Filling Your Niche
sliding number tile game

If this, then that.

You know those sliding number games? The idea is that, by painstakingly moving these little tiles one spot at a time along their grooves, you can eventually put the numbers in sequence. The problem is that every move requires making a dozen other moves first.

The “if this, then that” game is pretty similar. This real-life behavior is characterized by waiting an indeterminate amount of time for “this” to slide into place before you can move on to “that.”

I played “if this, then that” for most of last year.

If we hire a new person at work, then I can cut down my hours. If I cut down my hours, then I’ll have time to paint. If I paint, then I’ll make more money. If I make more money, then we can get a second car. If we have the second car, then it finally makes sense to get that rec center pass, because I’ll have a way to get to the rec center. If I get the rec center pass, then I can sign up for those yoga classes. Which, because I’m working fewer hours, I’ll finally have time to attend. And a car to get there.

This is just one example of the convoluted “if this then that” trap. There must have been a jillion more long-tail scenarios running through my mental hamster wheel over the last 12 months– every effort crazily spinning in place, yet ultimately getting nobody nowhere. (Still have not made it to one yoga class, by the way.)

Because “if this, then that” all hangs on the first step. If the first step never quite manifests in the way you envisioned (and when does it ever), you can’t make it to Step 2 and Step 3 and beyond.

Round about October, I remembered that I am not surrounded by a plastic edge that limits my movements to one notch at a time in a single direction. Nor do I need to make 86 moves before making the one move I really want to make. I can sidestep. Sidle. Heck, I can shimmy.

Frederico Fellini said, “You have to live spherically – in many directions.”  When all the walls are closing in and not one has a visible window or door, remember you can always look upward instead. Or squeeze through that air vent, maybe. Or channel Harold and draw your own exit route with a purple crayon.

As critters who are bound by gravity and face forward by default, multi-dimensionality is a really hard concept for humans to grasp. Last time I went climbing with Dan, I had to go upside down first in order to move sideways. And I had to step out and around a rock to move upwards. After you summit,  you have to lean backwards away from the rock in order to rappel down– if that isn’t a mindfuck, I don’t know what is. I mean, good luck convincing your rational brain that the sensible and logical choice, while dangling 80′ above the earth, is to let go of the rock.

And yet, that’s how you get your ass back to solid ground.

Stop waiting for “this” to happen before you go for “that.” We’re grownups now, folks. We can make our own rules. We can live life spherically, in all directions. If you can get over the admittedly formidable mental hurdle, rappelling is actually pretty easy.

Step outside your comfort zone with arms outstretched, and you won’t believe what rushes into your life, surrounds you, and sweeps you off to new adventures. Like Dr. Suess says, you can steer yourself any direction you choose. And the second half of Fellini’s quote? “Never lose your childish enthusiasm – and things will come your way.”

How are you escaping the “if this, then that” trap?

moving forwardword of the year

Maarit • 01/22/2015


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