How Do You Get Out If You've Painted Yourself Into a Corner?

DSC04217Let's face it. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, doing more to sabotage our missions than most outer forces could do on their best day.

Perhaps one of the least understood but most insidious causes of mission block is one that is best described by that old familiar phrase -- painting ourselves into a corner.

Like anyone who's painted a floor knows, you make things a lot easier for yourself if you start at one corner and work toward a door so that you leave yourself an out. But when we do it the other way around, often we don't have an out. Our decisions become limited, and we force ourselves down a trail that probably isn't going to get us out of our mess, much less take us toward where we want to go.

Most of us don't do it that way when launching a mission. Instead, the tendency is to jump in head first and see where it leads. Too often, though, that causes us to bump up against things we've never dealt within us that now rear their ugly heads to derail our best efforts to move forward.

In the case of a mission that isn't serving us very well, I'm referring to the string of decisions and actions that brought us to this point.

Just like the painter with a floor full of wet paint, you are probably going to have to get your feet dirty to get out.

But before you blow up your mission and decide to start over, perhaps it might be a good idea to stop and think about those choices you made that resulted in the predicament you're in today.

Now, there are a thousand little decisions involved in our lives, and the launch and operation of a mission isn't any different. It would be impossible to review each and every one of them.

Besides, being one who tries to leave the past in the past and meet the moment on its own merits, I don't advise dwelling on all the things you could have done differently. Nor do I think you should beat yourself up for them, either.

Still, it is important to understand where you went off course. If you sit quietly and think back over your efforts to date, I suspect you'll find not one but a series of similar situations that arose that resulted in the same kind of action or inaction.

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A case in point

I'll use my own situation as a case study.

When I was building my law practice, I never really had to think much about promotion. Soon after hanging up my shingle, clients started coming in the door. They didn't necessarily bring the kind of work I wanted to do, but they were good people who I could help with their different problems and make a reasonable living doing it.

A religious person might say that God had put me in a place to ease their pain, and for so doing he took care of me by providing with the means to support myself and my family.

Sure, I'd do some promotional activity over the years. Some of that was money-intensive activities like advertising, putting on seminars, and joining organizations. But no matter what I did, the bulk of the clients just seemed to come, by one means or another, as a result of me simply being me and taking my part within the local community.

About a dozen years ago I had an ephiphany in Sedona. It started me off on a great inner quest, and from there into outer service to share it. It resulted in my writing Whispers in the Silence about our inner voice and its relationship to our spiritual journeys -- not to mention the inner call that motivates our missions to make a difference.

That brought with it book promotion activities like signings, speaking, advertising, attending conferences, getting distribution, and so on. Unlike with the law practice, none of them came on their own. Each step was a venture into terra incognito, requiring me to assert an initiative on my part to take the steps necessary to become visible, to share my story and sell the books.

It was EXCRUCIATING. Nothing came easy, and it all was at great expense. I spent hours and hours educating myself each step of the way, taking it and then dealing with the next task in a never-ending series of chores to promote me and my book.

While I met many wonderful people, I was always behind the learning curve of this unknown territory. They tried to help, but always it came back to me taking step after step on my own -- and throwing countless dollars at the problem in order to take them.

To make matters worse, my own inner landscape was shifting. I was being pulled in new directions, to put our own personal evolution in context. And from there, to speak out the causes of struggle and conflict in us and our society.

Yet no matter the focus or arena of expression, always it came back to one thing -- I had to promote myself if the work was to move forward or have the kind of impact I wanted it to have.

Much of it was done charitably, with no expectation or request for return, yet even that demanded my promotional efforts.

As you might guess, with my time and energy pulled away from my law practice, the clients quit coming. It's ability to subsidize my efforts ended. For a long while I found myself unable and unwilling to quit the outreach, turning instead to ways that didn't require me to devote dollars to the cause.

Instead, I tried to re-energize and ramp up the law practice. To no avail, it didn't respond. I'd lost all the momentum of almost 3 decades of work, and left with the shell of a once-vibrant business hollowed out by my devotion to a mission that I couldn't figure out how to promote.

A turning point

As I took stock of where I was, I recognized a series of decisions that I made in both my "spiritual" and legal businesses that set me on the course of struggle. For a long time I blamed myself for not spending the money on publicists or others who would do what I couldn't or wouldn't do for myself -- money that was in short supply and much needed elsewhere.

Digging deeper, I began to see that the same issues I had in the law with promoting myself were there in the spiritual service as well. It had simply allowed me to create a situation where I had to face my own reticence, which resulted in me for one reason or another (sometimes reluctance, sometimes incongruity with methods, sometimes just money) not taking the steps necessary to get myself out there.

I had to ask myself why I made these decisions? Why did these same circumstances and results keep coming up? Because though the names and faces would change, inevitably the result didn't -- I remained safe and sound in my own little cocoon, but my efforts to break out and involve others didn't get much traction.

While I realized something inside of me was causing the problem, I couldn't let my search for the cause stop me from trying to right the ship and get things back on track.

Instead, I began to focus on those aspects of my life and law practice that came easy for me and that I enjoyed. Sometimes it was hard, because fresh in mind were so many things about the practice that were often distasteful, including a few of the lawyers(and even a couple clients) encountered along the way.

But what I really loved about it was the chance to get to know so many fine people, and find a way to help them through their struggles. So it was upon this that I decided to focus, and bring this joy back into my activities.

With that, it changed my whole outlook on promotion. For no longer was I trying to sell me or what I was creating. I was simply looking and listening, and allowing myself to be in a place where I could help when need arose.

It also helped to resolve some of my own personal divisions.

I determined to find a way to not have this split personality between lawyer/businessman and spiritual/peace teacher. That simple intention brought be back to MissionLaunch, which I'd started several years back but didn't devote the energy to it that it deserved.

For MissionLaunch was the merger of my inner and outer practices, where I could help people hear their inner voices and add their contribution to build a better world. I found that many were blocked along the way by obstacles that held them back.

But fortunately, a lot of those were the same obstacles I'd encountered in my own efforts, so I had a leg up on solving them. Moreover, it allowed me to draw upon the best of both my mainstream experience and my inner insights to illuminate the problems in ways they could see and address.

But now, promotion wasn't about me or my message or my book or anything that I thought required visibility to an outer world that didn't seem like it cared. I didn't want or need to talk about me. I only wanted to talk about them and the problems that were holding them back, and getting them unstuck so they could do their part.

Even while I was waiting for the clients to come, I decided that this self-imposed hermitage had to end. So I set about using the tools at my disposal, not to promote myself, but simply to begin meeting people, getting to know them, and listening to the things that turned them on or held them back.

Sure, it's a slow way to grow. It still involves a fair amount of commitment to creating new content and broadcasting it in places where I hope those who need it will find it.

But it has allowed me to circumvent my own blockages, to take baby steps rather than giant ones to let people like you know about people like me, who care and are here to help when you need it.

What's the takeaway?

How does this apply to you?

You've made decisions that have brought you into this impasse. It's allowing you to see things about yourself. Some you like. Some you don't. Some move you forward. Some hold you back.

You don't have to stay where you are while you work to better understand the cause. You can instead look for a way to move around your own obstacles.

You probably know what you want and need to do. So rather than agonize over whether to do it or how, look for an alternative that may not be quite as antithetical to those inner conditions that painted you in this corner.

Find the things you love about what you do. Emphasize those. Look for ways to change up your energy, and shift into new perspectives that will allow you more choices.

Sometimes it helps if someone else can help you see and work through them. I know it sure would have helped me, and shorten my time wandering in the wilderness.

Maybe it can help you, too. If you're willing to try, I am, too. I offer a free consultation at JohnDennison.com to those who are ready to explore that path to get over the hump.

Whatever you choose for yourself, just know it is your choice. You don't have to stay blocked by circumstance or painted into a corner.

There is a way out, created for you. Your job is to find it. And if you choose, take it.

God bless you indeed.

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P.S. I guess I'm still talking about me. But now it's not to promote me. It's to help you see whether similar things are at work in you or in your life.

Self-examination is an art that isn't often taught. Like anything, it starts with the first step.

Look at your life. Look for where you've not done what you wanted. Where you've been blocked or frustrated or angry with what you encountered.

Now that you see it, listen. That voice inside will begin to speak, to show you more. Let it guide you. You will know what to do.

But don't quit trying in your outer efforts. Just look for another way. There's always another way, another choice to make. It may not be an attractive one from where you stand, but if you move a little, it may begin to look better.

So, what are you waiting for? Get on with it. The life you change will be your own!