One of the phrases we live by at Remarkable Women is ‘I create my life’. For us it’s at the core of how we show up each day. Understanding that there are always infinite choices in front of us and it’s how we consciously make those choices that shape the way in which each and every day unfolds.
We are unaccepting of the idea that life does it to us, or that there are things we ‘must do’, whilst absolutely recognising that our mind will lead us into that trap several times a day if we allow it to.
The real truth is that no-one can make me pay my mortgage. If I choose to miss every client appointment in my diary today, that’s my choice. It’s up to me whether I eat chocolate for breakfast alongside a glass of wine and whether I go to bed at 7pm, 11pm or 4am. I might believe that there’s a way I ‘should’ live my life, but in each and every moment I’m making a choice. I’m creating the day that unfolds before me (don’t you think it’s a tiny bit curious that we broadly choose almost exactly the same thing every day when there are so many options in front of us?).
It’s all made up
This life pattern you have created for yourself is almost certainly the product of your environment, your family origins, your social demographic. And it’s all made up.
I say that a lot.
In return I see a lot of women nodding at me sagely, but I know you don’t get it yet.
How do I know? Because you carry on doing what you’ve always done like there are no other options.
Tiny tweaks here and there. Another little treat or an extra day’s holiday booked as if that’s the ultimate in creating our lives. Entirely missing the point that in your hands, and more importantly, your head, are a million other ways to live.
And so we fall into this story that says, ‘Here are the things I want in my life. Hopefully I will get to have them one day. Maybe in 10 or 20 years time. For now, I need to do all the things that I don’t want to do (or am OK with doing, because they seem to be the best of the choices available to me) so that I can have them later’.
It’s a strange old way of being.
Next you tell me, ‘but I like what I do!’ and I hear you. Except what I know to be true, at least for most of us, is that when you get out of the Vortex you have created, you will be astonished at what you are tolerating as the only way.
And right now, in this year above any other, you have actually SEEN that the way you have lived for a very long time is totally made up.
Let me illustrate with a conversation I had just today. With a brilliant woman explaining to me what it’s like to now have a job with no commute.
She explained to me that her 6.30 train to get to London used to involve a wake-up time of 4.45am. Now she gets up hours later. To do similar, if not the same work that she used to do before.
Looking at me with wide eyes she exclaimed, ‘I have no idea how I used to do it’.
I smiled. ‘You did it, because you believed you had to’.
We do a lot of things because we believe we have to
Because most of us are smart, independent human beings, we have found a way to love, or at least like the things we think we ‘have’ to do. So much so that in many ways we have kidded ourselves that we like it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It feels like the best way to reconcile to the stuff we have decided simply has to be the way it is.
It’s a great strategy in many ways, except for way it closes down possibility.
Because we have decided this is the way it must be, our mind stops searching for solutions. It folds into behaving in the way our particular pocket of society says things must be done around here. We accept, tolerate, create around.
But it’s all made up
I listened to Glennon Doyle do a podcast on beauty recently. She talked about an astonishing thing that I had never actually noticed before. I’m paraphrasing, but I think I’m doing it justice:
‘Isn’t it amazing that half of the World gets up in the morning and decides to brazenly show their face, as it actually is, to the World, and the other half wakes up knowing their face is not good enough and proceeds to decorate it with all the colours?’.
To be clear, this isn’t a blog about beauty standards and feminism (I’ll save that one for when I find myself on that particular soap box), but there in that brilliant sentence, is another of the millions of places where we find ourselves conforming to made up societal rules. In this one, that women look their best when they have painted their faces. We’ve heard it so many times that tonnes of us, including me, believe it. Even though I know it’s made up and can’t possibly be true, I can still hear the voice in my head (of Susannah and Trinny if you’re old enough to remember them) telling me I’m not complete without mascara and some jewelry. As a belief, it seems to have infiltrated my bones.
Everywhere you look, we are living with made up rules.
Here are a few to whet your appetite:
- 9-5 is a made-up thing (as is Monday – Friday working).
- 25 days holiday (or whatever your equivalent is) is a made-up thing.
- Working till retirement and saving for all the things you want to do then is a made-up thing.
- HR departments are made-up things.
- Key Performance Indicators are made-up things.
- Economic systems that favour some people over others are made-up things.
- Pink for girls and blue for boys is a made-up thing.
- Letting a boss tell you what to do is a made-up thing.
- Salary banding systems are made-up things, as is not disclosing your salary to other people.
- Deciding that a formal grievance process is over because a policy says it is, is a made-up thing (I have a LOT to say about this one).
- Ironing clothes is a made-up thing (and whoever made it up needs a word).
- Pizza Fridays are a made-up thing (even though I love them).
I could do this for hours. I’m hoping you get my point at least a tiny level.
We are complying with all kinds of things ALL of the time. Even those of us with the strongest rebel tendencies (and believe it or not, despite what I’m writing here, I’m not much of a rebel at all.).
You have absolute agency over where you put your time, who you spend it with and what you create.
I’m not suggesting for a minute that you abandon all the rules
I’m no fan at all of the chaos of anarchy. In many ways I think it’s helpful for us to have systems and structures that make our lives simpler, rules of play that help us to be in harmony with each other.
What’s not so useful is when we forget that it is our constant choice to be in those systems and that there will be literally thousands of other people choosing alternative ways. The country of your birth is for sure, defining more about the shape of your life than you think. Your family of origin is doing the same, as is the media you choose to consume. We are being primed with ways of being everywhere.
What I am suggesting is that this life, the one you have created, in many ways without conscious decision, has way more levers for you to play with than you can imagine is possible.
And that’s good news for those of us who want to dial up our impact and make a difference around here. It’s good news because maybe we could do that without having to burnout and wear ourselves down, maybe instead of cramming more in, we could in fact do less and be more focused.
Maybe we could create a life that is less about ‘tolerating now’ in favour of ‘jam tomorrow’.
Maybe (and I know this is radical, but bear with me), we could even have a life where we have so much space to re-energise and refuel AND do the important things, that we don’t have to do that thing every Christmas Eve where we keel over with exhaustion.
Maybe there is ANOTHER WAY.
Any Way You Want
I had a brilliant conversation with my husband recently.
‘I have to take my hat off to you, Danielle’ he said with a smile. ‘I think I’ve spent the last five years mansplaining how to run a business to you, because I just couldn’t envisage the things you and Nic were talking about. I couldn’t imagine a world where you could be successful whilst breaking so many of the standard rules. I thought you were naïve, foolish. And yet here you are, with a way of doing business that most could only dream of’.
We talked for at least an hour about all the experiments we had run around here – the ones that failed as well as those that had succeeded. The fact that we abandoned mailing lists when ‘all’ the leading strategies said that was where our attention should be (truth? We have no idea how many people are on our list, we simply don’t look). The fact that we chose never to tailor our work for large organisations and that our pricing point for Remarkable Leadership is largely built around the desire to never get in a big pitch process with a procurement, finance or HR team (no offence to any of you working in those departments, and I know you know what we mean). The fact that our business is more and more built on the idea that ‘most things make no difference at all’ and the fundamental belief that we will not spend our time doing things we don’t want to do, whether they make money or not.
You see, our lives have become lives of constant questioning in an exciting, powerful way.
Of realising that just because we don’t know HOW to do something, does not mean it can’t be done.
Of noticing more and more that sometimes you can just stop doing something that you made up was really important to other people and they don’t even notice.
Because in the end, everything is made up.
Which means that if you’re sitting there doing something you’re not that fussed about so that one day you can do the things you really want to, it might well be worth asking a different question.
‘What if there was a way and I just haven’t found it yet?’
And then staying in that enquiry until the new insights arrive.
Because the only real limitations on your life are your imagination and the voice in your head that tells you you can’t.
We happen to believe you can.
With a little creativity, curiosity and sense of possibility.
CREATE your remarkable life.