Straining to Be

You’re ten minutes late for the conference and you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You merge left, then right, and end up five cars farther behind. You check the mail for the important document from the bank and it’s still not there. You sigh in disgust. You’re hoping your co-worker is finally going to step up on the project, but he left all the details from your input out the project. Left out again. You are straining to just be.


The photo above is the inspiration for this post. I saw it in the town of Wilmington, North Carolina a few months back. I identified with that dog. Straining forward. Putting all the effort in moving with very little reward. I think of a negotiation I’ve been in the middle of recently, and equate it with, “You can’t push a rope.” In fact, all that straining to push forward is exhausting. An energy drain. I can feel the potential in that dog, but feel its futility as well.


How can we let go of straining to be?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Decide not to decide. My dear friend Janine told me this several months back. She gave me some examples of how not deciding had changed the course of events in her life. This is difficult for someone as tenacious and impatient as myself. I want to push things and be done with them. There is a difference between “not deciding” versus “indecision.” One is inactive and the other is active. Indecision creates stress and a constant waffling between options. “Not deciding” is being OK with what is now and not trying to change the course of events. Not deciding is where your power is.


  • Quit lugging the weight. Dragging things down the road is nothing, but expending energy when it’s not necessary. When I walk my dog Baci, she will try to pull and tug and strain when she sees the top of the driveway, closing in on home at end of our walk. She tries to lug me with all her might to get into the house. It makes no difference in our progress, as we head towards the sacred water bowl. It frustrates the both of us, and can damage our relationship. I find that my coachees, who have Responsibility as one of their strengths, can feel responsible for everyone on their team’s work (re: weight). They metaphorically end up carrying the weight of the team. When you strain against others, it can hurt your relationship.


  • Second can be just as good. They say that the athlete who is most disappointed is the one who wins the silver. Seems crazy. The woman who won bronze is just happy to make the podium and the guy who won gold is beaming with pride at the top. The silver medalist is so full of regret that they didn’t make gold. But they are on the podium! I used to have a Labrador and a Siberian Husky. The husky always wanted to lead. She would never be happy in second place. The lab didn’t care. He knew that he was going for a walk and would just happy to be there. Be accepting of second place. At least you are on the podium or the walk.


  • Are we there yet? Straining forward focuses on the future. You remember when you were eight years old and headed out on a ten-hour drive to a vacation spot. You were focused on getting to the vacation spot, never the present moment. You never thought you would arrive and so, you miss out on the joke your brother just told or the elusive “Hawaii” license plate trying to attain all fifty states. Be present right now. And now. And now. You have arrived at right now.


  • Be grateful.  Acknowledge what you have accomplished. I did this yesterday with my coach, Tammi Wheeler. When you reflect back from where you have come, it is really gratifying. Having a coach is a great way to reflect on your accomplishments and to be grateful. Keeping track of what has gone right and having a positive mindset creates possibilities. Take stock in what you are grateful for.


All this can be difficult because of our negativity bias. We are hardwired to look for what is wrong. It’s a slow meticulous process but letting go of the straining forward and learning to just be is freeing. How do you let go of straining to be?

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