I am training to be a life coach. It’s an honor to help people go down a path of honesty about what they really want to create in their lives and then help them go for it. I love coaching others. Any coach will tell you that the most important part of the training is the work that you do on yourself. We can only share (and embody) the approaches that resonate with us. So I have been on a wild ride lately, examining my own limiting beliefs, looking more closely at what I want in my life, and even, what is my unique life purpose (I have many thoughts on that whole concept, to be shared in a later post).
A few weeks ago my wonderful peer coach from the program was coaching me on the phone. We were talking about my life (my career; relationships; whether I will have a child). I broke down in tears and said something to the effect of, “I can’t believe I don’t have it all figured out yet.” I have published books and a magazine, started a company, traveled extensively, and despite all that, I sometimes feel like I am at the beginning again with a blank slate. There is so much uncertainty in my life, so many paths that can be taken (or not taken). I get the feeling that from the outside I look strong and sure, but I often feel small and confused. Like a child. Breaking down in tears to my peer coach felt potent and real.
Later that weekend I snuggled on the couch rereading an old favorite book: Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Sacredness and Depth in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore (Harper Collins, 1992). I stumbled on a perfect passage to clarify why admitting that I don’t have it figured out–that I feel like a child–actually felt very pressure-relieving.
Sometimes you hear adults in their thirties and forties say lightheartedly, “I still don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up.” No matter how lightly this common sentiment is stated, the feeling is full of inferiority. What’s wrong with me? I should be a success by now. I should be making plent of money. I should be settled. But in spite of these wishes, the sense of the child who is not yet ready for success and settling is strong. This recognition can be a soulful moment. It bears a melancholic tone that is a signal of soul reflecting on its fate and wondering about its future. It is a potential opening to imagination, and to some extent this is the power of the child. The child’s smallness and inadequacy is the “open sesame” to a future and to the unfolding of possibility.
What a beautiful passage. It so aptly describes the fertile moment of acknowledgment that we don’t have it all figured out. And there is a feeling of power after the truth is shared, an unblocking of the future path. Later he writes of the “beginner’s mind” of a child, “we have to find ways to unlearn those things that screen us from the perception of profound truth. We have to achieve the child’s unknowing because we have been made so smart.”
There are child qualities that never grow up, that we never grow out of. Because the presence of the soul child with its ignorance and clumsiness generates such discomfort, it is tempting to deny the child or try to cover it up or force it to disappear. But such forms of repression only make the child more difficult to deal with. The more we try to cover up our ignorance, the more it is displayed. The more we try to act cool and suave, the more obvious our inexperience. The more adult we try to be, the more childishness we betray.
For those of us who seek to reinvent ourselves through career change and any kind of life change–opening a new business, moving to a new country, even becoming a parent–it’s critical we accept our child parts in the transition. There is no faking it when you are starting from scratch once again. That is the beautiful open sesame to the future.