In a self-help industry often obsessed with greatness, many people would argue that better is not good enough. I am a firm believer that better is enough and is a great start to make. My live workshop and signature 3-month coaching programme are both called A Better Life.
From my journey and those of the clients I have worked with as their life coach, better is the first realistic and achievable step in a much longer journey. Aiming too high too soon can often leave people in one of two mindsets:
- the goal at hand feels completely out of reach so why bother trying, reconcile to overwhelm and give up,
- throwing yourself headfirst into the changes required and end up feeling exhausted, burnt out and give up.
We’ve all been there, New Year’s Day hits, and with a heavy head, we decide all the changes we are going to make in the year ahead and the goals we will achieve. To solidify our commitment to change we get out a pen and pencil and start writing it down, because obviously if we write it down, it’s going to happen.
In this digital age, our notes become a social declaration as we share on Facebook for what feels like the World to see, ‘Anyone else making a New Year’s Resolution? Here’s what I’m doing…’ Seconds later, Facebook presents to us a timely reminder of ‘A year ago today…’ with a post that looks remarkably similar to post we have just shared, to which we have received numerous likes and one comment from the friend we don’t like but are scared to delete ‘Good luck this year!’ We’ll show the haters.
We grab our cash cards and frantically start purchasing all the items we are going to need to achieve this new version of ourselves. New trainers, bathroom scales, smarter clothes, a piano! Then we start rummaging through drawers and cupboards searching for everything we think will foible our long-term success. Black bin bags begin to fill with clothes we don’t want to fit in to anymore. The food we are committing to not eating or in some cases leftover edible Christmas gifts are placed in one location, and to the house we proclaim aloud, ‘All this needs eating within the next 24-hours!’ No, just me then?
As we pro-actively commit to the first stage of our New Year’s Resolution, eating all the food within 24-hours, we sit on the sofa further contemplating life. In a haze of sweet wrappers and central heating, we are alarmed to remember we have work tomorrow, and we loathe our jobs. We dig out the laptop from behind the sofa, and we begin to type a new CV, hastily update our LinkedIn profile and scan the internet for that next great opportunity, although completely unsure of what career we are meant to be in.
New Year is one time of the year when, if left to our own devices, a high percentage of the population begin to experience overwhelm, and life starts to feel a little out of control. Many people would be happy to experience this just once a year. Unfortunately, they don’t, and days roll into weeks, roll into months and sadly into years. The life they aspire to feels so out of reach and were they are able to clearly define what they want to achieve the thought of the necessary work required and not knowing where to start is enough to bring it all to a halt and for us to decide the world of greatness is not meant for us. That’ why I advocate for better.
Better is more than you have and enough to feel you’ve achieved but not so much you quit before you get started.
I’m reminded of the story of Icarus from Greek Mythology. Daedalus, the father of Icarus, crafted himself and his son a pair of wings from feathers and wax, the goal to escape by flight from Crete. Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too low to the sea, for fear the dampness would clog the wings, nor too close to the sun, for fear the heat would melt the wax. Icarus, caught in the moment and feeling dangerously overconfident flies too close to the sun (the Greeks described it as Hubris, but that word sits outside my lexicon, although ironically the word lexicon does not!) The tragic result being Icarus’ fall into the sea and ultimately meeting his death.
In the story of Icarus, success is granted to he who flew in the middle ground.
I like to imagine Icarus and his father escaping Crete, arriving at their new home and Daedalus buoyed by the success of his wings beginning to craft each year new wings that allow Icarus to gradually and safely get closer and closer to the sun. A framed print of The Lament of Icarus by Herbert James Draper hangs in my coaching room, and I draw comparisons between his story and my own life.
I was challenged by my mental health in my teenage years and throughout my twenties, suffering from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder which manifested itself through my necessity to keep all things tidy and ordered as if my life depended upon it. Depression and OCD are my maternal bloodlines infliction with all the females experiencing these illnesses to some extent but always in the extreme.
Our family’s stories are built around members various routines with cleanliness and tidiness, the day Auntie Irene excitedly called my grandmother to inform her she was awash with excitement as she’d discovered you could clean the corner of picture frames with a cotton ear bud.
Or my Grandad, at the request of my Grandmother, often being found in the garden on his hands and knees trimming stray blades of grass with a pair of stationery scissors in an attempt to get them all the same length.
As a child, my brother and I sucked our thumbs, and one of my earliest memories is of my well-meaning grandmother enrobing our thumbs in a Dettol infused kitchen cloth each time we removed them from our mouths.
I share these stories to evidence had my mother been Daedalus and escaping Crete been a metaphor for escaping our mental health challenges; she would not have crafted wings, foremost feathers and wax would make a terrible mess! We would have swum and attempted to keep our heads above water. Only to discover after days of swimming we had only been treading water and were still very much in Crete! We simply accepted we were ill, there was no escape, and we were to remain trapped here for life. I wanted more and I want that for you and those I work with. I firmly believe starting with better is more than enough to begin.
So, let’s strap on our wings and take flight, just above the water and just below the sun as we begin our journey together to a better life.