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Stories that keep us small

I am so tired. I am exhausted. I can't do it.

This is what we might say from time to time, and that's great to acknowledge and take action on. However if you find yourself saying this often, to yourself, your colleagues, and/or anyone else who will listen then you could be in a mind-trap.

These repetitive thoughts can have a powerful influence on the way we live our lives. They keep us small, stop us taking on challenges, make us scared of trying something new or different, hold us in a loop of shame. We just keep doing what we have always done and that drains our motivation and enthusiasm... eventually everything becomes too hard.

I am a teacher, and I know it can be an incredibly challenging role and one that has gotten significantly more complex over the years. I remember when I started teaching thirty years ago, I decided I would keep working with the same age group until, and I quote, "I got really good at it". After seven years I realised that there was always going to be more to learn, more that I could do and there was no actual finish line or penultimate pinnacle of success. That could be soul-destroying or soul-freeing depending on your perspective I guess. For me, it gave me licence to continue to learn and grow. The more I have learned the more I realise I want to learn. The longer I have taught the more I realise that the art of teaching is continually evolving with each new class I teach. Did I get tired? You bet! Did I sometimes feel drained and exhausted? Absolutely! Does that mean that I was tired, drained and exhausted all the time? Not at all, and that's important to remember.

We are continually narrating our lived experience, often we aren't really aware that we are doing it. We label experiences, feelings, ourselves, other people. Our life is a story and for many of us our work is an important part of that story. What we say to and about ourselves and our experiences influences the plot of the story we tell ourselves and therefore how we show up in the world. When I define myself as being tired, drained and exhausted often, my brain will take the hint and this will shape the stories I tell myself... not only the stories about what has happened, but those about what is happening now and worst still the stories about what is to come. Motivation wanes in the face of this. When motivation is waning our energy and drive spiral downwards too. Then guess what... you get more of what you probably don't want. Everything feels hard. You miss out on the joy and wonder. You end up tired, drained and exhausted. This is powerless and yuck! And it breaks my heart to see this happening when it doesn't need to.

To be honest at the moment I am feeling a little overwhelmed (important distinction, I am not overwhelmed but I am feeling overwhelmed). When faced with the sensation of being overwhelmed I often procrastinate... getting busy on the inane in an attempt to feel a sense of control, it's futile but it gives me something to do right? Like the old saying about sitting in the rocking chair, it doesn't get you anywhere but it gives you something to do. The good news for me is that I know I have a choice in how I describe my experience, and how I narrate my world impacts not only me but those around me. So I am choosing to acknowledge that I feel overwhelmed, but not letting that define me. I can feel overwhelmed and be capable, kind, committed, enthusiastic, self-caring, funny and connected at the same time. In that I can find motivation. I can focus on taking one step towards where I want to be, and then the next and the next and the next. While I am taking these steps I can also choose to find the joy and wonder in each day and be grateful for that. Even in the dark sky the stars pierce it with their little light (which is actually a massive burning ball of intense fire... the enormity of space is incomprehensible for me and if nothing else I can always rely on that for a sense of awe and wonder!)

I guess what I am trying to say is that what I think our world needs more of is motivated, enthused, positive, and passionate people sharing their gifts. We all have a flame inside ourselves but we need to be careful that we don't inadvertently douse it with the stories we are telling ourselves. If you are feeling tired, rest, please rest... but don't let that hold you down in a place of misery, and know that you are so much more than tired. You are holding the pen, you are writing the story, so how are you going to show up in the world now?

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