Signs of growth eventually emerge from the space we’ve erased.
After a pause that’s almost always longer than we’d like, we find ourselves squinting in the brightness of possibility. We’ve had to grieve and erase a part of us that was no longer fitting, and the heaviness has slowly subsided. Through erasing, we’ve created space for the exploration to come.
Where we saw ending and loss, we now see hope for the new.
When we explore, we’re growing into the new.
The beckoning pull of possibility is refreshing. Whispers of what’s possible in the future begin to surface. We may have wild thoughts or experience impulses we haven’t let ourselves feel before. Visions emerge of activities you’ve always wanted to try, moving to a new city, writing a book, or traveling around the world. You may feel a desire to redecorate your living space, freshen up your wardrobe or get a new haircut to represent this new phase you’re in. With the space you’ve created, you’ll find yourself drawn to things you didn’t have time or energy for before.
These ideas will range from the obvious to the silly, to the irresponsible, to the downright intimidating.
As much as you’re able, give into these inklings. The more you listen and allow yourself to experience what comes up, the faster you’ll learn and grow. In your wanderings, creative ideas will begin to trickle in—slowly at first, but later at a quicker pace. You’ll think of ideas and make connections that you’ve never thought of before. The more freedom you give yourself to explore when growing into the new you, the more aligned you’ll feel in where you might want to go next in your life.
Exploration involves excitement, freedom and possibility.
But some of us discover a few steps in that we don’t quite have our stride yet.
While facing the opportunities, there’s also a hesitancy and cautiousness in our step.
This is normal, although much of the media and our society represents it differently. Exploring is stereotyped as fun, exciting, full of adventure. We feel like we’re supposed to be Indiana Jones or Jane Goodall, bravely swinging and charging through. As we tiptoe through instead, looking over our shoulder in this new arena, we may wonder what’s wrong with us. Shouldn’t I be having more fun? Maybe it’s easier for others.
For many of us, exploring can also feel raw, vulnerable and scary.
It’s a time of trials, thrills, flings, errors, and disappointments. It can be full of doubt, uncertainty and resulting confusion. The vastness of opportunities can feel overwhelming.
We may feel the need to know the right way or an impatience to find the most efficient methodology. We may want to know if the path we’re considering will work or if it’s even worth our time. Having just erased a painful part of us in the previous phase, we may be afraid of choosing the wrong thing or making a mistake.
With all the uncertainty inherent in exploration, it’s natural to feel doubt.
It’s normal to wonder what others will think, to be wary of the painful possibility of failure. We don’t want to be disappointed again. We’re scared of committing, and for good reason.
What’s important is to remain open and thoughtful about those exciting yet scary ideas. It’s a balance between wariness and impulsivity that will differ for each one of us.
Some of us want to take it slow, one step at a time. While respecting our desire to avoid the pain of potential failures, it’s important to ask ourselves why we’re feeling this way. This may be an opportunity to exercise towards a healthier mindset and increase our self-confidence.
Taking action, no matter how small, is what’s key here. We may feel the need to plan and anticipate potential pitfalls and contingency plans. If you must, it won’t hurt to do some preliminary planning as a rough guide. But don’t stay there. This is where some people get stuck.
Action is what breeds further insight and grows confidence. Just start.
Start by exploring more accessible areas. At some point, you’ll be able to ramp up to the bigger ideas and experiments.
On the opposite end, some of us may be raring to go explore all of the things! Keep in mind you only have so much time and energy in a day. Try to focus on what’s truly important for your growth.
There are also those who run the risk of not having spent enough time to fully let go in the Erase stage. While there’s no right amount of time, there’s a big difference between having reached a centered, blank space versus trying to replace or grab at the next available thing. If you’re still hanging on to the old or running away from an unaddressed issue, realize that you won’t be able to explore fully until you’ve let go.
While exploring, remember to check in periodically with yourself.
Ask yourself the following: Does this feel enriching? Does this nourish the core of my being? Does it feel bold and liberating? Does this resonate with a desire, wish or dream I have?
There’ll be amazing experiences and cringe-inducing situations. Your feelings are likely to be tumultuous during this time, ranging from exhilaration to dejection. In general, energy will be higher if you’re going in a direction that feels positive and expansive. Your energy will wane if you’re going the opposite direction. It’s important to note the difference between energy and emotion, and to be most aware of your energy during exploration.
Some of us are tempted by paths we think we should take but that aren’t right for us.
There’s a difference between the emotional fear of failure or judgment versus the icky, soul-sucking energy of resistance and dread. You’ll need to figure this out for yourself, similarly to how I experienced in the lessons learned in the year after my sabbatical. If you do end up going down a path that’s not right for you, your body will tell you. I went through a period when I didn’t listen initially; you may need to go through that too. It’s a lesson that we all need to learn for ourselves, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
Many of us may experience an early onset of imposter’s syndrome and fixate on what others may be thinking.
Don’t worry about what others may think. Keep in mind that as humans, we’re wired to notice differences in our own lives and others. If you’re playing big enough, chances are you’ll have your share of critics and naysayers.
While it’s important to listen to constructive criticism, I tend to ask this of people who have actual experience in where I want to go. More often than not, the criticism has more to do with the person who says it than it has to do with you. Reality is, we’re all primarily motivated and focused on bettering our own life.
So whatever you’re doing, it doesn’t have to make sense or be impressive to anyone else. You need to go through your own process, so don’t let your projection of what other people might think stop you from fully exploring. Those of us who have gone off the beaten road to build our own path know that there’s some trial and error before you find your stride.
Some of us may also be concerned about finding something within a certain timeline.
While delaying and never committing can be its own form of stagnancy, it’s also important to not rush the process.
If you’re able to, give yourself the time you need. I took a six-month sabbatical with the intention of finding my stride at the end, but the process of erasing and exploring ended up taking me about nine months. The time you need will differ, and there’s no real way to know how long it’ll take.
Don’t be discouraged by things taking longer, experiments gone wrong or the unexpected. Know that there will be some struggles and failures in this experimental phase. Take the time to learn from them and move on. There are no binding decisions that need to be made. Instead of fixating on choosing the right thing or being as efficient as possible, take as much time as you can to explore and have some fun along the way.
Keep it light, don’t take yourself so seriously, and try to enjoy the journey. The journey is all that life is.
With enough exploration and vulnerability, you’ll eventually find a new direction that feels decidedly uplifting and expansive.
It’ll be a direction of growth and being a better version of yourself, continuing the lifelong cycle of REEBO. You’ll feel genuine excitement and yearning within your entire being when you keep the fear of failure at bay. Next comes the Build phase—arguably the least glamorous and underestimated part of the process where you will lay out your plan and foundation. Stay tuned.