Tick tock heralds the nearby clock. Here I sit, staring with intention and yet without focus. The gentle glow of my Macbook’s screen beckons me to caress its keyboard. Hesitation grips my hands and urges me to wait. Time: It is either our benefactor or our captor.
When conflict occurs the inclination is to react “in kind” to the intention of the “other” party. In other words, if the opposition exhibits aggression or attack, our immediate thought is to defend. Just because instinct implores us to follow its lead does not mean that it possesses a mandate. We always have the freedom to choose how to respond.
No one and nothing may usurp our entitlement to choose what power, if any, we grant to external sources to affect our state of mind.
The past couple of years presented more challenges than triumphs and more tears than smiles. Even so, I chose to “go kindly” through my life. You might say that I responded to each obstacle in “kind.”
By no means do I imply that I met these hiccups with passivity or denial. Responding in “kind” entailed me creating space for an outcome that is bigger than me. By meeting a situation or an individual, including myself, with a mindset of kindness, I released an investment in a specific result unfolding.
We all have preferences. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting something specific to occur. Disappointment and resentment develop however when what “is” deviates from what we hoped would “be.” Allow me kind reader to share an example with you to illustrate my point.
Several years ago I earned a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology with the intention to complete my doctorate soon after. However, a serious car accident and the ensuing injuries and recovery derailed my plans. As the passenger, I received the brunt of the impact from a 100-foot descent off the edge of the road above. It was nothing short of a miracle that I sustained only non-life-threatening injuries.
On the surface, I appeared “fine,” but the constant, searing pain beneath my scapula revealed the actual extent of the accident’s effect. Faced with a choice to push through the physical agony and go forward with school or to take a respite from my studies and focus upon healing, I chose to respond in “kind” towards myself.
The kind approach was to rest and receive assistance to recover on both physical and emotional levels. Denial of the trauma and the after-effects would only magnify the grip fear held within my mind. Only looking at my pain with the guidance of caring practitioners would allow me to transcend my suffering and return to “normal.”
Many well-intentioned friends and family members disagreed with my choice. They advocated continuing to pursue the doctorate. As I said the gravity of my injuries were not shown without the aide of medical imaging. My intuition implored me to trust my instinct to pause, but my rational brain tempted me to follow the advice of my “tribe.” I almost capitulated. However, a DO physician intervened with kindness. He asked me if anyone else had experienced the accident first-hand.
“No, of course not,” I said. “I am the only person who knows how I feel.”
“Exactly,” he said with a glint in his eye. “Therefore, only you should decide your next step.”
Letting Go Of Judgment
Comprehending the liberty his words provided me from the constant doubt and judgment I’d saturated myself with, I decided to defer the PhD. As I’ve mentioned before, kindness and judgment cannot coexist. As long as I chose a mindset of judgment, I denied myself the gift of kindness.
Recovery from the accident was not quick. If there was a form of healing, I attempted it. After a year of suffering, I finally received relief via the intervention of rehabilitative Pilates. Remembering how to be kind to my body was instrumental in the healing process. Integrating my knowledge of psychology along with the physiological aspects of Pilates inspired me to shift my career focus.
Instead of pursuing the PhD I received a certification teaching the only intervention that offered me physical relief from the pain due to the accident: Pilates.
Over the course of teaching Pilates I owned and operated several private studios and saw over 1000 clients for issues ranging from joint instability to pre and post surgical rehabilitation. As soon as clients learned of my graduate degree in psychology the focus of our conversations invariably shifted towards a mind-body connection.
Transitioning With Kindness
It was not uncommon for a client to start seeing me to strengthen his or her “core” and then to transition to an overall “coaching” mix of exercises and emotional intelligence awareness. The transition from “Pilates instructor” to “Mindfulness coach” was not forced nor preconceived: It evolved as a natural progression.
Even after all the success and referrals I received, a dip in business led me to revisit the notion of a PhD. My dream was to become an author and share the insights I’d gathered as a teacher about responding with kindness with the general public. My fear beckoned me to “finally legitimize” my work with the addition of a doctorate. No one except me believed that my credentials were insufficient. Yet, I rationalized that enduring success eluded me because I did not have enough letters after my name.
Sharing my desire to return to school, a friend, who is a noted PhD, asked me the reason behind my intention. “If I have a doctorate, the world will view me as an expert,” I responded.
“But Nanci,” my friend rebutted, “you are already an expert in your own truth. All of your past clients are testament to your skills. Once you believe in you, so too will others. Just start: Get your hands dirty and your feet wet. Write and you will see your actual value.”
Once again two choices faced me: Stay the course towards a PhD or pause and “reset” the direction of my career via writing. After much contemplation I concluded to respond in “kind” to myself by “becoming” what I’d already been “being:” A teacher of kindness. 30-some articles later plus a blog and being in the midst of authoring my first book, there is no doubt that I made the right choice.
If I had allowed fear of not being enough to dictate my decisions either after the car accident or last year, I would not be where I am today. Once I let go of needing to prove my worth to others by staying within the confines of their expectations, I received the freedom to be me without defense or apology.
Kindness was the mechanism that liberated me from living someone else’s version of my life. By creating the space to grant myself the grace of an “unscripted” career and non-predetermined route, I ended up being in exactly the right place at the right time.
Have courage to stand in your own truth and to respond to yourself in “kind” even if it deviates from the popular norm. There is no greater wealth to achieve than that of maximizing your own perceived self-worth.
Has there been a time that you wished you had followed the “unscripted” journey in your life? Or, if you did, what was the experience of responding to yourself in “kind?”
Please share your thoughts. All expressions of kindness are welcome here.
This post was originally published via LinkedIn