All of a sudden, the only thing I could hear was the pounding of my own heart.
“I’m sorry. Could you say that again?,” I said.
The dentist looked at me, and smiled. Empathy? Amusement? Malevolence?
“Your son. He needs a root canal.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
My 7-year old son. The one who once screamed at the top of his lungs when it was time to get his hair cut. The one who once put up the fight of his life when it was time to trim his nails.
“He’ll be just fine. Focus on the first step….and the first step only…..and then we’ll just explain what’s happening as we go.”
They send us home with a mini gas mask. He’s supposed to practice wearing it. Taking deep breaths. “Like Darth Vadar!” he says, with excitement.
I feel horribly guilty, knowing what I know. I struggle over the idea of not telling him every single detail of what’s gonna go down. Because hell, I’d want someone to tell ME.
But no. I’ve gotta believe that the dentist….a guy who lives his entire life as one of THE most feared human beings on the planet…..must know a thing or two about managing anxiety.
I think about my own life, and the obsession I have over planning every single move. Anticipating the next thing. Bracing for what’s coming. And breaking down my life into a series of steps.
Not only does it create overwhelm, on days when the steps seem impossible to cram in…..it also creates a habitat in which presence is starved of all nourishment.
Monday morning. Step #29. Get the kids dressed in their snow suits. Rush rush rush. Check. Let’s move on. We’ve got to get to step #30: Getting locked and loaded into the car.
Don’t even get me started on those moments when forward progress is halted….when a wrench gets thrown in the mix.
You have to pee? You have to PEE? NOW? Just pee in the snowsuit. I’ll buy you a new one.
So maybe the dentist has a point.
Too much planning can actually cause us MORE distress, because when things don’t go the way we expect them to go…..we get upset.
And so there’s a tricky balance between setting big goals, reverse engineering our success, plotting the road to our biggest dreams……and letting life unfold, simply by trusting the process.
So where is the sweet spot? And how do we get there?
For me, I like to have a clear picture of where I’m headed. A vision board. A daily journalling practice that includes making a list of “Things I Will Make Happen.”
#1 NY Times bestselling author.
Vacation home in Maui.
Trip on an airplane with the kiddos.
Spartan race champion.
But rather than obsess over the million-and-one steps that it may take to get there, I try to focus on the step I am currently taking. Today. And doing it well.
Which is haaaaarrrrrrd.
Because, damn, I love a good blueprint. And I hate being blindsided. As do most human beings. Except when we’re watching Survivor. THEN we’re on the edge of our seats, fist deep in popcorn, relishing in the drama of someone who doesn’t see it coming. Because, well, it ain’t happening to us.
But guys, trusting the process is not simply an excuse to sit back, be lazy, and let Jesus Take the Wheel (thank you, Carrie Underwood).
For me, trusting the process looks like this:
Trust = Action + Surrender
It’s about walking forward. But detaching yourself from the outcome.
It’s about creating movement. But succumbing to the path that you may end up on.
It’s about hustle. And flow. Although I’ve never seen the movie. But it sounds right.
Excellence is a matter of steps. Excel at this one. Then the next one. Then the next.
And truthfully, a huge part of excellence, is simply staying the course. Being consistent with your drive. Knowing where it is you want to go, but letting the detours happen.
Because the more we fight for control, the more resistance we create. And the more resistance we create, the more friction there is…..which slows us down.
You want to be fit and healthy?
Do the work. Day in and day out. Put your Nike’s on. And move.
Yes you’ll catch a cold. Yes there will be a wicked snow storm. Yes your son will decide he’s Picasso, and paint the living room wall. Or the cat.
But those are the moments when you need to trust the process. Take action. And surrender.
Put on your cutest workout clothes. Then crank the music, and have a dance party as you scrub the living daylights out of that wall. Then go for a quick 10 minute jog.
Flexibility is key. And it is the only way you’re ever going to get where you want to go.
One step at a time. This step. Here and now. With everything you have.
I try to put this idea into action. It is -30. It is snowing and blowing. And I am driving through downtown Winnipeg with my two children in the backseat. Traffic is moving along at a snail’s pace. But rather than fixate on how far away Grandma’s house is, we turn it all into a game.
“Green, green, green, green!” We chant as we approach an intersection.
We make it through. And we all cheer! “Wooooohoooooo!"
And so yes. The wise dentist is right. We need only focus on this moment. Putting on the mask. And breathing. Because the next moment will come soon enough. And when it does, we simply need to surrender to what is. Even if it’s kicking that same dentist in the face as he jams a needle in my son’s mouth. Come what may.