On a recent grey afternoon, the kind of Seattle winter where the clouds hang low and crowded in the sky, I met with a woman who was ready to change her life.
“I’m feeling stuck,” she said. This was a competent, talented human — poised on the edge of re-invention.
I nodded, a bit mesmerized by the grace of her straight-shouldered poise, her easy smile, the way she gazed out the window and contemplated her words. I get that sneaky feeling of stuck-ness; I hear about it from people who attempt to convince me of their stuck-ness almost daily.
“What if you’re not stuck?” I suggested. “If you look at ‘stuck’ literally — you have freedom of movement, your mind is agile and is asking questions, examining options; you reached out to me then drove over to have this conversation. You think you’re stuck but you aren’t. Do you see that?”
We pursued ideas of what’s possible when you’re not oriented toward stuck; we settled down and tapped into the wisdom center that lies beneath the rumble of thinking and ruminating; we focused a beam on what this wise, innately creative woman thought she might really want to do, how she liked to move through her day, the types of connections that made her laugh and feel good. We probed her definition of A Good Day. So much is discovered when we consider our Good Day.
A few ideas loosened; possibility grew brighter, and then, as we stood to part:
“I know, I know. I just have to get past my limited thinking.”
“What if there’s no such thing as limited thinking?” I asked the re-inventor. I got a wry grin back, to the tune of this, again? Yes, I grinned back, this again.
We stood shoulder to shoulder, looking out the window at the birch and fir swaying in a kicked-up wind. We contemplated “no limited thinking” as we identified the types of evergreen trees lining my neighborhood.
“Consider it’s made up — ”limited thinking.” I said. “There’s no such thing. It’s simply thinking.”
I used to love the whole “limited thinking” concept. That couplet, along with “limited beliefs” was once plastered all over my website. I was hell-bent on helping clients karate chop and blow up their limited thinking. Personally, I spent years managing, wrestling, bribing and sweet-talking my own “limited thinking” that specialized in the department of anxiety, melancholy and self-doubt. I did push ups to arm wrestle it. I flexed my strategy skills to outwit it.
None of it worked. It continued to feel like I was walking through life with my limited thinking crouched behind the bushes ready to pounce like a menacing, unpredictable tiger — out to get me. Once pounced upon, I’d have to rinse-repeat the wrestling, flexing and sweet-talking. Whew — and tiring. Do you see a tiger? Me neither.
Things began to change when I saw my thoughts for what they really are: transitory, impersonal and meaningless. If I had a moment in my workday with some of my habitual pet thoughts like “You can’t do this” or “You’re going for it again, who are you kidding!?”, I reminded myself I didn’t have to believe the thoughts. They weren’t prophets; I didn’t have to make meaning out of them, or go down some rabbit hole figuring out what I should be doing. It was one of ten thousands of thoughts — that aren’t even mine — that rush through and past me every day. Like weather.
“I can’t do this,” “I don’t have what it takes,” “Who’s going to hire/pay me to . . . “, “I don’t know what to do” — this might feel like limited thinking but it’s not. Consider all the times you’ve said “I can’t…” and you’ve carried on. Consider the fact that “I don’t know what to do” can as easily be followed with eager problem-solving as it can be with a despairing sigh. Our thoughts, on their own, are impersonal and void of meaning. This changes when we get caught up in our thinking (it’s human) and then imbue those thoughts with meaning.
So now imagine this: whatever cool edge you are standing on, whatever new chapter you’re ready for, whatever creative adventure you are embarking on — this is what you’re made for. As humans, we are re-inventors and creators. We also think and think and think. One fresh thought after another — which is a great reason not to get hung up on any one thought for any period of time. Especially if it’s a bad-feeling thought. Keep movin’, next!
Imagine you are never stuck. There are no limited thoughts. Pretend the words, the phrase, the term doesn’t even exist.
And create from there.
If you want to write — and aren’t:
Get out of your head and write!
Originally published at Everyday Creative Coaching.