What’s the fastest way to get to where you want to be?
You are likely reading this because you want to make a change in your life. Whether that’s wanting to get promoted at work, or change careers completely; to enter a relationship or leave one behind. So what’s the fastest way to get to where you want to be? It could be a Christmas cracker conundrum, or pulled from the pages of your secondary school maths textbook: What’s the fastest way from A (where you currently are) to B (where you desire to be)?
Go on, give it a go – three guesses…
What did you come up with? The classic, straight line? How often does that happen in reality? Or perhaps speed, or carefully defining B and mapping out a clear route. All of these have merit for sure. But there’s something that comes before.
The fastest way to get from A to B is to really be at A.
It was during my participation on an 8 week mindfulness course where this message first hit home. Not perhaps with the crystal clarity I now have, but it was the first time I encountered the concept of acceptance. I wanted to get somewhere else, because I didn’t like where I was, and rather than really inhabit that place, I was railing against it with all my might.
We were more than halfway through the course, so we’d been building the foundation of awareness for weeks, and were now beginning to use it to look at difficulties. Following a practice of bringing awareness to our thoughts, one of the participants was sharing her experience. As the instructor inquired with her, asking her to really become curious about what she had noticed, I found myself becoming incredibly frustrated. What is the point of just looking at this stuff week after week? When do we actually do something about it?
I posed this question to the instructor. She told me, we can begin to make change when we have really accepted what is present for us right now.
I’m not saying I fully “got” it in that moment, but I was glad she had a valid reason, and that there was, in fact, a next step. We hadn’t explored the concept of “acceptance” until this point, and I had become impatient. Week in, week out, sitting around and just observing how things were, without taking any action to change them – it had seemed like resignation to me. Until then. I’d looked in every which place to change my situation, and to every which person for guidance. Not once had I explored where I was, how I got there, or why I didn’t want to be there. If I had, my story would have unfolded very differently.
Mindfulness is something that needs to be experienced to be of benefit, which is why the MBSR and MBCT courses are so experiential in nature. In much the same way that someone can tell you if you keep lifting weights, your muscles will grow stronger, it is useful (and maybe obvious), sure, but what keeps you lifting those weights is not someone else’s promises but having an embodied experience: Lifting the heavier weight, seeing the definition in your muscles, feeling stronger within yourself.
That moment didn’t change everything instantly but it did spark the start of the journey to come. It gave me permission to allow what was happening to unfold, rather than to expend so much effort keeping it at bay as I had been doing. Before I stood a chance of getting to Point B, I needed to allow myself to be at Point A. A long journey of unravelling followed, a painful and confronting one. But an inevitable one.
If you’re still reading this you may really want to make a change in your life. It’s natural for your focus to be on where you want to get to, and how you’re going to get there. But before you go any further, do check your feet are firmly on the starting blocks. You might just find that once they are, when that trigger’s pulled, you’re able to stride forward with speed, clarity and grace, and enjoy the wind in your face and the cheers from the side-lines as you do so.
So often I witness people unhappy in some way. They think they need to make major changes, and sometimes they do. If you’re in a toxic work environment or an abusive relationship, then absolutely get out as quickly as you can and get the support you need to do so. But often, I see people in the position I was in. In a really good career, with really good relationships, but driven by reactivity to something unwanted, often disguised as well-thought-out logic.
Awareness is the foundation of all else, as it enables us to see things as they truly are, rather than as we wish them to be. Once we’ve seen, we can learn to allow. And from that place of clear knowing, we can then make bold, brave decisions that will truly serve our best interests.
So what’s the quickest way from A to B? It is to really be at A.
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