A few weeks ago, I was talking with a woman who wanted to start her own business. “I know I want to do something entrepreneurial,” she told me, “but I just don’t have an idea for a business, for what it should be.”
“Are you sure you don’t have an idea?,” I asked her. “Is there any idea that has come up from time to time, or images you get in your mind of doing something in particular, but for some reason you’ve pushed away?”
“Well, yes,” she said.
She went on to tell me, in quite specific terms, about an area she’d been interested in for a long time, the sense of calling she had to create something around a community need.
What if I hadn’t asked, “Are you sure? There’s nothing that’s been coming up that you’ve been pushing away?”
I knew to ask because this precise conversation has happened for me hundreds of times in my coaching, in my courses, in the Q&A sessions after speaking events.
I have learned when a woman says she feels some general longing for a change but just doesn’t have any specific idea what she wants to do next, that is almost never the truth.
There is something – some idea, some calling – that has lived so close to her heart and soul, that has come into her thoughts again and again but she has turned away, saying – No, it can’t be that. Not viable, not practical. Or … No, not me. I couldn’t be the one for that.
The calling was so nearby to her thoughts – so familiar and aged in her thinking, so available to her and ready to be brought to life – that a part of her believed it had to be more complicated, more remote.
It is not only easy to say, “It couldn’t be that,” it is convenient, and soothing to do so. Then we don’t have to do the scary thing of trusting that calling and starting to take some small action toward it. Instead we can keep on searching and re-searching, and researching, walking in circles, ruminating.
There is a beautiful poem, Start Close In, by David Whyte that speaks to this:
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
The step close in – the idea that has already visited you, the calling that’s always been there – is always the one we really don’t want to take. It can make us tremble, it can make us nauseous to consider taking it.
And our abilities to avoid it are impressive.
We are desperate to brush it away, but have you noticed how it returns, asking again and again for your devotion?
And have you noticed how no matter how much you try, you can’t replace it with something else?
Please, start close in.
Pay attention to what has been knocking at the door of your heart.
That thing that seems too familiar, or old, or wrong, or wild to be it.
Go with that.
The book that wants to be written, the business that wants to be started, the community project that wants to be birthed. The new art form or pursuit that is beckoning, the trip that wants to be taken, the move that wants to be made.
You may not know all the details, or the how, or how this fits into how you’ve always thought of yourself. That is all okay. Mystery is your companion on this path.
And still you can honor what has come to your heart’s door, and open it.
Do you know someone who is not going for that calling that is close in? Please share this with them, and cheer them on.
photo credit: Ullash Borah