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  • Richard Cash

181. Learning to let go of the 'Should'

It's funny how when you are focused on one thing, a whole other thing comes up to the front of your mind... This is a bit of an epiphany and realisation post.

It's been an 'interesting' few months to say the least. The pressures at work have gone up three levels, I'd also committed to finishing off my Hebrides journal video (which I hope you enjoyed seeing the reality of what something like this is like). And then there was the car-crash training block...

For those that have seen my posts since Christmas you'll be aware that my winter training block has been erratic to say the least. Chest infections, achilles and knee pain, two bouts of cold/flu, etc have wreaked havoc with my initial plans and what those plans 'should' look like.

As Mike Tyson famously said: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face"

Maybe it is what I needed. After a massive year last year (by my standards), my body was clearly screaming at me to take it easy. I'm 50 in a couple of weeks yet I was pushing myself like I was still in my 20s. On reflection, I've been a little guilty of holding myself to a standard of where I 'should' be, even if perhaps I wasn't quite ready to be at that standard. I've been on the limit of what is wise vs unwise in terms of mileage and frequency for quite come time now and have paid a little price this year with denting my consistency. All powered by where my mind demands I 'should' be. The attachment to what a thing should look like is where the danger is.

I forgot that at almost 50 years old and a very heavy runner, I've also monstered myself across a 200 mile running challenge (that felt twice that running though mostly Scottish bog/swamp). And then I'm back in January pushing at 50Km weeks! Not smart when I think about it like that. I've had to ease up, and had to work quite hard on getting my head in the right place while I fix the latest set of issues and recover properly. When you live life at high pressure and high speed, this can be a very difficult thing to do. I'm goal driven, and that is in part the problem as if I fall behind on a goal it triggers my 'should' alarm. I set a goal based on what I can achieve, but my mind turns this into what I 'should' achieve. This subtle difference causes tension, angst and anxiety when things go off-plan. I have enough challenges in life without having to add to them simply by getting more attached to the outcome than the process. Yet, add to them I have of late. Should suggests it is 'not good enough' if I don't reach what I set out to do. It removes possibility, and applies pressure. Pressure in itself isn't a bad thing, but it does harm to how we feel about ourselves (and as a consequence the world around us) when we are behind our expectations. This is dangerous. The minute we apply a standard to us or to others that is fallen short of, it's very easy and pervasive to interpret this as 'not good enough'. I say this as there is a very fragile boundary that easily breaks into 'I am not good enough'. And then you open a very big can of worms.

All of those years of chasing ever increasing targets. All of our childhood experiences of being criticised for not doing enough, helping enough, achieving enough. All of it buried in our unconscious mind (9 times more powerful than our conscious one) that triggers us to both believe and create a reality of 'not good enough' It affects our moods, our relationships, our work, our kids and it's bloody dangerous. And it leads to a life lived with the handbrake on. This last few months has absolutely triggered my 'should' headspace. I've been increasingly frustrated at the setbacks and certainly been holding way too tightly to where I 'should' be right now. So now it's time to let that go.

I've reached a point where I'm accepting I am where I am. I can't change what went before. I can only change what I do at any given moment. In holding too tightly to my picture of where I should be, I've burned a lot of negative energy and carried too much of not only my expectations of myself but also taken on everyone else's expectations of me. This is a big point in itself. Other people carry a big picture of me as to who/what I should be. I've noticed this a lot in others around me. From those in my business, to family, friends and loved ones. I've always been very capable, and usually have most of the answers, but this makes it too easy at times for others to put their expectations on my shoulders as well as me loading my own ones onto them.

I'm a big believer in the body reflecting the state of mind. It may be strange to say it but I cannot shake the feeling that my challenges with dropping weight, constant issues in my Achilles and now my knees, etc are a manifestation of carrying to much emotionally.

This isn't healthy. Don't get me wrong, I have responsibilities to others and take those seriously, but not to do so to such an extent that is to my own detriment. And it is certainly feeling like it has been to my own detriment. Which means that now I see it, it's time to address it.

This means now I'm letting a chunk of that go. Taking more moments to be kinder to myself and allow recovery from the intensity of life.

How am I doing this?

  1. Accept where I am right now (and I mean truly making peace with it)

  2. Putting the process first (focusing on the actions not the outcomes)

  3. Saying no / empowering others to find answers more frequently (even when I already have them)

  4. Reinforcing in my life that I am good enough and always have been

There is no real 'eureka!' moment in all this. No miraculous instant magic button change. Not at all. Just quiet shifting and multiple-times-daily self-reminding, and catching myself when it happens, on these 4 points. Subtle but also profound background internal-hard-drive shifts to bring me back to centre ground when I catch myself drifting. Choosing to respond rather than react to whatever is happening and to then let the energy of whatever that was drift through and past me. It's a little esoteric, but it's working. I'm that bit happier, less-stressed and lighter than I have been of late. This has allowed me to 'flow' more and take things a little lighter. As a result, my injury issues are hurting less and I'm feeling much better. I've managed to test the knee successfully and that is a good platform to build on. I can feel the 'should' in my line of thinking, quietly disappearing and the 'not good enough' monster is retreating back into it's swamp. Sometimes, the only way to fly is to let go of what you are holding onto. I'll take the win, I think. Thanks for reading...

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