When you read the words ‘what can I do’, how do they sound in your head?
Is the emphasis on the ‘what’ and the ‘I’ with the result being a statement of dejected hopelessness? Or is the emphasis on the ‘can’ and the ‘do’?
Can do. YES.
The result of focusing attention here is a very empowering question. In fact, at the moment it’s my go to thing whenever I feel overwhelmed or powerless. On repeat. What can I do? What can I do? I find this question to be like a magic portal from stuckness to a world of possibilities!
It is also very grounding, bringing me usually from being caught up in my head where problems seem to compound, to a place of solidity and calm knowing. It assumes that there is something that I can do. I regain control.
What can I do?
If I’m feeling really pummeled by that old inner critic this will be a pretty conservative list, but it’s always an excellent starting point until I start feeling happier and stronger and more willing to believe in myself. This is my core list, the fallback one that will always be true:
I can listen to people who want to be heard
I can share my knowledge and experiences
I can be the best version of myself, mind-body-spirit
I can donate money sometimes and sign petitions
I can send Love on a prayer
I can also decide that this is not my battle
What would be on your core list? If you’re in a good place it is handy to write a list of skills, personal resources and personality traits for you to use when you’re feeling low and searching for what you can contribute!
If there is a particular situation that you want to help with but feel helpless about, that’s when we feel really stressed and our creative thought is blocked. If you can relax, for example through exercise, a nice bath with essential oils, or tapping, you have a much better chance of ideas coming through. If you’re anything like me then get prepared for some bat-shit-crazy gems! Alternatively you can use this question to ask the person or group you want to help: what can I do?
There will of course be nuances to what we can realistically do any given situation and still retain our sanity. I recently completed the Soulpreneurs course, and Yvette teaches that our most powerful actions come from the ‘Truth Trifecta’ – the place where your talents, values, and purpose intersect. Another version of this would be the Japanese concept of ikigai, in the diagram to the right.
The core list that I mentioned above is what I use for putting out spot fires. It’s a reactive response. The truth trifecta or ikigai is more like your life’s work. It is that Earth Warrior soul’s calling fully expressed. We can dance around it for a long time because it can also be the most personally scary, confronting path for us to take! The thing is though, the more you’re in that space of your unique strength, the more powerfully and positively you will impact the planet, and the less reactive you will be.
One of the most useful tools for getting in the ‘can do’ space is the ‘circle of influence’, which is a concept described by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits for Highly Effective People. He say’s we all have a ‘circle of concern’ in our lives, which is all the things we care about. The thing is, we can’t always make an impact on all of these things (I can decide this is not my battle), so within this larger circle is a smaller area he called the ‘circle of influence’. This is the place where our actions make a difference. When we ask ‘what can I do’ this is the place we land. The more energy we spend here, he says, the bigger our circle of influence grows, because we are taking effective action.
So the next time you feel lost or helpless, shift your focus. Recognise what your strengths are and what is within your circle of influence, and move your attention wholly into what it is that you can do. Focusing on anything else is a road to panic and overwhelm! It can also pay to take the long view – to be judicious in how much time and energy you spend on those spot fires and making sure to take steps into your personal ikigai/ truth trifecta power. If you set your intention that this is what you want to do, all you have to do is take the opportunities when they come knocking.
PS. The next round of Soulpreneurs is now open, and not for long! If you are a soul-centred entrepreneur I can highly recommend it, it’s a 6 month course which will take you to the next level, whatever that is for you, supported by the most gorgeous group of like-minded people. Learn more here. (not an affiliate link).
PPS. If you want to start connecting to what your soul’s whispers say you can do, and to take steps to becoming the most vibrant, energised version of you then now’s the time to sign up for Cleanse and Connect! It’s my 28 day online soulstainability kickstarter, beginning SEPTEMBER 1! Check it out here.
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Ikigai diagram from Wikimedia commons