The inner and the outer work
Last week I was able to spend some glorious time with some of my favorite entrepreneur girlfriends jamming on business, life, and love. Nothing was off limits: we were able to bare our souls and talk massive strategy.
The more time I spend around people with big dreams, the more I see that we all have similar work to do in the world to achieve those dreams. It’s not just the structure and action and drive, it’s also the inner work of believing in ourselves, and clearing old ways of thinking that aren’t serving us.
It’s all possible, but requires inner work and outer work to be done. And you can’t get far without doing both. – Tweet it
The first step in figuring out what that work is, is to get really clear on what you’re dreaming up for your life. Imagine your life five years from now, what does it look like? How do you feel? What is happening with your work? How are your relationships? Where do you live?
Write it all out and keep going until you feel like you’ve got something that feels really exciting and a bit out of reach.
Now for the purpose of this exercise, chose one of the aspects of that vision to work through. Maybe it’s the way your romantic relationship is or your work/livelihood situation. You can go back and apply these steps to each area of your dream life – but for now, just chose one.
Okay, got it?
Great. Let’s first figure out what the outer work is to get there. The way to do this is to work backward from the place of having this reality. Use the question, “what has to happen right before ….?”
We’ll use the example of having a book published.
Right before the book is published what needs to happen? Final edits and book cover approval.
What has to happen right before final edits and book cover approval? Handing in manuscript to editor and feedback on book cover designs.
What has to happen right before handing in manuscript to editor and feedback on book cover designs?
You get it, right? This will help you create a list of all the action items you need to do, to the best of your knowledge. Of course it will change, but at least you have a place to start.
Then there is the inner work. This is the harder part of most of us, because we often discover that our inner blocks are thought patterns we’ve had from a very young age. However, shining light on these thoughts is often enough to create some freedom for us.
Ready to do a little digging?
Okay, visualize the aspect of your life five years from now that you did the first exercise on. See it clearly in your mind and believe that it is yours, right now.
If you have any inner work to do to achieve this goal, there will be a little heaviness or pull away from this dream. This is what we want to uncover.
Feel into that heaviness or pull away and use the sentence fragment, “I can’t because…” and see if there is something in there.
Write it down. I can’t because…. I can’t because….I can’t because… Keep going back to the visual of having it, and feeling into the heaviness.
Keep writing until there is nothing more there.
Now turn on your detective brain and read your list and see what underlying thoughts are holding you back. It may be super obvious, or it may be hidden in the details.
Using the example of having a book published it may look like this:
I can’t because I don’t have any connections.
I can’t because no one knows who I am.
I can’t because no one cares what I have to say.
I can’t because I’ll be rejected.
I can’t because I’m not good enough.
If you look at this pattern you can see the underlying negative thought is something like “I’m not good enough, “ or “people don’t value me.”
When these thoughts are below the surface, we unconsciously allow them to run our lives, bringing them to the surface and examining them erodes their power. You may never stop having these thoughts. But, you can definitely stop them from holding you back from your dreams.
After you uncover these thoughts, there are a few tools that are very useful:
- Awareness. Don’t allow these thoughts to infuse your life. When they seep in, be aware. Notice that you’re having that thought, without judgment. Be the observer of the thought and see it with interest and let it go.
- There is nothing that other people can give you, that you haven’t already given yourself. If your thought is something like “other people don’t respect me,” or “other people don’t love me,” see if there is a place within you where you aren’t respecting yourself or you’re not loving yourself.Start with giving yourself the respect and love you desire. Then it will be easier to receive the respect and love of others.
- Keep moving on your action list. You can’t wait to have a perfectly loving inner conversation at all times to get things done, or you’ll be waiting your whole life. So start on the outer work and allow it to inform your inner conversation. You’ll start to believe in yourself because you’ll be getting closer and closer to your dreams.
- Remember that you’re not broken and you’re not alone. We all have these thoughts. Everyone. You’re essential nature is perfect and these negative thoughts are just additions, not breaks. You can release them and let your inner being shine.
As you grow into bigger and bigger dreams, the outer and inner continues. You’ll never be “done” until your dead, so enjoy the journey.