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#64 Life is Not Linear

As humans, we really want learning to be linear. This is simply not the case, my friend. Just as a bow and arrow need to pull back to fly forward, we too need to slow down, reflect, and learn from our experiences to truly progress.

In this episode, I will attempt to help you realize that even when it feels like you're back to square one, you've actually grown and evolved, gaining precious insights that shape the course of your journey.

This is your invitation for me to deliberately decide to do things differently, instead of trudging forward with a linear mindset.

Since you’re ready to become your favorite version of you, book a consult to learn more about working with me as your coach.

"So often, when it appears to the outside world that we are doing nothing, as humans, we are actually doing the vital work of preparing for the next season of our life."

What you'll learn in this episode:

  • The detrimental impact of constantly striving for certainty

  • The idea of circular thought patterns and strategies to break them

  • Accepting and embracing the fact that life isn't a straight line

  • The power of pulling back and altering our trajectory for better outcomes

"Many of us have it backward and think that the cost of resting and resetting is too high a price to pay. It actually is quite the opposite."

Mentioned in this episode:

Be sure to sign up for a consult to see if coaching with me is the right fit for you. Join me on a powerful journey to become your favorite you.

Listen to the full episode:

Read the full episode transcript

Hey, this is Melissa Parsons, and you are listening to the, Your Favorite You podcast. I'm a certified life coach with an advanced certification in deep dive coaching. The purpose of this podcast is to help brilliant women like you with beautiful brains, create the life you've been dreaming of with intention.

My goal is to help you find your favorite version of you by teaching you how to treat yourself as your own best friend. If this sounds incredible to you and you want practical tips on changing up how you treat yourself, then you're in the right place. Just so you know, I'm a huge fan of using all of the words available to me in the English language, so please proceed with caution if young ears are around.

Well, hi there, welcome back to Your Favorite You.

Today, I want to talk about life not being linear. As humans, we really want everything in our life to be linear. We really want success to be linear. We really want learning to be linear. This is simply not the case, my friend. We think that the amount of effort that we put into something should be proportional to our results.

So, if I put in one X effort, I should get at least one X results. We also think that if we just work harder or longer and are constantly moving forward, that we will somehow end up where we want to be. We want the certainty of this. We want to be able to crunch the numbers and have it make sense. I was reminded of this recently when I was talking to Owen about his first semester of college exams and how worried or in his case, not worried he was about taking the exams.

He had plugged certain scores into his computer program that they give him at Ohio State to see which grade he could get on the final and still maintain the grade he wanted. This brought back so many memories for me, because I can vividly remember doing this algebra in college and in medical school. What is the minimum grade I can get on this organic chemistry test and still maintain my A? What is the minimum grade I can get on embryology exam and still maintain my A?

So, I did this over and over and over again, quarter after quarter, and I think this is just human nature for those of us who are type A, high achieving former perfectionists. In real life, however, there is never this much certainty. We often have to slow down in order to succeed. We have to sleep in order to reset our brains, and winter is a time where nature shows us the importance of this, at least in the zones of the world where there are four seasons.

I am currently reading a book for a local physician's mom book club that I'm finally able to go to their monthly gathering. I've been in this Facebook group forever and have never been able to make it. I'm finally able to make it. The book is called Wintering by Katherine May. It has a subtitle that says the power of rest and retreat in difficult times. In the book she talks about how trees are constantly doing the work of being trees and how, although they look skeletal and dormant in the winter, they are actually doing very important behind the scenes work to ready themselves for spring.

I've had the pleasure of being able to continue my daily walks outside, as we're having a really mild winter so far here in Columbus, Ohio. And lo and behold, the author is right. All of the trees do have buds on them, getting ready for spring, which will not make its way here to central Ohio until late April or early May. And I've noticed these buds in the spring before and thought, oh, the trees are budding, and I have missed many, many months of the trees having buds and getting ready for spring.

So often, when it appears to the outside world that we are doing quote unquote nothing, as humans, we are actually doing the vital work of preparing for the next season of our life. Many of my clients come to me following the quote unquote normal, capitalistic, patriarchal race to nowhere, thinking that they have to do everything that others ask of them or offer to them, thinking that their children also have to do the same. So many of them are constantly doing for others that they've actually forgotten what brings them joy, peace, contentment, satisfaction.

I often coach them to slow down, often just for slowing down sake. At other times, I coach them to consider that they might need to slow down or pull back a bit in order to gain forward momentum for themselves. The analogy that I like to use best is one about a bow and arrow reminding them that in order for an arrow to move forward, you must pull back on the bow and change the trajectory to get it to go in the direction you want. Again, not linear.

Another thing that happens often in my coaching relationships with women is that they come to me stuck in a circular thought, feeling and action loop where they're unable to understand why they keep getting the same results that they don't actually want. We start by questioning the thoughts and feelings that they have and eventually they start to feel and act differently, and they start getting different results. We keep doing this over and over and over again with different aspects of their lives and, interestingly, over time they will inevitably have a recurrence of something that they thought that they had already worked through.

This has happened to me a bunch of times too, so they will often say to me something like I'm back where I started, with a frustrated like I roll and look on their face, and then we start lovingly questioning that. I'll give you a spoiler alert they are never actually back where they started. They couldn't possibly be. So much learning has taken place in the interim. They're able to give themselves so much more grace and compassion when we are further into the go to relationship than when they first start out.

They might be back at a similar place, but they recognize it very quickly typically right away sometimes, as it's happening and then can decide that they want to change course if they want to really so much sooner than when we first start our coaching relationship. The analogy I like to use here is a spiral parking ramp in a parking garage, so it may appear that you're right back where you started, but you're actually on the fifth floor now instead of the second, and there's a lot of learning and grace and compassion and love that's happened between the floors.

A different way to think about this, in terms of setting an intention about what you want for your future and working toward that, is to think about a labyrinth. Now, I know I have talked about labyrinths on the podcast before, but I love this visual and this is my podcast, so I get to repeat myself as often as I want to. In this visualization, whatever outcome you want is in the middle of the labyrinth and you are starting on the outside. As you start walking through the labyrinth, the path will take you close to the middle and you will feel like you're very close to getting what you want, but you're not quite there.

As you keep walking, you get further away from the middle, from what you want, and you might start to think, no, this is useless. I'm further away than I was before. Many people stop walking the life labyrinth at that point and give up. The key is to rest for a moment and reset and ask yourself. Do I still want what's in the middle of the labyrinth? If the answer is yes, after you rest and reset, you keep going and as long as you don't quit on yourself mentally again, recognizing that resting and resetting is one of the keys to not giving up, you keep going and you eventually get to what it is you set out for in the first place.

In the book, Katherine May says many things I agree with. I'm going to quote her. It's kind of a long quote but I love it, so I'm going to say it all to you. She says quote. As humans, we make and remake our stories, abandoning the ones that no longer fit and trying on new ones for size.

I am now telling myself of a pattern of work that I fell into by mistake because I was afraid that I would never find my feet again after I had my son. I didn't cope when I was pregnant. I didn't cope when I had a baby and I started working again to try to swim my way back to dry land. It didn't solve everything, but it gave me back one area of my life in which I felt effective. I worked all day and wedged in 5 am shifts and an odd hour between nine to 10 at night, nearly asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I snatched time at weekends to mark papers and write course guides, whenever I could persuade my husband and son to do something without me.

People admired me for how much I got done. I lapped it up, but I felt secretly that I was only trying to keep pace with everyone else. And they seemed to be coping far better. After all, I had colleagues who regularly replied to emails after midnight, long after I was asleep. In actual fact, I was ashamed. I always thought that I, so very wise, would never succumb to work addiction.

But here I am, having worked so hard and for so long that I've made myself sick and, worst of all, I've nearly forgotten how to rest. I'm tired, inevitably, but it's more than that. I'm hollowed out. I'm techy and irritable, constantly feeling like prey, believing that everything is urgent and that I could never do enough. Ugh, that's the end of the quote. Who doesn't relate to that? So, if it has not become abundantly clear, at this point, I want to stress the cost of going and going, and going and doing, and doing and doing.

Many of us have it backward and think that the cost of resting and resetting is too high a price to pay. It actually is quite the opposite. There is a way higher price to pay for constantly trudging forward If you have not already heard the whispers from your brain to slow down, to rest, to hibernate at times. If you ignore the whispers and keep trudging on, your health, both your mental and physical health, because they are inextricably linked, will eventually change to a point where you can no longer ignore these things. Sadly, I've known many people who have been forced to take an unplanned sabbatical or an unplanned break because of the decline in their health. What I'm suggesting is that you become intentional about planning rest, restoration, renewal, resetting, whatever you want to call it.

Going back to the book, I finished it over the weekend. It was interesting because I wasn't that impressed by it, not because it was not a good book. I think me four years ago would have had so many aha moments by reading it, but me now has already bought into so many of the ideas that Miss May brought forward. They seemed rather obvious to me.

Another one of the clips that I saved in my Audible app from the book, and Miss May, says, quote if happiness is a skill, then sadness is too, perhaps through all those years at school, or perhaps through other terrors, we are taught to ignore it, stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn't there.

As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness; it is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them as best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs, felt as cleanly as a knife. Indeed, Miss May. Indeed, all of this to say that, if you are feeling the pressure of all that has been added back into your life after the relative quiet of the COVID pandemic I've had so many people say to me in the past couple weeks, we are back to pre-COVID busyness.

This is your invitation for me to deliberately decide to do things differently, instead of trudging forward with a linear mindset. Rest and recuperate and hibernate as much as you need, taking time to slow down, pulling back a bit to change your trajectory, meandering as much as you need to like the direction that you're headed. I would love to be the person who helps you question your beautiful brain and who helps you intentionally decide what you do want to do on your path to Your Favorite You.

There's still time to join our group that starts in January. Book a consult with me to examine how I can help you. See y'all next week.

Hey, everybody, don't go quite yet. I want to let you know all the ways that you can work with me.

If you've been listening to this podcast, maybe especially the episodes where I interviewed my clients and you are thinking like the older woman in the diner in the classic Meg Ryan Billy Crystal film when Harry met Sally, where Sally, proving a point to Harry, is faking an orgasm while at the diner.

Sally finishes and takes a bite of her food and the older woman in the next booth says I'll have what she's having. This is your sign from the universe to schedule a consult with me.

I'm currently enrolling clients who want to work with me in a group setting. The group will start on January 10th, and we will meet every Wednesday at 1pm until July 3rd, 2024.

I'm very excited about the women who have already made the commitment to themselves and the investment in themselves to join the group and would love to have you be part of it. I also have a few spots available for one-on-one coaching with me, if that is a way that you want to work with me.

The way to contact me is to go to my website,, and either go to the group page and click Book Now or go to the work with me page and click Book Now.

That way, you can schedule a consult. I look forward to hearing from you. Let's make 2024 your favorite year ever as you become Your Favorite You.

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