Three tales. Tale two: Three bowls of porridge...
Too hot. Too cold. And just right. And as the story goes, baby bear comes home to find his bowl of "just right" porridge is empty.
I imagine, in my behind the scenes rendition, that baby bear (who is starving and cranky) then bounces from one of his parent's breakfasts to the other, quickly ingesting the hot or grudgingly swallowing the cold; never quite satisfied, and hoping that next time he'd find the "just right" bowl before it was gone.
For the longest time my goals, and life, have been like porridge.
Do it all. Do nothing. And find the perfect balance.
Just like the baby bear in the story, my "perfect balance" was always gone. Someone or something would come and steal it away and I would be left with all or nothing. I'd bounce from one to the other, quickly running around like a madwoman or reluctantly giving in to rest; never quite satisfied, and always hoping that next time I'd find "perfect balance".
A while ago I realised that part of the reason I couldn't find perfect balance was because I wasn't really choosing it. I was saying I wanted it, but choosing to go go go all the time. And then I would crash. So I started making a conscious effort to pursue downtime. But then I would get bored and anxious. I would end up feeling like my life had no meaning and inevitably I would pack my schedule full again. I was living in extremes.
I decided to sit in the middle. I tried really really hard to take on just the right amount in just the right areas of my life. Not too much and not too little. Those of you who have lived in the tidal waves of law know how difficult a task that can be. But I was determined to give it a full effort.
It didn't work. Not only was I rarely able to balance my time just right, but even when I felt like I had, something was still missing.
I thought maybe it was not how much I was doing, but what I was doing. I reinvented my goals. I did some serious soul searching, got in touch with my passions, and began pursuing some deeply personal goals. I filled my schedule with everything that I loved and began to do it all really excitedly.
Enter the goal crisis. The things I loved began to look a lot more like "have tos". I felt like all I had succeeded in doing was sapping a lot of the love out of everything I loved to do. So I tried adding flexibility, self trust, and compassion. I tried allowing myself to be a quitter. I even tried eliminating the goals.
I tried a million different variations. Nothing worked. At least not in a sustainable way. It was great when I first tried it on, but quickly I was right back where I started. Living in the extremes, searching for just right, and never quite getting there.
Something had to change. But what? It seemed like I had tried everything.
Through the work I am doing with my life coach over the past month something hit me. In life coaching we call it context; the lens through which we view the world. To me my goal setting context feels like porridge.
I've been eating the same light brown coloured goop for years. I've tried a million different kinds of porridge but its all porridge. Sometimes its too hot. Sometimes its too cold. And occasionally its just right. But its still the same light brown coloured goop.
I decided I didn't like the goop anymore.
In a conversation with my life coach a couple weeks ago we did some work around my all or nothing context around goals, and took a look at all of the ways that looking at life through this lens is no longer serving me. By the end of the call I had gained an awareness of something outside of porridge.
The word was strength. But it wasn't just a word. It was larger than life. A mysterious presence. Unchanged yet changing. Trees. A big oak in the eye of a storm; branches stretching upwards, waving in the wind. Strength.
The word offered me a new way of looking at goals, and life. Instead of trying to figure out whether what I was up to was too much, too little, or just right. I could stop, take a deep breath, and ask myself: what would I choose from strength.
Each time I drew upon strength the pressure was lifted. I found space. I found freedom. I didn't need to figure it out, do it all, and do it all perfectly. I didn't have to have the right goals. I didn't have to be motivated in the "right" way. I didn't have to find that perfect place where my goals were just right kind, and just the right amount.
I could just be.
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