I recently wrote about the challenge of space; in particular, living with the uncertainty that comes from having unoccupied space and time. We have become accustomed to and more comfortable with the distraction of a full schedule—regardless of whether or not what’s filling our time is bringing us joy. Oftentimes, it’s not.
Having space presents another challenge. Once you have decided how you want to fill that coveted space, sometimes it sucks. And that sucks.
At a certain age or point in our lives, we feel like we have gained some mastery on this journey called life. We’ve gathered some skills, experience, and wisdom along the way. We’re no longer beginners. There’s comfort in that knowledge and feeling. There’s an ease and confidence that comes from knowing what the hell you’re doing. But there can also be apathy and stagnation.
If you’re in that comfortable space of mastery and it’s been a long time since you’ve been a beginner at anything, allow me to remind you what it’s like: It’s hard being a beginner. I know. I started the eight-month Martha Beck Life Coach Training program in June. I am familiar with a lot of Martha Beck’s philosophy and tools, having read many of her books, attended webinars, and participated in a few short courses. This training and learning a new way of thinking and approaching life, though, is tough. The concepts are simple but putting them into practice can be challenging.
Here’s something else about being a beginner: It’s exhausting. Now I know why we had naptime in kindergarten. Whenever we tackle something new—a hobby, a job, even travel to an unfamiliar area—there’s a lot of information to process. And it’s not just our minds that are processing; our bodies are processing the experience too. There is also often some resistance. The ego views any new way of being as a threat to its current existence. No wonder beginning anything new is so tiring.
For many of us, the biggest obstacle to being a beginner is the fear of sucking. That fear can stop you before you have even begun. Or, if you’ve already started down the beginner’s path, it can make you run away from what you have barely begun without giving yourself a chance to see if you’re any good. Most likely, you are.
Do I completely suck at coaching? No. Have I wanted to run away from it during challenging moments? You bet! (As an aside, David Whyte’s essay Run Away was a great consolation to me recently when I had the urge to retreat.)
Whether I forget a step in a process or get stuck with a particular tool and need to backtrack, it never seems to matter in the end. When the person I’m working with has an a-ha moment, a new awareness that alleviates their suffering and brings them peace, the moments of suckiness, fatigue, and self-doubt are rewarded.
Finally, here is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about being a beginner: You’ve got to be willing to suck in order to succeed.