The Distance To Where I Want to Be
With fresh eyes I've been noticing a pattern I fall into. Something I really don't like about myself.
There are people in this world who see the distance between where they are and where they want to be and they feel inspired and motivated. They see where they want to be and they instantly get to work to get there.
There are people who see other people succeeding, doing what they want to do, doing things well, and they feel motivated and inspired. They say, "I could do that too" and they get to work.
There are people who feel motivated and driven when people tell them "No", "You can't", "You shouldn't", "You're not good enough." They hit that wall and it just drives them to do the thing more, they will prove the nay-sayers wrong.
I am not those people.
I always wished I was and sometimes I've tried to pretend that was me. But I am not like that.
When I'm honest there are few things that demotivate me faster than recongizing the distance between where I am and where I want to be, than seeing all the other people who are killing it with their talent and their skills, than hearing someone I care about tell me all the reasons why I shouldn't or couldn't try something. These things stop me dead in my tracks. These things don't motivate or inspire me, they make me want to crawl in a hole and hide.
I see the distance between where I am and where I want to be and it seems too great, like an expanse I'm not capable of crossing, suddenly my energy and time and resources feel so limited and all I want to do is protect them.
I see others who are skilled and talented and succeeding and in half a heart beat I size myself up against them and know I don't measure up. I feel how much it would take to measure up to them, again an expanse that I don't feel capable of crossing, and I think "They are already doing it, and doing it way better than I could. The world doesn't need me, better just shrink back and let them do it."
And when I hear people say "No", "You can't do that", "You shouldn't" it only confirms the long laundry list of risks and cost assessments I've already instinctively done in my head. It only confirms my inner dialogue, there's no use fighting them, because I already believe they are right. Just the act of expressing the idea or desire took all the fight in me and I have none left to argue with them.
All that being said though, I've also always been very future oriented. Dreaming and coming up with ideas, vision - envisioning - these things have always come naturally to me.
And so I've spent a good deal of my life fighting this tension.
Expanding. Seeing some future for myself or others, perhaps taking some shaky step in that direction, and then quickly assessing the distance, feeling demotivated and shrinking back.
Expanding. And then seeing someone else doing something similar and "better than I ever could", feeling demotivated and shrinking back.
Expanding. And then having someone with good intentions tell me, "Well, you can't be that" or "No, you shouldn't do that" or just laying out the risks and suddenly I'm back to demotivated, shrinking. Of course, you're right, that will never work, I probably won't be able to get to that future place I'm envisioning, better to let someone else do it, better to not even try.
This is my nature. This expanding for half a moment and then shrinking back. This lack of competitive drive, to the point of being demotivated by any hint of competition. This lack of motivation the moment I see the distance and risks and that someone else is better at it.
I kinda hate this about myself.
I've been really sitting with and noticing this pattern lately, but I've also been noticing something else. Something that's happened slowly over the past two years and especially over the past six months. I've been motivated. For an extended period of time. I've been doing things and trying things and pushing past some of my own resistance and self-sabotage.
I don't think my nature has changed at all. I still feel completely demotivated when faced with the distance between where I am and what I envision in the future. I still feel completely demotivated by other people who are more skilled, talented, or successful than me.
But something in my perspective has shifted.
In the past my focus was often on this vision of the future that felt unattainable even in my most motivated moments. But for a number of years now I haven't been able to see the future, sometimes I haven't been able to think about the future at all, not beyond the next PET scan. Most of the past few years that was incredibly difficult for me. For someone who loves to envision the future, not being able to see past the end of your nose can be a very disheartening experience. But slowly I've learned that there can be a sweet freedom in not having to know or control or account for the distant future. Perhaps this is trust, perhaps it is living in the moment, whatever it is it's been hard for me and has only come slowly.
A little less than two years ago I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert in which she talked about following curiosity. I haven't been able to shake that idea. It has stuck with me, and slowly it has started to sink into my bones and become part of how I live.
I don't have to cross some great divide, or compete with someone already in full bloom, or overcome all the naysayers or roadblocks to some imagined future desire or vision. All I have to do is follow curiosity today, in this season.
There's another saying that has begun to reshape how I approach life too and it's this:
"Everything is my teacher. Everything is information."
I don't have to wait until I know something will succeed before I do it. I don't have to know I'm capable of competing before I step into the ring. Because there's a measure of success I didn't consider when I was younger, not the success of "succeeding" or becoming something or creating something, but the success of learning. Everything, everyone, every experience holds some information for me about myself, about the world, about the work I'm meant to create. It's all my teacher.
Nothing is wasted. No effort is wasted.
I don't have to conserve my energy or my resources waiting for just the right thing, or just the right opportunity. I can just try things. I can follow curiosity. Because when I step out and try things I'm not actually using up anything, I'm gaining something. There's nothing to lose. Nothing to conserve. Nothing to protect. Nothing to hide.
My natural tendency towards demotivation, towards shrinking and conserving, is still there. It pops up all the time. But this new way of looking at the world, this shift in my thinking and focus, is giving me tools to fight that nature, and in the process it's shaping new things in me that I never imagined. It's taking me down paths I never could have foreseen, and it's showing me how much more capable I am than I realize, even, and especially when, I still have so far to go and so much to learn.
So far to go. So much to learn.
For the first time there's some excitement in that thought for me, some excitement, rather than shame, in my lack of knowledge or experience or expertise.
Grace and peace,