I’ve been tossing and turning like an oak leaf in a windstorm the last few nights. So I decided it was time to go for a walk in the Canyon; an ancient two-mile long riverbed trail near my home that runs between two lava cliffs. It’s where I go to exercise…..and when I’m stressed and need to think.
I’ve learned over the years when I begin to feel stressed it’s time to talk to the little boy inside; especially when I have no conscious clue where the stress is coming from.
“OK kiddo” I said out loud. That was a term that my dad used for me when I was a child. It kind of wakes up my inner-child. “What’s going on?”
I looked around to make sure I was alone. An old man walking alone talking to himself can be a bit scary; to say nothing about being more than a little embarrassing. I always talk out loud when I’m talking to the child inside. I can’t tell you why it works, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s better if I do.
“You did it again” he said smugly, a bit like a know-it-all.
He continued in a tearful voice “You’re starting your next book and you came up with a great plan. You would research the book for two months, write it in six months, and then edit it for two months. And that’s when I got scared.”
I walked in silence for a while. I intuitively knew he was right. The stress had begun right after making the plan.
All the little boy inside could think about is what if he couldn’t do the research in two months? What if the whole idea of the book is dumb? What if an editor is too expensive? Six months? He felt like he’d have to write 8 hours a day for half a year! And what if he missed a day?
I had created impossible goals for him and he was scared; worried that he would fail. Frightened that he wouldn’t be able to meet my goals and that would create shame for him. His anxiety and fear had reminded me that life has to be lived as a process and I had unconsciously slipped into dualistic thinking.
I said out loud to him “I love you! I’m sorry……you’re right. I’m sorry for scaring you”.
I continued to affirm for him that life is a process, not a series of goals. That it’s OK to set a goal, but the moment I’d set a time limit on us, and the expectation that the book had to be perfect, I’d caused us to slide into stressful, dualistic, good/bad, write/wrong (pun intended) thinking.
I finished my conversation with him by telling him that what was important was not when the book would be finished, it was affirming the commitment to write the book.
My new goal is a commitment to work on the book four hours a day, six days a week, until it’s finished. If life gets in the way, which it of course will, I will simply reaffirm my commitment and get back to the work as quickly as possible.
This process went on for over four miles but I know the new plan is a good one. I slept like a rock last night.
I love the little boy that’s part of my consciousness. When I take the time to listen to him, his insights are always helpful.