Towards the end of last year, I embarked on an apprenticeship in Native British Shamanism. I know it’s not something you hear about every day, but there were so many things that attracted me to to it. Above all, what intrigued me the most, was that it was that it would somehow teach me how to be more of service to others and to the planet. It felt like a bold step. One where I’d find myself in situations which would take me hugely out of my comfort zone and into the unknown.
I’m a a fan of the unknown, within reason. I like to feel that I’m continually learning and evolving as a human being. When I’m not, I feel frustrated and lacklustre. Day-to-day life loses a little of it’s magic.
Last Friday I went to the Do Lecture’s ‘Do Breakthrough’ session which was about the ‘magic of sorting your s*** out’. What stood out for me, amongst all the great content from that day (built around three pillars: emotional fitness, financial fitness, physical fitness), was the notion that we’re all waiting for the big thing to come along. That huge bolt of lightning change (hopefully positive) that will lift us out of our current way of thinking/life/situation and into one that will dramatically change our lives. Big effort out = reward, right?
Yet like all of us, I continually thwart the process. Not only because I like to retreat back to what I’ve always known i.e. my comfort zone, but it’s more so because it’s rarely how things work. Here is the reality:
Big change rarely happens
This was a big ah-ha moment for me last Friday. Hearing David Hieatt say these words resonated deeply. And as so often is the case with ah-ha moments, it wasn’t at all new to me, but it was the point that the penny finally dropped.
Change a little, change a lot
Last February I had a major knee operation which literally knocked me off my feet for six months and will continue to keep me from doing many of the things I love for at least 18 months more. And some, forever more. I walked with a limp for 9 of those months and only now, a year on, could I possibly contemplate running for a bus. Getting up every day at 5.15am to do, what appeared to me, an insignificant session in at the gym before work, felt pointless. Nothing was (or appeared to be) changing. Going to the physio twice a week, which took up huge amounts of time, also felt pointless. Nothing looked like it was changing. And in the process of telling myself this, I was demotivating myself even further.
Yet just when I needed it, I got the help I needed. It arrived in the form of a book, recommended to me by Benjamin P Hardy. It was called The Compound Effect and I’ve written about it because what I read mattered to me greatly. And if you’re still reading this, I think it will matter to you too. The book describes how small habits, over time, make significant changes.
Those little actions and decisions you take each day really do matter
And they matter significantly. Reading this, which at the time was a totally new concept to me, changed the course of my rehabilitation. I accepted the recovery timeframes and began to truly believe that every session I did, every walk I went on, was all contributing to my recovery. It was not, as I had previously believed, in the huge changes and shifts I would see in myself, but in the small ones that cumulatively built up over time. And where I had not noticed those changes before — I was blind to them — I now noticed. The shifts were subtle, but over time, became significant.
You see, as humans, we’re biologically wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We either don’t want to change, or we’re unwilling to, because of fearing the pain or fearing we can’t handle it. The changes we need to make often feel insurmountable, too big to deal with or even contemplate. The way out of this is to associate more pain with staying as we are, than we do to making changes we need to. It’s also to realise that if we just begin taking small steps, and keep taking them, we’ll get the results we’re looking for. It may take more time, but it’s better than waiting for something that may never happen. That’s because most of us procrastinate so much and make it such a big deal, that we never even get off the starting block.
And the more we follow this tried and tested method, the more we begin to notice the changes that are happening around us. For me, I began associating a greater pain with not going to the gym every morning, than going. In those first 9 months I told myself that just showing up and doing something, however small each day, was less painful in the long run, than having a lie in, or trying to block the whole thing out by working more and keeping my mind so busy it never had a chance to think.
These first few months of my apprenticeship have felt exciting, difficult and, well, a bit mad — all as I’d expected. Yet what I hadn’t expected, was that just like my knee injury, the greatest learning of all would come from what I’m unlearning, as well as noticing. Noticing the small things. There are lessons for us everywhere — all around us, as well as inside us — we just never notice. We challenge this in an amazing experience called Street Wisdom. I, like so many people around me, have spent much of life my being busy. So much of it accepting what people have told me as the truth, when it is not. We are bombarded with other peoples ‘truths’ in the newspapers every day. It’s interesting to notice that people still tell me to “be careful” when I tell them of the next steps I’m taking in my knee recovery — ways that I will step out of my comfort zone in order not just to improve, but get the best possible outcome. It was the same when we were young, heading off to school. Our mothers never said, “go for it, take a few risks, it’ll do you good!”. They say “be careful”.
All of this is a process of unlearning. It’s uncomfortable, it’s re-conditioning, it’s also astounding. Life is as much about taking risks as it is about staying in our comfort zone.
And once you begin to notice what for you, are key life lessons, they come thick and fast to reinforce the learning. Some small and seemingly insignificant thing you may do this week may have a profound effect on someone else’s life, if only you stopped to notice.
Notice now. And above all, notice the magic in the everyday things you do and things you say. It’ll change your life for the better. Forever.
Medium article on The Compound Effect: https://medium.com/@justclembo/perseverance-the-compound-effect-d852c4647f4b
Benjamin P Hardy: https://medium.com/@benjaminhardy
Do Lectures Do Breakthrough workshop: https://www.thedolectures.com/workshops/
A workshop I run with Hilary Gallo for organisations on fear called Fear Hack: https://thelifeadventure.co/workshop/fear-hack/