Getting Around The Brick Wall
As a consultant, all had been going well. The plans that I had made were becoming actuality 12 months earlier than expected and I had a comfortable flow of clients, so when I found myself suddenly lying on my back in agonising pain, it felt like I had been on a train track at full speed and hit a brick wall at 130km’s and hour.
This happened a few years ago when one day, I found that no matter what I was doing life seemed to be a series of irritating incidents aimed at slowing me down — I got a major virus on my computer, which stopped me communicating with the world; my car broke down, which stopped me getting out to see my clients; and I lost my phone, also stopping any verbal communication outside of those directly within my physical reach. When I was able to finally able to get out, I even found myself getting stuck in traffic It seemed that wherever I turned, everything had come to a standstill and I was stuck in a rut.
Stubborn as I am though, I continued and though there were clear hints that I was not on the right track, my mindset was that if I stopped working, I would not be able to put food onto the table to feed my three children. There was no option to not be working and so I pressed on, full speed ahead whenever I found an opening or an opportunity.
There was something I was ignoring however. No matter what one’s beliefs are, when every decision and action that one takes leads to smacking into a virtual brick wall, it is an indication that one must pause to see what changes are required in order to move forward again. Making money at all costs, whilst ignoring everything else is a recipe for disaster.
Stop! Don’t Pass Go!
It was clear to everyone but me that I was heading in the wrong direction, but I was so stuck in my own rut, that I didn’t even see the brick wall when it appeared on the horizon.
Then the universe/fate/god _______ fill in the blank, decided to help me understand that I needed to take a rain check in order to refocus on what I am and what I had chosen to use my life for and so I ended up flat on my back with a relapse of a neck injury, sustained in a car accident 5 years previously. Yes! It was a whiplash injury. The irony was that in the original actual car accident, my car got hit, flipped into the air and landed on it’s side between a tree and a brick wall.
This injury happened in the silliest way. I was in bed and had reached for my glasses that I’d knocked onto the floor. The next thing I was high as a kite on morphine based medication, totally unaware of anything that was going on for 2 days when, on the third day I woke up to a whole lot of pain and the realization that I should have heeded all the warnings that I had been given. I decided to take it easy and was sure that I would be back on my feet the following week… not so! After another two weeks in bed, I decided that no matter what, I would be back at work on the following Monday… still not so! So on that Monday, I finally decided that I needed to truly revise my plans.
Something important happens when you are flat on your back and have only the thoughts in your head to keep you company. Your thoughts start to slow down and you are able to review actions that you have taken, listen to the advice that has been given and watch how your own actions have lead you to be lying in bed, unable to move.
The image of the train and the missed turn were so strongly present in my mind from the first time when I emerged from my morphine endorsed blackout. They were so clear but I still resisted the fact that I had indeed missed the turn and ended up with an additional week in bed, by which time, I had fallen into the, “WHY ME VICTIM?”mode, with the “WOE IS ME”, running as the subtitle. I complained that, this shouldn’t be happening to me — “I’ve worked so hard to get to this point and the proof, so many people are connecting with me and contacting me now.”
Signs of Derailment
In this state I was “shown” some of the signs that I was totally of track, which appeared as follows:
- life became a struggle,
- things started to breakdown all the time,
- I was angry all the time,
- clients started cancelling frequently (even if it were for very legitimate reasons),
- I was experiencing physical pain or illness,
- I was procrastinating all the time and doing anything but what I should be doing.
I saw, the self-created negative patterns leading up to the crash. The people pleaser in me, taking on work which was not mine to make sure that the Team reached their targets; working extra hours to get the job done; getting resentful when colleagues went home on time because I just didn’t know how to stay no. I could clearly see and feel those days when the tension in my shoulders and back made me feel tearful and yet I continued for the Team; the Martyr in me rejoicing at the sacrifice I was making for others!
Another day whilst still lying in bed, I was shown how the brick wall had been there for quite some time and how I could have easily avoided it. I was shown a pathway in a forest. The path was of yellowish, brown sand and on either side there were trees. I came to a crossroad and I was shown that at that crossroad, I could have chosen to drop my burdens and those of others that I had chosen to carry.
Managing The Brick Wall
I looked behind me and could see the dusty footprints of my tracks from the road travelled thus far. Along the way, were the tracks of those in my networks, from work, family and friends. Sadly the paths to leisure and fun had become dusty and overgrown, yet the trail to work was clearly distinguishable and heavily worn, whilst the paths of friendship and family had so few footprints on them.
Ahead I could clearly see the wall, that looked so impossibly tall and impenetrable. From where I was standing though I could also clearly see that it was possible to go around it and if I really needed to I could go over it. But right now, I was stopped at this crossroad of my life and although there was no physical gate stopping me from moving forward, I had to answer a number of questions before I could proceed on my journey.
The answers given would determine how I would manage the brick wall ahead of me.
The first question was “Are you on the right path?” In order to answer it, I had to first answer whether I was being true to myself and my values. The answer was not truly. The comfort of a stable salary was keeping me away from what I truly wanted to do. So no, I wasn’t on the right path.
Where have you lost sight of your vision?
Somehow, I had disconnected from the real reason why I got up in the morning. My own vision lay hidden in a dusty corner of my mind, buried under the desires of other people.
I’m sure I imagined it, but the height of the wall seemed to get much lower, once I answered the questions.
Let Go of What Burdens You
What a shocker! I was shown how many times I put my hand up to extra work to be delivered with impossible timelines; and I realised that nobody had asked me to do their work and that the extra burden was either what I offered to take on or stuff that I did not want to let go of.
I was shown an image of me sitting at the computer, squinting as I rubbed my aching shoulders, then leaving the office in the dark, with heavy steps and an imbalanced, lopsided gait, from the weight of my laptop.
I sheepishly began to understand, why my back had been hurting me so badly, I felt myself get lighter as I mentally removed the invisible bricks I had placed in my rucksack and put them on the side of the path.
The body physically manifests the imbalances in our lives. I had chosen to ignore it. The next set of questions came;
Where else may you be breaking your neck/back due to carrying heavy loads?
Where may you be carrying other people’s burden?
Whose permission do you need to drop the burden?
And yes the height of the wall was definitely shorter, and now the sides appeared to be shrinking too.
Stay On Your Path
Next I could see myself driving from one end of the city to another and also running around, chasing after sales leads. The clients were not coming to me easily — it was all illusion and just something I had to tell myself, in order to justify my “busyness” and the reason for getting up in the mornings. I’d strayed from my path and didn’t know what it even looked like any more.
- Could constantly running from one thing to another have caused the whiplash-like injury?
- What are you refusing to see?
- Where are you being side-tracked
- Are you going in the wrong direction?
The wall had changed texture, shape and size. It was now a low wall that I could hop, skip and jump over if I wanted to. Beyond it, I could see the continuation of the path, with wide open fields on either side. It almost felt as if there was even a gate there that I could easily walk through if I wished to do so, although the the gate was not physically there.
Free To Go
And then came the final question.
I had gotten lost crossing through the many intersections and junctions that my networks had provided and could no longer say what lay ahead — hence the full on crash into the brick wall.
My vision, trajectory and pathways were very clear to me before this leg of the journey. Enabling and capacitating others to reach their full potential is what gets me up in the morning. When I am able to coach and mentor, I find joy and balance and my energy is high. My creativity is fully alive and I have time for friends, family and myself. I was successfully moving in exactly the right direction, I didn’t need the clients I was running after because I had an alternative source of clients available that I chose to ignore because they were outside of my comfort zone. This was also shown to me very clearly.
So what exactly is it that you are so afraid of that you would self-sabotage yourself to ensure that you do not reach your destination?
And the answer was…. drum roll…
The fear of success is as crippling as the fear of failure when it comes to making those life changes that will truly lead to the necessary transformation that makes a difference in the world.
With this insight, the wall completely disappeared and in front of me lay a broad path, free of obstacles with a glint of the ocean far off in the distance to the left, and the shimmering of a city to the right.
Back in the real world, life resumed with the knowledge that there was no need to burden myself with things that had I no business taking on. I also understood that when brick walls appear in our lives, it is because we need to pause, and take stock of our surroundings. The wall is there to slow us down and appears with more than enough time to change direction if that is what is needed.
At this point we have many options before us — hack through it, go around it, dig under it, turn back or …simply give up! I’ve been exactly where this man was but of course did not know it at the time.
So What Next?
After reading all of this, many may assume that I learned my lessons at that time in my life and stayed on track after that. But in reality, that is not how life works. Whilst I intellectually understood the lessons and moved forward very well, a few years later I would hit yet another brick wall but that is another story, where the lessons learned as related here were strongly reinforced.
I’ve come to another wall but haven’t hit quite as hard this time. After another burnout at work, it’s time for me to do something different.
Am I brave enough to now share my stories to a broader audience, with true critics? No!
Am I ready to take the leap into a world unknown to me directly but which I have observed hiding behind my anonymity? NO! NO! NO!
Am I brave enough to face my fears? What if people call me a fraud? What if they hate my words? What if they tear me to shreds and spit me out in tiny morsels or worse still — what if there is utter silence… no echo returned from the vast abyss of the internet? My ego is trembling in its boots at the thought of rejection.
But damn it… Let me stop procrastinating and end my agony now! Am I ready to face my Greatest Fear Of All — The fear that I might just be successful? No! Absolutely, Freaking Not!
But guess what? I’m doing it anyway! I hope to meet you on this side of the wall!