I’m not one to have life-altering epiphanies. Things are rarely black and white for me, and I’m usually pretty skeptical of people who say otherwise.
But I’m being truthful when I say that during the stressful and confusing early days of post-grad life, one single nugget of wisdom from this book turned my outlook on life from pessimistic and timid to optimistic and empowered.
And I think it can do the same for you, no matter where you are on your personal journey.
Before I get to life-altering epiphany stuff, I should explain a bit about myself. I’m a very goal-oriented person. I like checking boxes and I’m resilient when it comes to hard work. But it also means I’m quick to unravel when I don’t have a goal to reach or a project to keep me occupied. Can you relate?
When my college years came to an end, I found myself in one such moment of unraveling. In theory I was excited to “pursue my dreams” and start building my future, but deep down I really just wanted to be told what to do next.
I’d always imagined emerging from college an independent, empowered woman of the world, but in the weeks that followed graduation, I just felt like I was aimlessly flailing around. I wasn’t ready to make my grand entrance. I didn’t know who I was yet.
I longed for a syllabus, criteria to tell me whether or not I was on the right track. Apply to grad school? Move back home? Get a restaurant job? Work in Seattle? Travel abroad? All of my options were good, but I wouldn’t allow myself to move forward until I was absolutely certain I was moving in the right direction.
I consulted friends and family, asking everyone who would listen to me for advice. I spent hours on career building websites, exploring my options and exhaustively weighing their pros and cons. But instead of making me feel more ready, all my planning and deliberation only caused my anxiety to grow.
I was overwhelmed with the fear that I might squander the opportunities that lay before me by pointing my energies in the wrong direction, or doing something that my parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers, etc. would think was a waste of time.
That is, until a friend and fellow yogi shared a book with me that completely changed my outlook.
The book is called “Bringing Yoga to Life” by internationally renowned yoga teacher Donna Farhi, and the lesson it taught me is this:
Like yoga, life is a practice. There is no such thing as doing it wrong.
In this life practice, our goal is to uncover and strengthen our relationship to our authentic, unchanging Self.
Every day is an opportunity to move closer to this goal, and if we live from this intention, failure isn’t possible. No matter what we do, each day will bring positive, forward motion.
Looking back now, I see those weeks spent stewing and deliberating as a cycle of self sabotage, one that I’m sure many perfectionists and goal-seekers experience. Instead of making any real progress, I remained totally stagnant, paralyzed by the fear of messing up. In my mind, remaining in limbo was better than making a move that I might regret.
But the moment I let go of this fear of regret and embraced the idea of life as a continual, dynamic practice, I noticed a huge shift happening in my heart.
My thoughts went from:
- This isn’t fair.Someone tell me what to do next.
- I’m not ready.
- I don’t want to mess up.
- I need help.
- This won’t work because…
- What are my big-picture dreams, and what can I do right now to work toward them?
- This is liberating.
- I’m on a lifelong journey. Being “ready” is irrelevant.
- No one ever really knows what they’re doing. I can cut myself some slack.
- I can do this.
- I might as well give this a try because…
Like I said, I’m not one to put much weight into quick fixes. But this paradigm shift was an immediate life-changer for me. It created space in my mind and heart for creativity, forgiveness, and yes, grace. It made me more gentle and understanding of my missteps (Hey, every day is an opportunity to try again!) and better able to get lost in the projects that make me feel fulfilled (Who cares if I can’t see how this project will benefit me in five years? It is fulfilling in this moment, and it’s bringing me closer to my Self.)
I never would have bad the gumption to follow through with this blog, for example, if I hadn’t let go of those fears of regret. Months ago, the idea of Gracefully Primal would have seemed overwhelming and risky, and therefore not worth my time. But I now see it as an important opportunity to challenge and share myself with the world. What could be more worthwhile that that?
All this is certainly not to say that I’ve got this whole “Self realization” thing figured out. I’m still working at an entry-level job, living at only a slightly higher standard than I did in college, and wondering where I’ll be at this time next year.
But by letting go of unnecessary anxiety and embracing my life as a practice in self-knowledge, I’ve realized that no matter where I live or what I do, I will always be making progress toward this goal.
Did you go through a post-grad crisis? If so, how did you cope? What words of wisdom helped get you through? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice in the comments.