I love the term the work, as in, “Do the work.” It makes me think of a mechanic, shirtsleeves rolled up, grease up to her elbows, fixing something with her hands. I could just as easily call to mind my days in art school when I would spend hours weaving, dying fabric and felting. Or the time I walked across half of New Zealand with a 30kg pack on my back just to see if I could do it. Even surfing is the work. It’s an exercise in slowing down my mind and waking up my body. It’s also a practice of letting myself be in the emotion of the ocean. Most days that feels like a combination of grace—surfing—and surrender—being tumbled by the waves.
I appreciate the tangibility of doing the work. It’s real and human and has texture. Whatever my current practices are, they keep me grounded in the process of becoming more wholly myself. Practices allow me to stretch beyond the edges that would otherwise prevent me from reaching my full potential. And, while my formal coaching studies have solidified this approach to personal development, practices are something I’ve been doing unknowingly my whole life. From making myself volunteer to go first for just about everything to writing every morning when I wake up, practices are what allow me to build the capabilities I need to become the human that I am longing to be.
And, of course, there’s always more work to do.
Practices—those bite-sized and specific developmental exercises that you do regularly—are not always sexy. In fact, they’re usually uncomfortable and at least a little challenging. On top of that, your current way of being will probably do everything within its power to push back against the change you’re trying to create. Which explains why we can know everything about what we’re supposed do to shift something and still struggle to move the needle. It’s not you, it’s your current way of being reacting to change. Because even good change can feel ungrounding and scary.
So, while doing the work is an essential part of personal growth, interrupting your current way of being in the moment so that it can’t sabotage the work that you’re doing is just as important. When you can see your current way of being as an objective thing—”Oh, there I am!”—then you can step back and start to shift your beliefs and behaviours towards your new way of being. This new way of being is how you’d like to show up in the moment; it’s the embodied version of who you’re longing to be. Which may seem like some far away thing now. And practices become the work that allows you to become your new way of being.
Of course, you also need the “doing” of a practice laid out clearly and at a scale that allows you to actually fit it into your busy life. Practices can be just about anything. From writing to moving your body to taking a deep breath before responding to a question, practices are meant to help you do the tiny lifting in your life so that, one day soon, you can do the heavy lifting with ease. So if you’re working on becoming more skilled at navigating your emotions, you might begin with first sitting with your feelings and exploring the layers that exist there. Then we might move onto a writing exercise so you can better articulate your emotions to yourself. After that, we could play with developing your ability to pause and check in with your heart before sharing your feelings with another human. From there, perhaps we’d move into channelling your emotions into creative work so you can discover what a deeper connection with your heart space allows for in that space.
So there is a deep logic to this approach to working through change.
When you put these two pieces together—awareness of your current way of being and specific practices that will help you both interrupt your current way of being as well as develop and embody your new way of being—moving past your current pain points is inevitable. Even though it’s still the work, it’s the shortest path home. It also helps to have the compassionate and firm guidance of someone who is wholly committed to doing the work themselves. We all need someone to hold us in the process of becoming, especially when our current ways of being start to rebel against the change we’re trying to action. So, even though the work is your work, you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, it’s essential that you have someone around who can shine a light on your current way of being when it’s too close to you for you to get a clear perspective on it. Awareness is everything when it comes to doing the work and action simply allows you to harness the energy of awareness so it can move you forward in life.
I get it. We’re taught to shy away from work. Our current ways of being want change to be easy and painless. I’m sorry, love, there is no magic solution here. And I promise you, if you engage in this work, it will be like nothing you’ve experienced before. The benefits and joy you experience as a result of doing the work will outweigh the effort and attention you need to put into the work.
So talk to me. Where are you most stuck or hurting right now? What is your heart deeply longing for?
Let me show you how to do the work, love. I promise that it will set you free.