As metaphors go, a theme has appeared in my life this week around shoes. I am writing this from the RIM Institute in Denver, CO, where metaphors are central to our work. RIM, is after all, an acronym for Regenerating Images in Memory. When we conjure up an image, it can be a powerful metaphor for what is going on in our life or what we need in our life.
In business, a friend once referred to my work in franchising as “where I put my running shoes on”. That made sense; when it was time to “step up”, my career “raced” forward into a fast-moving “rat-race”. Life became about “getting a leg up” on the competition. It was critical to “start off on the right foot”. We “hit the ground running” and we seldom took a “step back” to re-evaluate.
I remember being in kindergarten and the class was learning to tie their shoes. I had a red shoe-shaped card with eyelets and a lace, to practice tying. I failed. I just couldn’t get it. I was panicked and embarrassed about it and would not accept help. Thankfully, my sister Chris taught me how to do it at least well enough to get by, but I may still need some remedial help. On my morning walks, at least one shoe often comes untied. I blame the slippery new laces on this particular sneaker. The other sneakers have laces that are too long, or too short. Maybe it’s because I buy my shoes at the outlet mall, but I have never owned a pair of sneakers that have proper laces! I am an accomplished man in my fifties - I don’t want or need help tying my shoes!
Where else does this attitude show up in my life? As I realized that I am gifted in many ways, I am ready to step up to a higher level; to play a bigger game. I am finding myself being drawn to larger areas of work at deeper levels and I am confident that none of us are called to do more than we are capable of. As satisfying as this feeling is, I simultaneously became aware that at this higher level, I would no longer be the expert and that I would need a new level of resources and resourcefulness.
This morning, a RIM colleague was explaining the condition of some of our clients – they are very capable, successful and complete. They can have a career, a family, a nice home, and they can stroll through life pretty well, except their shoe is untied and they keep tripping! At this point, I was getting tired of shoe metaphors. When we notice something is repeating, it might be a sign to pay attention to it, rather than tire of it. You see, we all walk through life with our shoes untied from time to time. To pay attention to what is tripping us up, is to tie our shoe. As simple as it sounds, most of us continue strolling along, not paying any attention to the untied shoe and we keep tripping. Others, like me, will tie the shoe, but in such a way that is not really lasting and before long we’re tripping over the same issue. What my RIM work has taught me, among many other invaluable lessons, is how to properly “lace up” for life. When we can handle the emotions that show up from moment to moment, we can ask for and accept help. When we drop the habit of believing old stories about ourselves, we stop tripping over them. When we are willing to accept help to pull us out of being stuck in the muck, we can easily move forward. It all seems so simple, and it is. Our belief that it needs to be complicated is usually our ego talking.
I do not always need to be the expert or have all the answers. If I’m honest, sometimes I even need help understanding the question. Our egos hate this. I recall reading about some research a few years ago revealing that many corporate executives would rather spend hours researching a question, than ask a colleague across the hall who knew the answer. It seems we live in a culture where it does not feel safe to show any sign of weakness. Of course the reality is, that the real weakness is the inability to ask for and receive help and to quickly gain the answers we need to move forward. We are all gifted, lovable, valuable and capable. And, we all need help with whatever trips us up from time to time. That’s okay. Lace up, you’ve got amazing life right in front of you, just waiting for you to “take the next step”.
Michael Kline is a Certified RIM Facilitator and Certified Success Trainer for personal and group transformation. You can reach him through his website www.intus.life, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.