“Don’t half-ass it; you won’t have to wonder if the outcome would have been different,” Matthew McConaughey. I spoke the other week about thinking I had been putting in enough effort and learning that I HADN’T. I danced on the edges of the things I wanted to do, never committing to what I wanted to build, sticking with the safe route and doing what I was told. Then I would put in a little effort and expect big results. That my friends is not how it works. Once I had my ass physically handed to me—and not only survived, but thrived, I learned that I need to up my game on so many levels.
We live within self-imposed as well as societal limitations and develop these beliefs about what we can and can’t do early on. The societal beliefs are designed to keep us in line and the self-imposed ones are the result of any number of our fears. We become so afraid of expressing our identities because we feel we will either be ostracized or ridiculed that we give up the sense of who we are in favor of who we are told to be. Then we get glimpses of what we want to do and, for many of us, we simply shake our heads and say, “That isn’t meant for me,” and keep our heads down and stay within the confines we’ve created. For some of us we may start to put some toes out of line because we’re curious and we see it feels good but if it doesn’t all fall into place immediately we feel it isn’t for us and we revert back. For some, like me, we repeat this dipping of toes and running away for years.
I knew I wanted to take bigger steps into the ocean because staying on the shore felt awful. I could see my life happening to me and I felt myself making decisions like a trained monkey rather than as a mature adult with life experience. But I was naïve on the work it takes to fully bring that vision of life to actual life. I believed that if we wanted something it would just happen if we took those baby steps. I never realized that we would have to keep walking into the ocean until we couldn’t feel the floor anymore. That I might have to swim in order to get what I wanted. So I kept half-assing the steps I took believing it was enough and someone would build a ship for me. That is also not how it works my friends. You have to dive all the way in and learn to use the muscles you’ve never used before—full body commitment with arms flailing and legs kicking until you get it. You may choke on some water but you can’t learn without fully committing yourself to the effort. You’ll learn to keep your mouth closed and start moving your body through the water.
See, when we start getting curious about dipping our toes we start to remember the fear messages about staying on the shore. They won’t even tell you that we have the ability to swim, they just tell you about the sharks and the swells and the tides rather than showing you how to float and eventually move through the water. This is by design because they want you to serve their purpose, not your own. They want us to forget our power because we are far easier to control when we are on dry land than when we are out to sea. What they say is true: we may sink, we may get pulled under, and yes there are much bigger fish than us out there. But we have personal strength that will carry us as far as we need to go and we have the ingenuity to build a system to carry us even further if we need to. We just have to remember our power and we have to take the time to learn how to do it.
When we want change we will have to take the big leap and dive all the way in. We will have to cut away what we thought we knew and adopt new routines and new beliefs that match the life we are trying to create. If we want to be someone who gets something done then we need to learn to be someone who does something. Imperfect or disastrous, we have to learn that the actions we take will give us the foundation of who we want to be. We can’t start our own businesses if we stay stuck at our 9-5s or if we don’t do the research on how to run a business. That is a scary thing when we turn away from the perceived security we are shown working for someone else. But the freedom we garner by supporting ourselves is unlike anything else. Not only can you swim and support yourself, soon you’ll find you’re changing the tide.