What am I talking about?!? In case you’ve spent the last year or so in a cave hiding away, Angry Birds is a game where you fling birds towards different types of structures in order to destroy as much as possible, plus kill all the pigs that are lurking around. You get awarded 1, 2 or 3 stars depending on your score. That’s the gist of it.
What’s the lesson?
When I’m stuck at a level in the game, I get really frustrated. I always think I KNOW how to get three stars, things just aren’t happening quite the way I WANT. So I keep coming back to the same episode time and again, trying to make things go my way.
But, alas, every single time only one thing works: trying a different strategy. That’s right. I only ever succeed when I give up on what didn’t work the first time, second time OR the nth time, and try something I ‘definitely’ didn’t think would ever work. And without too much extra effort, voilá, all the pigs are dead and the three stars are mine. I can proceed to the next episode. Take the next step.
Why is it so hard?
There is true ‘letting go’ that is required. Needing to surrender to what is and what isn’t, and allow it to shift, to change. What is, is me thinking I know better, I know everything, I understand everything, and my logic is unfallible. What isn’t, is me standing in front of a perceived problem looking at all the possibilities for solving it, allowing for all possibilities to exist.
This is difficult for us human beings because we have an inherit need to be right, to be validated, to be on the right team, the right job, the right career path, the right side of town, and in the right relationship. We fiercely defend our right to ‘live our lives as we choose’ even if it kills us. Or keeps us stuck at a level way below our capabilities, our intellect, our talent.
Albert Einstein’s famous quote implicates that he saw through this and knew better. But as the rest of us are regular human beings who learn through mistakes and need tangible proof of everything that goes against what we think is the truth, we need to be reminded of all the lessons we learned, otherwise they all too easily fall off and we are back wondering why the hell doesn’t the world work as it ‘should’.
Think about your life and where you feel stuck. And without specifically asking you to get Angry Birds if you haven’t already, I would ask you to at least consider this: What can you have in your life that would help you snap out of behaviours that never worked and never will?
Taking a slightly different approach to this age-old dilemma of saying Yes vs No, I’m inviting you to look into our tendency to match one with the other.
As human beings we have a habit of making up connections between things that happen to us, to make more sense of them. Amongst other things, we instantly make up a ‘No’ statement for each ‘Yes’.
For example, by accepting yet another ad hoc Saturday night gig offer or extra tour dates you might feel you are forever saying ‘No’ to quality time with your partner, family or friends, alienating yourself from your loved ones as a price you have to pay for making a decent living from the profession you have chosen.
Now consider this: The way you choose to divide your time of course has an impact on the time you have left to tend your relationships. But! It doesn’t have to define the quality of your relationships. The same is true for other seemingly ‘obvious’ cause & effect pairings.
So how do you know which connections are real?
Connecting the right Yes to the right No
It can seem like a jungle, sorting out the volumes of Yes & No and seeing the real connections. Here is a simple exercise that you can do on your own:
- Take a blank piece of paper & divide it into 2 columns. Title the columns ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
- On the ‘Yes’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying Yes to. What are you embracing, willingly or grudgingly?
- On the ‘No’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying No to. What are you avoiding, putting off, dreaming about?
- One at a time, pick something from your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ list and see if you can connect it with any of the items on the other column.
- Test out any connection that you think you find by writing it into a full sentence: When I say YES to ________ it means I am saying NO to ________. (or vice versa) Then ask yourself: ‘Can I prove this is true?’
If you find any statements that are verifiably true, congratulations! You are being honest and transparent about the impact of your actions, instead of leading yourself on to think that by saying ‘Yes’ to extra work you are saying ‘No’ to your family. You understand it’s never that straight forward. You can continue by considering how the two sides of the statement each support your wellbeing. Write down what thoughts emerge.
If you cannot find connections that seem water-proof between the two lists, it may mean you are consciously or subconsciously holding back and not allowing yourself to see the real impact of each ‘Yes’ and each ‘No’ to your life. Continue by re-writing the two lists, see if anything new emerges that you didn’t think of before. If you get stuck, take a break and come back to the exercise later.