The participants of my women’s retreats stay in touch with each other for many months afterwards – giving encouragement, sharing successes, and requesting advice. The June retreat was no exception. The women still write to each other in a Yahoo Group. This week, MK wrote in a request for help. With her permission, I’m posting part of her note:
other new stuff that I’ve introduced into my life over the last few
months is not a good idea. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m
simply letting go of this for now and that I’m not a big cry baby
quitter who gives up when something is hard. So any thoughts on the
difference between letting go and quitting would be most appreciated.
Many of us have been in this exact place. You know you could do something if you stuck it out and worked harder. But you have a deep hunch that it’s not a good thing, or that you’re tired, or that it’s no longer serving your highest good. Success models and success books can make it seem like you must slug through things no matter what the cost. Go go go! Sell sell sell! Work work work!
What About Intuition?
What’s missing from this model is a few chapters on how to know if it’s time to shift gears, time to let go, time to say no, or time to take a break. Or how to let go and not label yourself a “quitter,” or a “failure,” or someone who just couldn’t “hack it.”
These chapters are missing because this level of knowing, this kind of decision is not something that’s written about easily. It doesn’t come from the head, and it can’t be “figured out.” It’s not a 7-step process. Often these kinds of decisions come out of something not “feeling right.” The voice inside you that says, “Something’s not good for me here.” Your intuition.
But that’s a deep voice. It’s a quiet voice. It’s a voice that most of us have tuned out for fear of going against the grain. We’ve neglected this intuitive part of us. We want reasons, and we want to be able to justify our choices to anyone who asks. Intuition isn’t a good enough reason.
So, we squelch it. Our ego gets big and puffy, and brings out what I call “The Inner Labelmaker.” The ego uses the harshest labels, the ones that trigger us the most. It’s scared, and it doesn’t want us to screw up. MK’s labels were “cry baby” and “quitter.” When I was young, I was pretty wild and I got in trouble a lot, so my labelmaker uses words the adults used, like, “irresponsible” or “unfocused.” Even now, after successfully performing, writing songs, and releasing CDs for 12 years, I still believe some of those labels on bad days! The Inner Labelmaker cares not at all for logic or proof. The Inner Labelmaker goes for shame, guilt, or whatever hooks you.
My theory is this: That we’re more afraid of what we tell ourselves about ourselves (and of the Inner Labelmaker) than we are of the outcome of our decisions.
Here’s the truth: We change. (Thank God!) And as we get more tuned in to our intuition and our consciousness, our values grow and shift. Our needs become clearer. And sometimes we have let go of a goal or a relationship or a business plan and realize that it’s no longer in alignment with our current values. Sometimes it can be something we thought we wanted to do as recently as a few weeks ago, and it just wasn’t the right thing. (In the case of MK’s class.)
For the last seven years, my tour schedule has been packed full with 12 – 18 shows a month. This year, except for a six-week tour with a ballet company, I’m only doing a handful of shows. I’m doing this so I can take time to think and write and ask myself how to approach this career without burning out. This was an insanely hard decision to make. It required lots of changes in my life and in my office. The Inner Labelmaker cranked out labels daily. But so far, I’ve made more money this year than any other year before, and I’m happier. Really deeply happier. It was the right decision, and I needed to do it, even if it felt like I’d lose exposure or audiences.
Choosing to Stick it Out
One of the retreat women wrote MK a message back saying that even when grad school was so awful for her she stuck it out because she had “a vision of what I wanted to do in the long run.” She gave a compassionate perspective on her experience. Usually when people choose to stick things out, it’s because they want to. They’re choosing to do that because of a deeper meaning and fulfillment that they get out of following a higher calling. All of us deal with items in our schedules that are grueling but that take us in a great direction, so it’s worth it.
No Right or Wrong
The truth is that MK could stay in the graduate course and probably slug it out. Or she could quit the course and take it later, or not at all. Only she gets to determine whether or not it’s the best decision. There is no right or wrong. There’s only us deciding if it’s right or wrong. You might say, “Well if bad things happen, then that means it was a wrong decision.” No it doesn’t! It just means there’s a new challenge at your door. Welcome to life!
Sometimes, just making the decision brings about such enormous relief that I wonder if the problem isn’t the decision, but being undecided!
Intent and Motivation
Always know your intent and your motivation. Try to determine if you are being motivated by fear. Fear of anything is not a strong reason to choose something. Or to avoid choosing something. (Which is still a choice.) Fear of the labelmaker’s words. Fear of losing fans. Fear of amounting to nothing.
These are not reasons. These are lack. When you stick it out because of fear, you are setting intent for lack. You’re saying, “If I don’t stay here, then there will be nothing else there.” And that’s hooey. There’s always something else there.
What to Do if you Don’t Know What to Do
Usually when someone tells me she’s in a place of indecision, I can tell what she deeply wants to do. I don’t see it as indecision. I see it as fear. Too many voices saying too many things. So, do this:
1. Shut up and get still
Quit calling everyone and their sister trying to get their opinions on your life and the decision you’re making. When you do that, you’re engaging in drama as a way to distract you. Turn off the cell phone. Sit in the dark. Light a candle and be quiet.
2. Ask yourself, “What is for my highest good in this situation?”
Typically, the very first answer you get is the one you deeply want to do. “Go home.” “Break up with her.” “Quit this job immediately.” “Do not return this phone call.” I find that my wise voice is very loud when I give it a chance. It knows. And we all have that voice. The only problem is that our second-guessing voice is always so quick to jump in. “But doesn’t this mean I’m lazy?” “Shouldn’t I give her one more chance?” “I can stick it out! I know I can!” Those aren’t healthy deep voices. Go back and listen to the certain voice. Often, when you hear it, you will breathe deeply. It’s bigger than the others.
3. Act on it.
The only way to begin to trust your wise voice is to act on it. This might be scary, but it’s absolutely true. Take action. Get support from a loving friend if you need to, but act on it. Then observe.
I’m happy to report that MK quit the grad course. And she wrote in to the group to tell everyone how happy she was. Typically, this is the instant response we get. We feel happy. We feel relieved. The labelmaker’s got nothing on the lightness of feeling better. The labelmaker can nail us with all of the things our parents or teachers may have said to us, but our hearts and our bodies don’t lie. They will “talk” to us clearly.
Beware the Half-way Decision (or “I’m taking more time to let my fears to unfold.”)
I know someone who has been breaking up with her boyfriend for about three years. She has so many fears of being alone, and of having failed again that she is still half-way clinging to him, even though she’s half-way been with someone else for two years. It’s hard to watch this because I know it could hurt her health.
Our spirits don’t like to live half-way. They know we’re behaving fearfully. Fear takes a huge toll on a body. And fear doesn’t always mean quaking-in-your-boots fear. Fear can slowly become a lifestyle if you let it. Half-way decisions rarely work, and the universe will often make the decision for you at some point. You’ll lose the job you were half-way holding onto. Your old apartment in the city you’re subletting (just in case you want to go back) gets completely destroyed by the tenant who walks out on the rent.
The universe loves certainty. Test it and see.
When you begin on a conscious path and when you begin to explore your authentic desires, sometimes things fall away. Sometimes it’s effortless, and sometimes you have to make it happen. That’s all. Those old labels just come up to see if you’re really serious about going to the next level or if you want to continue playing scared.
And then after you’ve made the decision to follow your intuition, choose to stick that out in spite of the second-guessing voices that try to come out.