One of the wonderful women in The Queen Sweep reminded me this week of a fabulous word:
(or, as I’d always seen it, widdershins. I can’t help but try to say it with a Scottish accent. If i’s not Scottish, i’s crap! Okay, I’m done. Maybe.)
I was too, for many years. Here are some of the ways I was working against myself:
- Waking up early and then feeling wiped out all day; I’m a born night owl
- Being an employee; I’m much better at being an entrepreneur
- Trying to rigidly follow systems I didn’t understand; guaranteed to trigger my inner rebel
- Filling my schedule with other people; dude, I’m a total introvert
- Eating vegan and drinking green juice; never been so sick in my life
- Making organic baby food from scratch; I wasn’t good at it, she didn’t care, and it exhausted me!
All of these withershins actions were driven by the idea that there’s only one right way to do things. I believed that being good at life– whether that meant being a good mother, or a great artist, or being ambitious, or being kind, or whatever– had to look a certain way. In reality, I wasn’t being good– I was wasting my true talents by rubbing them up against a cheese grater of unhelpful choices.
I’m sure you would never do this. On the other hand, maybe just maybe baby, you are:
- Trying to work in solitude when you’re an extrovert
- Running a business even though you really hate risk and high stakes
- Working on that important project when your kids are at home
- Eating food that you know makes you sick because you don’t want to cause a fuss
- Tolerating interruptions even though it completely derails you
- Saying yes to committees and meetings that you hate
- Going out for late dinners and drinks even though your eyes pop open at 5am
- Delegating out the parts of your work that you actually enjoy
This is directly linked to what we talked about last week, our true currency. There’s enormous power in knowing what we value most, and in understanding our natural inclinations.
Einstein famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
And if you judge a deep ponderer on her ability to come up with brilliant ideas right on the spot, she will spend her whole life believing that she is slow and thick.
And if you judge an intuitive thinker on her ability to back up her decisions with data, she will spend her whole life believing that she is silly.
It isn’t anyone else’s job to figure out your true nature; it’s YOURS.
When you know your own true nature, you can learn to work with it, not against it.
So am I saying that creative people shouldn’t be held to deadlines, or you should refuse to be at the office until 11am, or you should demand that the world readjust itself to your perky princess self?
Nah. Just shout “Widdershins!” and wave your arms wildly.
Okay, not really.
Here’s the thing. If a fish is going to live in the forest, it needs to know where the pools of water are.
If a squirrel is going to live in the ocean, it needs a raft or an oxygen tank.
And if you’re a creative, you might need a coach or an assistant or an accountability buddy who isn’t afraid of spreadsheets and deadlines.
If you’re an extrovert in a family of silent readers, you might want to schedule a weekly debrief session with someone who processes things verbally.
And if you’re a night owl who has to get her kid to school at 8am every morning (oh hello!) you might need to guard your Saturday and Sunday mornings with your life.
Self-knowledge is power here.
You can’t be very productive if you’re running errands during your peak focus hours, or if you’re depleting your potent energies on tasks that drain you.
So try this right now:
List 3 ways you’re working withershins.
What adjustments can you make? How can you work WITH your true nature instead of fighting against it?
If you draw a blank, try asking a compassionate friend for some insight; it’s much easier to spot this stuff in other people and see the obvious solutions.
And if you find that for right now, for whatever reason, you’re simply going to be working withershins for a while, that’s useful knowledge too. It’s not the end of the world; it just means that you’ll need to nurture yourself in other ways to make up for the extra effort. This doesn’t have to be extravagant: a walk in the park, a support group, a nap, a movie, a novel, time in the garden– whatever nurtures you, go ahead and schedule that in.
And watch your whole life spin ’round just a little bit more easily.