Two things you need to bring your work to its full realization
“Hello? Is everything okay? Are you okay?” That’s me, in the past, writing to my clients after they had ghosted me. I used to be perplexed about why some people would suddenly abandon their journey in the Vision Program just before it was complete. With more experience, however, I noticed it would happen around the same point in the process. They stopped showing up when they were asked to put their work out into the world for the first time. When I shared this story with one of my current clients, she was shocked to hear that people would just up and disappear. “I would never do that,” she said. Only one week further along in the program, she came back head bowed, “I get it. It’s taking everything in my being not to run away right now.”
Of course, there is a time when it’s perfectly correct for people to stop working with me and our journey together is complete. For both of us, it feels like a natural culmination and we honour it with a ceremonial celebration. However, whenever there is an abrupt disconnect, I know they have met an edge. I understand now, better than in the past, that it is my job to meet them where they stand at that heart-pounding precipice, reach out my hand and hold them until they have crossed the chasm. Only once they step safely onto the other side do we lean into each other, take a deep breath, and laugh at all the commotion. My time spent in the wilderness has taught me why this is so.
Over the last decade, I have hiked thousands of kilometres and summited dozens of mountains. Whether I’ve been crawling over boulder fields, shuffling across icy inclines, or tiptoeing along narrow ridges, I have met my fair share of frightening edges. In fact, it doesn’t even take that much, I scare quite easily. Those who have been with me in these situations can attest to that. I have even frozen in paralysis standing at the edge of a three foot drop. Our fear doesn’t always make rational sense, but when we tell ourselves we are going to perish if we take another step, our bodies will respond accordingly.
After getting stuck in many tricky situations, I noticed a pattern. In the challenging sections, so long as my adventure partner was within reach, I was usually able to continue even in the grip of fear. However, if they were moving at a quicker pace than I and the gap between us widened too far, there would come a point when my panic would be triggered, especially when I sensed we had lost connection. The thought of being abandoned in a place beyond my ability to make the traverse alone was intolerable to my psyche. After I realized what was at the core of my anxiety, a simple solution arose. Whenever I froze with fright, I would ask my partner to reach out to me. They didn’t need to clutch me with a death grip, I just needed the reassuring touch of another human. When I could feel their presence, my whole system would calm. It would “unlock” my mind and I would be able to inch my way forward again. I’ve since learned that having this contact with another person activates the vagus nerve in our bodies, which is responsible for promoting the body’s relaxation response to a stressful situation.
Allow yourself to be supported
Now when I work with clients, I make sure I am always within arm’s reach of them, especially during the scary bits. Not everyone needs or wants this assistance, but as they navigate the treacherous parts of creating their work, such as presenting it to others for the first time, I watch them keenly for signs of hesitation or faltering. I have also figured out that it’s helpful to give forewarning as we approach this brink. I tell them, “We are entering the phase of the journey when it can get really tough. When you expose who you are to the world without any protection, it can be unnerving.” I assure them we will take small, manageable steps, and that I will not leave them until they have achieved what they set out to do. Their role is to allow themselves to be supported.
When you are bringing your work into the world and you reach a place that feels beyond your current level of comfort and you start to shut down, you want to:
Know that it is normal, expected even, to be frightened.
Recognize what you need.
Ask for help.
Believe that you deserve to be supported.
Allow yourself to receive support.
Without support, it can be too easy to give up and backtrack to where we started. Yes, at times, it’s necessary to take a step back and move forward in a slightly different way, but that’s different than letting our fear derail us completely. It takes real commitment to stand at the edge of the unknown and keep moving forward.
Make a commitment to yourself
Over a decade ago, when I moved to a little island nestled amidst the coastal mountains, I would stare up at the peak of the first mountain I ever felt called to summit and think to myself, some day I will climb that mountain. I thought about it for years. I was intimidated by all the stories I heard about how easy it is to get lost on this particular mountain. One day, I finally summoned the gumption to ask someone who had done it before if she would go with me. That decision changed the trajectory of my life in ways that, upon reflection, overwhelm me with awe. Without it, I might never have had the hundreds of extraordinary adventures I’ve had since and been witness to the outrageous beauty of our planet. I might never have befriended one of the most loving human beings I know. I might never have created an outdoor adventure festival that united my island community in celebration. It reminds me never to underestimate the impact of a single act of asking for help. But along with being supported, all of those happenings required something else – my commitment to see them realized.
It is not easy to bring any new venture into the world. When we meet our edge, it is essential to find a way to keep going. I’ve been doing this work for 13 years, throughout which I have experienced some difficult times. I often struggle with how much I should reveal about the challenges of the journey. I don’t want to discourage you if you are eager to embark on the adventure of discovering, creating, and living your inspired work. It is the most rewarding and fulfilling work you will ever do. I do want you to be prepared for the obstacles that will inevitably appear. When the gap between where you are versus where you want to be widens to the point of wanting to back out, what will keep you going is to remember who you are committed to and why.
Ask yourself who or what you are committed to.
First and foremost, what I would hope we would all say is that we are committed to ourselves. For me personally, what that means is that I am committed to my own full realization through my work. I am also committed to my own thriving. In regard to supporting you, I believe that creating the work that is the truest expression of who you are is your highest service to humanity. Therefore, I am committed to supporting you in the full realization of your work so that both you and humanity may thrive. No matter how challenging the path may become, this is what makes it all worthwhile.
Now when people try to walk away from their journey, I reach out to them differently. “Hello, I know this is hard and I know you can do it. I am committed to supporting you in the full realization of your work. Let’s complete what we started together and get your work out into the world. You’ve got a mountain to climb and I know the way.”
Since applying what I’ve learned in the wilderness, it’s rare I am ghosted these days. But when it does happen, it’s like a dagger to my heart. Not because my feelings are hurt, but because of what could potentially be lost, which is the unique expression of you. The moment you want to give up is the exact moment when you must keep going. To bring your work to its full realization, be sure to ask for support and honour your commitment. Don’t ghost yourself.