It was dusk. The early autumn air was still warm and humid.
“I’d like to slow down,” I said.
“Are you going to walk with me or not?” she retorted.
That’s when I felt a subtle discomfort in the pit of my stomach, the slightest anxiety, and I thought I’ve got to make a decision right now. For me, in that moment, the pressure was on.
To me it was clear she was angry, her frustration continuing to build as she began walking increasingly more quickly.
I had an urge to slow down, to be with the sensations, to explore what was going on for me and for her. I wanted to connect more deeply and be real with what was happening.
But: I had to make a decision. I had to be decisive. That’s what men do! They make decisions right now!
Unfortunately, I made a quick decision to continue walking with her. And as we continued along the open city greenway through the park, a sinking feeling in my chest began to fester.
I brought this up to my life coach a few days later. He seemed surprised I had given this one situation so much thought. We talked about it, but didn’t come to any real conclusions.
I brought it up to him again the next week, still trying to digest what had happened. And even though we processed it quite a bit more, I still didn’t understand why it was bothering me so much.
Finally, after around 3 weeks, I realized why I was so obsessed with this moment and what I needed to learn from it.
See, to any stranger glancing at our exchange, there might have been to them nothing odd about a young man and woman having a polite although maybe quippy, short verbal exchange.
But for me there was a lot of sensation and confusion underneath the surface.
I continued walking with her. In fact, she and I continued to have a polite conversation for the next hour or so until our walk ended and we bid each other goodnight.
Even writing the words “polite conversation” makes me a little sick. Polite conversation is what you do when you’re in the doctor’s waiting room. It’s what you do when you’re not being real with each other, when it’s more comfortable to pretend, and you’ll probably never see that person again anyway.
Polite conversation isn’t what you do when you want to deeply connect with someone you really care about.
I’m not too big on polite conversation these days. I prefer real conversations, which, in other words, is meeting the other person at the depth to which they’re capable in a given situation. (It’s sometimes called meeting people where they’re at.)
This fateful night, the lesson I learned has continued to be, for me, so valuable.
Don’t rush a decision. When in doubt, pause. And get curious.
What I wanted in that moment was a deeper connection. I wanted to get her world. I wanted to know what was going on with her at a deeper level, what she was feeling, and mostly if she would be willing to show up and connect with me (even a tiny bit).
I wish that conversation had gone like this, “I’d like to slow down.”
She says, “Are you going to walk with me or not?”
I wish I would have replied, “I want to walk with you, however, would it be ok to ask you a couple questions first?”
If she had said “no,” then great! I would have turned around and gone home.
Obviously, she would not have wanted any real connection, and I would have been sad, but pleased that we had done the right thing instead of continuing with pretentious, polite conversation.
If she had said “yes” then, great! I would have asked about how she was feeling, if she were willing to slow down and let me know what was going on for her, if there was anything she needed or if I could support her in any way.
Imagine that difference.
But I had a rule: gotta be decisive, man.
This situation happened over a year ago, but the lesson has stuck with me ever since.
I’ve got a new rule now: when in doubt, slow down, pause and get curious. I’m still practicing this new rule.
Look, obviously, there’s a balance between analyzing the info and the whole “paralysis of analysis trap” that many people fall into as well.
(Surprise, it all comes back to “balance” again.)
My point in sharing this with you is because we all have these types of rules.
We’ve all got rules that we learned at whatever stage of development, and these rules are running the show until we become aware of them.
When we become aware of our rules, it’s a beautiful thing, because we can literally make a decision if we like that rule or not.
And if we don’t like that rule we can change it.
So how do you change a rule? Two steps:
1) Notice what your current rule is
2) Set a new intention and PRACTICE that new intention until it becomes your new, automatic rule
Ideas become intentions become rules become beliefs become habits become our life.
We can upgrade our life dramatically when we get really good at finding our old, out-of-service rules and practicing new intentions until they become the new, drastically upgraded rules.
What is an old personal rule you used to have that you no longer abide by? What did you change the rule to?
P.S. Becoming AWARE of your old, disempowering rules is the first step to becoming more fully ALIVE, and this process is powerfully catalyzed by a personal revolution self-discovery coach like me! For a limited time I’m offering 1-1 discounted sessions. Click the hyperlink “personal revolution self-discovery coach” for more info.