“Begin with the end in mind,” said the great business guru, Stephen Covey.
And because I’m a coach, I’ve heard the above quote referred to so many times I could puke.
Now, I’m not about to argue the importance of having an outcome or a direction, particularly when it relates to matters of business. But I will argue that when it comes to matters of personal or spiritual transformation and growth, the road can look a little different.
The Problem with Plans
“Seeking can become stressful when you apply the same laws that you apply in the material world – hard work, exacting plans, driving ambition, and attachment to outcome.” Deepak Chopra
Thanks Mr. Mindfulness. I would also add in addition to stressful, it becomes counterproductive, tedious and misguided.
The bottom line is that personal or spiritual growth doesn’t have a standard linear progression, like revenues or expenses. Mine has typically looked more like Mr. Toad’s wild ride. At times my wonky line of growth will plateau, then it will take a nosedive, and then it will spike upwards sharply. Which is why I often tell clients who are desperate to make spiritual or personal growth progress that at times it might feel like you take one step forwards and two back. Or, in the words of a snotty ex-colleague who had plenty of fancy degrees and knew a thing or two, “development can be downright messy.”
The trick is to keep going when you have no life direction, even if you have no clue where the path might lead you.
2011 was an interesting year for me. Some might say a turning point. At the beginning of the year I had reached an all-time low. I hated my job. I hated my life. To say I had no life direction and was unhappy was an understatement of epic proportions. I had pretty much thrown in the towel and decided that my life’s calling was to sit on my balcony and drown myself in Marlboro lights, cheap Spanish wine and cheese. (I’ve always been a stickler for dairy products.)
The only positive thing I could say was that I regularly went to yoga. And I only really kept going because It helped me lose weight, considering I was practicing Bikram hot yoga, which is done in a smelly, sweaty room that is hotter Dante’s final level of hell. I was also convinced that it provided a daily detox from the cheap wine.
After class I’d light another cigarette (heh, they were lights ok?), grab another bottle of vino and start the process over again.
At some point in that drunken haze, the idea of going to teacher training appeared. I quickly dismissed it at first thought. Did I look like a yoga teacher? Nope. Especially not with a lit cigarette hanging out of my mouth. Did I act like a yoga teacher? Not really. I wouldn’t have put myself in the category of altruistic, lover of fluffy things like little bunnies, vegan or even gluten free. Did I think that my intentions were pure enough to guide other’s minds and postures? Hell no.
No Life Direction? The Power of Intuition
But there was something inside me that told me this was the direction forward. It was a nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away. Some might say this was intuition at work, although at the time I had no idea what that meant and no inclination to pursue things of the woo-woo world.
Now, if you’re looking at this experience from the perspective of linear progression, this is what should have happened next: I cleaned up my life, became a first-class yoga teacher, opened my own studio, opened a chain of studios, started my own yoga clothing line, wrote a book about it that achieved international acclaim and went on Oprah, sharing my insight and gifts of transformation with the world.
That’s not what happened by the way. Hell, I don’t even teach yoga anymore and there’s no way Oprah knows my name. At least not yet…
However, I did clean up my life, and it’s never been the same since.
The problem is our programming. We’re hard wired from birth that unless we have a ten-point plan at all times, we’ll never reach that elusive goal of success. Whatever success in life might be, I still haven’t found a single person who can really tell me what that means.
Have you ever followed a path where the outcome wasn’t clear?
What did that experience teach you about life?