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I’ve got five kids, I’m a queer feminist, and I just might be the only life coach in the world who doesn’t believe in the Law of Attraction.

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Should You Try Harder… Or Walk Away?

Epic Fucking Badass

Last week we were talking about the tiny, unsexy, boring little actions required to create something wonderful.  You can catch up here.And then I got a great question from a reader: 

How do you know when something is never going to (or meant to ) reach the tipping point and know that it’s time to let go of something and move on?  I never know if I’m wasting my time and need to do something different or I just need to be more patient.

My first response was visceral and immediate:How much do you want it?  If you want it, keep fighting for it.

Boom!  Shortest missive ever!

Except that ahhh yes, this life, loves, it is complex.  And not black and white.  And there are always 40,000 different sides to everything.

Because when I talked to my favorite wise human about it, and she said that for her, all the best things in her life came WITHOUT a fight!!  And when she had to really fight for something, it was usually a sign that it wasn’t right.

And then I talked to ANOTHER wise human who said it depended on whether you were dealing in the energetic realm or the earth realm, and which realm you happened to be more comfortable with.

And I thought of places in my own life where I had fought so hard for something that wasn’t right because I thought I SHOULD, and I could have stepped away from suffering so much faster. But it’s also a fact that the things I MOST want– to be a writer, to be a good mother, to be a truth-teller– take ENORMOUS amounts of what I can only describe as fight.
And then I found 18 conflicting ideas in my own head and fell down the rabbit hole of paradox and koans and forgot to breathe for several days.

So here is my answer:

Helpful, yes?

This is the kind of question where if we were on the phone, just you and me, and I were coaching you, I would intuitively know which questions to ask to press in and under and go deeper and deeper until we found the truth of what was happening in your situation.  And then we would both sigh deep sighs of satisfaction because once you know the truth, the way forward is always clear, even if it not easy.

It’s harder to do that in a blog post, but here is the best I can do.

The question isn’t “should I quit?”– the question is “what am I longing for?”  

When you are clear on what you want, that is your true compass.

NB.  This is trickier than most people think.  There are two levels of wanting.

1.  The first level is goals and milestones.  These can be small, like that cute pillow on Pinterest that makes your heart flutter, or they can be bigger, like the political office you plan to hold someday.

2.  But underneath is a deeper level.  What we truly deeply secretly want, down in our bones and cells and soul DNA, is almost always an emotional experience– a sense of freedom, say, or safety, or intimacy.  We want an experience that lifts us up and saturates us with a deep certainty or joy or ecstasy or comfort.

The first level of longings are the vehicles that we think will get us what we want on the deeper level. The vehicles are having a certain amount of money, or a fulfilling career, or a relationship.  We think, in our adorable human way, that if we just had those things then we would feel wild and joyful and live in a Nora Ephron movie all of our days.

The vehicles are important.  They are not bad or frivolous.

The shoes, car, haircut, or house that you long for???  Those are important signposts from your soul.  The book deal, salary, fame, boat, or garden that you crave???  They are trying to steer you toward the very things you most deeply want.  There is nothing wrong with fighting hard for those vehicles.  In fact, it’s a glorious fight indeed!

But it’s important not to mistake the vehicle with the destination.  

So first, get clear on the deeper experience that you want.

Let the yearning pull you along.

Be relentless and ruthless in your commitment to your own heart’s deepest compass.  

But let the vehicles show up in all sorts of unexpected ways.  Be ready to hop from a Volvo to a Vespa…and then try out a minivan but settle on a Porsche.

Sometimes your yearning will lead you to take bold leaps into the vast unknown; at other times to quietly toil away at humble, unseen tasks.  Sometimes your yearning will lead you to walk away from something you worked hard to create; other times to work harder and longer at something than you ever thought possible.

And when you’re following your own yearnings, then nothing is ever wasted.  Because it’s YOUR life.

You could make your art in obscurity your whole life and no one would ever see one of your paintings and I still don’t think that would be a waste.

You could spend your life meditating in a cave and it wouldn’t be a waste.

You could try 80,000 things and walk away from all of them with a dozen great stories and that wouldn’t be a waste either.

It’s your life.  You get to decide.  You always have permission to change direction, to change your mind, to shift course, to try something different.  There’s no wasting it, because everything is just a fascinating experiment.  You’re just trying out all the different facets of the human experience.

So how do you know?  Just lean toward what you long for.  Let the yearning carry you forward, whether it leads you to persistence or a big change-up.  Keep listening in as deeply as you can, and then take your best guess, and then see what happens.  If you don’t like what happens, try something else.  And don’t forget to keep putting flowers on your table and wearing your favorite shoes every step along the way.

much love, 

P.S.  We are hard at work on a gorgeous new incarnation of my website,… I can’t WAIT to show it to you! Stay tuned!

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I write things for women with big, gorgeous, COMPLICATED lives. I help women become epic fucking badasses… but I still retain my right to cry at every diaper commercial ever made.

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