Are you the thing standing in your way?
I would get really frustrated when I would hear the words “get out of your own way, ” especially from therapists and other trained professionals that are trained to help people.
It’s as nebulous as telling someone to “love themselves” or “listen to their heart,” and not say anything further to illuminate how to do it.
What does that actually mean? How do you get out of your own way?
I do understand that I was masterful at actually doing the “standing in my own way”, but I couldn’t quite understand how it was happening.
And, then I heard this little story that shed some light on my own habits… and perhaps it will for you as well.
There is a really cool Buddhist parable that I am going to recount not half as great as I heard it, but I hope it communicates well enough to help you (as it helped me) understand what it meant to get out of your own way. you can just take it for the story that it is, no religious overtones need to be dubbed in, to get the message.
Back in the days of Shakyamuni Buddha, he had lots of disciples who were assiduously learning, practicing and preaching his teaching. Their lives were flourishing, but some had questions. One such person approached Shakyamuni and said that he would not practice Buddhism any more, despite the benefit to his life, if he did not get the answers to huge questions such as whether or not the universe was infinite. If he did not get a sound and absolute answer, he would walk away from his present life and go seek the answers elsewhere.
Shakyamuni answered this man with another parable. (Can you see where this is going? Lots of parables!) He said (and I am paraphrasing) that there was once a man who has been shot by a poison arrow. He was taken to a doctor, and the doctor immediately wanted to remove the arrow to spare this man’s life. The man refused to have anything done to him until he knew the first and last name of who shot him because he was so enraged. He further demanded to know what the arrow was made of and how it was made. He was obsessed with these details. As he stubbornly refused treatment for the actual wound, he let the poison arrow infect his whole body.
That’s how Shakyamuni answered the question.
It doesn’t matter whether his disciple ever got his absolute answer to his question of whether or not the universe was infinite.
There are no absolute answers to questions with no answer, after all.
But, if you jump off the track you’re on and start becoming obsessed with details that have no relevance to the present time in your life, especially when you’re in crisis, you start to let the poison that is in your life actually spread. Our logical minds want absolute answers, but, meanwhile, we neglect the matters at hand that need attention.
You can die trying to solve big absolutes while real, pressing problems tear apart your life.
Personally, I realized that this was exactly how I was standing in my own way.
I knew I had things to take care of, things to create, stuff to just get done, but I allowed myself to get righteously sidetracked with lots of big concepts, unimportant details and other nonsense that popped up (including the voices of naysayers) and used all the “very big, important stuff” as a way to avoid the matter at hand.
While I was doing it, everything seemed perfectly logical. I had a ton of excuses.
It’s something like going through a personal crisis like a divorce and deciding you can’t take action on the real present-time issues like finding a place to live and starting the proceedings until you have figured out the absolute answer to the psychology and mechanisms behind what caused the break. Or not wanting to start a new business until you have completed an MBA and have absolute certainly on the entirety of the industry you are interested in. Both are very valid and logical ways to approach things. But, you can be even more unstable in a divorce without a place to live and the basics of your life figured out. You can do an MBA program and have absolutely nothing but debt to show for it. Meanwhile, in both cases, if you took care of the immediate issues, things would start growing, and you could refine as you go, knowing that you are fundamentally getting done what needs to be done as you go.
Since I heard this story, I sttarted catching myself in my own stubborn habits of sabotage and… instead of being righteous… I decided that taking a little walk, breathing a bit, and diving into the real stuff that is demanding attention would be a better fix than more of the same stuff I’d been doing.
This has proven far more incredible than piling up excuses and watching things stay stagnant.
You absolutely do not need to be in your own way!
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