I once told a shop assistant “I’m just not a skinny jeans person”, masking my deep insecurity about how I thought they looked on me. I will never forget her saying “but maybe you need to be a skinny jeans person”. It was one of those moments where I could see my old stories were limiting me. One of those ‘fashion as a metaphor for life’ moments.
I needed someone else, someone more objective, to show me a different perspective. To nudge me in a new direction. Oddly, I trusted her opinion more than I trusted my own.
A friend of mine dreams of squiggling but is somewhat stuck in the linear. He wants to squiggle but … the struggle is real. He recently told me the book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes had been helpful. Hayes explores our incredible capacity to get in our own way and I found it tied to True Refuge by Tara Brach which I mentioned last week.
Obviously both books want to help us find our way. Through different lenses, they both point to our infinite ability to distract ourselves by our stories, patterns and reactions. Old responses to situations that allow us to avoid how we truly feel. Old responses that keep us in that cycle of behavior where nothing changes.
Hayes investigation of the concept of willingness really struck me. I loved his critique of ‘try’. He quips that “try is being only halfway willing”. Yoda said it first “Do or Do Not, There is No Try”. True change only occurs when you are willing to take a risk. You need to be ready to jump, to make the leap, to step into discomfort, to try on the skinny jeans.
Hayes’ is not aggressive with his counsel. He notes that the willingness dial and the discomfort dial turn in synchronicity. It may not be possible for you to turn the willingness dial all the way to full volume. Maybe you need to slowly, possibly over years or decades, turn the dial up. You need to go at a speed that feels manageable to you.
Finally, Hayes counsels us to look at our thoughts rather than from our thoughts. It’s the same advice Eckhart Tolle gives us: the thoughts in our head are not who we are. The thoughts in our head are in fact a distraction from who we are.
The stories we tell ourselves are a side-show; one we have seen time and time again. We have a choice every moment of every day to play the old record or to play a new one. We have a choice: to watch ourselves as we react the same way, and get the same response; or try something different.
Maybe we use our stories to mask our lack of self trust. Maybe our struggle with willingness is actually a struggle with ourselves; a struggle to trust that we can move through the discomfort of something new. Whether it’s trying on a new pair of jeans or trying on a new career.