On Beginning Again

“To begin, begin.” ~ William Wordsworth

Ever lie awake at night wondering “How did it come to this?”

You had a vision, a dream about how your life would unfold, but life had other plans.

You find yourself feeling like you’re back to square one. It can feel humiliating. You’re ashamed to tell others that you’re starting over.

You put so much time and effort into getting where you are now, you wonder if it’s even worth the effort to try again. You probably thought you’d just continue to get better. At this point, you may be tempted to just throw in the towel.

Maybe you’re facing financial ruin, relationship bankruptcy, an addiction relapse, or significant weight gain after having lost just as much.

If you’re at the point of wanting to give up, here’s a few thoughts that may help:

1. Beginning again does not mean starting from scratch

Phrases like “starting over” or “back to square one” are ultimately misleading because we don’t actually go back to square one. The experiences we’ve had and the things we’ve learned from those experiences make us who we are today.

Even if it feel like you’re back to where you started, you’re essentially a different person. Keeping this in mind will help combat the feeling of spinning your wheels. Even if your progress is incremental, it’s progress nonetheless and it matters.

2. It’s the willingness and courage to begin that matters

It’s natural to feel like a failure from making the same mistakes over and over again. So many of us get stuck when this happens because we feel like we should know better.

But the real test is how quickly you get up and begin again when you get derailed. The more quickly and consistently you get back up, the less likely you’ll be to go astray the next time.

3. Be kind to yourself no matter what

Decide to do this from the very beginning. Make a pact with yourself that no matter what you think or how you feel about yourself, that you’ll commit to treating yourself kindly as you attempt to begin again.

Your mind may say lots of bad things about you. However you can simply choose to not believe what it says. This also goes for the criticism that may come from others. Make yourself a cup of tea, go for a walk, or watch your favorite movie. It’s hard work to begin again, and you don’t need to be hard on yourself.

Begin again

Feeling sorry for yourself? Angry? Frustrated? Ashamed?

Regardless of how you feel, are you willing to step out in faith and begin again?

You may not feel like you’re making any progress but there’s profound change and growth happening below the surface. To tap into the benefits of this growth, you must be willing to begin again.

Know that you can begin again anytime you choose.

On Knowing What You Don’t Know

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” ~ Albert Einstein.

Know thyself.

These words were uttered by Socrates, arguably the greatest philosopher who ever lived.

You might be tempted to look at this simple phrase and ask, How difficult can it be to know myself? I live with myself every single day.

We assume we know ourselves. We think we know others. We think we know how the world works and we think our ideas are rock solid truths.

But the truth is, we have no idea.

And while Socrates said that phrase, he had no illusions about the process being easy. He concluded that our greatest knowledge comes from being keenly aware of how little we actually know.

How often though, do we use our “knowledge” to bring down ourselves and others? How often do we see people on TV, radio, and in person talk about events as if they control the cosmos?

Nowadays, it’s the hardest thing to just say “I don’t know.”

But this statement is the truest one we can ever make as it relates to knowing anything.

The trap of knowing it all

The world of the known is embarrassingly small compared to the vastness of what we don’t know.

When we cling to what we “know,” we confine ourselves in very small worlds of our own making.

Think you don’t have any natural talents?
Think others constantly judge you?
Think the outside world is hostile?
Think you know everything about the person you dislike most?
Think you’re beyond all hope?

These are just a few of the things you “know” that are keeping you imprisoned in your reality—a reality devoid of miracles.

But you know what? Miracles are all around you. Miracles are nothing more than reminders of just how little we know. They don’t usually appear in big flashes of light. They appear in the opening of a flower, in the rising of the sun, and in the random acts of kindness people perform every day.

What if you became open to seeing the miracles?

How might your world be transformed?

Some tips for unknowing

If you’re tired if the small world you’re living in and are ready to go exploring, your next question might be, How do I begin the process of unknowing?

1. Stop talking

Stop talking about how crappy your life is. Stop talking about how terrible your neighbor is. Stop talking about how the economy is so bad and you just can’t catch a break.

The reason why you speak in such disempowering ways is because you carry around disempowering beliefs. The way to release yourself from them is to write them down when you wake up first thing in the morning. Seeing them on paper will show you just how little power they have over you.

2. Listen

Once you learn to silence your mouth and mind, you’ll become more open to the guidance that is within you and all around you. You’ll learn to listen, not just with your ears, but with your body and your soul.

That ache in your shoulder you weren’t even aware of suddenly becomes a source of new insight. That emotional distress is transformed from a source of endless pain into a conduit of grace. The nagging words of your loved one become the answer to your nagging problem.

3. Get curious

When you do speak, ask questions. Ask questions in your daily conversations, rather than making statements or pronouncements.

Making pronouncements over ourselves or others is one of the cruelest things we can do. It’s often done in judgement and usually arises out of emptiness, fear, or discomfort, rather than any well of truth.

Socrates dedicated his life to asking questions. His insatiable curiosity was the hallmark of his genius.

4. Love

Too often we use our “knowledge” as a way of trying to lord it over others. It’s the way we unconsciously seek to love and accept ourselves.

The true path to self-acceptance and love however is by loving others. We don’t need to be superior or inferior to others. We simply need to love them.

This love is not some wishy-washy thing. You love when you practice the first three steps with full awareness and attention. When you expand into this new reality, you’ll be shocked by just how small the world of superiority is.

Unknow thyself

Want to have a life of joy and wonder?

Don’t cling too tightly to what you know.

The universe is too awesomely complex for that. So is each person, including you.

Whenever you’re tempted to discount or dismiss yourself or others based on what you “know,” guard your heart with the phrase, “I don’t know.”

And have the courage to be open to the abundant wisdom and grace that’s all around and within you.

There Are No Guarantees

“He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” ~ Chinese Proverb

The guarantee.

It’s become a staple of modern life. So much so that we expect a money-back guarantee policy for just about everything we purchase.

And while this may work fine for broken products and canceled events, it doesn’t work so well when we try to apply it to other areas in life.

In fact, having such an outlook on life can paralyze us from ever trying something that may fail. We want guarantees of success and glory in everything. We want guarantees in our jobs, our marriages, and our parenting.

We want it in our houses of worship, our friendships, and our health.

This might not work

In a world that’s changing faster than the speed of light, this position is untenable. What worked yesterday might not work today. What was hot today might cease to exist tomorrow. What stood for the last hundred years could come collapse in the blink of an eye.

You know this. You feel it in your bones. So how do you react? With fear understandably. You want assurances that the bridge called life won’t fall out from under you before you step on. Some days you take a step or two on the bridge, but quickly turn back once it starts to sway in the wind. All the while, you stand on the sidelines watching others go across.

Some make it across. Others fall off. Others still try to teach (or sell) you “hacks” to guarantee a safe trip across.

But there a few people who will be honest with you as they take their first steps onto the bridge. They’ll say, to use the mantra of Seth Godin, “This might not work.”

The only guarantee there is

We all have in our possession a product called life. And unlike other products, there’s no such thing as a perfect life. There will always be defects and you’ll always have reasons to demand your money back.

The only guarantee I know of is this:

If you’re always hedging your bets, you’ll never fully be invested in what you’re doing.

And the less invested you are, the more likely you’ll fall.

So…

Be fully invested in your marriage.
Be fully invested in your job.
Be fully invested in your children.
Be fully invested in your friendships.
Be fully invested in your life.

Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect and don’t wait for others to go first. Have the courage to step out every day with a deep sense of faith, hope, and humility.

Your life may not be perfect but it’s a most precious gift. Don’t waste it by looking for guarantees.