My husband and I walked a 10km trail that took us up and down a rocky path through grass that reached up to our shoulders. Then it meandered along the damp, shaded bank of a stream hidden amongst the winding roots of a copse of trees. It was peaceful and invigorating. So beautiful in the serenity of nature, basking in the sun and relishing the coolness of the wood alongside the sleepy little river.
The instruction was to follow the white stones and markings which we dutifully did. Towards the end a huge tree trunk blocked the path. A bold white arrow on the trunk pointed the over the fallen tree. As I looked at the sheer and yet knobbly surface, the height and girth of the tree, I could not see how my short legs were going scrabble over this obstacle. I was stuck.
My husband came from behind to my left about two metres, put his foot on a sawn off branch just a foot off the ground, held into a thin branch extending up and swung himself easily over the tree. All I could do is follow behind him as it was the only and obvious way to keep going. But I did have a good laugh at my befuddlement and blindness. And my family were gracious enough to laugh with (at?) me!
What prevented me from seeing how to get over this hurdle? On reflection I think it was two things:
- I felt compelled to follow the arrow. In my mind the arrow was the instruction, and it said, “You have to get over this hurdle and you must do it here, at this point.” My mind was so locked into the ‘musts’ and the ‘have tos’ it was not open to look for alternatives.
I was so concerned about doing it the ‘right’ way, as indicated by someone and something else, that I didn’t even consider there could be another way.
It makes me think about other areas in my life where I am stuck. I wonder if these seemingly insurmountable obstacles are only so because I have some preconceived notion that there is only one way or one given way to address the problem.
If I am also honest, maybe I’m also waiting for someone to tell me what to do. Wouldn’t that make life simpler? Just follow some pre-determined steps and if you keep colouring in within the lines it will all work out perfectly.
Bryan Elliott hosts the show Behind the Brand. In his interview with Seth Godin he shares a deeply personal story. He tells Seth that he gave him the best advice of his life. Bryan relates how he was at a very low point in his life after his birth mother requested through lawyers that he not contact her and his new venture in business was going badly. At this point after bugging Seth for ages he had eventually got him to agree to an interview. Sharing something of what he was going through with Seth, Seth told him this, “Bryan, there’s no Prince Charming in this story. There’s no rescue boats coming for you. No-one is going to scoop you up and save you or pick you.” Bryan was deeply impacted by these words and took it as the impetus he needed to carve his own way, to push forward and not give up.
What I learn more and more is that if we give up control of our lives to someone or something else we are diminished. There are new and unique paths that need to be created and you’re the person to do it!
- All I saw was the arrow. I didn’t step back to get the bigger picture. I didn’t allow myself to get perspective. By looking at the whole log my husband could immediately see how best to get over.
I noticed in myself that the closer I got to this looming arrow, the more I began to edge towards panic – I could not see how I was going to shimmy over this thing! In this state I was less and less likely to find a solution. So, as much as I needed perspective my inclination was to not look for it.
This little incident was a great reminder that perspective is a rich resource of insight, possibilities and options. Just taking a step back or two to look wider and deeper than just what’s in front of you is well worth the time and effort for the speed and direction it gives you in the long run.
A simple moment of stuckness ended up giving me great food for thought.