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Think of something in your work life that you want to do, but that you are not yet doing – something you want to bring into being, but that you are not taking much action around.
Maybe it’s writing the book, or applying for a job at a company you love, or taking steps toward starting the business. Maybe it’s reaching out to a potential mentor in your field, or pitching a partnership to a colleague you’d love to work with.
You know what it is for you.
Play out the movie in your head. Imagine yourself doing that thing. Writing the email asking to meet up for coffee with that potential mentor, or sitting there at the café talking with them. Sending off the book proposal. Being at the job interview.
But don’t imagine your ideal version of it. Live into what it would be like if it was you just as you are now – you with all the difficult feelings and nerves and fear that would show up for you as you do that thing.
What are those uncomfortable feelings for you?
When I ask women this question, they often say things like:
Feeling like I might fail
Feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing
Feeling foolish after making a big mistake
Feeling afraid that people won’t like what I have to offer
Feeling arrogant or ridiculous for trying – like who do I think I am?
Feeling selfish, like I’m putting myself before others as I pursue this
What are the uncomfortable feelings that would come up for you if you started to take purposeful, direct action toward that goal you feel stuck or blocked around?
You might not know what they are until you really imagine yourself doing that thing, so live into your imagined version of it now.
I’ve stalled for months on sending stretch emails that could significantly move my work forward. Why? Not excuses-I-tell-myself-why but really why? Because I didn’t want to feel the fear and nervousness and thoughts of my less-than-ness that would be running in my head as I sent them.
I have skipped out on opportunities to speak to certain audiences because I didn’t want to feel the nervousness and narrative of less-than-ness running through my head leading up to the event.
I have ignored professional conversations that needed to happen simply because I didn’t want to feel the fear of being “not nice” or of being selfish that comes up for so many of us women when we own even a little of our power.
On the one hand, it’s the most obvious thing in the world that we don’t do certain things because we don’t want to experience the uncomfortable feelings that come with them.
On the other hand, this – avoiding what we don’t want to feel – is the invisible drive that shapes our lives, often unconsciously. We can tell ourselves it’s about lack of time, or knowledge, or tools, but often it’s simply this: there is something we don’t want to feel.
It’s our capacity to sit with the uncomfortable – not how many to-do items we can check off in a day – that circumscribes the boundary on how much we are able to move forward.
So this week I want to invite you to ask this question.
If you are procrastinating, avoiding, or perfecting, ask yourself: What is it I don’t want to feel here, that I would feel if I did this thing?
Notice what it is you don’t want to feel.
And then, here’s the good part, the juicy gold thing we’ve all been gifted:
We can decide it will be okay to feel that thing. We can choose to experience it, and breathe through it. We can even choose to be students of it – to investigate – what is this feeling about? What earlier feelings in my life does it connect back to? What happens if I sit here through it for a few moments?
Most of the time, when we lean into the feeling we thought we had to avoid, it feels quite intense for a few moments but then it passes. We learn we have the capacity to feel it and make it through. When we know that, a whole new realm of choices opens up to us: I can do that even if it will feel very uncomfortable to me as I do it.
This week, where you are stuck, procrastinating, perfecting, distracting, not taking the action toward your goals, ask yourself, “What is it that I don’t want to feel?”