It comes down to trust and baby steps.
In my last post, I talked about the fear associated with moving into the unknown, and two weeks later, the future is not any more “known” than it was back then. It’s a good reminder over and over again that we’re in it for the long haul. Everything we’re seeing now, and the social and economic recovery from it, will likely be a very long process, which means settling down and finding a way to persist and thrive no matter what is just as important now as it will ever be.
It’s also important to remember that no matter its length, what we’re in right now is a season — a particularly trying season, yes, but still a season — in which we have to not just learn, but quite literally discover, new ways to navigate a time in our lives unlike anything else we, or our parents, or perhaps even our parents’ parents, may have encountered before. Some people get a thrill from the challenge of forging a path in uncharted territory, while others can feel the great unknown to be a daunting force they’re not sure they’re equipped for. I think I fall somewhere in the middle of these two myself, but no matter how ready you are, figuring out the next step to take can be an elusive process.
So how do we do it? How can we be okay with not knowing what the future holds, and, in the midst of so many possibilities, how do we figure out what to do next?
I’m realizing the answers are both surprisingly simple and annoyingly difficult.
It all boils down to trust and baby steps. We have to remember to take things one small step at a time, and to trust in ourselves, our intuition, and what the current situation has to teach us as we do so.
Surprisingly simple and annoyingly difficult, right?
Okay. So change is hard. It always has been, and it likely always will be, no matter how enlightened we are. I’ve gone through so many different, often wildly drastic, changes in my life, I had thought I was pretty good at handling it — until the pandemic came, and I was hit just as hard as anyone else.
Whether change was instigated intentionally by us, or whether we’re just sort of haphazardly thrown into it, it’s always hard to play catch-up amidst the aftermath because we’re constantly trying to reconcile how things were with where we want them to be.
Of course, processing is a necessary part of adaptation as we grant ourselves space to figure out and come to terms with what just happened, as well as where we desire to go next. However, it’s when we start anchoring ourselves to either the past or the future that we miss out on present opportunities that could help us heal from past wounds or get us closer to our future goals. Instead of thinking about what this current time is here to teach us, or what we could possibly gain during this time — we’re just stuck in what we’ve lost, and what we wish we had.
I know that quarantine may feel like we’ve lost or are in the process of losing many things — and some of us, perhaps have lost a great deal. We might have lost our homes, a loved one or loved ones, or even our sanity as we experience prolonged bouts of isolation. But I also have noticed that for many of us, it’s helped us gain something as well — a sort of clarity.
When things were relatively “normal,” there was always some sort of noise distracting us from the truth of who we desired to be or where we wished to go.
Our intuition serves the purpose of letting us know what is or isn’t serving us, and calls us down the path towards our highest potential. It doesn’t always give you a clear, precise vision of what that path will lead to, but it will certainly bring you into alignment with the journey you most need — if you remain open to it.
In the words of Chase Jarvis, “Your intuition provides directions, not destinations.” Intuition is the thing that sparks excitement or wonder, pointing you towards a passion you’ve set aside or a curiosity you might have. It can also try to point you away from something that isn’t working for you. In that case, intuition can look like the red flags that pop up indicating a toxic relationship, or the dissatisfaction of a negative work environment.
Back when the world was so loud, so repetitive, so busy, any dissatisfaction our intuition tried to send our way to signal we weren’t in alignment with our highest potential was often buried under a mound of (often) self-imposed responsibilities and distractions.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some responsibilities we can’t get around, and others we shouldn’t try to. But I’ve also noticed that in my own life, responsibilities can often be the perfect avoidance maneuver; the ideal guise for an excuse. Ie, responsibilities such as a job, caring for family or friends going through a hard time, or chores/projects to do around the house, can all be beautifully rational reasons not to pursue a desire so that I never have to get let down, and I never have to let anyone else down.
When things were relatively “normal,” we used to claim we don’t have enough time to spend with our partners or families, to invest in that hobby or creative pursuit, to relax, to volunteer, to call that friend, to start that project, to finish that project, to go back to school, to play with our kids, to workout, to meditate, to find a community, to figure out what in the world it is we want to do at all.
Yet now, in the midst of a pandemic, literally all we’re given is time, space, and/or quiet. We don’t have a million different things distracting us from areas in which we need to grow, things we need to let go of, or next steps we need to take. What’s scary is that with all this time and space we’re given, we might actually have the opportunity to act on what we want, and of course, that can be pretty intimidating. Especially in the midst of all this chaos.
That’s where trusting our intuition comes into play.
See, you don’t have to know exactly where you want to go, or even how you want to get there, in order to get started. If your intuition has made even a single spark of curiosity, if it’s given you clarity by offering a glimpse at peace or a burst of excitement, or it’s got the cogs in your head whirring at the thought of problem-solving… follow that. One step at a time.
In the past, there was never one glorious moment in which we had an idea of what we wanted to do and then bam! it was completed. It took time to develop the blueprint. We had to make mistakes to find out what wasn’t working, and then we had to correct them. We needed to ask for help from experts. To check in with ourselves. Sometimes, we needed to rest. Overall, we needed to lay many, many bricks day after day, and delight in the process, rather than what might one day finally be, before we could reach the end at last.
Moving into the future is no different.
Your intuition knows best when you should or shouldn’t be doing something. It’s the little siren that goes off at the sign of manipulation or distrust in a relationship; the aggravation you feel when you’re in a toxic work environment; the discomfort in your gut when you’re not fully being yourself; the flurry of excitement you get when you’re pursuing a curiosity; the still, small voice that beckons you on to your calling.
If I know anything for sure, it’s that in any situation, including the shitty ones (actually, most often in the shitty ones), there’s something I need to be learning. To repeat what I quoted a few weeks back, “Every choice we make is an opportunity for growth.” Likewise, every situation we’re in is an opportunity for growth — we just need to learn how to recognize, and how to trust in, the signs.
As with everything else, courage takes practice, as does listening to your intuition and acting on it. But just like building a muscle, the more you work on it, the easier it gets over time to recognize the signs and continue down the path of true alignment with who you’re meant to be. You just have to keep working at it, day by day, brick by brick, over and over again. Take it a single step at a time — not a big step, a baby step, and continuously be sure to check in with yourself so that as time goes on, you can build an awareness of what works and what doesn’t.
For right now, even if you don’t have a goal yet, or you don’t know where to go from here, ask yourself what the next right thing is. What’s the next single, simple step you can take to just move you in a direction towards that little voice you’ve been ignoring for too long, or away from that unhealthy thing you’ve kept for too long.
Remember, even if you fail at that first step, you can always take another one. Attempting it is better than never trying at all, and the more you do it, the more you’ll build that muscle.
Here are a few steps we can take this week to help:
- When reading this post, was there anything in particular that came to mind in terms of what you wish you could be doing? How about in terms of what you know isn’t serving you? If so, that’s a pretty good indication of what your intuition’s trying to tell you ;) Write it down, and be honest with yourself. We almost always intuitively know what is or isn’t working — we just tend to ignore it because a.) we’ve been told (and believe) the pursuit isn’t worthy enough, b.) we’ve been told (and believe) we’re not worthy enough, c.) we’re afraid of failure, or d.) we’re afraid of success. Remember, change is difficult and oftentimes scary, but it can also be one of the most important things that can happen to us because it can be the thing that brings us into our full, joyful, and authentic power.
- Write a list of things you want to do with your life. It can be as long or short as you want, and can make up things you’ve always wanted to do, or things you’ve only recently been thinking of trying. A few examples would be going skydiving, taking up a new instrument, trying a new recipe, getting certified in a new area of your profession, starting a garden, or taking your kids rollerblading. Put this list up somewhere you’ll see often.
- Next, which of the things you wrote down could you actually accomplish this year? What about this month? What about today? Actually write those things into your calendar. Request a day off and take your partner on a date. Mow the lawn next week and go skating with the kids. Wake up an hour early and start writing that story. Skip ordering takeout and save the money for that class you think you can’t afford. And remember to pay attention to the excuses you give yourself as to why you can’t or shouldn’t do something. (I say excuses, by the way, because they almost always are just that — excuses.) When it really comes down to it, sometimes we just need to put the pedal to the metal and prioritize our desires/our calling just as much as we prioritize our responsibilities.
And there we are! Pay attention to where curiosity arises or where peace is reaching out. Trust in your intuition. And then do the next right thing.