There is an analogy by the late Stephen Covey that I really like. In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he asks us if our ladder is leaning against the right wall. So that when we climb it, we won’t invest our energy in the things that don’t matter to us, only to find out at the top.
For the greater part of my life (I know I use this phrase a lot), I invested most of my energy in fear-based thoughts. I was at the top of that ladder, and was getting ready to jump when I got sight of the wall I wanted to be on. Instead of jumping, I started descending. It has taken me 15 years to descend the fear ladder. That is a long time. Logical, as I had invested so much energy in climbing it. I had become really good at thinking fearful thoughts, and I had not learned how to think thoughts that weren’t rooted in fear. Going down the fear ladder, I did the cha cha cha, two down one up, and sometimes even two up one down.
Fear was my most practiced response. In our brains, our most practiced response looks like a freeway. The response we are trying to create doesn’t exist yet in our brains, we are literally creating pathways as we go. Creating a new response is like carving a path, cutting through the undergrowth with our machetes, going back and forth making sure it doesn’t get overgrown again. And as we do that the existing freeway is deteriorating and the new path is getting well-trodden. It is hard work. Because as much as we want to you can’t go from one response to another in a heartbeat. That would be like driving a 100km/h and trying to put your car in reverse. It doesn’t work. First you have to stop the car and then you can put it in reverse. The more speed you have, the more time it takes.
For some time now I have been at ground level, cha cha cha-ing between two walls with two different ladders. At certain moments going up one and at other moments going up the other. I am becoming really good at doing the cha cha cha and I am learning to appreciate how it goes back and forth. I am learning that going back and forth is a natural motion, that it can be a forward motion, that it can be an effective set point changer. When we see the steps backwards as a means of becoming even more aware of what we do want, then they become part of the dance instead of simply going in the wrong direction.
Stephen Covey made the analogy with regards to what we do with our lives. That did not work for me, as I was clueless to who I was. Understanding this analogy at the level of thought and energy has made so much more sense. I revel in understanding that you cannot go from one end of a continuum to the other in a single step, that a journey is very rarely linear, that we will relive every part of the journey as often as we need to to identify the thought that got us there, so we can practice a different thought, a better-feeling thought. And that it is in practicing better-feeling thoughts and getting used to the feelings that go with it, that we move forward. I am getting better at that every single day. I am getting that even the days that don’t feel like I am getting better at it are adding to this expansion. And understanding that makes all the difference.
I celebrate the journey that landed me here, because wow! what a journey that was. I am very excited about where I am now. I am neither impatient nor patient. I know the trajectory of my journey. And I am really looking forward to where I am heading, to climbing that new ladder and exploring new heights, anticipating every step. I have no clue what the view will be like, and I don’t care, because I know that this time I will be climbing the ultimate ladder, the Love ladder.
Image by Asif Akbar