The stories we tell ourselves

I am delighted to say that I have made a great recovery following my surgery in July. This was a challenging life experience, but one that taught me many lessons. I hope that some of what I’ve learned will suggest some fresh thinking for you.

In addition to my recent observations related to the energy expended on physical exertion compared to mental/intellectual activity, I have been thinking about three other lessons I’ve learned or reflected on this summer, and where my pre-conceived, limiting ideas were rooted.

Asking for and receiving help is important.

Even when faced with a health challenge, as I was, it was not easy to reach out for help — and it was sometimes hard to graciously receive help. So, when we are dealing with our everyday lives, with no extenuating circumstances, asking for and accepting help can be an even bigger issue.

I realized several years back that I had trouble asking for help. And accepting help when it was offered did not feel great either. I was stubbornly committed to doing everything myself. Why? It was a family “script” that I had adopted that said there was something wrong with me if I needed help. The script said that I should be able to figure everything out myself — and if I couldn’t or if I struggled, it indicated that I was not smart enough or hadn’t worked hard enough. By the time I realized how much I’d have benefited from reaching out for help sooner, I had suffered much more than I needed to — not to mention having lost opportunities for accomplishing even more. It took some getting used to, but learning this lesson has proven to be very important.

The myth of needing to be a lone warrior is damaging! Asking for help and support carries no shame. And learning to receive help with grace is an significant part of personal growth. I’ve learned to not only give with a full heart, I also ask for help, and receive help with gratitude.

I no longer believe that grinding away at hard work is the key to achieving great outcomes.

This is a common belief in our culture, that emphasizes hard work and long hours. It’s a badge of honor for people to boast about how little sleep they need! So, whether this is a script that is rooted in childhood or not, it’s a story many of us have readily adopted.

What I’ve learned over time, and have realized even more keenly this summer, is that success comes when we work smart more than work hard. What does that mean? When we take care of our precious physical bodies, getting enough rest and nourishment, and when we create time to move (on walks, in a yoga class, swimming, etc.), we work with more focus. When we slow down, think, and stop reacting, we can create the paths forward that are best for us. We actually get more done with less exertion. And, yes, when we also reach out for help so that we focus on the work that only we can do (letting others create systems for us, letting others take on tasks that can be delegated), we work less hard and work smarter. And best of all, we reap the benefit of having energy left to enjoy life apart from our work.

The answers are in each of us.

This lesson has become clearer and clearer over time. Instead of doubting myself, or looking to “experts” for answers, I’ve learned that I hold the answers to my most important questions. This lesson took a long time to learn, and to trust.

It used to feel overwhelming to sort through the whirlwind of thoughts in my head. I was sure that others had figured it all out, if only I could find the right book or the perfect on-line guru. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot to learn from great books and teachers. But I have learned that MY answers to MY deep questions are in me — they always were there, and they always are there. I now know that my creativity is boundless and my internal compass is sure, and I know they guide me wisely. What I needed were good tools to connect me to my intuition and to finding my answers. I needed good people to teach me about the tools and how to use them. (My coach provided both great tools and supportive teaching.) And, I needed to practice using them, to integrate them into the fabric of my life.

Do these issues resonate for you?
Do other issues come to mind that connect to stories that limit you?
What have you learned that has been significant to your personal growth?

I’d be glad to hear about the matters that continue to be challenges for you — because we are always on a path of reaching new heights in life, and mastering our challenges is the way that happens.