By Leo Babauta
One of the things that really humbled me in recent years is the realization that I am often only halfway in on anything I do. I’m rarely ever really all in.
For example, I might join a coaching program with the idea of trying it out, but not really sure if I can do it. Then when things start to get hard or overwhelming … I might be looking for the exit door, or hiding so I don’t have to be embarrassed. This is being halfway in, with an eye on the exit.
Another example: I commit to meditating every day. Then when I’m meditating, instead of being fully in the meditation, maybe I’m waiting for it to be over, or giving myself reasons I should end early. Then two days into it, maybe I really don’t feel like it, so I skip it. Then I find reasons to keep skipping it. This is even less than halfway in.
Most of us do this in just about everything we do. And it has a really corrosive effect on whatever we’re taking on.
Does it have to be this way? Let’s take a look at what it looks like to be all in, and why we rarely do that. And then look at how it can create something powerful in your life.
What It’s Like to Be All In
Some of us have an experience of being all in, somewhere in our lives. Some places that might be true for you:
- Your kids – you’re not about to abandon them when they’re not behaving the way you’d like.
- Your marriage – a subset of people are fully committed, and will do what it takes to work it out even when there are really big problems. There are others who have one eye on the exit door, ready to bolt when there are problems. Which are you?
- Best friend – maybe you have a bestie who you are fully committed to, who you’ll be there for no matter what, who you will never abandon even when they are lashing out and not being ideal.
If you can relate to one of these – like having kids – then imagine what it would be like to have that kind of all-in commitment to whatever you do.
Imagine working on a creative project and having no question that you’re going to complete it. Even when things get hard, you’re working with the difficulties. Even when you feel like giving up, you don’t give yourself the option. Even when you miss a few days, you come back without any questions. Even if you die with it incomplete … you will die knowing you gave it your all.
Your heart is fully in it. Doubts might come up, but those are expected.
This is full devotion.
Why We Avoid That
We rarely let ourselves be all in, fully devoted … because it’s hard and scary.
We don’t think we can do it. We don’t think we’re strong enough. We have lots of evidence that we will screw it up, based on past experience. We don’t trust ourselves.
We don’t trust the other person. We fear what they really think of us, we think they’ll abandon or hurt us, or let us down. Yet again.
We don’t think we can work out the hard problems. They feel intractable, overwhelming, too complex, to out of our control. We hate not having full control.
It’s easier to run. But it leaves our full heart, our full power, on the table.
The Power Created by Being All In
What you’ll find if you’re all in:
- Deeper commitment creates deeper trust.
- The greatest results you are capable of.
- Transformation – you’ll be able to shift some of those things you think you can’t do or be or have.
- A deeper relationship, with more trust.
- A deeper relationship with yourself, with more trust.
- A realization that you didn’t need the exit door.
- A deeper devotion to whatever you care about.
Imagine that instead of heading for the exit door, you’re committed to working things out the best you can. (Not that you should stay in an abusive relationship or anything that’s harmful to you.) When you want to run, you stand and find something deeper within you.
What would that do for the projects that are most meaningful to you? For the relationships you care about most? How would you show up differently for your purpose in life?
What would have to shift? What would you have to let go of? What could be created from this place?
How to Practice
This is not another set of expectations and shoulds to judge yourself by. This is about practicing deepening.
Here’s how you might practice:
- Notice the places where you’re looking to get out, to exit. Where are you only half committed?
- Notice how this impacts your life, the people you’re in relationship with, and what you care about.
- Notice the fears that stop you from being all in, that keep you looking for the exit. Can you be with these fears, as sensation in the body?
- Notice what you want to do from those fears – run, hide, eject someone from your life, make them feel bad, justify why you should quit, etc etc. Can you hold these with love, as something sacred you’ve created to protect yourself?
- When the fears show up, try to catch yourself. Notice what you want to do, and recognize that this is just a safety mechanism. Breathe. Be with the fear. Give yourself love.
- Continue to love yourself, the other person. The more breath, presence and love, the more spaciousness you’ll find.
- Then see what else might be created, if you don’t run for safety. From love.