“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Imagine a life where mostly every aspect of it was positive? It can be if you listen - to yourself, the inner voice that is trying to be heard.
I have this quote on a little granite plaque in my kitchen, having been drawn to it a couple of years ago. It’s credited to Churchill, though there is apparently no known connection between him and the quote. Regardless, these are wise words.
Previously I’ve talked about the concept of being who you are in the sense of being the person with the traits, gifts and talents you were born with, rather than the person you’ve become (nature versus nurture) layer by layer. When you are acting from your own true nature, you’re happier, more passionate about the things you do, and great to be around – inspiring even!
As we take on other people’s beliefs and perceptions – you’re loud, you’re quiet, you’re good at football, you’re no good at football, you’re destructive, you’re constructive, you’re a fighter, you’re timid, you like seafood, you don’t like seafood, you are messy, you are tidy, you are ugly, you are good looking; on and on - finding out who you are, the true you before you took on all that other stuff, takes a conscious effort.
The signs that you’re acting more from nurture than nature, are pretty easy to spot, should you choose to recognize them. They appear at all levels of your wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. You have aches and pains, you have trouble concentrating, you crave time to do more of the things you love, and you may feel angry, or weepy, or depressed. The point is, there’s more negative than positive regardless of how it shows up.
Most of us put up with that in many aspects of our lives, and it’s only when the balance tips to mainly negative that we are driven to do something about it.
In So Who Are You? I mentioned there were many ways to strip off the layers that are keeping you in a negative space. First you have to recognize them for what they are. Is your wellbeing suffering? If the answer is yes, it’s a layer you’d be better shedding. This layer may have served you once, but it is now holding you back.
Now you have a choice, either do something about it, or go around the circuit again, attracting more circumstances or people into your life to reinforce the negative ways you feel. This is what we do, unconsciously. This is your default future.
What if you want to change that? You want to discover who that person is beneath that layer or that belief about yourself that you’ve been holding onto? Fear might hold you back.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve seen myself as a fighter, a defender of perceived injustice, for most of my life. Yet, all the signs were there that I don’t actually like to fight – the knots in my tummy, the sleepless nights, the obsessive thinking through of every detail, turning it over and over in my mind. But what was the alternative? To let ‘those people’ win? ‘Those people’ could of course be anyone from my partner or my mum to a lawyer or institution. If I perceived there was injustice I’d take them on regardless, no one was going to diminish me, nor anyone I cared about.
So to peel back this layer was a scary thought. Was I going to become some sucker who let everyone walk all over me? I can think of countless examples of situations I’ve faced where I’ve been proud to have ‘stood my ground’, to speak up or speak out; it’s been part of my identity, one I’ve been rewarded for in many ways. What was I going to do if those situations arose again?
Did I have enough confidence I’d been drawing those situations in because I believed myself to be a fighter? And others, in turn, had seen me speak out thus were more drawn to me when in need? The short answer to this is yes. But it wasn’t a quick answer to get to, and it’s a question that still plagues me from time to time if I let my mind get in the way too much.
Our mind is a wonderful tool, but we’ve let it become the thing that defines us – “I think, therefore I am” said Descartes. It can really help us successfully navigate the daily practicalities of life, but it also makes up wonderful stories that keep us in fear of ever acting in our own best interest. The ‘what if’ stories. My “what if I become a sucker” story.
Yes, I could see that these situations were affecting my wellbeing. But was I attracting them? And did that mean I could reverse the trend and not attract them?
My 4-year-old daughter is a master of simply paying no attention – I mean zero – to the things she doesn’t want. Try getting an answer to “would you like an apple?” if she’s not hungry, or “shall we read this book?” if she’s busy doing something more interesting.
The law of attraction is a concept that has had a lot of attention in recent years, most widely in the Rhonda Byrne book The Secret. Certainly as a competitive swimmer I understood the power of the mind and the part it played in winning, but I hadn’t really thought about it in relation to other aspects of my life that tended to unfold unconsciously. I liked it, because it meant I could determine more of my own future.
So was I willing to take a risk that I might get ‘walked over’, be diminished, if I shed this fighter layer of mine? Were there other ways to stand my ground without fighting? Or would I simply stop attracting challenging situations that made this necessary? The answer to my question was there, when I listened.
Only you can decide if you’re ready to strip back unhelpful layers. What I’m encouraging is that you listen to your true inner voice rather than the voice of fear in your head. Your inner voice - or intuition - will help you decide if something is right for you.
We all have different ways of listening to our inner voice, our true nature, but they all involve stilling our mind. For some people the way to this is through a sport or activity they enjoy, for others it’s in the day to day chores – like cooking – that require little thinking, for others it’s simply meditation. We all know our own answers when it comes to what’s best for us, the trick is to trust that inner voice more than the ‘what if’ stories your mind creates when you give it too much attention.
So while I trusted that shedding this ‘fighter’ layer was in my best interest, I still needed some help to work through some past scenarios to still that ‘what if’ voice in my mind, and not just once, because under stress we default to ingrained behaviours and it takes a while to ingrain new ones.
Understanding who we are not - what is a layer versus what is our true nature – is one thing, understanding what our true nature beneath is another; one I’ll expand on more next time.
The principles here are simple, the reality can be a bit more tricky as I’ll continue to share. But it is worth it. A world full of happy, passionate people in positions of influence and power – that is all of us – is the surely the world we want to live in?
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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