A Possible Third Option
I’ve learned how essential it is to allow the feelings of discomfort to arise when I don’t know what’s next for me. If I try to mask that discomfort with busyness, actions, ideas, and effort, I risk missing amazing new, and maybe even unlikely, things that could fulfill my human need for passion, purpose, motivation, and empowerment. Those things can only be revealed when I understand that grace is in the space that I intentionally hold for myself.
I recently had the opportunity to work with several people who are feeling very frustrated and stuck in jobs where they experience being disempowered, undervalued, frustrated and without a sense of purpose.
Many were counting the days until the years they had invested would be paid off in retirement benefits. Most felt there was no other option but to work away—mentally, physically, and spiritually fried—until the magic day of retirement arrives. Others felt that leaving was too fraught with uncertainty, and they just didn’t want to start over.
They came in with the hope that the organization would change. Maybe their boss, the system, or that annoying coworker might change. It’s unlikely to happen, and it certainly won’t happen as a result of our work together. Our focus was on the only portion we can change: ourselves. These people’s beliefs were that they’re stuck with only two options:
Stay and suffer, or
Leave and lose it all.
Neither one of the options appeals to most of us.
Can you relate? Do you ever feel like that? Here’s some good news: I have a possible third option for you.
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a model for not just coping but also for increasing your sense of passion, purpose, and empowerment—not just for gaining control but also for flourishing within that which we believe we have no power.
On the first rung are the most basic needs that must be fulfilled in order to be motivated and equipped to fulfill the next rung of needs and so on, up the ladder. The first rung—food, water, warmth, and rest—contains the basic needs that we most often neglect when we are in the midst of turmoil or feeling stuck or experiencing panic-evoking change.
Think about it. If you feel disempowered or discouraged, it can be challenging to rest. If you feel like you are losing control, you may exhaust yourself fighting harder for control. Your fears about the present or the future can trigger you into a panic state where you become hyper-vigilant, cranky, short with people, and wide awake at 3:00 a.m.
What Maslow (and my personal experience) is telling us is that when we feel off balance, disempowered, and in a state of unknowing and fear, the solution is to rest, eat healthily, stay warm and cozy, and hydrate. That is the initial work. This constitutes the reset button, if you will, along with the direct pathway to your Inner Guru, your authentic ability to problem-solve, innovate, be creative, and find balance. How empowering does that sound?
If you are currently feeling trapped, lacking a sense of purpose, motivation, inspiration, or passion, and you can’t see any way to change, go to the first rung. Come back into balance. Eat healthily, hydrate, take naps, go to bed early, and keep cozy and warm. Allow your panicked state to come back to center. It is in this space that you will begin to feel you are taking control of your health, wellness, time, and energy, and new ideas—and even joy—will arise within the peace you create. How empowering is that?
I know how easy it is to get to that victim place where everything feels out of our control and minimizes our ability to feel empowered. But that is a myth: the feeling is real, but the disempowerment is inaccurate. And lack of control begins with the belief that there are only 2 choices: either/or.
In this case, (A) Stay and hope for change or (B) Leave and forfeit hard work, benefits, pension, and accumulated sick and vacation time.
But there are two significant flaws in this thinking:
A. The belief that the things you most desire can only be given to you, and B. That there are only two choices.
The truth is the empowerment begins not in the executive offices of your workplace but in the space that you hold for yourself to rest, cozy up and be warm, hydrate and consume healthy food you give yourself. Empowerment begins when you choose to create that space on your own terms.
A good friend of mine is going through a frightening and unexpected life change. Much of it not within her control. But within all the chaos and uncertainty, she has committed to time for a yoga practice, eating as healthily as possible, and resting. She is empowering herself, even though some days any sense of control or knowing what’s next feels beyond her reach.
That is also referred to as being in the place of rest and digest energy, where our own inner wisdom lives. It is in this space that our Inner Guru makes his or her appearance and guides us—not with our thinking mind but through our subconscious thoughts—to joy, abundance, peace, passion, and purpose.
These are the very things the people in my workshop were most desiring. The pathway is already stored inside, and you only need to hold the space for the way to clear out so you can access it.
So if you are feeling like you have no options, there is actually a third and more powerful option.If you are feeling disempowered, fearful, burnt out, or like your future is blocked, remember the caterpillar who morphs into soup inside his cocoon with nothing to do but rest. The poor little guy (or lucky little guy) has no idea what is next. He doesn't lie awake questioning, Am I being productive? What if this doesn’t work out? I feel so disempowered and controlled! And he certainly doesn’t go around resenting the other caterpillars who are still crawling around munching leaves.
He only can sink into his situation and rest. And then one day, without knowing what or why, he feels the urge to move and emerge. His new reality, his destiny, is beyond what he could have imagined.
You only have to make some time to go to soup like the caterpillar—a few hours or a few minutes a day—for your inner guru to begin to emerge, speak to you, and help you know the way.
How empowering is that?
So remember: To become empowered, take time daily to—
Get cozy and warm
“As you live deeper in the heart, the mirror gets clearer and cleaner.” ~Rumi