In this issue ~~
In these days of constant change and uncertainty, it seems we're continually reinventing ourselves. In the process, we're often taking leaps of faith, and at some point, we find ourselves suspended between what was and what is yet to be. In her new book, Between Trapezes: Flying Into a New Life with the Greatest of Ease, motivational speaker and executive coach Gail Blanke guides and inspires us to take those leaps.
SHARON GOOD: Gail, what led you to use the image of being between trapezes?
GAIL BLANKE: The reason I use the trapeze metaphor is because we all are "between" in some area of our life, and because the wonderful thing about trapezes is that you can't hold onto two of them at the same time. You've got to let go of the old one – the old view, the old way, the old idea, the old title – before you can reach out and grasp that new one. And in between, you're not holding onto anything.
SG: Which is extremely scary.
GB: And it's also the best of all possible times, because it's where you discover who you are now and what you're passionate about now and what's possible now. You might even discover new talents and new people and new ideas, so that you can, in fact, reinvent yourself. But we all like to know how it's going to turn out, so it's hard to step out into that vast unknown.
We need to be open to discovering who we could be becoming. We don't want to stay stuck in an old idea of ourselves. We have this whole thing about what type we are and aren't that we got when we were little and someone said, "Oh, you're the mathematical type" or "you're the creative type."
I speak to so many people who will say, "I'm not the entrepreneurial type, the corporate type, the stand-up-in-front-of-people-and-talk type, the salesman type, the creative type." And if someone says, "Maybe you'd like to start a company of your own," we say, "Oh, no, I'm not the entrepreneurial type." When we get so wedded to this "type" thing, we shut out a lot of great possibilities for ourselves.
SG: You talk about the difference between choosing to move to a new trapeze and getting blown off the old one. It can be an unpleasant circumstance, but it can also be a positive one. In your book, you tell about your appearance on "Oprah," where all of a sudden you were thrust into the spotlight, and your whole self-image changed.
GB: The amazing thing about that "defining moment" in my life was that it was the great unknown. Being on the "Oprah" show and having a whole hour to myself with Oprah was just the greatest possible opportunity, and one I was wildly excited about, but it didn't go anything like what I thought was going to happen.
They had those big yellow chairs, and Oprah usually sits in one and the guest sits in the other one. When I came on the set, Oprah looked at me and said to the director, "Get the bench." They took off these big yellow chairs and brought on this big yellow bench, and Oprah said, "You sit on the bench. I'm going into the audience."
I was absolutely dumbfounded and thought, "Who am I to be sitting on this bench by myself on the 'Oprah' show? Does this mean she doesn't like me? Or what does this mean?" In the end, I had to decide what it meant. I could have decided Oprah doesn't like me, or I could decide something else.
At any given moment in your life, something happens, somebody says something, and you get to decide what it means. Usually, we make it mean something negative. The way to handle a situation like this is to ask yourself, "Okay, at this particular moment, what am I committed to in my life, in my work?"
I knew I was committed to enabling everybody who watched that show to have a sense of new possibilities in their life. So I said, "Okay, if that's what I'm committed to, what am I going to make 'get the bench' mean?" I decided it would have to mean, Oprah trusts me. So I went with that. And then I thought, "If Oprah trusts me, who am I not to trust myself?" I went with that interpretation, and it just propelled me right through the show.
So, the bottom line is, something happens in life, and you get to decide what it means. I used this as a way to discover the difference between fact and interpretation in my life. You want to make up empowering interpretations for the things that happen in your life that propel you forward.
SG: There are times when fate, or whatever you want to call it, thrusts you into situations that you don't see yourself as being ready for, even though you are, and you just have to let go of your pictures of what you think you're supposed to be or what you're supposed to do, and then go through that thought process that you went through and push yourself up to that next level.
GB: You are exactly right. Sometimes, the universe places these things at our feet, the opportunity for us to step into our power. I never thought of myself in the same way again, because it gave me such strength to know that I could step into that power. I found something in myself that I didn't know I had.
SG: It's one thing to be blown off your trapeze; you *have* to deal with it. It's another to choose it. How do you inspire yourself to take that leap of faith?
GB: One of the things that makes it easier to let go of the old trapeze is to create a powerful vision. Walt Disney, whenever he would build a new theme park in any part of the world, would always direct the workmen to build the castle first, because that's where the magic is. If we have that gorgeous castle to look to, then we can do anything we need to do to bring the rest of the park to life.
And so, if you create a vision of how good you can make it – your own castle – and you flesh it out and color it in, then it enables you to do all the things that might have seemed hard, but won't seem so hard, to bring that fabulous castle to life. Maybe you think about going back to school. Maybe you think about learning new skills. Maybe you think about losing weight or quitting smoking or learning a new language. One of the things that I've found is that when you feel the magic, you can go the distance every time.
SG: Knowing what's possible and what you're going toward.
GB: Then, you can let go of the old stuff. Trapeze artists have this great saying: "Fat don't fly." Now, they don't mean body fat, they mean mental fat.
SG: Like excess baggage.
GB: That 50-pound Hefty bag that we're all carrying around, that we fill up with all our old fears, all our regrets, all our negative assumptions, all the times when we came up a little bit short. And you can't fly, you can't get loft, if you're carrying all that baggage. You've got to let it go.
SG: When I imagine myself being a trapeze artist between trapezes and ask, "What's the most important thing I need right now," what I come up with is, focus. And you can either focus on your vision or you can focus on all of the other things that are holding you back, the fear of failing.
GB: Trapeze artists have a lot of great sayings, and another one of them is, "The greatest flyers are always the greatest fallers." But trapeze artists never confuse falling with failing. There are those times when the thing that you're working on doesn't work out for one reason or another. But we don't think of that as failing; we think of that as learning and moving forward.
But your idea of focus is really important, because there are those voices that get in our heads and diffuse our attention. And when you're out for something really big, you can hear those voices. In fact, if you don't hear them, it means you really ought to push yourself a little further!
It's about being an adventurer. Being a discoverer. And the whole thing about an adventure is, you don't know how it's going turn out. So, while you want to build that castle and bring that to life, you want to be open to all different ways of doing it, all different kinds of people, all different kinds of solutions. Look for surprising delight. Look for unpredictable, wonderful things that want to happen to you. And people that you never could imagine would appear in your life, and there they are. Which all helps you to see yourself in a new way.
~ ~ ~ ~
My special thanks to Gail Blanke for a delightful and inspiring interview! For more information and some great resources, please visit her website at https://www.lifedesigns.com/about_gail.html.
In your life, what old trapeze are you hanging onto? Build a castle – an inspiring vision – that will help you to let go and move forward. Fill in the vision with lots of delicious detail that will propel you to do what it takes to achieve it.
"It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal."
"Leap, and the net will appear."
"We are very near to greatness; one step and we are safe; can we not take the leap?"
"Have faith and pursue the unknown end."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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