“Everyone who got to where they are had to begin where they were.”
~Richard Paul Evans
Years ago, someone I greatly respected shared a personal development concept with me that is life-changing (and that I’m, if I’m honest, still trying to wrap my head fully around).
“I should have known that,” I would say to this person.
“You can’t know something before you know it,” they would respond.
When I’m caught in my deeply-engrained perfectionism, I still somewhat struggle with this concept. I still think there must be a way to know something sooner. But, at this point, I know that my perfectionism is not only something that gets in the way of my happiness and my effectiveness, but that it is, pretty much, flawed in its thinking and perception of reality. Especially when it tells me that I should have somehow known something earlier or more easily than I did.
Similarly, I’ve witnessed myself – and I’ve witnessed many clients, colleagues, friends, family members, and strangers – beat up on ourselves for not knowing something “already” of for being where we are at any particular moment. “I can’t believe I’m still stuck here,” my clients will tell me. “I hate that I’m still doing this,” I’ll hear from a friend. “I should be past this (or over this or through this) already,” someone will say to me. “I should have known that sooner.”
We can’t know something until we know it, we can’t understand something until we understand it, and where we are is where we are. Those are simply facts. We can work to understand something differently or sooner. While we can try to move through something more quickly or take steps to get out of a situation or relationship in which we feel stuck, where we are is where we are in the moment. And, as Evans shares, where we are is our current step toward getting where we want to be.
And, when we beat up on ourselves for not being further along or not knowing, doing, understanding, or changing fast enough, we actually slow ourselves down further.
We look at others and marvel at how far they’ve come, or at all they’ve accomplished, or at how easy they make something look. We forget that they started at their own starting place, and that, perhaps it was a starting place that they didn’t like. We ignore the fact that they’ve most likely had a process that may have seemed too slow and arduous for them as well.
Many of my coaching clients face this challenge as well. Often they are frustrated at where they are – still stuck in a job, with a boss, with a seemingly unsolvable work problem, with a goal or personal dream they can’t seem to move forward. I remind them, again, that where they are is where they are…and that it’s the first step to where they want to go.
You can’t know it before you know it. You can’t understand it before you understand it. You can’t be there before you’re there. Everyone has to begin knowing what they know, understanding what they understand, and being where they are.
Then move on from there.
How far have you come and where did you start?
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