Earlier this summer I interviewed my mentor, Nancy J. Hill, for my podcast and we jumped into a topic that is dear to both our hearts – the notion of growth vs. unfolding or being driven vs. being drawn.
Since then I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come in this arena.
I grew up a very driven child. Inner drive is something I was born with.
I was a very active toddler and my mom was a bit overwhelmed by my energy on top of my brother’s (who is only 18 months older than I). She asked our pediatrician at the time for advice and he suggested enrolling me in an activity to get some of my energy out. The story as I remember it goes that she promptly enrolled me in a tap class, a ballet class and a tumbling class – way to cover all the bases Mom!
The tumbling thing stuck, I fell in love and began training multiple hours a week at a private gymnastics club.
I was driven.
I WANTED to work hard and do well. I don’t remember my parents ‘pushing’ me to practice or perform. I drove myself. I remember nothing but encouragement from them.
In grade school, I was a straight A student. Again I drove this myself. I don’t remember any pressure from my parents to get good grades. I remember receiving some reward for doing well and they certainly praised me, but I can’t even remember what those rewards were. I just remember feeling so proud of myself when I did well. The drive to do well academically continued into college where I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Business Education degree and stayed with me through multiple career paths in the teaching and then human resources fields. I was driven to move up the corporate ladder.
In my conversation with Nancy, I began wondering when I made the shift and I can clearly see it was when I consciously began my spiritual journey back in 1995. Up until then I was on a very growth-oriented, performance-driven, trajectory. This did not change overnight as I can see how I brought that same posture into my newly found spiritual path, but I can clearly identify that time period is when I BEGAN to respond to what I felt drawn to, what I felt called to do. Fast forward about 15 years to 2010 to the present, I can see how the majority of how I make decisions has to do with the desires of my heart – what am I drawn to – what I feel called to.
When I look back on the driven, growth-focused lifestyle I was living it actually feels a bit harsh to me now. I am more in alignment with an unfolding of my soul. I prefer a posture of self-inquiry. What interests, longings, and desires do I feel drawn to? What skills, abilities, and knowledge do I see presenting themselves from within?
“Living from a place of unfolding and in process creates a kinder, more gentle and spacious life.”
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that setting goals and aiming to attain them is wrong or bad – I actually don’t like using such words as good or bad to describe anything. I still set goals and set out to reach them. The difference is WHERE the goals come from and oftentimes WHAT they are based on. The difference I’m referring to has to do with the essence with which the endeavors are derived.
Let me explain using an example.
When I am drawn toward something, I am listening to an inner desire; a longing. For instance a few weeks ago I answered the calling of my soul to start learning to play the cello. I have felt drawn to the beautiful sound of the cello for a long time – there’s something about the instrument’s look and sound that draws me in and I have been longing to play it for myself. I have no (outside) reason to learn the cello. It is not something I’m doing for anyone else but me and I don’t know that I will ever play it in a performance, but I decided to answer that longing by renting a cello and finding a teacher. I am not driven to learn it in a specific time frame, for a certain performance or for a specified length of time. I have simply allowed myself to be drawn in to something I love. So, each week I have lessons, I practice, I play and above all, I enjoy the journey. However, it is difficult for me to learn. My left hand cramps after just a short time and my fingers don’t want to do what my mind tells them to do. So I shake my hands out and be gentle with myself and accept that it takes time to learn something so foreign. It takes repetition to strengthen my fingers and hands, it takes patience to wait for the melodies I dream of playing to come.
In contrast, in my former, driven mindset, I would have taken on a totally different posture with it. I would have hunkered down and practiced harder and longer. My determination would have kicked in and I would have set out to conquer this task, ready to prove to myself I could do it. My attitude would have been much more of a “push through” mentality. Harder, faster, longer practices seeking progress and performance over enjoyment.
Can you feel the difference in these two approaches to what is essentially the same task? In both instances I am learning to play the cello, but there is a kinder, more gentle tone surrounding responding to a longing – a drawing in and ENJOYING THE PROCESS. Letting it unfold in response to my answering the call.
How about you – are you more driven or drawn? growth-oriented or unfolding? I encourage you to be curious with yourself and see what comes out of this self-inquiry.
If you find yourself longing for a more kind and gentle approach to life, I encourage you to pay more attention to that which is calling you and …
Take gentle care,