There is a huge desire, once we sense we’re not doing the thing we’re here to do, to want to run from our current reality.
Even if it’s what is keeping a roof over our heads. We convince ourselves that the pain and disruption and financial upheaval of walking away is nothing like the pain of unfulfilled potential we currently feel.
And, maybe earlier in life, there’s truth to that. But, the further into grown-up-hood we get, the more delusional that belief becomes.
We deny the real cost of blowing up our current reality, and inflate the freeing effect of creating a new one. Buying into this delusion gives us the permission we so desperately seek to pursue “our true destiny.”
It gets worse.
In a quest to fabricate inner-permission to cut-n-run, we end up doing all sorts of things to subconsciously sabotage the current career, practice or business, life and relationships that, more lovingly and deliberately tended, might well not only cease to be experienced as so debilitatingly negative, but might actually become quite sustainable, if not outright pleasant.
We do this, because it makes us feel better about abandoning it and them. We tell ourselves, “I hate it, and besides, it’s not giving me what I need anyway,” when in fact we may be complicit in making it so, often on both accounts.
Think about this…
If you knew, with 100% certainty, that the thing you were doing today, the people you were with, the partner whom you’re dancing would have to be the thing, the people, the partner you stayed with for the rest of your productive life, but you had the ability to craft the way you experienced each precisely the way you wanted, what would you do differently? How would you create the most purposeful and rewarding reality within those constraints?
There’s a pretty good chance that you’d figure out a way to get pretty much everything you needed while also staying the course, but doing things in a different way.
Maybe you’d change the type of clients you work with, the service or product you offer, the way you get paid, the industry you serve, the mode of delivery or the people you work alongside. Maybe you’d cultivate a deeper understanding of compassion, social dynamics and the human condition and learn to craft conversations and influence outcomes in a way that gives you more control and fulfillment. Maybe you’d spend more time re-orienting any number of other factors that, together, could make a profound change in the way you experience what is really the same thing done differently.
Most of us never even think about this. We never try to right the ship by optimizing what’s already working (us and it), then building around that to make it as nourishing as possible BEFORE deciding “this’ll never work, it’s killing me” and then walking away.
Instead, we do the exact opposite.
We exacerbate the present-tense negatives in the name of justifying escape.
Then we hit eject. Prematurely. And, the reality of our delusion sets in.
We not only find ourselves mired in the profoundly underestimated pain of an existential implosion, we also find ourselves deposited squarely into our new “supposedly” better reality, yet somehow, we are the same frustrated, stifled, unexpressed, bundle of humanity, but with different paint on the walls and drapes on the windows. Bound to repeat the same patterns and inevitably shatter whatever temporary illusion of better we’ve run to.
We recreate the same morass of pain we’ve fled. In new clothes. On a new coast. In a new house. At a new job. With a new crew. And, we continue to blame a world that feels perpetually positioned against us. Never realizing a simple fact.
In the end, we are still the same un-flee-able we.
The light we so desperately seek will never shine upon us until it first shines within us.
What if there was a better first step?
What if, instead of blowing up what lies outside, we broke open what lies within?
What if, before burning down our so-called malignant existences, we first hit pause and took the time to look inside. To wake up. To embrace the thrash. To own our contribution to the status quo we so feverishly yearn to leave behind. Along with the grace, the blessings, the gifts and resources we bring to the task of “righting our own ships?”
Then, what if we stayed put? Did the work needed, no matter how beleaguered, to reshape our best possible reality in the container that already defines the inner seeds of our humanity and outer seeds of our daily lives? Not when we get to that magical place where everything is as it should be, but here and now, regardless of the perceived weight of blankets and muzzles the outer world seems to heap upon our authentic souls.
Is this always possible?
Often, yes. But, always? No. Nor should it be.
I am not suggesting or in any way condoning martyrdom, or encouraging anyone to stay in the path of genuine harm.
There will be times in our lives where the only option is the nuclear option.
There will be truly destructive, high-risk people and circumstances that must be abandoned. The abusive or horrifically toxic partner or culture. The physically and emotionally treacherous person or place that is, for all intents and purposes, unfixable, unchangeable. Beyond becoming. At least by the mechanism of our own heart, hands, will and being.
In those cases, the pain of staying is truly greater than the pain of leaving. Even if there is some level of our own work to be explored, we must first extract to a place of safety. And, if we don’t have the insight or clarity needed to understand the difference, we need to ask for help from those who do.
This however, is a rarer circumstance than we often want to own.
More often than not, we discover the story we’ve been telling ourselves about hating our current job, our partner, our people, our culture is just that. A story. One story. Not “the” story. A script rooted in a bit of truth that makes it easier to justify walking away and enduring the pain of disruption in the name of a future reality that we believe will “free” us, but may in fact be equally, if not more fraught than the abyss out of which we seek so desperately to climb.
We continue to look for the shiny and new, never realizing the feeling we so desperately lust after is less about what happens to us, and more about what comes from us.
Let’s simplify the conversation to a job we feel is keeping us from our true destiny.
When we reframe our current career, practice or venture in the light of the “constraint challenge” I offered above—make it as good as it can possibly get, before deciding whether to cut and run—it’s not unusual for something unexpected to happen. Especially once we let go of the “this is awful, I have to bail” story.
We start to do the work. We recommit to taking meticulous care of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls. Some energy returns to us, and to the endeavor. We infuse it with a new set of goals and aspirations. We begin to see ways to make it better that were often right in front of us before, but we conveniently looked past, because they didn’t serve our desire to rationalize blowing it up or walking away.
Coming from a lens of possibility, and from the constraint of “what if I had to make this awesome, because I can never leave,” all manner of ways to make it better begin to “appear.” This leads us to start working to make them happen on a level we’d never have invested before.
We start to hold ourselves differently, the quality of our work and energy and ideas elevates. People notice and change how they relate to us in a thousand different ways. Then, not infrequently, what we never thought possible happens. That thing we hated so fiercely starts to feel better. Instead of fleeing, we’ve learned to transform. We’ve become optimizers and alchemists, rather than wallowing and unwitting saboteurs. This cultivates a deeper radiance, a sense of purpose.
We may still leave in the end. We may still find it’s just not giving us what we need, but we make those choices on very different terms. And with a very different state of mind. And, very likely, from a place that is so energetically, emotionally and physically abundant with possibility that the doors that swing open would never have existed or been seen, had we chosen to leave in the state of profound negativity that used to define our waking moments.
So, where does this leave us?
Before you make that call to blow up your life, take stock.
Do not be a martyr. If you are in an extreme situation, do what you need to be okay. Get help, if you need it.
But, if what you’re experiencing is more existential crisis, bundled with a repeated pattern of people, jobs, companies and the world letting you down or even battling against you, think more about rising up than blowing up.
That way, even if you still choose to leave, you’ll do it from a place of not only far greater conviction, but also embodied self-knowledge and the sense of alignment and radiance that often generates a level of possibility not available when your exit is more “cut and run” than “do the work.”
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