How to cut off your hand, and other ways to develop your mindset
The more I experiment with twists and turns on my life path, the more obvious it becomes that radical changes like to take their sweet time. More than they actually need. A slow start is a strong start, and not only for those who like to go through life slowly. This is evidently the only approach to making a complete U-turn on your life’s course.
It seems paradoxical, but consider this example: an aircraft carrier takes a long time to get going. This is a highly mobile military unit – a huge machine capable of carrying dozens of aeroplanes and other equipment – that can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. Yet, before every turn it has to slow right down, just like any other vehicle, otherwise it risks not handling the turn.
If you’ve learned to accelerate safely and cruise through life at a steady high velocity, then you’re doing well, but to change direction at the same speed is dangerous. It’s vital to slow down in order to embark on new paths of progress in your life and move into a new lane – as opposed to getting flustered and swerving off into a nearby ditch.
What exactly is happening at this moment of change? And how can you help yourself through this transition?
Some aircraft carriers are heavy military vehicles, and others are light, nimble boats. Each requires a different approach to a turn, with different timing and different resources, and each requires a captain with a different level of experience. In some ways, a smaller boat will be easier to steer, but the laws of physics apply to all vessels.
So how do you work out if you’re a large vessel or an easily manoeuvrable little boat? What makes one life easily adaptable to change, where others might struggle?
A person’s commitments are often easy to see from first glance. You might have a family, and stable job, a house, kids, a hamster and heaps of belongings – but that doesn’t mean it’ll be harder to make a change. If anything, it is easier. Of course, it seems simpler to make a decision or a change if you are single and childless, and yet once a woman has tied herself to these very dreams she was naively chasing, everything changes.
And wouldn’t it be lovely if this were a beautiful and neatly defined conclusion? One that would be so much easier for our minds to process than the truth… if only it weren’t for the fact that at present I have no kids, baggage or even furniture to speak of. What I do have is a job that I’m able to do from any corner of the world, and which, truth be told, I can have a month-long holiday from whenever I choose. Yet, despite all this, I still find I’m the heaviest vessel, going at the slowest pace, with a volume that would be the envy of the US navy – well, I was made in Russia, after all!
Radical changes force me to adopt a pace that is very slow and totally unusual for me
And that’s ok. Before me I see beautiful, successful people, not constrained by family responsibilities, men as well as women, in exactly the same situation. And despite all this so-called freedom, they can’t just up and change things all that easily, even if they wanted to. They can’t just suddenly deviate course and switch to a new lane. And yet somehow, on the other hand, there are mothers who travel to Sulawesi with their tiny offspring in hand, mothers who open businesses, move house and then come back, still managing to breastfeed around the clock, seeing as it’s so important in the first two years. Most impressively of all, their breasts barely even seem to sag!
And no, I haven’t fallen into the trap of social networks, which try to slyly refute the first Noble Truth of the Buddha by claiming that life is all happiness and smiles. I understand that these women’s lives are not quite as carefree as they might appear on Instagram.
And yet you’d think that with such commitments, it would be harder for these women to change lanes. Much harder! They should be handling their turns much, much more slowly than their single counterparts. But this is clearly not the case. Somehow, those of us who are ‘free’ by conventional standards can’t seem to do anything, while those with family responsibilities can manage it all. The reason for this difficulty lies elsewhere.
The speed necessary for your realignment is defined by your mental adaptability, which in turn is conditioned by the beliefs you hold. The more fixed beliefs, attitudes, insights and conclusions a person has, the harder they will find it to readjust. The reason is simple: in order to adapt to a totally new level, in order to make a drastic change in life, you have to be ready to change some of those existing beliefs. And, strangely, along with the beliefs that were holding you back, you may also need to let go of (careful now!) the beliefs that previously helped you to progress and develop. If you do not, you simply cannot make that change.
Of course, this is can be extremely hard to come to terms with. It is so hard to reach that new level, or even continue at your usual speed sometimes, with all your old baggage and a set-up that might have been useful in the past. As a result, you might ‘overheat’, make mistakes, and struggle to keep your rhythm, while taking just one little step forward, at best. Slowing your speed right down will allow you to look inside yourself and locate the beliefs you need to change in order to move towards new horizons.
This is no easy task, I can tell you right now. There are no tricks or shortcuts I can offer. Bear in mind that not everyone is meant to change their lane. Most people spend their lives in the same lane they were born into; this is a fact of life and nothing to be ashamed of.
This kind of transition is available only to those able to think critically and reflect on themselves and the conclusions they have come to. Cutting off your own hand is a practically impossible task, and yet there are examples of climbers who’ve saved their own lives by doing so. Cutting off an element of your world view is essentially the same idea.
A little theory
A conviction is something we believe in. Each conviction comes with its own level of depth: from superficial to profound. Most important are our deepest convictions that live on the boundary between our conscious and unconscious minds. Some of them we are not even aware of, but can come out in our words and actions from time to time. Our deepest convictions are what create our overall experience and thus our entire life. They govern us. Literally.
Consequently, there are beliefs that pull us upwards, which are helpful, and those that drag us down and hinder us. There are also internal convictions that are conflicting, that we are not even aware of, which can lead to self-sabotage. I’ve written about convictions in more detail, and how they can define the parameters of our lives, here, here and here. I also look closely at this issue in the article Marathon 42.
So, does that mean that in order to make that change, you also have to change some of the convictions that inspire you? Possibly even those which at one time helped you?
Here’s an example:
Business: you start up your own project all by yourself. In order to start making a profit, your initial costs must be minimal. Fortunately, we live in the internet era, where you don’t necessarily need an office space or permanent staff. At first you can do everything yourself, which helps to keep your overheads to a minimum. You’re both the boss and the cleaner, in charge of strategy and operations, as well as planning for the year, keeping on top of accounts, coming up with a brand name, and even delivering the goods to the client. You do it all. You’re the one cleaning the toilet, seeing as you’re working from home in your underwear. Evidently, it’s a winning strategy, as so many people start up this way these days. There are more and more online shops, people writing blogs etc. This is how I started, in fact. Getting the name out there, making the first sales, getting re-posted for the first time, establishing returning clients, and boom – first profit, meaning money that could be allocated to setting up a team of staff.
But is it necessary?
In those first two years, you do everything yourself, you start to get the hang of it all and find your groove. Any money you earn goes straight into your own pocket. Having a team of staff means more fuss and expenses, and dealing with the fact that you could probably do a better job yourself. Is it bad to feel this way? The conviction that “I can do it all myself” has probably helped you in the past, right? In fact it’s probably this very conviction that pulled you onwards and upwards, isn’t it? Of course it was! Moreover, if you hadn’t been willing to get your hands dirty with the smaller issues in the beginning, then you might have recruited people straight away, with no idea of how to pull the cart forward at all. The business would never have gathered momentum and the whole project would have fallen through. This is a conviction that has motivated you and worked for you. However, if you want to grow and develop your business and introduce new products and projects, this conviction will hold you back. Being bogged down in the operational side of things will stop you from moving forward. Then again, it might be that you don’t need to move forward. In the nineties, a lot of people in Russia started out with kiosks and corner shops, and yet very few have ended up with a chain of hotels, supermarkets and shops – most of the little kiosks are still going and haven’t changed, providing they survived the economic crisis.
My outgoings for staff this month amount to about 111,000 roubles ($1,700), although I could have saved this expense and chosen to do everything myself, just like I used to. But would I have experienced the same kind of rapid growth? It’s funny to think, but back when the same sum was equivalent to $3,000 today, this was my financial ceiling throughout my seven-year career. In the end, we’re all playing a game of numbers with the universe.
It’s well known that the first step in a small business is handling all the operations yourself; the second stage is to find good administrators. Your conviction at the first stage will ensure significant growth for your business, but the same conviction at the second stage will become an obstacle. If you remain unaware of this and move forward with this restriction, you’ll stay in the same kiosk all your life, until it is too late.
Of course it’s easier to give business examples. Facts and figures are measurable and more easily understandable, whereas personal convictions regarding the world, ourselves, our relationships and love are much more subtle to define and measure. We each have our own insights and are each capable of making mistakes.
At one time I, too, was infected with stories of femininity, which women longing for love are often susceptible to. Femininity meant long flowing skirts, following the cycle of the moon and reading the Vedas, or rather, the condensed versions that are so popular among contemporary authors. If you followed these rules, you’d find happiness: your knight in shining armour, so to speak. I remember it started in Bali. I tried something new, and in an effort to continue living this way, I moved back to Moscow with this mindset.
I was sitting and working on the conception of this project about a month before its launch. I had gnawing thoughts, like how business-obsessed I had become, sitting there, plugging away, nurturing my business, barely leaving the house. How could such an obviously non-Vedic woman expect to see any improvements in her personal life? I started to feel sad. And that’s exactly when my work began to pay off.
And just then, a thought flashed through my mind:
“What the hell? I mean, seriously. What bullshit. I have always been business-minded, energetic and entrepreneurial. I’ve been this way ever since I was 19 and I like it. I’ve always been STRONG, despite my many fears. It was this very strength that pulled me forward, despite my fears, to move countries, find a good job and always create new things. And yes, damn it, I’m proud of my experiences and my courage when it comes to change. This is exactly how I want to be. And this is the only way I can achieve what I want: this project.”
And you know, at that moment I made the conscious decision to allow myself to be strong: to be a woman that does things for herself – completely in charge. And I donned a pair of jeans that I would wear for the whole year.
Moving to a new level and all the most radical changes require that you change some of your deepest convictions, the ones that have inhibited you for years as well as those which at one time served you faithfully. You’ll only become aware of them as you continue on your course, like obstacles in the road obstructing you as you move along your chosen path. This is exactly why you should adopt a slower pace and take extra care when making a change that will affect your destiny: be reactive and aware of any out-dated convictions you may still be keeping on your internal shelves.
If you only have a few deep convictions, you’ll be able to change lanes quickly and smoothly. If you’re someone who needs to work hard on adapting your own mindset, then changing lanes may require a little more time. Either way, a slow pace must be steady and constant. It can be tricky: your results might not be visible at first, and in some cases, you may even take a step backwards, but then you risk not making progress at all. Don’t go too fast either. It’s like climbing a mountain: it’s better to gain altitude gradually, allowing your body to acclimatize. You might feel physically strong enough to go faster, but if you rush halfway up the mountain you risk getting altitude sickness, which might force you back to the beginning. Worse still, this might then inadvertently create a fear of failure that will prevent you from trying again. Hello frustration!
Unrealized potential is painful.
If you don’t slow down and try to change lanes at your usual speed, it’s unlikely you will do any harm. The option exists, but our minds tend to have a built-in fuse that will not allow it. If your old convictions don’t correspond to your new life situation, you simply will not allow yourself to make this transition. You are, after all, your own guardian and overseer.
Any new stage requires reassessment. This isn’t a contradiction; it’s part of the transition process. Either you stay in the same lane with the same specific backdrop of colours, moods and mental reactions, or you shift over to the next stage through a radical change. You need to pluck up the courage to risk losing your understanding of the world, however vivid it may be, carefully woven together as it is from the threads of your deepest beliefs.
Fear of change is stupid – you risk living without it!