Nervously step forward or stubbornly hold back?
Life is a conundrum, isn’t it? We want to go one way yet often choose another. Then we go the way we think we should go when in fact our heart wants to pull us somewhere else. Do you feel like this sometimes? If so, do you notice when these see-saw tug-of-wars occur? For some a trigger might just be a small matter that escalates. For others a big problem becomes an all-engrossing drama. Either way we go back and forth between the experiences. Not a fun way to live and work, right?
Well I would like to suggest that we can live much more comfortably and in balance when we accept situations that usually trigger our extreme reaction. When we accept something for what it is before we add extra interpretation, story and projection of issues the situation diffuses. This is what I am implying with the title of this article.
Is this a contradiction?
The words of this title may at first seem contradictory. Nervously step forward? Confidently hold back? Our first assumption is that we would naturally not do anything if we feel nervous. Likewise when we are holding back we are doing so often because of our mind almost tricking us into thinking no action is right.
Nervously step forward
Yet there is a positive in each position. Let’s take the first context-to ‘nervously step forward’. Firstly we acknowledge that facing uncertainty or heading in a new and unknown direction can naturally elicit some fear and trepidation. This is normal.
At another level we are working with the duality of our primal emotional response and our conscious thought. When we are functioning effectively in life then we will know this place in our self yet still keep at it. In this context nervousness is more akin to excitement and healthy consideration of your actions. This place is about taking action from a position of trust, self-belief and super heightened awareness. Expanding and maintaining your awareness enables you to allay the fears and go forward consciously.
For example, lets imagine you are in a new work situation- role, job, company or even country. The degree of difference compared to your prior situation naturally will feed into a few of the fear monsters lurking in the back of your mind. Rather than dwell on the lack of security from your old place of being, you take action in a direction that gives you new experience. You make decisions that let you discover what the new way will be like. As you take action in this way you then can adjust and redirect.
Stubbornly hold back
The other context - to ‘stubbornly hold back’ is more about patience and focus. Again the key to this aspect is your ability to fine-tune your awareness so that you can be clear about why you are holding back. By holding back we are not talking resistance or withdrawal. Instead it is about knowing that your turn will come but for now it is more appropriate to wait and see. So, fueled by your super awareness you may appear stubborn in your choice and decision. In fact this is more like confidence. This position allows you to not be swayed by emotional pressure or stress imposed on you by others or even your self. You can be like an anchor grounding the chaos around you. This is a really important place to hold for not just you but wider groups of people within which you circulate.
For example, lets imagine a personal crisis has hit. There are many that immediately will come to mind depending on what the word crisis elicits in you. So again this is just pretend, but lets imagine it’s a major one. Your capacity to act and carry on as you were before the crisis will likely be limited. How much will depend on your own personal coping mechanisms. At some point our level of professionalism and dedication may have to drop down a notch. But rather than fall back in a big ball of self-entrapping stress, you can choose to be in pause or a more focused place. Holding back is not withdrawing. Instead it is being patient about what you don’t have the capacity to do at the moment. It is also being focused on what you can do.
So when both of the above approaches are unified you get what I call reflective action, in other words taking action with focus and patience. These two states can be contradictory if you let them push and pull you. Yet if you rise above into a greater state of self-awareness and operate from this place you can keep these forces in balance. The two end up complementing each other.
I am not advocating to be in either place of the two contexts described above. What I am all for is moving to a regular place of reflective action. To develop a sense of presence that allows you to both consider and contemplate situations before you take action means you have a greater level of confidence and awareness.
Practice, practice, practice
So how do you develop this place of reflective action? PRACTICE! To practice I mean regular attention. This is not a class you take, pass and then you can say you do it. No, this is a way of being and a way of operating in all that you do.
OK so maybe I am a bit optimistic here believing this is the way to be. Yet to want to do this rather than vacillate between the other positions is a positive and rewarding experience.
Of course there is far more to this then what I can write in this article. Yet for now you can do a few things to move more towards the balanced place of reflective action. Most of what I suggest is to play with the concepts and see what comes up for you. Pay attention and notice. You are your own best feedback loop if you choose to be. So here are some ideas:
- notice when you are feeling nervous and how this affects your actions
- observe what it takes for you to act especially in a challenging situation
- focus on one situation at a time
- over time take pause and review for trends and patterns
- be clear about your capacity and capability
- consider what situations you respond to with patience or impatience
- practice moments of patience where you can pause, reflect before you take action
- notice how you feel when you decide with clarity to do something
- if someone says you are being stubborn then check in and see what is really going on for you
- observe what it is like when you do step forward.
On a practical level you may benefit from talking the above out with another trusted colleague or friend. As well you can keep notes in a journal or diary. Do whatever supports you.
These words and suggestions are just that, suggestions. I offer them to you as a way to explore more supportive practices in times of change.
Let me know how you go.