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Evolution can be a funny thing. Not before you go through it. Before, it is actually a scary thing. So scary that most people wait until they die before facing it. In the end, none of us can avoid it.
If you are someone who chooses to evolve during their lifetime instead of waiting for their death bed, you will find that evolving is downright terrifying in the beginning. Next it is wild, coloured with all feelings and emotions – anger, sadness, fear and joy -, and quite messy at times. Then, as your evolution continues, there is a point where you will look back at where you came from to where you are today. Then you might laugh.
You could laugh because it is so clear how much you changed. It is clear that what is possible for you today was not even an option at the start. It is so obvious that where you are today, you have far more access to life’s possibilities, and you don’t even remember all the steps that got you there.
Before having taken these evolutionary steps, you may think that certain things are impossible. You may firmly believe that you cannot leave your job because a) you need the money, b) you don’t know what else to do, c) it’s impossible anyway, d) what would the others think? e) what would your parents think? f) where do you even start? g) there are certain things in life you just have to do, h) what about your pension? This list could be endless. You will always find clever and not so clever reasons to avoid getting out of your comfort zone. That is what the comfort zone is there for.
The Secret is: Do it anyway.
I am someone who has chosen to evolve. I have taken many evolutionary steps. This means that what is possible for me today, was not even remotely an option before.
When I left my 6-figure-job at an acclaimed US law firm in 2012, I ran into all the above reasons, and more. I will never forget the high level of fear I had before I walked into my boss’ office to tell him I was leaving. I wished I could just not do it. Yet here I was at a point where one core part of me that was not my comfort zone, knew that I could not stay and continue on this path of a legal career. The pain of being on that path had become bigger than my fear of leaving this path.
It was not the easy way, but it was worth it. It was the necessary first step for me to reclaim my life.
At one point I thought, looking back, that I had left just in time before I was burned out. And yet I spent the first 6 weeks after leaving my job basically sleeping. I was so tired! Nowadays I think I did not leave before burn out. I was simply numb even to the burn out.
From what I experienced since, life does not follow a linear plan. I spent quite some time trying to find what I could do instead of being a lawyer. I explored. I experimented. Some of these experiments “failed”, some of them never got a chance to come to life. For example, I allowed myself to become an apprentice with a product designer – that was as a 34 year-old doctor in law. I never proceeded in that direction. It was still an experience I wouldn’t want to have missed. At another stage, I dreamed of opening up a scuba diving base off the coast of Tanzania. An idea I did not pursue.
You could say my whole experiment of leaving law “failed”, at first, because after a year of leaving the law firm, I returned to law. I don’t see it this way, in hindsight. Most of the time, the seeming “failures” are just stepping stones of the evolutionary process. Meanwhile, the seed sprouts; experience and clarity can be gained. You can trust this seed, and get on its side.
I remember being at a business meeting in Brussels one day. I represented the company I worked for and met with a group of international representatives of other companies. We spoke, we negotiated, we drank coffee. In between, I went to the bathroom. As I looked at myself, I laughed. All of a sudden, I saw my pinstripe suit as a costume. The meeting I was part of was just like the games I had played with my sisters as a girl, only made more “professional”, and we all thought it was real. I realized I stood at the edge: I could now see that what I was playing in was simply a gameworld. And hence, I had a choice.
Once you notice that you are playing along in a gameworld, you get a real choice:
Is this really the gameworld you want to be playing in? What games are you willing to play?
And then you could consider this: All of modern culture is a gameworld. The systems in place serve a purpose, and they do that well. The main purpose is money and profit. Whoever has the most money, wins. The costs don’t matter: Deforestation. Pollution of rivers, oceans, soil, humans. Extinction of species. Poisoning food, poisoning water. Soul-crushing. Slavery. Killing of life. Wars. Killing of life force. Imprisoning children in schools and streamlining them into an industrial-age shape so that they help produce more of the same old shit. By the time these children come out of school they are brainwashed enough to believe living like this is the only way. Keeping these adaptive adults busy in the rat race with gimmicks such as corporate benefits, branded apparel, and fancy titles. The only thing that matters is that the machines keep going so that profit increases.
So there I was, with a newly found awareness of these things. I had gotten to the end of where I could go along with all of this. It was time for the next step. This time, it involved leaving my birth country, Germany.
I left my job and flew to New Zealand with two suitcases. Half a year later, my cat followed.
It would be great if I could tell you that from then on, I was enlightened. That it was a breeze. That life was just one big sugar candy from then on. That is just not how it went.
Especially at the beginning, I would wake up in the early mornings full of fear that I was truly, utterly fucking up my life.
I started working for a company, the family business of my then partner, for the next 2 years. I wasn’t very good at it. Still, I don’t regret it. It helped me take foot in this new country. It confirmed that this was not the kind of game I wanted to play. When the relationship ended, I quit the job. It seemed like my worst nightmare had come true: I lived in a foreign country, without an income, without family, without a home, with just a cat and a newly discovered passion for pottery.
Life had thrown me into the next phase of evolution. I was lucky that this falling apart happened at a time when trainer Clinton Callahan was in New Zealand. I remember Clinton kicking my ass: “Just get the fuck out of there, find a room to stay, and stop torturing yourself.” I came back from this weekend, packed my bags, and asked a friend whether I could stay for the weekend. She said yes. During that weekend, I found a place to live through magical coincidences.
I threw myself into pottery. I started making reusable coffee cups from pottery, I gave pottery classes. Some of it was successful, some of it wasn’t. I learned. I experimented.
Meanwhile, since mid-2015, I put emphasis on my evolution, my growing up process. I met people that were also interested in evolution and initiation into adulthood. I worked with a team, various teams to be precise.
The Second Secret is: While you have to do it alone, you can get support from a team. Do that.
Ever since my first Expand the Box Training and Possibility Laboratory, I wanted to become a Trainer in the context of Possibility Management. It seemed the best way to spend my time, holding spaces that enable other people to evolve and transform. Giving them access to more possibility for creating a life they love, and for a sustainable culture: the systems I knew needed replacing.
Alongside other things I kept doing my personal work. I became an ETB Trainer and Possibility Coach. Isn’t that just another perfect end of the story? You’d think that now, I had it all. Now, I had arrived.
The third Secret is: Life is not about arriving.
Being a Trainer for a context that is radically clear, such as Possibility Management, is not a walk in the park, at least that was my experience. A context of radical responsibility may be what is needed, but it is not necessarily what uninitiated grown-ups want, because it is… as you may guess: not the easy path (but worth it!).
I gave it my best. For 3 years, I offered trainings, workshops, online and offline. The results were meagre: I would have 3, 4, 5, 7 people to work with. I know from my own journey the value of working with even just one person. Through the help of my team, I faced into it rather than keep “trying hard”. Why was it that despite my efforts, things didn’t “take off”? A courageous conversation with Anne-Chloe Destremau in particular, and later with Ana Norambuena, pulled out the rug from under my feet. It was sobering to accept that maybe, this also wasn’t the game I wanted to play. I feel sad and scared writing it even now. It is still fairly fresh, half a year old.
I could look at it as a failure. And why would I? If there is one thing that this nonlinear path of mine shows, it is this: There is only the path. There is the next step, and then the next part of the path unfolds.
Letting go of this last identity of mine – being an ETB Trainer – threw me into a space of nothingness. It left me not knowing the next step. This, however, is no longer a problem. I have learned that it is necessary to shed identities that I have outgrown just like the cicadas shed their skin as they crawl out of the ground. Naturally, the fresh skin is still very soft…
Whilst in this nothingness time, I went through a Healing Intensive week. In “The Wise Women Healing Garden”, I discovered a more radical part of myself. I explored a new identity of being a Reaction Activator. As a Reaction Activator, I can do and say what I must and be OK with other people’s reactions. Surprisingly, reactivity is far less than what I expected. Connection happens far more often than what I expected, too. From that seed emerged a new project: Radically Alive Women’s Edgecast.
Now you could think that is the perfect end to the story.
And I laugh….