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A while back, I was catching up with one of my very first clients-turned-friends. (Random aside … this is one of the things I love about coaching. You get to connect with really cool people who often end up becoming lifelong buddies.)
In our conversation she mentioned that an off-the-cuff (and definitely not super serious) analogy I’d made had actually really helped her to see life differently. So much so that she still thinks about it to this day.
This story involves references to horses and aliens, so don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Rae, my friend and former client, originally came to me for some relationship coaching. Even though you’d think that talking about relationships is completely different than coaching around your career or passion in life … it’s really not.
You take your beliefs, triggers, and deep fears with you everywhere you go and into anything that you do. What prevents someone from having a healthy relationship is often the exact thing that’s getting in the way of having an awesome career.
Anyway, Rae was struggling to let go of something (particularly, a relationship with a guy) that was no longer healthy for her. I’m sure you can relate, in one way or another — you know intellectually that you’d be better off moving on (from the relationship, the friendship, the job, whatever) — but you still feel tied to it because it’s all you know.
SO I SENT HER THIS EMAIL TO HELP HER SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY
“Right now, imagine that you’re living in this analogy: It’s 1870, or something, and someone from the future beams down to you, in your horse & buggy, and tells you about the future. About cars and planes and the Internet and everything that will inevitably happen, and it seems so fantastical and crazy, because all you really know is The Pony Express and your horse and buggy and writing letters.
Being able to speak to someone in China … to see their face as you speak to them? Or voyaging across an entire ocean in nine hours? How could it be? But now that you know, your whole world changes. Everything you knew to be true, up until this moment, seems so small in comparison.
A minute ago, your horse and buggy and your letters and your simple way of life was All There Was. Now, your paradigm is but a fraction of All There Really Is. Can you imagine what it would be like to find out that something that took up SO much of your belief turned out to be but a teeny, tiny percent of what’s possible? It’s like finding out the Earth, which you thought was all there was, was part of The Universe. It’s mind-blowing.
It reminds me of that awesome quote from Men in Black (look at me, with my 90’s pop culture references): ‘Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
Which brings me back to you. This relationship is your version of “the horse and buggy” or “The Earth is the center of the Universe.” Well, I’m from the future, and I’m here to tell you that technology is going to happen, that the Earth is a teeny tiny speck in a vast Universe, and that what you “know“ about how you feel about this guy will ultimately pale in comparison to how you feel about someone else.”
I didn’t anticipate it, but “the horse & buggy analogy” quickly became a thing. To this day, Rae still refers to massive breakthroughs and shifts in perception as “horse & buggy stuff.”
WHAT’S YOUR VERSION OF “THE HORSE & BUGGY?”
Looking back to the past, it’s easy to think of our predecessors as “quaint” and “outdated” for the way they lived, the things they believed, and everything they didn’t yet know.
But the truth is, we’re not that different from those people.
Humans haven’t changed that much in our basic programming … we still tend to get indoctrinated with beliefs, and we tend to hold on to those beliefs unless directly asked to question them.
In fact, every single one of us, regardless of when or where we were born, has some sort of worldview that’s limiting us and that, if you were able to see in hindsight, you’d think was pretty “outdated,” too.
What is it that you think you “know” about life?
Do you “know” that you’ll never be able to find a job that you love?
Do you “know” that you’re probably just going to be alone forever?
Do you “know” that money is difficult to come by?
Do you “know” that people are generally awful and will always disappoint you?
Do you “know” that cancer runs in your family, so you’re bound to get it?
Do you “know” that you’ve got to get a Master’s Degree to have a decent career?
Because if that’s the kind of stuff that you’re dead-set on “knowing,” you’ll probably keep right on knowing it. If nothing else, we humans tend to be pretty stubborn about being “right” in our beliefs, even despite evidence to the contrary.
BUT WHAT IF YOU WERE WILLING TO KNOW SOMETHING ELSE?
Rae thought she “knew” that her ex-boyfriend was right for her. And a couple short months after reading that email, she knew she’d been dead wrong about that.
I’ve seen people go from “knowing” every one of those items listed above to deeply knowing something better and truer.
And the only thing it takes to expand your awareness from narrow (AKA, being in your “horse & buggy”) to unlimited (AKA, having your mind blown by what’s really possible) is your willingness to question what you believe.
Seriously, that’s it.
The people who stay stuck are always the ones who would rather clutch on to outdated, narrow-minded beliefs than risk letting go and exploring what else is possible. They’d rather be “right” than be happy.
The ones who make strides in life are the ones who weren’t afraid to question what they thought they knew.
They weren’t afraid to admit to their narrow-mindedness. They didn’t care all that much about being part of the crowd. They’d rather be flexible about how they see the world, and make progress, than be inflexible and rigidly stuck in one place.
If Rae had continued to “know” that her ex-boyfriend was all there was, she’d still be in a miserable relationship. If I had “known” that building a business is impossible, you wouldn’t be reading this. (And if Will Smith hadn’t stopped “knowing” that aliens didn’t exist … he never would have joined the M.I.B. And wouldn’t that have been a travesty?)
So ask yourself … “What if that wasn’t true? What if this isn’t all there is? What if what I think is possible pales in comparison to what’s really possible? … What then?”
When you’re willing to believe something more than what you “know” right now, you open up the space for anything to happen. And how cool is that?
What do you think of the horse & buggy analogy? I’d love to hear, in the comments.
Rachel (& Kristen)
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