Julia was raised by a single mother who loved romantic-comedy movies. Every Friday night they would go to Blockbuster Video (yes, those actually existed), pop a big bowl of popcorn, and settle in for ninety minutes of blunders, misunderstandings, and mistaken identities that always ended with a big love bomb of the warm and fuzzies. In real life, Julia watched as her mom went through a string of relationships. Some of them seemed to be okay for a while, but none of them ever stuck. The truth was, Julia never saw her mom as happy with one of her boyfriends as she was watching Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, or Freddie Prinze Jr. breaking, stealing, or winning the hearts of Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson, or Julia Roberts.
Now Julia’s forty years old and she’s never been able to make a relationship last for more than six months. It’s not for lack of trying. She’s personable, attractive, and has a successful career. She spent a couple of years in therapy where she explored her emotional patterns around witnessing her mother’s experience with failed relationships. She’s even come to terms with her own warped perception of romance based on hundreds of hours of Hollywood rom-coms. Nonetheless, every time Julia finds herself in a new relationship, no matter how well it’s going, there is always a little voice in the back of her head saying, “This just isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” As a result, Julia is not only ready to give up any hope of finding a meaningful relationship, she’s either overlooked or completely missed out on all of the good things about the relationships that she’s had. Julia is caught up in a cycle I call Processing. By constantly focusing on how she thinks things are supposed to be, she’s unable to see what’s right in front of her, and she’s constantly stuck in first gear. (Come to think of it, Julia sounds like a character in a romantic-comedy. Let’s get Reese Witherspoon on the horn.)
Similarly, as you travel down the path toward personal mastery, you might find yourself stuck in a cycle of Processing. The journey to personal mastery occurs in three stages, and we like to think of moving from one stage to the next as passing through a window. Stage 1 is Unconsciousness. It is here that we are simply going through life, lost in our patterns, believing that the world is simply happening to us. When we are in enough pain AND education and training are available to us, there is an opening to pass through the window into Stage 2: Awareness. It is here that we develop the ability and capacity to choose. We become aware of ourselves and our patterns and hone the tools we need to shift out of fear-based patterns. How we relate with Stage 2 will determine our results and whether or not we transition into Stage 3: Ownership. In Stage 3 we are committed and accountable, and persistent optimization is possible. However, people often get caught in Stage 2 and can stay stuck there for months, years, maybe even their entire lives. A lot of us get caught up in Stage 2 because we are Processing.
Ironically, Processing can set in even after you’ve already done a lot of good work. You’ve followed the curriculum, done the daily exercises, practiced your Inner Training. You’ve attended weekend programs and worked regularly with your IM Trainer. And you’re seeing results. You’re feeling fit and healthy, your relationships are improving, the career path seems brighter than ever. But there’s still that nagging voice telling you that things just aren’t the way you imagined they would be. Maybe you have no real idea of what things are supposed to look like, or maybe it’s crystal clear, based on some prior expectation. Either way, you’ve hit a wall on your journey and you’re starting to sour on the idea of pouring even more blood, sweat, and tears into this thing. And this is the point where I invite you to lean in.
If you’ve reached Stage 2 of the journey to personal mastery, it means you have learned to recognize your emotional patterns. You’ve learned to use your nervous system to manage and maintain your emotional state. You are creating your Vision. But you have yet to reach the level of Ownership and Accountability for your emotions and actions that occurs in Stage 3. It is only there that we begin to embrace the idea that there is no way things are supposed to be, there is only the way things are. Even with the fulfillment of Vision, there are still going to be things that don’t measure up to what we expected. There are always going to be things that are simply beyond our control. We cannot control what people do, how they feel, and what happens. But we can control what WE do and how we respond to the world.This is where we begin to shift out of Processing and into Stage 3.When we reach Stage 3 and continue to move through new windows of optimization, we learn to appreciate and embrace that which is right in front of us rather than hold onto old ideas of how we thought our lives were going to be. We become unburdened by our expectations and the who, what, when, where and how they're going to get met. We realize that not all our expectations are going to get met by one person, one relationship...and that's okay. This way, we're actually able to appreciate what IS there and what expectations ARE fulfilled. We are able to gracefully evolve our expectations, or the places they get met.
So don’t stop in the middle of the movie. Ben Affleck is about to get hit on the head for the second time, regaining his memory and realizing that the mousy girl in the cubicle next to him has been the love of his life all along! Oh, Ben. The path to Personal Mastery begins at the Power Series. Click HERE to learn more about our core curriculum and start your journey today!