen at home or at work when a project takes us out of our comfort zone and into procrastination. It can happen in relationships when we resist taking things to a deeper level and play it safe instead, or in critical conversations with others when we dance around the real issues and stay mired in placing blame or trying to save face. And it can happen in our very lives as we trade out our grandest dreams and visions for doing what gets us by and allows us to go through the motions of staying busy instead of doing what we are really here to do.
The problem we are really talking about is RESISTANCE.
Resistance rears its head when we face something that we fear will lead to pain or discomfort. When we embark on a great endeavor, resistance has us thinking of all the things that could go wrong rather than all that we have to gain by simply moving forward. It conjures up all manner of horrible human emotions – embarrassment, inadequacy, fear, humiliation, defeat, abandonment, betrayal – you name it, and has us doing anything it can to avoid experiencing them.
Resistance would have us playing it safe. Planning, preparing, orchestrating, controlling. It has us clinging to that which is familiar – even if the familiar isn’t all that pleasant. Resistance leads us to sedate or control our emotions rather than simply feeling and experiencing them. In resistance, we cling to the banks of the river instead of courageously flowing with the current.
The irony is that it actually takes more effort and energy to resist than to be in the flow.
And in the end, the pain that resistance causes is far worse than anything it would have you avoid.
Here are five steps for getting and staying out of the weeds and overcoming the resistance that keeps you from living the life you were meant to live.
(1) Take responsibility. As I said in my last post, when we find ourselves in the weeds, it is surely a result of a decision we made at some point to stay in our comfort zone. This decision could have been a decision made in default – like the kind of decision we make when we decide not to decide. Once we make the decision to play small, we get distracted by anything that will keep us there. Though we tend to blame the distractions for knocking us off course, they are really just the outcomes of what we have decided (often unconsciously) to focus our attention on.
This step is vital because without it, you will relegate yourself to being a victim and convince yourself that you are powerless and immobilized. See beyond this self imposed illusion and recognize that you always have the ability and opportunity to choose again.
(2) Choose again. Envision the state you would like to be in at any given moment. Pull your head out of the weeds and look at the horizon. What do you really want for yourself? What do you want to create? What do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? Maybe this is a matter of remembering the goals you set for yourself the last time you paused long enough to think about them. Perhaps it is a matter or revisiting or creating your personal mission or vision for your personal and professional life. It could be as simple as identifying what you would like to be experiencing in this moment.
Whatever it is, make it real for yourself. Step into it. Flesh it out. Feel it. Embrace it. Become it. Sometimes it helps to remember the last time you felt whatever it is you want to experience and relive it once again. Talking about it with people who inspire and believe in you can help you to reconnect with what you really want for yourself and breathe new life into it. Try writing it down and moving deeper and deeper into it. Go back and re-read what you wrote and add more as it comes to you.
(3) Make a commitment to yourself. There is a difference between wishing and committing. You can wish for a better life. You can wish for a great relationship and a brilliant future. You may be interested in trying something new, learning to do something different, creating something fun and exciting. All this is nice, but it won’t keep you out of the weeds until you commit. Committing is making the empowering decision to live the life you have imagined. It isn’t about being anything that you are not, but rather embracing and expressing all that you are without allowing anything to get in your way.
Scottish mountaineer and writer William Hutchinson Murray wrote, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits one-self, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
(4) Let go and listen. We are brought up to believe that in order to get anything done, we need to get out there and make it happen. We spend a great deal of time trying to pound square pegs into round holes and plan our future by reacting to things that happened in the past. We are uncomfortable with uncertainty and have lived a good portion of our lives trying to mitigate it by controlling everything in our reach. But the future is by definition, uncertain. And our attempts to maintain control will send us to the river bank, clinging to the sides in an attempt to hold on and assert the illusion of power. It will keep us stuck in the familiar, resistant to moving beyond the expanses of what we think we already know.
True power lies in admitting that we do not have all the answers, and are willing and ready to learn. We begin asking bigger questions and listening for new information. This is what the greatest inventors, scientists, artists, musicians and geniuses in all fields have done throughout the history of time. It requires us to tune into a new way of knowing, one that goes beyond having to figure everything out and instead learning to discern the answers that we already have within. We learn to feel our way to where we want to go, balancing our logic with intuition and taking one step at a time rather than having to figure everything out in advance.
(5) Trust. The resistance we experience whenever we embark upon something extraordinary is really just fear of the unknown. The worst case scenario our resistance would have us conjuring up is only a show stopper when it has us believing we wouldn’t be able to handle it. As leaders, our job is to instill confidence in others – that we all have what it takes to rise up to any challenge we may be faced with, that we can overcome any obstacle in our path. But we cannot do this for others until we first do it for ourselves. Being willing to let go and flow with the current requires trust in something bigger than ourselves that is working in our highest good. And it requires faith in ourselves and our ability to persevere, adapt and thrive in any environment we find ourselves in.
To find this trust and faith, we would do well to reflect on the events of our lives that have led us to where we are today. Regardless of the peril we faced, the uncertainty we had to navigate through, and the fear we may have experienced, we have arrived at the point we are now. The sum of our experiences, whether pleasant or not has perfectly prepared us for all that lies before us in this moment.
We will inevitably find ourselves in the weeds from time to time. There is no shame in that; we are free stay there as long as we like. But when living that way is no longer enough, we have the power and the ability to recommit, trust and allow ourselves to flow with the current of adventure in our lives – one that has the power to bring us to the realization of all our greatest dreams and visions.
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net