Most of us know what a guiding light is, that internal compass we have that helps us to make a good decision. That little voice that told us when we were kids not to shop lift even when our friends were doing it and (even today) ensures our work gets done on time and the kiddos get fresh fruit in their lunches. Guiding light is a good influence, but where there is light there is also dark…light creates shadow. We can equally be guided by this darkness, especially if we are ignoring it or avoiding a confrontation with our biggest fear. Without being fully aware of what we are so set on avoiding we are leaving ourselves open to some other interesting guidance; guidance from within our darkness, not wholly conscious, but unconscious. This guidance isn’t about doing bad things (our guiding light takes care of that), it is more about NOT doing things and this impacts our well being. Ready to take a look? Don’t think of this as overwhelming and unsolvable but more as a way to find relief. What would taking something from the dark and bringing it out into the light do for you? Want to find out?
What is your biggest fear? That one thing you hope no one at work ever figures out about you. The one you spend considerable energy trying NOT to think about. The proverbial pachyderm in your mental closet, who is taking up all the room in there and making it hard to move around, hard to THINK. That thing that wakes you up at night, or keeps you up at night or makes you so sensitive the mere possibility of it puts your teeth on edge.
It could be the degree you didn’t finish, or your inability to speak in public, feelings of inadequacy in your work, or that you cannot speak in a second language very well. Maybe it is that you secretly know you are in the wrong profession, or the wrong job or the wrong organization but you don’t know how to get out (you can’t just QUIT, who does that?). Maybe you really want to tell off your insensitive boss, say “No!” to taking work home most evenings and weekends…but just don’t have the words. Perhaps you deserve a raise or acknowledgment, recognition for your contributions and have instead said to yourself that if others don’t think you are worth it you’ll just have to accept that and work harder to stand out. What are you not telling yourself? What is the one big ugly truth you are afraid to confront? What are you avoiding having to do?
What are you compromising in yourself each and every day by not looking this dark beast in the eye and giving it a name (mine is called “Fred”)? Are you compromising? Your intelligence…your potential…your voice? What is it costing you? Are you exhausted at the end of your working days? Have you stopped seeing family regularly, going out, getting to the yoga studio or doing weekend brunch with friends because you just need some time to relax and recharge…yet it is never enough? What is this costing the people you love? What is it costing you?
Here is the thing, when we are resistant to something the tension is unbelievable, but let go of it and immediately there is no more tension; like letting go of a taut rope and watching it go slack. So how do you do that? Start by taking your biggest fear out for coffee. I’m not kidding, make yourself a cup of courage and sit it with your fear, ask it questions and get really curious about it. See what is there for you to discover in an objective and detached way, as if this thing that you are afraid of is no more harmful then a guest (and no more permanent). It may have been much ado about nothing, or it may have been a big misunderstanding, or it may be exactly what you thought it was, but now that you can see it, really SEE IT you’ve figured out what to do with it.
It doesn’t matter, because once you’ve had coffee with it, it is no longer whatever it was, but something that is known, and defined. And there is a lot your guiding light can do with something like that.
This is dedicated to all my clients who’ve had the courage to face their darkest working life fears and come away with more than they ever thought possible. A deep, deep bow to each of you.