Dare & Defy
AIMS FOR TODAY
Name the challenge.
Understand the deeper meaning beneath it.
Make the choice to "go," or "no go."
Sian was only twenty-nine when she was diagnosed with leukemia. The shock was indescribable. Yet Sian believes that it has changed her life—for the better. "This sounds strange, I know, as I am only twenty-nine, and the condition that I have most commonly affects 'old' men nearing the end of their lives," she says. "But in spite of all this, I feel incredibly lucky that I have been given a jolt which has made me realize just how precious life is." Unfortunately for her, there's a further complication. Her only hope of a cure is to have a bone marrow transplant, and her brother is not a match. That means that she has to wait, and hope, for an unrelated donor to come forward.
"It's weird," says Sian. "I don't know how long I will live, or how successful my treatment is going to be, but since my diagnosis I am the happiest I have ever been and value every moment. I feel really sad for people who go through life without realizing what is not important, and most significantly what is important."
Sian has chosen to channel her surplus energies into helping the Anthony Nolan Trust, an organization that maintains the register of potential bone marrow donors in the UK. Her mission—to spread the word about bone marrow donation and to hopefully help save people in a similar position to hers. In only four months she has run a donor recruitment clinic where over one hundred people signed up as potential donors.1 Her next venture is to organize a London Marathon team to raise funds for the trust, which she will be running in herself. (Gulp!)
As a result of her illness, Sian has learned to live and love her life, however much of it there is still to come. "My wish is that other people could open their eyes and see how lucky we all are to be alive, and not to waste time by forever striving for things that really aren't that important in the bigger picture of life."
There are many times in our lives when we are faced with a challenge. And we always have a choice: to step up and meet it head-on, pass it over or even let it overwhelm and consume us. But sometimes there are things in life you simply have to deal with in the moment. Because sometimes, there just isn't another day.
The aim of today is to get really clear on what your challenge is, who it's calling you to become, why you're feeling afraid and what choices you've got. By the end of today, be ready to make a commitment one way or another, a firm decision about your way forward. That'll be your first Gulp!
The Price of Denial
Change itself can be really uncomfortable; that's why we can spend a lot of time in denial avoiding the issue, deflecting it, pretending it doesn't exist, blaming it on someone else. By avoiding the issue we don't have to deal with the pain we think we'll have to go through to get to the outcome. Keep denying it, and it'll build up over time, often turning around to bite you on the bottom when you least expect it.
Take Bob, for example. Bob always wanted to be an accountant. He'd been studying seriously for his CPA exams and finally passed them all. But once he was there, it was a different story. "I knew the environment of accounting was killing me emotionally," recalls Bob. "But I was so hung up on how hard I'd worked to pass the exams. I didn't want to waste all that time. So I kept ignoring my feelings." In the end his body started to speak for itself, and he developed all kinds of strange stress-related symptoms. Bob knew then that if he didn't leave, his health would really suffer.
The price of denial is high. It comes in the form of suffering, stuckness and sickness.
We've all experienced those heartfelt moments of deep disappointment when breaking up with a loved one, or deep sorrow when someone close passes away or deep regret when we let an important opportunity go by. But as we know, time passes and we eventually move on. The question is, how much time do you want to spend suffering? How much time do you want to spend carrying the emotional pain around with you? And what is it doing to you and your relationships, your health and your work?
George Eliot says, "Deep unspeakable suffering may well be called a 'baptism,' a regeneration, the initiation into a new state." That's because suffering can be overcome. Sometimes it provides a much-needed catalyst to create important changes in your life. Other times you need to be with the suffering and allow time for the healing process to take place. But the important thing is not to identify with the suffering itself, but rather to see it as a sign that something needs to change. In his book Universal Compassion,2 Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, an internationally renowned teacher of Buddhism, writes, "If the roof of our house is leaking and the water is dripping through the ceiling, we do not sit back and do nothing. We try to find the hole and mend it. Similarly with suffering, rather than be preoccupied with the suffering itself, we should apply the solution."
And it is through being with our suffering and moving through it that we dig deep, and find inner resources and an inner strength we didn't even know we possessed.
If you are suffering right now, where is your focus?
*Are you focused on the pain of your suffering?
*Or are you focused on finding a solution to your suffering?
*And how long do you choose to suffer for?
For me, feeling stuck is one of the worst feelings in the world. I find it totally exasperating. It's like getting a car stuck in the mud and not having enough traction to get it out again. So the wheels just keep spinning, sinking deeper and deeper and throwing mud back into your face. And there seems to be no way out. Being stuck is like a stalemate. You want to move forward, but you fear letting go of what you've got. So you stay where you are. Then you start to get frustrated with yourself. You dwell on it. You berate yourself for not being stronger, smarter or speedier. This further feeds your frustration. And so it spirals downward. But being stuck doesn't have to be a big issue. Often it means you're in a holding pattern, and you need to evaluate what you want, what you don't want and how you can move forward. The problem comes when you focus on the frustration of stuckness, rather than the evaluation of it and the important signals it sends. As Robert M. Pirsig wrote in the epic classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,3 "Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors."
If you are feeling stuck right now, where is your focus?
*Are you focused on the frustration of your stuckness?
*Or are you focused on what your stuckness is telling you?
*And how long do you choose to stay stuck for?
I'll never forget the first time I read Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life,4 where she introduces the concept that "dis-ease" in your life can manifest itself as illness in your body. She writes, "The body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. Every cell within your body responds to every single thought you think and every word you speak." The accumulation of negative thoughts and beliefs and stored emotions like anger, jealousy, fear and hatred can lead to disease appearing in different parts of your body depending on the negative pattern you're holding. Whether you believe this or not, what we all know is that when we're stuck and suffering, invariably we do get run-down and we do end up getting sick. In Bob's case, he knew that accounting wasn't for him, but he stuck it out because he didn't want to waste all the hard work he'd put in. It wasn't until his health began to suffer that he knew he had to do something. What also happens is that as the stress of your situation builds up, it diminishes your ability to cope in the first place.
If you are feeling run-down right now:
*What messages is your body sending you?
*What will happen if you get ill?
*When will you start to do something about your health?
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Behind every Gulp! there is a motivator, an internal driver that gives us the energy to move forward. More often than not the pain of our current situation becomes so great that we just have to do something. So we are motivated by the necessity to move away from the pain. Other times, it is the thought of the pleasure that awaits us on the other side that becomes the primary motivator. Whatever the situation, we are all motivated by moving towards pleasure or moving away from pain. Interestingly, scientific research has shown that people are more motivated by pain than by pleasure. In fact, one study showed that pain is two and a half times more of a motivator than pleasure.
So let's take a moment to look at the pain.
It's clear that you feel some fear about your impending Gulp! and that your current situation is causing you some pain or suffering, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this book. That's because the Gulp! you're facing right now is challenging you. It is bringing to the surface your insecurities, fears and anxieties. Self-awareness is a powerful teacher. It opens your eyes and takes away the shutters so that you view yourself and the world differently. Once you've opened up, it's difficult to close again. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says in his book Everyday Wisdom,5 "When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice because that's what's inside. The very same principle is true about you. When someone squeezes you—puts pressure on you—what comes out is what's inside."
Having coached hundreds of people over the past years, I can say with my hand on my heart that the biggest thing holding you back right now is you. Deep down, you know that too. It's easy to look outside and blame the people around you, or the circumstances around you or even the objects around you. That's why we're going to take a good hard look in the mirror and see how you are contributing to your own pain and suffering. And when you boil it all down, I bet that the root of your pain will fall into one or more of the following categories.
So let's look at each one of these in more detail.
In 1943, Dr. Abraham Maslow6 published his theory on human motivation and hypothesized that we have five levels of needs—Physiological, Safety, Social, Esteem and Self-Actualization. Suffering comes when one of these needs is lacking, being threatened or not being satisfied. Pleasure comes when there is an abundance, where your needs are well and truly being satisfied. In theory, the lower-level needs have to be satisfied before we can move up the pyramid. The hungry artist with no money to pay for brushes and paints may not be in the best space to do their most creative and inspiring work. Or the globe-trotting couple who relish the adventure of living in third world countries may not be in the best space to start a family. Yet it must be said that this is a dynamic hierarchy and your dominant needs will vary depending on where you are in your life.
MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
As you step up to your challenge, any changes you make may cause a positive or negative impact to one or more of these levels of needs. If the threat to one need is greater than the pleasure gained by meeting another need, then fear will kick in.
*Simon wants to start his own business and be his own boss, but is worried about the financial impact and whether he can pay the mortgage (threatening his Physiological Needs).
*Paula would love to pack up and go to live in South Africa, but she's worried about not knowing anyone and having to start all over again (threatening her Social Needs).
*Pete's thinking of crossing over to head another department responsible for innovation in his company, but he's worried about losing his profile and influence (threatening his Esteem Needs).
*Melanie wants to backpack around the world, but is worried about being a woman traveler on her own (threatening her Safety Needs).
*Stewart would love to pursue his dream of writing poetry and books, but is worried about whether he's good enough (threatening his Self-Actualization Needs).
From all my coaching, one of the secrets to making your Gulp! as easy and painless as possible is to ensure that the Physiological, Safety and Social Needs are met to the best of your ability. From there, you form a firm foundation, the risk is lower and you will find it much freer and easier to blossom.
As you step up to the challenge and start to make changes:
*What needs are being threatened?
*What needs would be more satisfied by making the change?
*What motivates you the most?
"I am" many things. I am a woman. I am a Kiwi. I am a writer. I am fortysomething. I am an Aries. And the list of my identities goes on. But the truth of it is that I am in fact none of these. They are just words. I am me. I am not my identities. My identities are simply labels that help me sort and categorize myself to help me find my place in the world, and help others to do the same. And so we create structures for our world. And so we put ourselves into little boxes with lovely ribbons and bright bows.
We are not our identities. Yet one of the biggest stumbling blocks is that stepping up to your Gulp! will mean that you have to let go of one of your identities. Take job titles as a great example. When I used to work as a European Marketing Director for a recognized company, with a nice big leather chair, it was a very grand title that used to open doors for me. But then I set up my own little company. And I always remember the first prospective phone call I made because it completely flummoxed me. I immediately started to say, "Hi, I'm Gabriella Goddard. I am the Eur . . . " And then it struck me. I was no longer this fancy title anymore. I was little no-name, from little no-name company. It felt like the big mother ship that had always been behind me was no longer there. I didn't know who I was anymore.
Excerpted from Gulp! by Gabriella Goddard. Copyright © 2007 by Gabriella Goddard. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.