As a mother, I am licensed to worry.
As a contributing editor on MilSuccessNet, I now also worry about all the military men and women I’ve gotten to know in person, by phone or via social media conversations. And I worry about the many service members at large because now I understand more about the depth of your military experiences. As I record or report individual stories, I also know your challenges when you transition into civilian roles at home and in your communities. That’s why I worry.
I feel you are vulnerable to:
1. Being overworked due to your ‘get ‘er done’ work ethic in a marketplace where supervisors and colleagues may be all too happy to let you deliver on tasks to the standards and expectations you applied to your military duties.
2. Demanding so much of yourself that, you never feel ‘enough’ in aspects of your life and work… or at least, take a long time to re-jig your measurement of where you are great and good enough.
It’s a topic of conversation at team MilSuccessNet. It can all be overwhelming if we submit to the machine, without checking in with ourselves, regularly. So, dear readers, we’re kicking off upcoming articles with this conversation.
Welcome Bob Beverley, a friend Nate, Marius and I all met at the same time and whose words both inspire and comfort when his Ezine, The Dig appears in our inbox, weekly.
Monday then is a great day to pause and read Bob Beverley’s reflection from The Dig. A psychotherapist of more than 25 years experience in New York State, he shares installment #9 from his series POWER and an idea on how we can show up for the rest of the week, or for the rest of our lives. Read more about Bob in Words on Wednesdays, and for now…..in his own words…
POWER (9) “You can only do so much.”
There is a part in your brain that does not believe for one second that you can only “do so much.” This part has little to no sense of time, priorities, perspective, or vulnerability. It is called “Grandiosity” and this part of you will always ask for more, want more, demand more, sneakily seduce you to go after more, and all this more, more, more will eventually leave you feeling defeated, tired, exhausted, anxious and wondering what hit you as you lay awake in the night feeling like a colossal failure.
Not colossal as in you forgot to pay the mortgage for six straight months, but colossal as in the cumulative effect of the thousand little failures that you feel because you can’t keep up with grandiosity, though the grandiose part of you will tell you that you can keep up, and that which is vain in you will agree. Is pride another word for grandiosity, or are they kissing cousins?
Grandiosity does not see the beauty of our ordinary humanity, how lovely we are just in our mere unique presence on this earth. Grandiosity always holds the carrot in front of us, and if we ever grab the carrot, we hardly ever get to taste it, because we are on to the next carrot. Or it should have been a bigger, better carrot.
And so we are never pretty enough, handsome enough, smart enough, productive enough, holy enough, and, ironically, well-rested enough. I read this week that Robert Redford never liked the looks of himself on camera and I thought of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and I thought heaven help us all.
Heaven help us indeed, especially if we come from an academic background or have a wide, renaissance like interest in things. In that case, at any given moment in our lives, the amount of things that we casually hope to do in a week combined with the amount of reading that we nonchalantly expect to do, can brew an almost perfect storm of mounting pressure, ripples of anxiety, and a slight undertow of feeling behind and pulled further out to sea in the ocean of information available at our fingertips.
How can we safely swim in such waters?
Let’s try an experiment.
I just walked upstairs to my bedroom wherein stands about half my library, and on my night table lies the batch of reading that (if I don’t think about it) I’m expecting I will complete fairly soon. Except it would be more accurate to say “somewhere in the vicinity of my night table” and “not in this lifetime” because my list of anticipated book and magazine reading includes, upon examination, 13 issues of The Atlantic, 15 of Esquire, 14 of The Sun, 32 issues of The New Yorker, 13 issues of Psychotherapy Networker, 13 issues of The Christian Century, 6 issues of Spirituality and Health, 6 issues of Fast Company, 3 issues of Wired, 9 issues of Details, 55 marketing magazines from various gurus such as Kevin Hogan, Dan Kennedy, Eben Pagan, Ali Brown and Mike Filsaime, 1 issue of Men’s Health, 1 Buddhist magazine called Tricycle, and 1 issue of Utne and Scientific American Mind each devoted to sex. Save the best for last.
Except we’re not done.
We haven’t even got to the books, oh yes, the books, piled high on my night table, which tallies up to 3 marketing books, 3 books on Power (to be read for this current Dig series), one book on magic called “Fooling Houdini” and Mitch Albon’s “have a little faith,” 4 novels, 5 memoirs including “The Lost” by Daniel Mendelssohn which Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame praised in the Times Book review as the best book of the last decade, James A. Beverley’s “Mormon Crisis: Anatomy of a Failing Religion” (a plug for my brother, my cut assumed), a delightful book on relationships called “Committed: Men Tell Stories of Love, Commitment, and Marriage” edited by Chris Knutsen and David Kuhn, and, finally, just for our amusement and sense of irony, a book on hoarding called “Stuff” by Randy Frost and Gail Stekete, a book called “Focus” and, of course, drum roll, please, “Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety” by Daniel Smith.
How did you feel reading the above? Would you email Mr. Smith and tell him where the monkeys live, in the zoo next to my bed? Did the curious, wants to learn more part of you jot down some of those magazines and books so that you can swim to Amazon and order some of those beauties for yourself? Don’t you already have enough magazines and books of your own? How would you feel if you slept next to this ocean of material, other than you are in the wrong house?
I am currently reading “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. They would argue that sleeping next to this ocean of reading material would more than likely create a massive scarcity feeling that there is “too much to read, so little time.” And their well researched book shows clear evidence that scarcity in almost any area of life reduces our ability to think, explore options, and feel confident and powerful. Consequently, I moved all above said magazines and books to another bedroom and left only two books and three magazines on my nightstand. This, by the way, is what enabled me to describe the ocean in detail. I moved the ocean.
It is not that I am ashamed of this ocean. I gladly swim in such waters compared to the swamp of ignorance, disinterest in learning, and know-it-all-already arrogance that is the true sign of a more deadly grandiosity. I am proud that I have a lot of drive and interest and curiosity and more than a few clients have called me a genius for my ability to assimilate therapeutic wisdom from diverse, unexpected places. I do not think that I am a genius, but I think it was a genius move to move the ocean. The scarcity boys would agree and so would Daniel Smith because I already feel less anxiety and more bandwidth in my brain.
Less is more.
We can only do so much.
Power does come from limits, simplicity, décor and focus.
We cannot overestimate how carefully we need to think through and think about all that we plan to buy, do, read, see, and accomplish in the abundance of our options and possibilities and blessings.
One more important thing.
Now that I am not up to my eyeballs in an ocean of information, I can see that the real power questions in all of this abundant complexity are, for each of us: 1) what do I really want to accomplish? 2) what do I really need to accomplish? These are scary questions because we may not want to face what we need to accomplish and we may not have the courage to ask what we want to accomplish. And so we can hide deep in the ocean of our diverse interests and varied passions. Maybe grandiosity hides our fear; maybe we hide our light in the depth of the ocean. Maybe we do more so we don’t have to do the less that is divine. Maybe we continue to think we can do it all, so we don’t notice that we still did not do the one thing we truly crave.
More on Bob Beverley, author, speaker, coach and psychotherapist, in this week’s WoW-Words on Wednesdays.