A few weeks ago I did a visualization exercises with some people in my mastermind group. We were asked to visualize our life and legacy in 100 years, 10 years, and 1 year. I wasn’t expecting much from the exercise, to be honest. It seemed a little touch-feely for me. But I did it anyway.
I wrote mostly about work, but my group pointed out that even the stuff I did (or didn’t) write about relationships, location, and hobbies, spoke volumes as well.
My 100 year legacy was the most surprising, because out of nowhere I wrote,
I want to be the person that helps you die metaphorical deaths.
Until that moment, I had never even contemplated that idea, much less claimed it as my work.
But then I remembered this line from an old Harvard Business Review:
The Latin root of the word “decide” is caidere which means ‘to kill or cut’ (Think homicide, suicide, genocide). Technically, deciding to do something new without killing something old is not a decision at all. It is merely an addition.
My visualization in 10 years was about Oprah coming to my home to interview me. The topic is about how to create safety when you’re wanting to change, how creativity requires death, and how, for both change and creativity, one death is not enough.
How do you get to the point where you crave death? How do you get to the point where you’re so grounded in what is eternal that you welcome these little endings?
I’ve written seeds about this before, when a client was debating going back for continuing education. If she chose graduate school, her dream of being a mother by 30 had to die. Her true struggle wasn’t confusion or a pro + con list, it was grief for the dream that couldn’t be.
I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.
– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things
The vast majority of my resistance to change has to do with this death.
From a psychological perspective, my Ego is all the stuff that I Am. It’s how I identify myself.
I’m studying biomedical engineering, I work in finance, I own a business, I’m a woman, I love to dance, my favorite color is purple.
But when my Soul speaks, sometimes I don’t recognize it as myself. Actually, there’s some debate about how much it is really mine at all. When my soul speaks, my Ego panics.
I can’t stay in this job; I have to leave. [my Ego protests: You’re abandoning them! You’re a quitter! You’ll lose everything!]
Here’s what I really want. This is what I yearn for. [It’s not practical! It’s not tested!]
I don’t want him. [You should! He ticks all the boxes; he’s a nice guy!]
I don’t mean to imply that the voice in my head is abusive, because it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to protect my sense of my Self.
Sometimes it’s afraid of uncertainty. I built an identity based on this job, if I leave it, who will I be?
Sometimes it’s afraid of old patterns. He refused to speak with me when I broke up with him. Saying how I feel and what I want is risking exile.
Forgiveness is giving up the hope that things could have been different.
Sometimes it’s not wanting to face the bigger issue. I turn to food to avoid thinking about this issue. I don’t think I can handle really going there. It might kill me.
Or, sometimes I’m already afraid of death. I have incredible memories of lingering over coffee and biscotti in the morning. If I can’t have sugar, will I ever feel that way again?
Over the past few weeks, this is where my mind has been. I’ve even used phrases like, “It kills me” or “It’s killing me” when I talk about where I have to go next.
Some things that are true and useful now can’t go where I’m going. It’s both heartbreaking and necessary, and from this perspective, it’s easy to see why change is so hard, and why I cling so thoroughly to the stories I have now.
I’ll leave you with some wisdom from Dr. Estes. Think about it. Tell me where in your life you’re needing to invite a metaphorical death.
What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love? What not-beauty do I fear? Of what use is the power of the not-beautiful to me today? What should die today? What should live? What life am I afraid to give birth to? If not now, when?
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves