It was a week of firsts. A week of doing things I hadn’t done before. A week outside of my comfort zone.
In expectation of another “first” that was awaiting me that day, I was pacing around the room. I did not feel ready. I did not feel like I would know what to do.
My husband was patiently sitting on the couch. “You know,” he looked at me, “this is a big step.”
I nodded and continued to pace.
“You’re never completely ready to take a big step.”
My husband paused. I stopped in my tracks. “You just do it and it works out.”
I sat down on the sofa. He was right.
For a moment, I thought about my previous life: I was not ready to study at a Spanish university without really speaking the language at first. I was not ready to get married with less than 48 hours advance notice. I was not ready to defend my PhD thesis with a crimson-red and in-pain face, thanks to my first-ever allergic reaction to a cream I had tried.
There are a gazillion other things I was not ready for in my life.
And yet I did them.
I’m not alone in this. Taking a big step we’re not ready for is the story of humanity: is an expectant mother ever ready for going through labor? Is a baby ever ready for being born? I doubt it.
In fact, I recently watched a few YouTube videos where male (and some female) volunteers try a machine that simulates labor pain. While the volunteers are lying on the floor, another person holds the control to increase the pain levels. In one scene, a guy who was already writhing got asked if he was ready to move to the next level of the birth simulation. Not surprisingly, his answer was, “No, I’m not ready.”
Humans are not ready for birth, literally or metaphorically (as in, birth of a new self).
Yet, we’re all here.
Becoming aware of the extent of our un-readiness for big steps really puts things into perspective.
I’ve heard other versions of the wise words my husband spoke that day, such as:
• Nike’s slogan, “Just do it”.
• Susan Jeffers’ “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
• John Burroughs’ “Leap, and the net will appear.”
None of these ever touched me as deeply as my husband’s words.
Realizing that we are never ready for taking a big step strikes me as a more profound truth. When we take a step that is beyond us, there’s nothing wrong with us if we feel we’re not ready. We don’t feel ready for a big step because that’s just how it works.
That big step forward is not only the birth of a new self, it’s also a mini-death to our old self. And if there is one thing other than birth that humanity is not ready for, it is death.
Yet it seems that every human being who has ever walked the surface of the earth has managed to die, despite not being ready for it.
With the biggest steps in our lives, we will never be ready for them. Yet almost always, others have walked the path before us, and at least some of them will likely have been successful.
When it comes to big steps, the extent to which we feel ready is no indication of the final outcome. It is just an indication of how much the step will change us.
When we realize this, then we can “just do it,” we can “feel the fear and do it anyway,” and we can “leap, and the net will appear.” First though, we have to realize that we are not ready.
And that, that is a good thing.
This article first appeared on Elephant Journal here.