Defining Your Destination (2014)

Define Your DestinationHow does one “Re-Write the Story of Their Life?” This is the last in a three-part series I wrote in 2012 for The Spirited Woman. In this part I discuss transition.

By Andrea Chilcote

Being “in transition” implies you have left one place (physically, mentally or emotionally) and have not yet arrived in another. And one of the more daunting challenges associated with transition is not knowing where you are going. I don’t know about you, but while I am enjoying the journey, I want to have a destination on the horizon.

The process of defining a destination, an intended outcome sounds simple – though we can make it into a complex science project.

I’ve never cared for mind benders, those frustrating puzzles that make your brain hurt. Yet I’ve spent a good portion of my life puzzling over so-called universal principles that feel just like mind benders. I’m referring to profound revelations uttered by philosophers and gurus that you just know are The Truth, yet are paradoxical and seem hard to live by in practical terms.

One such head scratcher is the concept of detachment. According to this gem of wisdom, we must set a clear and compelling vision, then…let it go. The idea is that with attachment, our fears and obsessions will muddy the pure intent, contriving all manner of disaster and plotting contingencies to prevent such. This focus on the details can be exacerbated when one is in transition, because it feels as though all we control is the minutiae.

Does this “law of detachment” mean we should stop wanting what we say we want? No, no—and therein sits the conundrum. The problem often lies in defining what we want. Often what we say we want is just a means of getting to some higher-level, often unexpressed, goal. What we get attached to is the mechanism — this house, this job, this relationship – and we miss all of the beautiful opportunities that show up along the way.

In your heart of hearts, what do you know you truly want? And, what will having that bring you? The answer to the second question is, in all likelihood, what you truly desire. The rest is just method or means, the detailed how-to that your clever mind has calculated. These instructions we issue to the universe squelch our creative wisdom and limit the innate potential available to all. Most of the time, we’re not in charge of the how-to’s anyway. Have you ever looked back after some miraculous achievement and wondered how it all came together? W.H. Murray’s famous statement says it all: ”The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”

So look forward. Craft your vision, paint a picture of your heart’s desire. See it, feel it, imagine it come to life. Then let it be. Go about your day, enjoying each precious and fleeting moment. You might be surprised at what happens next.

Read all three parts on The Spirited Woman site.

The Story of This Very Moment (2014)

Andrea Chilcote This Very MomentHow does one “Re-Write the Story of Their Life?” This is the second in a three-part series I wrote in 2012 for The Spirited Woman. In part two I challenge us all to engage in the moment at hand.

by Andrea Chilcote

Re-telling the story of your life requires examining the story you are living today. Even if – perhaps especially if – you are in transition, you are writing the story of your life right now, with each thought you have and each breath you take.

Many years ago I was living in a seemingly foreign place, away from my husband and four-legged family, finishing out a commitment to a job while anticipating a move to start my business. I was both exhilarated and terrified about my future, and anxious to be finished with my current assignment. And, I was lonely.

In hindsight, I learned a lesson. I had put my life “on hold,” working too much at a job that was unfulfilling, longing to be with my family, and obsessing about the future. Toward the end of the eight month period, I met a young family who invited me into their life. This brief experience helped me recognize that I had squandered the precious present moment far too long. Rather than engaging in life where I was, I had been living in a world of “what-if’s,” an uncomfortable mental state in which I was trying to hold on to what had really ended while unable to step fully into my future.

Change expert William Bridges suggests that in any transition, we experience a stage of letting go, then a stage of neutrality in which nothing feels grounded or clear; finally, those two stages are followed by a period of orienting to new beginnings. I suggest, while these are natural stages we must pass through, we can continue to live the story of a meaningful life even inside the so-called neutral zone. It’s as simple as showing up.

Are you telling yourself a story about a past that’s over or a future that has not yet arrived? What story would you tell about your life right now?  You have a choice to live a life of engagement and vitality. Even if you would rather be somewhere else, what can you do today, this moment even, to come alive again?

The fleeting present moment is filled with potential opportunities and possibilities, yet we often miss them because we’re consumed by a mind cluttered with thoughts about the past or the future. Stop – then look, listen and feel. Are you willing to engage in the precious opportunity before you?

Read parts one and three on The Spirited Woman site.

Re-Write the Story of Your Life (2014)

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

How does one “Re-Write the Story of Their Life?” This is the first in a three-part series I wrote in 2012 for The Spirited Woman. In part one I ask, “Which story are you telling?”

Some time ago I had a conversation with a colleague who was making a difficult choice to leave both a job and a marriage that were consuming her very life force. I observed that this opportunity had been knocking on her door for years, getting louder and more persistent over time, and that perhaps she should answer the call. If not, the door was about to be busted through and the house blown down, as the proverbial wolf did in the Three Little Pigs.

A watershed moment for her, she realized that one cannot proclaim to be self-aware and committed to living purposefully, in integrity, if unwilling to make changes in a life that’s not working.

You’ve heard the saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” This paradigm is why many people stay in abusive relationships, endure dysfunctional employers, and fail to take the leap toward long-held dreams. Change itself is not what we fear; it’s the transition that we endure getting from here to there that’s not for the faint of heart. Perhaps so many of us today are in “transition” because we have the courage of conviction. What is the spark behind that courage? The choice to take full responsibility for one’s life.

Any story we tell about difficulty in our lives can be told in two ways. In story one, we tell what happened; a play by play account of wins and losses, who did what and why – from our own point of view. The flaw with this method is just that – our own point of view! If things didn’t turn out as we wished, it’s easy to tell a story of what happened to us, what was done to us, and how unfair it all was. Story two is very different. Story two is an account we tell taking full responsibility for everything that happened. It’s a way of examining the beliefs we held, the decisions we made and the actions we took that led to others’ actions or so-called fate stepping in.

Which story is most true? Even though story one is literally true, story two, the story in which we step fully into the great gift of an empowered life, is the only story worth telling.

The purpose of story two is never, ever to create guilt or self-blame. Story two’s true purpose is to free us to remember we are the causal force in our lives, and our choices and decisions produce our results. Sometimes life does just happen, with serious or tragic consequences. Story two gives us a chance to think or behave in a new way even after a very difficult experience.  A liberating idea, don’t you think?

If you have recently taken a leap, or if the wolf is at your door and you find yourself considering transition, use story two to create a map, lay out next steps, start anew. You’re in charge of your life.

My colleague is now living in story two, free from the burden of relinquishing control to others. Easy it is not, and she’s befriending the wolf who knocked, learning each day to savor the journey, one step at a time.

Read parts two and three on The Spirited Woman: