Updated: Jul 23, 2020
We all have ways that we communicate. In this communication there are things that we ‘need’, responses, affirmations, support, encouragement, questioning, fortifying, exploring whatever it may be for you. Oftentimes the things that we look for are not the things that we actually need, and the pursuit of these reactions become the quest, not the original intended thought. For me, I realised, much of what I was doing was for validation, that I was not receiving. Setting impossible goals for myself and hinging success on the reactions of others. Not fair on them, or me.
Isn’t it just that you find something that you are excited about, you find yourself wanting to share it with someone and when you do, you feel flat afterward. You feel that maybe you shouldn’t have been so excited about it in the first place and the doubting questions creep in, ‘was I wrong?’, ‘Did I fool myself into thinking this was a good idea?’, ‘Maybe I should just forget it and go back to the drawing board’, or worse, give up all together. I do not know about you, but this has happened a lot in my life. It still does. The trick is recognising it for what it is and using the moment, the experience to not put yourself and your ideas and excitement down but rather to use it to your advantage. Finding the courage to explore the differences between the thing you are excited about, your excitement and the validation from others. Sounds great, but how?
Lets’ explore that in a little more detail, there is your excitement, the thing that you are excited about and the reactions of others when you share it. Shall we create an example scenario to paint the picture, my mind works in pictures so a story line may help this go along and help us all visualise it. Lets’ say you are out on a walk with your dog, it is a beautiful sunny morning, your dog is having the time of its life chasing butterflies and bounding in and out of the water in a big dam that is surrounded by early morning birds, the sound of their song, a new sun greeting the day warming your face, fish jump gently in the water as they gather their breakfast, all is well with the world. You are thinking about your life and where you would like to be one year from now, you imagine what that feels like, to have those things that you dream of, to be working toward the even bigger dreams that drive you in your life, what can I do today to bring myself closer to that goal by this time next week? Eureka!
I know, I can commit myself to some new daily habits, ones that I know will make me feel good, ones I can schedule in and relative to the hours in a day won’t take all that long, 30 mins exercise, write 400 words, spend time with the kids outdoors, meditate for half an hour, climb a tree whatever it may be that feels productive in your life. As you think about these things you narrow down to those that work for you, one for me incidentally is to write 400 words per day, any words, whatever flows out of me (thus we are here together now).
You will perhaps not be surprised to discover that the picture I have painted above is indeed my story, I visit that dam every morning with my gorgeous Golden Retriever, Harlow who has boundless energy. As I enjoy the serenity of this scene, the fire and light bursts up through me with my newly discovered excitement for my new idea, I feel elated. I cannot wait to get started. I want to get back to my home office and scribble all over my massive whiteboard, commit these new habits to it and start living my life with good intentions for self, for my vision of my future. Not looking for an overnight fix of all the things I would like to see change in my life, not for any of them in fact. Just a start, a contribution, something that will, through practice undoubtedly make me feel better. It is important to note that the specific ‘habits’ that I commit may not be the answer that I am looking for but I can guarantee you the focus and energy put into it will take me forward in the right direction, just perhaps not the way I had thought. Progress, living intentionally, moving toward my goals for next year, for next week, for today.
I call Harlow back to me, starting the walk home. Harlow chases everything from dragonflies to strands of grass. I duck and dive buffalo thorn trees (nasty if you get caught up in them!) and meander around termite mounds, all with a beaming smile on my face, fueled by my new found excitement of this idea I have had, it is after all, genius, it must be to be this exciting, mustn’t it?
I arrive home and I want to share my newfound wisdom with someone, I call a friend, I speak with my wife, I chat with my family members. Now, every one of them will be supportive and encouraging, happy for me seeing my excitement, however despite this I feel the light dimming, the jubilation associated with my idea shrinks and turns rather into a small knot in my stomach. It becomes criticism, all within myself. I look at the idea and someone turned the lights off, the chairs are upside down on the tables and everyone has left, not very inspiring. I sit with this darkness and feel flattened, deflated. Now, those that I have spoken with had nothing to do with any of those feelings, they have done nothing to create it, but after speaking it through I feel dejected, I lost my motivation, my ‘mojo’, the explosion of fireworks and colour, all gone. What happened?
Can you tell me what I did wrong? Have you been here too? It is a perfectly normal situation to be in and one that we all mistakenly find ourselves in on a regular basis. The worst part is the outcome that we create, dejected and unmotivated. I have cracked it, I have spent so much of my life going through this cycle, repeating the pattern. As Einstein said, performing the same behaviour and expecting different results is the definition of madness. QUOTE. Yet, day after day, year after year I kept on doing this, feels crazy now that I look at it. And not I understand what it was all about. One simple word that encompasses so much of our behaviour. Validation. This little word counts for so very much in our worlds, it helps us avoid self-deprecation, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy, supported, and loved, but it is a lie. It could be compared to the confidence that we all feel when intoxicated on alcohol, we become something different and it is not real, not to mention it comes with a hangover. There is always a price to pay. Validation is not real because it replaces out ability to stand on our own two feet. To feel strong in our decision, it robs us of our confidence and leaves us moving through life meekly going form interaction to interaction, engagement to engagement waiting for the applause, the pat on the back, the confirmation that the direction we are going and the overarching journey we are on is correct. Now, I am not saying that we do not need this but if we approach it from the perspective of purely needing validation as much as it can put wind in our sails and propel us forward for a ways, it can steal the wind and sink the boat in one second flat.
I spent years seeking out those that would listen, those that took the time to listen and in turn provide me with that validation. It is not sustainable and whilst it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing tricking us, even more importantly is that it is not fair on the person that we seek validation from. We are putting them in a position to support us, and if they do not through our own reactions of defensiveness and inadequacy we shun them, we blame them for turning the lights out for removing the spark, and yet, it was nothing to do with them. It was ours all along.
So, next time you are by the dam, or cycling your bike, on the treadmill, in the place where you find your inspiration and a firework goes off. You feel the colour and warmth rise in you, take some time to sit in that colour and that warmth. There is no one idea or though that you have that has the energy to make you feel that way that is false. It speaks to your passions, it speaks to your energy and drive, use its fire to service you, to take you forward. Take some extra time to sit there and look at it, think about its shape and size, what parts of it really excite you. Don’t try and cement it into a shape and form to be actioned immediately, there is something within it that fires you up, as humans we have a tendency to compartmentalise things, we put things in boxes so as to make them easier to understand, to contemplate, to remember and appreciate. Try to avoid this temptation and allow it rather to flow over you, I promise you that in time if you keep going with this it will take shape, it will form, you will find ways to express it. Do not force it. And whatever you do, do not expect anyone other than yourself to be able to see it, no matter how well you explain it, for them to feel the same excitement. That is yours and it is a gift, feel it, appreciate it, and use it. It is only by doing this that we have what we do in this world. We seem to believe that products and services that we see today, things we use that make our lives simpler were the first version of themselves. Do you honestly believe that the iPhone (whatever number we are at these days) was the first attempt? Of course not. It took years of trial and error, there is no such thing as a finished product form the get go, and if there is it is probably pretty shoddy. Good thing, great things take time, they take investment. Of energy, of focus. You owe it to yourself to take the time to allow for this.
So, how have I done this? Well, I LOVE to talk, I could talk from daylight to sunset, however no one wants to listen to that, right? (this is where I must give special mention to my wife Stacey for being so very, very patient with me over the years!! Patience of a saint). I write. I do not write about what exactly I thought of, if there was a specific idea, I sit at my computer and I take myself back to the dam in my mind, I open up Word and I start typing. I usually have no idea where it is going to go. I find if I try to control it, I go off-piste, and what I write is not as poignant, or as on point to what I was feeling. This expression allows me to explore the feeling that I have had, I can take a look at its shape and size and when I finish writing for the day I do not have a direct correlation between what I wrote and the feeling of inspiration that I had that morning, however I do feel that I have honoured both, the excitement within myself and my writing. And afterward, I feel on top of the world. Who am I talking to, well, myself, you, whoever will listen but the most wonderful thing is that I am not expecting my laptop to stop me after writing an line and say, ‘ You know Start that is just incredible’, imagine that! No, I commit these words to ‘paper’ and know that I am doing myself a service in doing so. This is my expression of self; this is how I can remain in contact with that place within myself filled with colour and passion that I know will take me forward in the right direction. All I must do it practice healthy daily habits, and trust, trust in myself. This all only comes with practice and by finding ways to pursue your excitement in a constructive way, rather than giving it away to someone who does not know how to appreciate it.
You are robbing the world of something spectacular, stop giving your power away and take heed of it. You never know, you could change the world. You will certainly change your own!