Would It Be All Right With You If Life Got Easier?
By Maria Nemeth PhD
Would it be all right with you if life got easier? I’ve asked tens of thousands of people that question over the past twenty years. After a pause, most of them say something like: “That’s obvious. Yes. Of course!”
Take a moment with that question. While you may find yourself giving an immediate “yes,” you could notice another question on your mind: “What’s the catch?”
There isn’t any catch. But this question about having life get easier flies in the face of what we normally consider the successful life to be. Many of us have learned that success is won by hard work—even struggle. We’ve raised the bar on our goals and achievements, while comparing ourselves to what we think others have accomplished. We get frustrated because we think we’re not doing enough to get ahead.
The result is that we accomplish lots, but we’re too exhausted to enjoy or appreciate what we’ve done. We’ve powered our way through obstacles, and the result is less and less enjoyment. We tell ourselves we can savor the journey later. Under these conditions, a life filled with ease seems, paradoxically, difficult to even think about.
You deserve to live the life you were meant to live, and you have everything it takes to do this. One key is to learn to bring ease with you into whatever you’re doing, and especially when going for an important life goal, whether at work or play.
First, have you ever considered lowering the bar instead of raising it? You read that right. For the past twenty-five years, the typical view of success has been that you stretch…and stretch….and stretch yourself to do things better than before. While it’s intuitively obvious that if we’re not growing we’re stagnating, nevertheless we sometimes stretch ourselves so tight that we get “success stretch marks.” How does that look? We’re irritable, driven, checking our to-do lists, and just trying to make it through another day.
There’s a good reason for learning to lower the bar. It’s called Trouble at the Border, a phenomenon that happens whenever we take steps to implement an idea or project. When you see why it occurs, you learn to take your foot off the high performance pedal long enough to ease your way into success.
Successful action means taking an idea and doing something about it. Just thinking about planting a garden, for example, won’t bring about those beautiful blossoms in spring. There are two domains of reality that we are here to operate in: metaphysical and physical. Metaphysical reality is the home of ideas, dreams and vision. It’s where we get our “juice”—where we find what’s important to us. For example, you may have the desire to be financially successful, physically fit and healthy, spiritually developing, a creator of beauty or a successful entrepreneur. Those are examples of what I could call Life’s Intentions: the purposes that give our lives meaning.
However, if we stay in metaphysical reality too long without taking action, we end up “metafizzling.” Boredom seeps in, as well as frustration. We want to do something with the Life’s Intention—make it happen in physical reality.
Physical reality is where we take action on what’s important. It’s the home of people, places and things. Whereas the energy of metaphysical reality is high and full of inspiration, the energy of physical reality is dense. It takes work to do in physical reality what you dream of in metaphysical reality. Getting back to the garden, there’s visualizing that garden of marigolds and chrysanthemums. Then there’s drawing plans, consulting guides, buying seeds, planting and watering.
Trouble at the Border is at the interface between metaphysical and physical reality. This is where the inspiration of our ideas meets with a solid push-back from the physical world. We begin to discover that it’s going to take more energy than we thought to do what we wanted. A friend of mine once said it is like standing at the seashore and having a wave of cold water hit you in the face.
At that point, an insidious inner conversation often begins. It croons to us in a familiar tone.
- “Where am I going to find the right plan for my garden?”
- “How do I know the best seeds to buy?”
- “Do I really have time right now to learn all about this?”
- “Do I have the talent?”
- Whose idea was this anyway?
The name I give this self-limiting internal dialogue is Monkey Mind. It originated as a Buddhist term, standing for that aspect of the mind that always chatters at us as it swings from doubt, to worry, and back to doubt again. It is always there at the border between our dreams and physical reality. There may be survival reasons for this, because we didn’t have fangs or fur and couldn’t run very far when we lived in caves and on the savannah. But we did have a mind that could warn us about what could go wrong. And that mind persists until this day, warning us away from our dreams.
When we begin to go for a goal, those of us who are high-achievers often make big promises for huge results. We try to power our way through Trouble at the Border, dragging our Monkey Mind with us as it clings to our legs. This is a formula for exhaustion.
This is where learning to bring ease to the situation comes in. Here are some pointers:
- Recognize that you will often hit Trouble at the Border whenever you initiate a project, no matter how much you were inspired by it in the past.
- Consider the possibility that your doubts and worries about an inspiring goal could be the sign that you’re doing something right, not wrong. You are venturing past the ordinary, and that’s when Monkey Mind invariably shows up.
- Take the smallest steps possible to achieve simple results. Big steps at the border arouse Monkey Mind. Small steps allow it to rest.
- Be aware that small steps when you’re at the border actually take more energy than at any other time. Think of a rocket ship at liftoff, which burns 90% of its fuel in the first three minutes.
- Find something to enjoy about each small, sweet result that you generate.
Try out some of the above. Give yourself the gift of success in a way that frees you up to dance with your fondest dreams.
Based on the book Mastering Life’s Energies. Copyright Ó 2007 by Maria Nemeth. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.