Lately I’ve been feeling like a caged race horse. As a high achiever with a big heart and a sharp mind, I have a wide variety of dreams, desires, and goals. The problem is, the gates aren't opening yet. I've knocked on a dozen doors, tried picking a few locks, and gone in search of doors in other places that maybe(?) might be open. In short: I’m eager and ready to run, but the universe is telling me the track isn't ready yet.
Or maybe I'm not ready.
Unfortunately, this is not the type of article where I tell you how to bust down that gate and go rogue. As much as I want to do that at times, there’d be no direction. I'd still have my blinders on, and while I know there is a race track out there somewhere, I can’t run full steam ahead when I don’t know where I’m going. My thoroughbred spirit would most likely run full steam into the stable wall. Not the most effective way to get ahead.
So how do you calm your inner race horse while waiting for the pistol to go off? Here are a few things I’m doing.
1. Notice the sky.
Being thankful requires that I be present and attentive. What is good and beautiful in my life right now? It might be the yellow autumn leaves contrasted against the bright blue sky. It might be the upcoming trip I get to take with a friend I haven’t seen in ten years. Or how about the fact that I have a job that I enjoy, with a boss I respect?
2. Catch the balloon.
Practicing gratitude helps ground you in the present moment. For those of us who are high achievers, this is not an easy task. Our minds are always ten miles ahead, thinking of possibilities, potential problems, opportunities. While this can be a gift, it can also rob us of our lives. We spend so much time in the future (or, occasionally, rehashing the past) that we never enjoy what we have now.
The analogy that I use for myself is catching a balloon. My head is a balloon, and sometimes I lose a grip on the string. It begins to float up and away, caught on a breeze of a daydream, or perhaps a gust of anxiety. I need to continually remind myself to hold tight to the string, or grab ahold of the end before it floats away. "Back to earth, Kel."
Far and away is a good place – but I need to wait for the timing to be right. Then I will be unstoppable.
3. Don’t figure it out.
If you’re like me, your brain is working overtime trying to “figure out” the missing piece. “I’m sure I could get on that racetrack, if I could just figure out what’s missing…”
Sometimes we don’t know what’s missing. Scratch that—most of the time we don’t know what’s missing. If the gate hasn’t flown open yet, the race hasn’t started. It’s not time. To stretch the analogy, I’m just a horse. I can sense the excitement in the air – the race is starting soon – but I don’t have a watch to know if it’s 5 or 58 minutes away.
If the gate hasn’t flown open yet, the race hasn’t started. It’s not time.
Trust the process. If you ran out now, you might head in the wrong direction, or not have your racing mates with you. Remind yourself that it will begin when the time is right.
4. Vent or dance.
When you’ve done everything you can to breathe, be present, patient, and grateful, sometimes you still need an outlet for your tension. If you’re a verbal processor, phone a friend. Set up a session with your personal coach. Often all I need is someone to listen to me hash out all this tension I’ve been trying to “breathe out”; even better is someone who can ask me good questions. This elicits deeper thought and new perspectives. Maybe I just needed a reminder that “all you can do is wait for the right time.” Maybe I need someone to direct my attention to the invitation of the present moment. “What stirrings exist today? Where is the open door? What preparation can you do for the upcoming race?”
Getting out your tension in an embodied way can release the pressure valve, so you’re able to be more settled in your own skin.
If you’re an internal processor, do what you do best. Write. Walk. Create. Play. Studies have shown that music and art can help us process emotions and experiences on a level that our rational minds cannot fathom. I have a friend who paints without a plan, and lets her brush move intuitively. What comes out is an expression of her inner life: seeing it on canvas helps make sense of it all. I know others who dance to intense or emotionally moving music, to draw out their bottled up tension. Getting it out in an embodied way can release the pressure valve, so that you’re able to be more settled in your own skin.
5. Get help with those blinders.
Oftentimes our own self-limiting beliefs are what are holding us back. In this case, it’s not just that the gate won’t open; it’s that we’ve covered our own eyes so we can’t see where to go. Consider the following:
- When you think of your big dream, what fears bubble up?
- What is needed to make that dream a reality?
- Which of those “needs” are based on false assumptions?
- Where did you first pick up those fears or false assumptions?
- What needs to shift or change in you in order to release those fears or assumptions?
In this case, it’s not just that the gate won’t open; it’s that we’ve covered our own eyes so we can’t see where to go.
I highly recommend working with a spiritual director or therapist as you work through the deeper questions. Oftentimes, our obstacles are big blind spots that have been around so long we can’t spot them on our own, even as we grope about with self-awareness questions. Sometimes we need an outside observer to point them out, and a professional to help us let go of the most deeply engrained ones.
What do you do when riddled with the impatience of a high achiever?
Kelly Deutsch specializes in audacity. Big dreams, fierce desires, restless hearts. When seekers are hungry for unspeakably more, she offers the space to explore contemplative depths and figure out where they fit in the vast spiritual landscape. She speaks and writes about divine intimacy, emotional intelligence, John of the Cross, trauma-informed spiritual practice, and neuropsychology. Kelly offers spiritual direction, coaching, contemplative cohorts, and retreats. She is the bestselling author of Spiritual Wanderlust: The Field Guide to Deep Desire. When she isn’t exploring the interior life, you might find her wandering under Oregonian skies or devouring red curry.