We have arrived at Action!
And here’s what I want to say about action: It’s required.
Without action, all of the other stuff that I wrote about in the first three posts in this series is just dreaminess and wishing.
One of my favorite acting teachers used to say, “Do the doing truthfully and for a purpose.” Acting is all about action. That’s why it’s called acting. Watching people simply emote and whine for two hours is the worst! The actors who are committed to the action of the character, to the purpose-drive-goal of the character, the ones who commit fully to the behavior and let the emotion take care of itself – those are the actors who take our breath away. They’re the ones we believe.
Translation – we will believe in ourselves and believe it’s possible to live a purposeful life when we commit to the action of our purpose. We have to do the doing. But, instead of jumping into to do lists and five-year plans with quarterly breakdowns, I want to explore a different kind of process for connecting with purpose-full action.
The Lovers: Doing & Being
I’ve heard this so many times I don’t know who actually said it the first time – “we are human beings, not human doings.” Purposeful action is not about busy-ness. In fact taking action on our purpose very often requires that we let go of things. We’re used to taking action in our comfort zones. They can keep us very busy. And I’ve learned the hard way over the past 3 – 10 – 25 years that I can stay distracted from my purpose by getting downright crazy-busy inside my comfort zone. And, here’s the kicker, this often happens when I am feeling the call to expand my comfort zone. Sometimes, when I am feeling the urge to move into unknown territory, my comfort zone actually shrinks! I retreat and hide and don’t want to come out, but I do want to come out and play, but I’m afraid, and I feel safe in here, and I don’t know what’s going on out there, but I want to find out, but I’m scared so I get really really really busy…but what I truly want to do in my heart of hearts is go outside, cross the boundary, and BREATHE.
The trick is taking one step at a time. The other trick is doing the doing that will move us towards our purpose. Purposeful action is very different from being busy. How do we know what the next step is?
We Can Be Our Own Teachers
We don’t want to throw a lot of external action on top of all the things we’re already doing. As I said before, we may even have to let go. What I’m exploring is working from the inside out. Instead of mapping a bunch of stuff out – which I LOVE to do. I have a planner addiction. But, instead of drafting quarterly goals and checking boxes, I’ve been sitting and thinking and trusting and allowing. And letting the still small voice make the action plan. And, since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been writing more, sharing more, and learning more.
I’ll be honest this a personal tug of war. One day, I’ll sit in meditation and I’ll listen and I’ll receive guidance. And I’m so grateful for this. It’s a wonderful thing.
And, zing! I’m off.
But, then I’ll forget. And I start pushing and trying to do it all by myself with sheer will and grit and I get desperate and I look for help everywhere and I’ll try to do All The Things and I’ll get confused and frustrated. And, finally, I’ll remember, “Oh, yeah. Sit down and be still and listen.” I’m learning that I don’t have to do this all by myself. I have an internal support system waiting for me to sit my ass down and breathe. Mindfulness practice has changed my life in so many ways over the past two years, but I’m still not used to it. I forget and go back to my old ways.
So I’m practicing. All the time. Life is practice.
This is the process. I call it embodiment. Embodiment means spending time with the woman you want to be. Let her/you teach you what the next step is. Let her help you figure it out. Going back to pull theory from Mark Forster’s How to Make Your Dreams Come True, a clear vision of your future-self living with purpose and feeling fulfilled will lead you to the next step and pull you forward. And by clear, I mean sensory and embodied.
So this future-self, the woman I want to be, who is she? How does she feel when she’s sipping a cup of coffee or tea in the morning and thinking about her day? What does she see? How does her body feel? How does she feel in her body? What does her normal average day look like? What does she want to do next?
For me, this visioning practice has been much more fruitful than traditional goal setting. I think that’s because it’s a process of working from the inside out.
Go inside and spend time with the woman you want to be. Listen for the next step – this is working from the inside out. Then you take the next step – which is working from the outside in – and the landscape is altered just a bit. From this new place, pause and listen for the next step – working from the inside out … and so on and so forth. Just like breathing.
This means we have to trust ourselves. Because this future self who’s enjoying a lovely romance with her purpose has probably done some things that we’re afraid to do. I mean, holy hell, what if she’s into public speaking!?!
So we have to trust. If she is into public speaking and public speaking terrifies us, I bet she didn’t go to sleep one night terrified of public speaking and wake up the next morning completely unafraid having mastered the art of telling a good story in front of thousands of people. So what was her first step? Trust that and just take that first step. That’s all. This will move us one step down the hallway where we can ask her what she did next.
We will probably never be fearless, but we can learn to trust ourselves and believe in ourselves by taking one step at a time. Just one.
So what do you think? Are you willing to give it a shot? Maybe a 30-day experiment?
There’s a lot to be said about this. And I have plans for exploring the connection between love and purpose lots more on this blog, but for now, I just want to say that the guidance received from the visioning process always comes from a place of love. The still small voice and the voice of our future self – the woman we want to become – is loving. If we hear, “You just have to get off your fat lazy ass and get a freakin’ life!”, shut her down. That’s ego. That’s old programming. And, most importantly, it’s not helpful.
I heard Sharon Salzberg give a talk and she named that critical berating voice Lucy. It’s a wonderful talk which I can’t seem to find again to share the link with you. But, I will keep looking and hopefully be able to share it with you. BTW – Sharon Salzberg is kinda brilliant. (Understatement!)
And there we are. We’ve wrapped up the series. Are you still awake? Still reading? Have questions? Have ideas to share? Please reach out and post a comment. I’d love to engage in some cool conversations with maverick mid-life women who are exploring their own path.