As we say goodbye to President Obama, I have been reflecting on his message of hope and capability and witnessing the power of the simple belief YES, I CAN.
In so many ways as we develop as human beings, we are faced with seemingly impossible tasks. Language, walking, endless education, developing and maintaining relationships, rising to meet ourselves as the person we hope to be.
The hope that things can be better and can go well – that things I dream of are actually possible – has served me well over the years. So many times I have caught myself (and my clients), saying, “That’s not possible,” and thanks to my well-practiced habit of fact-checking this thought, I have found, that many times it is WRONG. Sure, I can’t bring anyone back from the dead and I can’t fly without some sort of suit or aircraft (yet), but I can do so many of the things I initially fear to be impossible.
I recently discovered (while organizing my files #yesIcan) my certificate of completion for BKS Iyengar’s last public tour, which took place in China. Stay with me here, this is relevant. I have a crisp memory of receiving the email invitation from Patricia Walden, my yoga teacher, just three weeks before the event was to take place. My first thought was self-pity, “Oh, no, it’s too late, too expensive, too far..” the insta-excuses in my head rattled on and filed the trip in the impossible and too good to be true categories. “Too bad people like me have to stay here and go to work while people-that-get-to-go-on-these-things have all the fun.” #PityParty
Perhaps you know this voice – it’s the same one that says we’re too fat, too old, too young, too ugly, too poor, too [insert seemingly pejorative adjective here]. Perhaps you have heard of the inner-critic, you may even have a name for yours (shout out to Bob, for all of you who get my newsletter;).
Knowing and naming the inner critic can be very helpful, but if we’re going to heal it, it is imperative that we go deeper and develop our skill in relating to it. First of all we, need to recognize its voice.
STEP ONE: RECOGNIZE THE VOICE OF FEAR AND LIMITATION
Then, we need to engage with this voice. In contrast to FDR’s wise words, fearing the fear creates a mental mass exodus of hope that has fear running through your mind faster than me in a haunted house (I would have witnesses but no one can keep pace with me). Ask the fear questions, try and poke holes in in its argument. Use your training in the scientific method and reality test the shhh outta your possibility.
STEP TWO: DON’T RUN! INTERACT WITH IT.
Keep an open mind, you may just be able to do the thing. This tiny potato thinks you can.
Yesterday, I was listening to the author of Writing Down the Bones talk about her experience with this critical voice while writing, and how she has come to perceive it as more of a guardian than a critic. It is as if this guardian is asking us to stand up for what we believe in, what we think we are worth and what is worthy of our life force. As if standing before the gates of the Goblin City (sorry, had to throw a Labyrinth reference in for the 5 other people who love it as much as I do), declare yourself to the guardian and march forward with purpose. Rather than fighting with the guardian (like Sarah has to in Labyrinth!) stand tall, proud, and proceed to do the thing. Maybe the guardian actually has your back.
STEP THREE: LISTEN TO THE TINY POTATO
Engage with the voice that says I CAN. Explore the possibilities and notice how your body, mind and emotions feel as you do so. Are you nervous, excited, energized? Possibility is energizing and often, the thought I can can supply you with the energy you need to do the damn thing.
Of course, we can’t always do it all at once. You”ll need to decide, for you, what is worth the effort? This is where your deeper values come in. Talk to the Tiny Potato (Yes, I am a licensed mental health professional encouraging you to talk to an imaginary – or real – tiny potato). Listen to your heart; if its whispers are soft, get quiet. Choose.
To complete the story of going to China to study with BKS Iyengar (I know you’ve been dying to know what happened) I caught the yellow flag of the thoughts of impossibility and paused – internal dialogue went like this:
Me: Let me just check my flight miles.
Result: Free flight to Japan, done. Cheap flight from there to China.
Me: Can I afford the tuition?
Result: Cost of course, including hotel, transport in town and a week of master teaching by a 90-year-old guru is less than the cost of 2 nights at the Holiday Inn. Yes.
Critic/Guardian/Bob: But you can’t get the time off work.
Result: Maxed out vacation and took 2 days off unpaid.
Within hours I had arranged the trip and moved from my initial pity party into the excitement of knowing I was about to meet one of the most influential yoga gurus of my time.
You get the gist, right? I came at the problem looking for solutions, looking for ways to create the experience I craved because it was so meaningful to me and really did feel like a once in a lifetime experience. As our dear business mentor Marie Forleo says (and it’s a tweetable;)…
And you know what? In the end, it was a once in a lifetime experience. BKS Iyengar has since passed on and this was his final international tour. All thanks to that little voice in my head that brought in hope, that said, maybe I CAN do this, I DID IT and I have the experience and the life-long blessing of learning from my teacher’s teacher in my bones.
As I write this, it is MLK day. The question often comes, what if these leaders of love, peace and social justice had listened to their inner critic? Where would our world be now? Without consistent commitment to hope and faith in the capacity to improve our circumstances we would be on a hamster wheel (not a treadmill – that took hope, faith and commitment to build), reliving the things we wish to change.
Human development, personal development and social development all take WORK to come to fruition. The success of that work is a direct manifestation of our hope, faith, and commitment to exploring the limits of our capacity. It is directly related to our relationship with that little, sometimes quiet, voice inside that says Yes you can. Yes, it takes effort, and energy, and it may not be all puppy dogs and rainbows, but in the end it is so, so, worth it.
As we say goodbye to the Obamas (but not to my Michelle Obama lady-crush), are you with me? What do you believe in and what CAN you do right now that maybe, at the beginning of this article, you didn’t think you could. What, for you, is worth standing up for?
Scan your thoughts for the next few days and forever forward. Build up the habit of testing your thoughts and of exploring what is possible so, like my #JaneTheVirgin homegirl Gina Rodriguez, you say I can and I will long enough to say I can and I did. Get it, girl.
I’ll leave you all with this, as people across the nation and world are organizing to stand up for #womensrights and #humanrights this weekend: Your life is important. Do you stand for love and equality? Well, we need you. I’ve got your back and we’ve all got each others. We’ve got to keep riding this choo-choo train forward ’till we become the little engine that did.
Love to you and yours,
PS I’m giving you an extra special time-sensitive gift for joining me here – my new book How You Can Heal. It launches this Thursday 1/19 and will be free for download on amazon for the first three days! #GETIT!