A Worthwhile Journey – What Is My Life Trying to Teach Me?

Andrea Chilcote

Spiral stairway in the Alabama State Capitol. —Lissoy at En.Wikipedia Commons

by Andrea Chilcote

Many times I’ve shared Richard Bach‘s quote, “You teach best what you need to learn.” And while it’s been my experience – and a good one at that – there’s a little part of me that feels like an imposter. The reason? Because even though I’ve “learned” it, I’m still learning and probably will be for life.

Here’s a mundane example: Organizational skills don’t come naturally to me. So when, early in my career, I learned basic time management tools and tricks that made life and work much easier, I was excited to begin teaching these same skills. Make no mistake, I struggle to maintain the basic practices on a daily basis. Yet if the need arises, I can still help others implement those techniques.

Where is the fine line between having mastered something to the degree that one is qualified to teach it, and the humility to admit that personal growth is ongoing and never done? Therein lies the integrity of the matter.

In his article, “Am I Done With My Personal Work?” Raphael Cushnir tells a story of working with his teacher on an old feeling that had resurfaced. He writes, poignantly:

“None of this was new. It was a well-worn point of my personal journey, revisited anew at a deeper rung of my life spiral. It would have been easy to throw up my hands and walk away, to cry out, ‘This?! Again?! I thought I was done with it years ago!’ It would have been just as easy to see this recurrence as proof that I’m back where I started, no different or better off than when I first began to address my issues consciously.”

A number of my clients are struggling with something I have been working on most of my life. We’ll call it trying to “boil the ocean.” They are compelled to take on that which is difficult, to commit to more than is humanly possible, and they shun help even when it’s available before their very eyes.

I know a lot about this way of being. And I’ve transformed it in my own life, though it still surfaces, only as Cushnir says, “at a deeper rung of my life spiral.”

Over the years, I’ve learned I have physical, mental and emotional limits. I’ve learned that a “hair’s on fire,” stressed-out demeanor is unattractive and does little to foster confidence. And, I’ve grown comfortable asking for and accepting help in many areas of life. I’m qualified to help these people in part because I have true empathy for where they are now, and I’ve walked a path of change that’s before them, should they choose it. And I’m still learning right alongside them.

One of my teachers, Judy Goodman, says you can’t give people what you don’t have and you can’t take people where you haven’t been. And, she asks her students to answer this question: “What is my life trying to teach me?” – most certainly implying that the learning journey is life-long.