Life is always speaking to me, but sometimes I just don’t listen. Can you relate? I recently learned another lesson on the stress created by expectations – being attached to my plan and my view of how the outcome was supposed to be – rather than simply accepting reality and letting life unfold.
I had scheduled a Women's Empowerment Circle to start on May 2nd. As in the past, I promoted the circle on social media, sent personal invitations, and had talked about it with just about everyone I knew. As the starting date drew near and I only had a couple of registrations, I postponed the starting date to May 9th and began to feel stressed.
Upon reflection, it wasn’t the reality of the situation (i.e., not enough registrations) that was creating my stress, it was what I was making it mean and my refusal to accept reality. In other words, my stress was caused by my attachment to having life unfold as I (and my ego) wanted it to. Life was flowing but I was not.
Here's what I know to be true: if I get into a dispute with reality, I will lose one hundred percent of the time.
Discerning life’s messages can be tricky, which is why we need a deep and solid connection to our inner wisdom. When life is presenting a reality that is different from what I want, or an obstacle is put in my path, I have two options: surrender and go a different way or dig in my heels and tackle the obstacle. Both are viable and good decisions depending on the situation. The tricky part is discerning which is best in a given situation. More on this a little later.
Back to my lesson. Without enough registrations, life was simply saying, ‘cancel the circle, now is not the right time.’ Which is simple enough, until I made it complicated and confusing by making it mean something about who I am as a person, rather than just the circumstances. It tapped into an old wound of not feeling good enough. That’s why I was fighting reality … I was avoiding feeling insecure and was trying to use the scheduling of the women’s circle to ‘prove my worth’. It sounds ridiculous when I spell it out so plainly, but it’s the truth I didn’t see in the moment.
A few days before the circle was to begin, I surrendered, accepted reality and let the women who were registered know that I was cancelling the circle. As I sent the email to advise them, I was filled with questions and self-doubt. “Maybe a coaching circle isn't what's needed? What if nobody wants to attend? What if it's not good enough? What if I'm not good enough?” and my personal favourite, "what if I'm not supposed to be doing Women's Circles?” (as if there is some grand plan that I am supposed to guess or figure out, like some kind of cosmic riddle).
Yes, I confess, I fell into the ditch, questioning my skills as a coach and my ability to facilitate coaching circles (despite objectively fantastic reviews on the circles I have already facilitated). I also questioned whether the problem lay with my business savvy, or lack thereof. I sat in the middle of all this doubt for about three days until, on May 9th, the day the circle was supposed to begin, my father-in-law passed away.
After digesting the news, my doubt instantly transformed into gratitude. Thank goodness I had cancelled the circle! For the next few weeks, my house was filled with family as we planned for the celebration of life, prepared ourselves to say our final good-byes and wound down a myriad of life’s obligations.
It was yet another lesson to confirm how loved and supported I am by the Universe. What was best for me (i.e., not having the circle on the planned dates) was exactly what was manifesting, but I couldn’t see it because I was fighting reality and making up untrue stories about myself. Reality hadn’t changed, but my perspective on it changed when life unfolded and I saw how this seeming set-back or failure was in fact a lucky break.
I firmly believe that life is always unfolding in ways that support and encourage our growth and expand possibilities for us. We are loved and supported by the Universe, but we need to shift our perspective in order to see it and accept it. Facilitating the circle over those weeks after my father-in-law passed would have been virtually impossible under the circumstances. And it would have been so much more regrettable and difficult to cancel everything if I had had full registration and everyone excited to begin. Truly, under the circumstances, the best thing that could have happened was for me to cancel the circle.
I ended up with the time and space to do what was really important: support my family, grieve the loss of my father-in-law and take care of all the things that need to be done when a family member passes. How perfect. I learned so poignantly the power of acceptance; of accepting reality rather than fighting against it. I learned that with acceptance of 'what is' my life is more peaceful, less stressful and I am so much more in the flow. And I also learned how telling untrue stories about myself can undermine my self-confidence and cause undue stress.
'Accepting life' doesn't mean I don't take action; but rather it means the action can come from flow, which increases opportunity and opens possibility. It means my action comes from a place of peace, rather than stress, striving or ‘forcing it’. Also know that accepting reality, depending on the gravity of the reality you are needing to accept, can be a process. For example, if your reality is knowing that your spouse is an alcoholic, or that your chosen career path is unfulfilling, then acceptance can be a process and will take time. Remember to practice plenty of self-compassion as you move through the acceptance process.
And in answer to the question I posed earlier about discernment about when to surrender, I would offer this: do the very best that you can, learn from things that didn’t work and if, after all that, reality still isn’t what you want, then move to surrender and accept ‘what is’. For it is from this place that a new perspective and new possibilities can manifest.
Here are some reflection questions for you to ponder for yourself:
In what way are you fighting reality?
If you were to accept one thing in your life to increase your inner peace, what would it be?
If the reality you’re facing right now requires a little more support, contact me about a coaching session or check out the coaching circles.