It never fails. Either I’ve started a new client engagement, taken on a project or planned a dinner party. No matter what it is, somehow, just as I’m getting started, Expectation finds its way in, insisting, “you should do this… it should look like that… you should be this way…because if you don’t…well…it just won’t be any good!”
What starts as a great idea becomes a situation filled with anxiety and stress. This trio, Expectation, Anxiety and Stress, are big and tough. They’re bullies. They feed self-doubt and question, “Will I do a good job? Will they like it? Is it right? Am I enough?”
These bullies scare me into believing that if I don’t do things in just the right way, I won’t be valued. Having my worth on the line, I scramble, twisting and turning myself into knots, desperately looking for the exact “right” way of doing things, striving for perfection so I can satisfy Expectation’s demands. I watch my breathing change as Anxiety makes it difficult to take deep breaths. I see myself tossing and turning at night, eating junk food and drinking too much coffee to feed the heightened state Stress insists is necessary for my success.
It’s like I’ve been thrown back in time to the schoolyard when I faced the scary and aggressive bullies from Coney Island.
In the past, I would shrink into myself and think there was no other way. I’d feel pressured to perform and ironically wind up too twisted to access myself and my abilities. However, over the years I’ve learned to recognize these moments, map out new pathways and practice choosing them. I turn to my best tool: a different mindset.
With this, Perspective appears, big and strong, insisting it doesn’t have to be this way. She pushes in shouting, “Hey! What’s going on here?!” Next to her, Permission, like Wonder Woman in her badass boots, comes in and says, “Are these guys bothering you?” Poised, hands on her hips, grounded in her confident knowing, Permission walks right up to Expectation and, nose to nose, says “I thought I told you to stay out of here!”
Expectation knows once Permission is on the scene, he will be powerless. She always knocks the wind out of him and encourages me to accept myself wherever I am in any moment, just as I would do for others. Motioning to his two flunkies, Anxiety and Stress, Expectation says with a sneer, “Let’s get going.” They turn and walk away, grumbling about the far-reaching strength of Permission.
Perspective extends a steadying hand and asks, “Are you ok? Those guys are creeps and I have a feeling they won’t be bothering you again today. Seems like you could use some new friends, ones that are supportive and uplifting, not primarily focused on right and wrong. I have someone I’d like you to meet. Say hello to my good friend, Intention.”
Intention walks me over to a bench. I see myself settle down and things start to feel easier. As my breathing becomes deeper and fuller, I can see my way. I can continue to strive for my very best as I tackle projects and plans. I can collaborate and set goals with others while allowing my perspective to shift from expectation to intention. I can give myself permission to release anxiety and stress as I acknowledge they are simply obstacles to my best self. I can step forward as I am, making agreements and creating value in my results.
Perspective puts her hand on Permission’s shoulder and says, “We have to get going.” She turns to me and says, “You’ve got this! Although I know this won’t be the last time you run into those bullies, you need not worry about them. We are with you. By recognizing there is choice in how you see things, you immediately create space for us to show up.”
As I quietly sit on the bench, someone I’ve never seen before comes over. She has a gentle way and invites me to come join her on a swing. It’s her favorite thing to do and she delights in the challenge of getting the swing up as high as it can go. “I never know how it’s going to work out,” she says. “Some days it’s windy and difficult to swing. On other days it’s bitter cold and hard to hold on. On my favorite days though, the sun shines brightly, and I sway effortlessly. Although the weather is never the same, I always know, no matter how high the swing goes, it’ll be enough for me to have loads of fun. C’mon, let’s go!”
As we run over to the swings, I turn to this new friend and say, “That sounds great to me!” As we take our seats, I tell her my name and ask hers. She turns to me, extending her hand and with a warm smile says, “Hi, my name is Ease.” I realize, in that moment, I just made one of the best friends I’ll ever have.