So what compelling, impossible longing is calling to you in the New Year? Yes, that one.
Longing is like a seed buried deep in the dark, fertile soil. We can’t see it, but the seed exists and the potential is promising.
It’s nourished in the rich mix of two emotional intelligence skills: independence—our capacity to stand alone and apart and be self-directed in our thinking, feeling and actions—and self-regard, which is our ability to have confidence in ourselves in light of all our characteristics, positive and negative.
Yet longing often blooms in the place where we just don’t know and have to relinquish control. And this feels entirely counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Because, really, isn’t this how we accomplish things? By our might and will?
As we embrace what we’d like to accomplish in the coming months, longing seems to be calling many of us. But I’m not talking about “resolutions.” Instead, I’m talking about our heart’s desires.
I was making a deposit at my bank when a young teller asked what it was like for me to start another company—again. I said that after growing my business for five years while working another demanding job, I finally jumped off the cliff and found my wings to fly.
Well, not a pair of wings, actually. And I didn’t jump off a cliff. It was more like I sprouted four hooves and started climbing up a mountain.
I’ll explain. Several years ago, I dreamed that I watched mountain goats clambering straight up a sheer rock mountain. It seemed impossible to do, and I didn’t even realize goats did this type of thing until I Googled pictures of them upon awakening.
I couldn’t imagine looking down from such high heights. I would certainly fall. But when looking up, all I could imagine was an indefinite stretch of space with no summit in sight. I did find pictures of goats wedged into crevices apparently resting, but this was also of little comfort. All I could think of was: Damn, is that ever me.
Following your longing can be exhausting. And risky. When we take chances, there’s a chance that we will fail.
My husband—who shares my enthusiasm that possibilities are more relevant and enlightening than facts—asked me a factual question early on: Have you done your research to see if there was a market for your work?
I practically snorted in response. Research would tell me don’t do it! Large companies have departments full of me, and smaller companies often don’t understand the priority of the work I provide.
Then there were the practicalities: if I went out on my own, I would lose a regular paycheck as well as retirement contributions from an employer. I knew my health insurance would jump to $655 a month with an $8,000 deductible. These were the hard facts.
And yet, at the start of every New Year, I couldn’t stop my longing to go out on my own. I kept waiting for that one, clear sign that it was safe to make the climb.
But instead of an obvious green-light-go, I had another dream—a recurring one that filled me with panic. I had moved into a gorgeous house that was completely empty. Sunlight streamed through its tall windows and glinted off its rich, solid oak floors. But the house was too big. How would I furnish it? How would I pay for heat and electricity? And the yard was enormous—we’d need a gardener to take care of the abundant plantings.
I knew the house was a symbol of my longing —and it was drenched in doubt.
Songwriter David Mallet writes that change will happen when our belief is bigger than our doubt. But how do we know if what we believe in is even rational?
All we can do is lead with our longing and climb, step by step, into our stretch zone. It’s awkward, clumsy, often exhausting and sometimes exhilarating, but there’s no option. We can’t reach our longed-for place without making the climb.
And if we cross from the stretch zone into the panic zone? Well, then it’s time to hunker down and regroup in our comfort zone—just like the goats that make a crevice their bed. With rest, we can then resume the journey, looking forward and placing one foot carefully in front of the other.
What we believe in will eventually become bigger than our doubts. And that’s when we know that our longing is within reach.