From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.
I like to live my life by what I call wisdom according to Aerosmith: Life is a journey, not a destination. It isn’t about where you’re headed, it’s about the places you go to along the way. I personally want that journey to be full and rich, about learning new things and appreciating the beauty around me, about living mindfully and discovering my passions and expressing who I really am.
I haven’t always lived that way–even as I was learning the tools necessary to spread my wings, I spent a substantial amount of time living my life the way other people expected me to. I was a good girl, usually doing the “right” things, even as I was exploring realms that I didn’t think most of my friends and family would understand. My life took on a splintered quality as different pieces of me showed up depending on who I was with. I often felt like I was a shadow of myself, flimsy and insubstantial, and I yearned for the day when I could be one coherent me. But that was where I was, and the first thing I needed to learn was to let go of those expectations, to give myself a break, to stop being so hard on myself before I could begin the shift from living my life externally towards exploring the me on the inside and letting her light shine.
Starting where you are is about being loving and compassionate towards yourself. You may dream of what you want your life to look like, who you want to be, and often that leads to beating yourself up, judging yourself and finding yourself lacking. This is counterproductive, placing the emphasis on what you don’t want instead of on what you do want. The first thing to do is to recognize that you are where you are, and while you are capable of realizing your dreams, you have to be gentle with yourself as you take the steps necessary to get there. I like to think of it as building your muscles. If you had a dream of running a marathon, you wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles tomorrow. You would put a training program in motion and build your muscles and your endurance to enable success. Each step in the training program is a stretch and while you get close to your objective during training, the day of the event is the day you actually achieve your goal.
This is how realizing life goals works, too. While we don’t always have a full training program laid out in front of us so we know in advance the steps we’ll take to reach our goals, life is always feeding us opportunities to stretch ourselves, to grow in the direction we want to be moving in. When a challenge comes up for you today, instead of handling it the way you might have in the past, ask yourself how you can react differently this time. The answer might feel a little outside of your comfort zone, but do it anyway. You know where the old road leads–explore a new road and see if it lands you in a place you haven’t been before. Play with it, experiment a bit. You might not land exactly where you want to be, but keep experimenting with it as situations come up until you find a new way of handling it that feels more authentic to who you are and where you want to go in life. If you’re shy, a public speaking engagement might be too big of a stretch, but talking to a stranger in a bar might be just the right size. Strengthen that extroverted muscle, that faith muscle, that love muscle–whatever it is that you’ve been seeking, that’s been missing in your life.
There is always something right in front of us, right where we are today that is a gift for the growth we have been asking for. It might feel small, it might be a just baby step, but each step is a movement, and each step opens up new opportunities for expansion. As T. Harv Ecker reminds us:
Success is a learnable skill. You can learn to succeed at anything . . . If you want to be a great piano player, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be truly happy, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be rich, you can learn how to do it. It doesn’t matter where you are right now. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from. What matters is that you are willing to learn.
Start where you are right now, in this moment, and take a step, begin the process of learning how to spread those wings, to move in the direction that you’ve always dreamed of.
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual Fitness, by Caroline Reynolds
Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Photo: Views of Bratislava, by Lukas Ondrousek
Originally posted on Jenn’s Two Cents/Learning to Fly