Being Who You Are When You Can Be Anyone You Want - The Paradox of Choice

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Ever been on the train, you know the one.... You take it because you thought at the time it was going to take you exactly where you wanted to go, but then you realise it’s going somewhere else and you’re between stations but can’t get off. Yeah, that one...

I boarded that train one day in September 2019 and I’ve been between stations ever since, metaphorically speaking.

As I write this I’m reminded of my trip to the airport for a flight to Austria for Christmas with my family. I really did take the wrong train to the wrong airport, which I discovered halfway to Gatwick when I was meant to be on my way to Heathrow. I couldn’t get off because we were between stations. That would normally be OK except I took the wrong train in the reverse direction and ended up in London Bridge instead of Clapham Junction and thought I would totally miss my flight to Salzburg. I didn’t though, and perhaps that’s the metaphor here... it all works out, but I don’t want to spoil the story - not yet, it was just getting interesting.. right?

So what‘s it like being a guy on a train in London looking for his next big thing when he knows he can be anything but doesn’t actually know what that is?

It's an odd feeling, like you're Neo after he disconnected from the Matrix. It's like being on the train to nowhere town, where you don't really know where you're going and you're completely ok with it.

When I decided to leave my job, I did so with the absolute conviction, and deep inner knowingness, that enough was enough - the circus I was in needed to leave town without me and I needed to stop running away with the clowns.

I had saved up a decent enough runway, I was in discussion with different stakeholders, and I thought I had a plan. In truth, I’m that guy on the sofa waking up late, making a list of projects to get on with to satisfy my need to 'achieve' and 'do' so that I can relate to who I have been.

But what if who I am is not who I was before?

What then?

You see, most of us can’t cope with not doing. We’re not programmed that way. Our society, and social media in particular, drives us toward action, to doing, to achieving, to making sure that everyone knows that we're doing something - whether that's going on holiday, eating a meal, seeing friends, celebrating or even ranting. In all situations we're locked in the logjam of activity of doing rather than being.

Because, to sit silently and listen to the impulses of our soul, to the feelings in our body could leave us being accused of 'doing nothing'.

So what if the counter melody we all need is some time to not do?

What would happen if we were forced to just sit, and be, and get up close and personal to that part of us that we hide behind the veneer of doing and achieving lest someone (or even us) face the reality of who the fuck we really are?

When I left the 'day job' I expressed concern about 'not having' to a fellow coach who elegantly reminded me to 'enjoy the spaciousness while it lasts'. Those words stay with me each day as I remind myself that although I know that I could return to what I did before to generate revenue, doing so keeps me tied to an old version of myself that has been shed like the chrysalis of a cocoon that a caterpillar no longer needs. In the words of Mark Nepo, '...when the butterfly emerges, the cocoon has served its purpose. It's not false, its served its purpose'.

I am in that unique place of being able to choose what I do, and when I do it. The mind when faced with such choice can be forgiven from going into overdrive. The paradox in having a lot of freedom in the luxury of choice; and yet there are some moments that are quite simply terrifying as the mind catastrophises about all the awful things that could happen. So far those moments have been fleeting at best.

I've been on this quest of self-discovery for a decade, and after so long you'd think it would be easy. In truth, the closer you get to the true essence of who you are, the more you have to face the reality of who you are not; or the fact that who you are is not who you think you are, since we're all so busy persuading everyone else that we're just fine. We all have an idea of our identity; but how real is that identity if it is based on a system of behaviours and beliefs that were formed long before we could truly know the wisdom of our own heart and soul?

I'm not alone in this deeply transformative journey of pivoting my career and my life path; and I'm not for a moment saying that the experience is easy. All I know, is that deep down there is this centre-point of calm and reassurance that the more I open myself to the randomness of my experience as I follow the impulses of something else other than the deeply ingrained drive to achieve.

What would you do if you knew you could be anything you wanted? Would you take the train to the known destination, or would you happily find yourself caught between stations or heading into the unknown for a while?

When you're ready, here's a few ways you can work with me:

  • Executive and personal coach,

  • Come on an incredible adventure,

  • Engage me for a consulting assignment.

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