In his famous poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost contrasted two possible life paths—the common one, and the other "less traveled by" which is a lovely contemplation of our choices in this world. We would like to propose three different and much less poetic choices: Stumble and Grumble, Conscious Acceptance, and Commitment to Change.
Stumble and Grumble
Admittedly, it is hard to drum up a lot of enthusiasm for a Stumble and Grumble approach based on the name alone, but there are some things to recommend it. First of all, it's good to acknowledge that sometimes this is where we are with things. When we don't know, we often stumble, and it's how we explore, learn and grow. Alternatively, if we are distracted, overwhelmed, or unfocused, we stumble. It happens. Planning doesn't always work either, and a passion-based stumble may be preferable to a lackluster, dutiful plan.
The grumble part may be a bit harder to embrace, but grumbling does let us (and others) know when things are not working on some level. It may signal emotional pain, despair, limits, or helplessness. Grumbling may keep us in touch with things that we are not ready to accept or change. Repeated grumbling means we still haven't dealt with it, and perhaps we don't yet have the resources or support to make a shift. If we didn't grumble we might do something worse, like fall asleep to a part of our life.
The downsides of stumbling and grumbling are more obvious. It can be hard to be inspired and ride a positive flow of energy while bumbling along and grousing about it. It can become monotonous and off putting, an oatmeal way of being.
All in all, Stumble and Grumble has its role, and is a likely, if not an inevitable, part of our lives at times. But as a modus operandi, it is definitely limited and limiting
Acceptance is not as popular in Western culture as it is in other parts of the world. Many here see it as an un-empowered, fatalistic, or wimpy choice. It wasn't until we had worked with Systemic Constellation for a while that we understood the transformative power of acceptance. By coming to terms with things as they really are, we become much more grounded, and all the energy that goes into avoiding, denying, reacting, and rationalizing is released. Eventually there is profound peace and a spaciousness that comes through the gentle act of acknowledging what is.
Not only is this a wonderful feeling, it is the basis for clarity. When we are able to clearly see, knowing what to do (or not do) becomes obvious. Paradoxically, acceptance is also helpful in dealing with ambiguity. To accept that you don't know, that this isn't the time, that things are not clear, can be very helpful, and often the most appropriate way to hold something. Paradox #2 is that sometimes acceptance is a necessary precursor for contemplating other options and possibilities, including change.
Commitment to Change
Committed is the emphasis here. Commitment doesn't mean effort, it means deciding wholeheartedly that things will change. The act of deciding is done with your head, which is helpful, but more critical is the state of your heart. It is really that part of us that calls the shots in the end, which is why we say change requires wholehearted decision making. Once you commit in this way, the process of change begins because you have changed.
There are some guidelines and techniques for making shifts in your life, and it is useful to learn the ones that work for you personally. What keeps you motivated? What size steps do you prefer to take? What support and resources do you need? And one that many of us forget, what does success look like? At some point we may no longer need to make a conscious commitment because the shift we were seeking has become an integral part of who we are, or we have achieve our goal (in which case we shimmy over to conscious acceptance), or the specific change is no longer relevant. It is important to stay current with our commitments and to have the presence to let go of them when they no longer serve us.
What we are describing is not three separate or static paths, but rather three possible steps in the dance of life. Sometimes we fall into one, choose the other, and then move into yet another. They are each possible in every moment, and the point is to wake up to them as choices, and of course, to keep on dancing.
In what areas are you Stumbling and Grumbling? Is that still serving you? If not, decide if moving into Conscious Acceptance or Committed Change would be A) possible, or B) preferable.
Over the next week, use the illustration below to become more conscious of what you are choosing. What do you discover?
Wishing you much joy as you dance on down the road!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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