The one thing that will keep you sane while building your own (online) business
So here I am. Finally doing it. I’ve committed. I’m all ready to go. This year is my year.
I am taking action and it does feel good. I’m researching every day. Reading. Learning. Writing. Envisioning. Yes, meditating also. And Yoga of course! And I am going out connecting to nature. It’s all there. I’ve got it super clear in my head. I even have some cash (lucky me!) to invest in branding, websites etc.
And I feel like a fake.
I know I am not. But, you see, I work as an Embodiment Coach. I teach people how to be more alive to themselves. How to let their bodies breathe, release tension and experience more pleasure just because they’re alive.
And right now I don’t feel any pleasure. I’ve been in front of the computer most of the day. My shoulders are tight. My diaphragm is tense. I watch my clenched jaw and my tight shallow breathing. Right now my head is swirling with ideas of other people, of what I should do and what I shouldn’t. My brain is foggy. (on the screen of my mind there is this big red Warning Sign Flashing: ERROR, ERROR, ERROR, too much information!)
The most annoying of all is that I feel somewhat ‘screendrained’. It’s not a nice feeling. I don’t feel as connected to myself as I would like my Followers to believe. Oh, damn the followers. As I would like to see myself. Full Stop. I feel ordinary. Definitely not someone in a position of giving advice to anyone.
But here I am. Drinking my own medicine. How does the saying go? We teach what we ourselves have to learn the most.
Damn you mindfulness training. Damn you red pill.
Sounds familiar? (gee, I really DO hope I’m not the only one going a bit crazy learning all about content marketing etc!).
So here comes the walk the talk part.
Since there still is part of my brain that vaguely remembers what it is that I teach and preach! Yes, that’s right (I’m puffing up my chest here) I do have actually something valuable to offer.
Let me introduce you to what I like to call the ‘Insanity Loop’. It goes something like this: the harder you run, the less joy you feel, the more stressed you become, the harder you have to run.
or put it another way: The more you want it, the more you clench, the further it gets away, the more you have to clench, the further it gets away.
It’s of course neverending. That’s why it’s called ‘insanity loop’. It’s literally the donkey chasing after the carrot that’s always slightly out of reach!
You will never catch the carrot. For those of you who don’t see themselves as donkeys, here is the translation: it’s never going to be good enough. You will never get there. And if you’ve been in the game long enough, it may start to ring true.
Because, let’s be honest, why are we doing all this ‘Shit’? quick brainstorm:
happiness, contribution, meaning, reward, inspiration, money, financial freedom, recognition, enjoyment, connection (you continue the list for as long as you like)
All beautiful and valid things. Of course, we want them. Of course, we have to go for it. But who will decide when it’s done? Exactly. There is no amount of external rewards that will give us that internal feeling of satisfaction.
That’s not how Dopamine works. Dopamine says: it feels good and I want more. Which is great when the reward is there, but what if doesn’t come straight away? Or what if, because of some past trauma maybe, we are actually unable to receive it?
What we are looking for is: mhmm, it feels good and I had enough. I know when to rest and…(million dollar question!):
what’s the one thing that can help us get out of this ‘insanity loop’?
It’s an attitude shift. It’s the ability to not take yourself so seriously. Yes, your work is meaningful. Yes, you have to be committed, dedicated and on the ball. And at the same time, you have to be willing to let it all go.
All of it.
You know why?
Because eventually, you will die.
I get it, that’s a bit of a whammy right after Play, but without going too deep and philosophical, that is truly the one thing that will actually keep you sane.
Because death is a given, nothing really matters. And therefore EVERYTHING matters. It matters so much so that it’s too serious to become too serious about.
Every time I catch myself getting all tangled up in a knot and stressed, I think to myself what’s the worst thing that could happen? The answer’s always death. So if I seriously was going to die today, would I really get obsessed about my numbers of followers? Would I get serious about anything in fact? It’s more likely that I would laugh (probably quite hysterically) at myself for even considering it!
You can go as deep as you like in your musings, but the intention here is to not focus on death but on Play. Death was just the MC. It’s like God waving a red flag saying, remember? You have a limited time down there. Why don’t you enjoy yourselves, silly buggers!
Play allows us to explore beyond our boundaries without fear of failure. It allows us to make ‘mistakes’ and therefore make new neural connections. It allows us to actually enjoy the process.
When we are in ‘Play’ mode our brain is on a different wavelength. Literally. We see reality from a different perspective. We feel different. In fact, have you ever played and not felt lighter?
It’s because play takes us out of our self-obsession and the underlying ‘I’m not good enough’ into the present moment. That’s always a relief, hey?
Play releases a combination of Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, and Oxytocin. (Dopamine is not the bad guy, by the way, it’s just that it can be hijacked and then we lose sight of what is important). It literally turns you on and makes you happy. A big part of Play is simply to be curious. It’s not goal oriented. The reward is in the process itself.
The fun thing about Play is that you can play everywhere and with everything. You can play with your thoughts, your feelings, your body and with other people.
You can play with your imagination: You are sitting in front of your computer and suddenly you are on a rooftop with a beautiful view fantasizing about your business taking off. Or on stage giving your first TED-talk.
You can play with your feelings: I am feeling a little sad. Oh, that’s wonderful, let’s play with sadness! How does it make me feel in my body? What if I allow it to move me physically? What would it look like? Maybe I can add a bit of breath….mhmm, crazy thought: but can I actually enjoy my sadness?
You can play with your posture while sitting in front of the computer (Bowspring is great for that). You can play with your breath (What if I breathe deeply through my belly while working?) You can put your alarm on for every 20 min, get up, stretch and shake a bit.
Finding the balance between play, focus and direction, so it still feels like integrity, is like walking on a slackline.
First of all, it takes time. You have to practice. And you have to admit to yourself that you will fall off the line maaaaaaaaany times (i.e. get too serious) before you will even be able to make one step.
Yes, finding the sweet spot between play and productivity (aka responsibility) is something we need to learn. Why? Because we have years of ‘seriousness’ conditioned right into the marrow of our bones.
It’s like dusting cobwebs of our neurons. Adults don’t play. Look at my furrows of worry as Bill Hicks points out. (by the way, if you believe you are not playful by nature, well that’s simply BS. Playfulness is our natural state as watching children testifies.)
Second, you can’t be all stiff up there, you have to relax and breathe. But you can’t collapse yourself either. You can’t just say to yourself: it doesn’t matter, I don’t care. You’ll be off the line real fast.
If you’ve ever been on a slackline you know what I mean. It wobbles like crazy, the instinct is to contract and get all serious. Then you teach your brain to relax and to play, engaging different parts of you while staying focused on what matters. Getting from A to Z and having fun at the same time.
You can only play when you know that it’s a game. And hell, what a game it is!
Look at ALL what we get to experience! The myriads of different emotions: including our fears, insecurities, doubts. Our victories, joys, and love. We get to feel small and big. We get to be wise and totally oblivious. We get to feel and then to go numb. We see, we smell, we taste and touch.
We get to pretend we are someone we are not. We get to put all sorts of masks on (Me, the wise woman. Me, the loser. Me, the awesome writer. Me, the know-it-all etc.). We get to be the main actor of our own brilliant movie, and the director and production team all at the same time.
Hang on, the best of all: we get to play we are separate.
You reading these words and me typing them here, we get to play that we don’t know each other. It’s almost like a little courtship between us:
I write (a love-letter to your soul this is), you read and maybe there is a click. Chemistry, bang! We are on. Maybe you press clap and follow at the end of this date and then it can turn into a long term relationship. Who knows what happens from there! Like any new relationship, it’s exciting. There are some butterflies in my stomach. There is the possibility of rejection. And the opportunity of connection, of Intimacy (Into-me-see).
The beauty about Play is that you, and in this case me, can just try it out and see.
Does it really matter? Of course not, I’m dead tomorrow and this article will disappear in the vast oceans of writers all trying to court each other.
How do I feel writing right now? I feel alive! I feel excited about doing something new. About bouncing my edges. About seeing my folly of seriousness and having a little play with you. I am having FUN.
So my dear Me, cleverly camouflaged as You. I hope if you’ve gotten so far, to have brought a little smile on your face. Maybe your shoulders are a bit more relaxed and you took a deep sigh of relief. Maybe you even had a giggle, thinking: silly me, how could I forget! Maybe, now you will stand up, shake yourself like a wet dog, do a stretch, and smile to yourself, thinking:
F*ck, it’s great to be alive. What a trip!
Maybe you will even feel to leave me a note at the bottom, just to share how it’s all going. Maybe you will do none of that and that’s totally fine too.
But of course, the best gift ever would be. You going to the mirror, looking yourself in the eye saying:
You are doing really great. I love you.