Much to my surprise, I had been given an awesome opportunity at 5:30 pm and I had 24 hours to decide if I was going to say yes! It required me to make a year-long commitment, which is something I do mindfully and intentionally.
No problem, I thought to myself, I'll meditate and journal on it in the morning and will know my answer.
I got out of bed the next day. Put on the electric kettle. And started my Inner Balance session to meditate like I do most mornings.
Often it'll take me up to five minutes to get and stay in high coherence (as measured by my Heart Rate Variability). This morning I was in low coherence for the vast majority of the time. Of course, judgmental remarks came into my mind such as, "I haven't had a pathetic session like this in a really long time."
At the end of my morning routine, I was no closer to having an answer. Instead, I felt overwhelmed, stressed and full of uncertainty. As the day progressed, I continued to fret about the situation. Not only was I feeling confused and unsure, but I was also quite fearful about how to choose what to do. But instead of fueling the stories of fear, I simply stayed aware of my feelings in the moment and journaled about it.
I vowed years ago, I would not make big decisions based on fear. I also know enough about how business works that deadlines like this are generally arbitrary. So I gave myself permission to take a little more time deciding (which I communicated to the organizers).
With my newfound spaciousness, I felt calmer and at ease. I went for a walk to collect my thoughts later that evening. I reflected on what I could learn from this experience as a way to help me gain new insights in making my decision from a place of strength.
I realized, I struggled in the morning because the pressure to make a quick decision was incredibly triggering for me. It was completely unexpected. And I have a tendency to habitually freeze when being forced to make big decisions (ok, even small one's like renting a movie - this was back in the day when you had to go to a store to get one) with arbitrary time constraints.
In addition, my schedule had been jam-packed that day. I was racing from one thing to the next, each of which demanded my full attention. I resented being pressured to make a big decision when I felt I didn't have the bandwidth to do so until "after the deadline." All of these facets - the time limit, the expectation without being primed, the tension with my existing plans - led to feelings that triggered a powerful fear response.
As I reflected on these insights, my "pathetic" Inner Balance session made more sense. Instead of seeing it as me being pathetic, I saw it as an indicator of my growth. If I didn't have my (almost) daily practice I might have proceeded unaware I was triggered and made a decision driven by fear instead of being grounded in my power. I marveled at the way this struggle turned into a powerful lesson because I made the choice to step back and examine the situation with genuine curiosity instead of following my knee-jerk reaction.
As we learn new skills, we inevitably have some days where we struggle more than others. The next time that happens to you, remember you're not pathetic or incapable or stupid or a failure, you're growing. And perhaps, if you're really having a tough time of it, you're not slipping backward but meeting the resistance of leveling up head-on. A challenge you're being presented with because you are ready to step fully into this learning opportunity.
When that happens, it's ok to give yourself permission to feel without fueling fear or negativity. Name it, and create space to reckon with the tension between where you are and where you want to be. Investigate how your past is impacting the way you're reacting in the present moment. Be open, genuinely curious and show yourself compassion. By leaning in, you might just propel yourself even further along your leadership journey.
From a place of calm, ease, and peace, I confidently decided to pursue the opportunity. To do so, I moved past my fears and resentment, to consider how this chance aligned with my aspirations. When I looked at it from that perspective I got a clear and resounding "YES!" Regardless of the outcome, I feel good about the way I made the decision and am especially proud of the way I leaned into the struggle as an opportunity to grow.
I'd love to hear from you. What challenges are presenting themselves to you as opportunities to lean in and grow on your leadership journey?