Remember the game at state fairs and carnivals where you shoot at an electronic duck that keeps going back and forth? Sometimes we create that same motion in our own heads, and the cost of sending our energy in scattered directions is huge. If you’ve ever had to walk away from a knotty issue in your mind from sheer exhaustion, you know exactly what I mean.
We can make a habit of sending mixed messages to our own psyches, our partners and families and our colleagues and friends. This creates stress not only in our own minds and bodies but also in the relationships we have with others. For example, when we tell a family member we love them, but we are doing it through clenched teeth—that is a mixed message and confusing to the recipient. When we tell a colleague we are on board with a project they propose and then drag our feet on delivering our part of it, that sends a mixed message.
Even when we say we want to shed a few pounds, then choose double cheese pizza for dinner, we are sending a mixed message to ourselves about our real priority and our level of integrity and commitment.
Most of us have had a peak state, where things seemed to fall into place almost without effort. That is because we were in the flow. To get in a state of flow, where energy is moving in one direction, it is helpful to pause and choose mindfully what we will give our attention to and what our overarching intention is in any exchange we have with another. When unclear about what we really want, it may help to ask ourselves a few simple questions:
- What is my priority here?
- How might I tweak this in order to be able to be all in?
- What aspect of this is taking me in the opposite direction?
- What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?
- If I can’t be all in, am I willing to walk away and let this go?
I see people in my practice who have been stuck for years, literally, because they didn’t resolve the mixed feelings they had about moving in a particular direction. My friend, Reverend James Mellon, suggests if we can’t be all in, then take ourselves out – of a project, a party, a position. When we aren’t all in, we detract from the experience of those who are all in, enthused and excited about a particular initiative. People who are half hearted about an idea can suck the enthusiasm out of a meeting in minutes.
By getting clear in one direction or another, whether we move ahead or take something off our plates altogether, we free ourselves up mentally and emotionally to move on to those things that actually do light us up. By increasing our awareness about whether we have resistance to some part of a plan, we increase our integrity and our ability to align wholeheartedly with an idea or initiative, which requires much less effort than going back and forth.