A few weeks back I was in a place I haven’t been for two-plus years: wearing a lavalier mic, standing in front of a room full of people, training and facilitating. It was fun AND a bit nerve-wracking.
I used to do this almost every day in my corporate position: travel nearly every week to a new place and spend one or two days training folks on how to have effective conversations; leadership and professional development stuff. Different corporations. Sometimes execs and managers. Sometimes mid-level. Sometimes a particular division or team. Usually a tossed salad of everything and everyone. No matter how much was different about each place and group, the content stayed exactly the same. And so, NOT nerve-wracking. I always knew exactly what I was going to say every. single. time.
This time, I did not know exactly what I was going to say. This time I was not representing a company that owns proprietary content of which I am paid to be an expert. This time I was in a consulting role with content I created — which I’ve not practiced ad nauseum, memorized, rinsed and repeated. And, one other tiny detail: this time I was working for my sister! (No pressure.)
No surprise: all of this got me to thinking:
There is often a chasm between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves.
Whether it’s public speaking
or writing a book
or saying “yes” to a first date
or ending a relationship
or leaving a job
or speaking up in a meeting
(and a million more things besides). . .
. . . there is a moment, a minute, a month, what seems a lifetime, where we hesitate. Can I really pull this off? Will it even matter? What if I mess up? What will people think? What if I’m misunderstood?
I won’t speak for you, but in all of these examples and then some, one thing holds me back: I want to be in complete control of everything, really. Of myself. Of how everyone else will respond. Of how every single detail will play out. Of the results. Of the outcome.
And this need/demand? Wanting to be in control IS the chasm. And it separates me from what I most want, most desire, most hope for, most hope to be.
The logical follow-on question then, is this: if my need/demand to be in control (of everything, really) is the chasm — the gap between thinking about trusting myself and actually trusting myself — then what is the bridge?
I’m not crazy about the answer . . .
The bridge between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves is letting go of control.
It would be great if I could tell you exactly how to do this. How to let go, give up the need for control, risk, step forward, do it anyway.
It would be great if there was some secret formula, some 3- or 12-step plan, some failsafe advice that, if followed, would guarantee complete safety and certainty while maintaining complete control (of everything, really).
There is no such thing.
So, it seems that this is what we’re left with:
The only way to let go is to let go.
The only way to give up the need for control is to give up control.
The only way to risk is to risk.
The only way to step forward is to step forward.
The only way to do the thing is to do it.
I should tell you that everything went perfectly fine a few weeks back. Well, not “perfectly” fine. I made a few mistakes. Nothing fell apart. I didn’t fall apart. I lived to tell the story. I WAS actually able to trust myself. It’s a happy-ending story, to be sure. But trust me, I have TONS of examples in which just the opposite was true: I doubled-down on control, I refused to let go, I did everything I could to minimize even the slightest bit of risk. I still do.
When I remember these stories, I feel a kind of low-grade exhaustion seep into me. My shoulders slump. A sense of futility almost overwhelms. And what I realize is that everything I have been SO committed to keeping in my grip usually ends up either strangling me or sucking the life right out of me.
In truth (and when I extend myself some grace), I have more positive experiences and stories than just a few weeks ago: my TEDx talk, ending my marriage, quitting my job, starting my own business, writing a book. Even creating content and presenting it for the company my sister leads. And when I remember these stories, I feel invigorated and strong. My posture straightens. A sense of encouragement, even pride sets in. And what I realize is that when I let go of control, I am not OUT of control, but finally-and-fully myself. I can breathe.
So, what about you? What stories do you remember?
Where did you, like me, double-down on control? Where you refused to let go and held on even tighter still? Where you had risk-mitigation as your number-one priority? When you remember them, what do you feel?
Where did trust yourself . . . no matter how rickety the bridge you had to step onto? And when you remember them, what do you feel?
It’s probably too simplistic, but it feels true nonetheless: the fact that you can actually remember this latter group of stories, that you do have experience with letting go of control (and even surviving) means one really important thing:
You can trust yourself — again, every time, in all things, always.
And now that I think about it, maybe this IS a sort of secret formula, a 1-step plan, some good advice (even if not failsafe) that does not guarantee complete safety and certainty, but that certainly reminds you of just how amazing and trust-worthy you already are — yes, again, every time, in all things, and always.
Take some risks in the days and weeks ahead, yes? Let go of control (even if only a bit). And trust yourself. You can, you know?!! Again, every time, in all things, always.
May it be so.
I write a long-form letter to my subscribers every Monday. I’d love for you to have it. Learn more and sign up today!