Challenges: Can you do more?

Healing session in the movie, Kung Fu Panda 3
Healing session in the movie, Kung Fu Panda 3

“If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be better than what you are.”

Master Shifu, in Kung Fu Panda 3

If you’re looking for an entertaining, light film with a generous use of the term, “chi,” then Kung Fu Panda 3 will definitely fit the bill. It’s a continuation of the Kung Fu Panda story, that begins with Po, the Dragon Warrior, receiving a promotion of sorts from Master Shifu. Po will now be responsible for teaching Kung Fu to the other Masters. This creates great angst for Po as he believes he is not prepared for the challenges of teaching the likes of Tigress, Mantis, Crane, Viper, and Monkey. When he protests to Master Shifu, he receives the response above.

Honestly, there were so many times during the film that I thought to myself, “I say that exact thing.” Or, “I just said that yesterday!” Maybe there is not so much of a difference between being a Reiki Master and a Kung Fu Master! Maybe they are just different ways of working with energy and for different purposes.

When Shifu said, “If you only do what you [know you] can do, you’ll never be better than what you are.” I realized I had said the exact same thing (just worded differently) the day before. The women’s running group that I’m a part of was in the midst of wrapping up our January 100-mile challenge and let’s just say, it was very challenging for some of us. For some it was more mileage than we usually log in a month. For some, life got in the way – work schedules, illnesses, and injuries – oh, and frigid temperatures.

As we tried to encourage each other, through online messages about the challenge and our monthly total mileage, I offered the following: “It’s a challenge and therefore challenging. If you only did the challenges you knew you would accomplish, what would be the point?”

Shifu is saying a similar thing. We need to assess what we’re being presented with. Is it a challenge? Why is it challenging for us? What are the barriers? Are you not even starting the challenge because you’ve already determined that you will not, or may not, succeed? What if you try? Is this challenge a choice? Does it speak to you? Does it resonate with your soul? Does it align with your values? What if you did give it a try and didn’t succeed? What would be your worse case scenario then? However, if you never try, you’ll never know what you could possibly do.

So I offer to you today, what challenges are you avoiding? What are you not doing because you’re only doing what you can do? How can you stretch beyond your comfort zone and still align with your values and your true self? (Please let us know in the comments below!)

I know for myself there are running, writing, and teaching challenges ahead for me this year. Will I succeed at all of them? Maybe, maybe not. Though, how else will I know except by trying?

Wishing you the joy of trying.

Just Give Up: On Surrender, Acceptance, and Being Driven

Photo by Janice E Lodato“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

True confession: I’m a very driven person. When I set my mind to something I will find a way to get it done. Honestly, this has not always been the greatest trait for building interpersonal relationships. I truly believe, “When there is a will there is a way.” Sometimes that has meant a greater focus on achieving a goal than it has on supporting a relationship. Even with this driven nature, I’m not naive. I know even when we push, even when we plan perfectly, even when the stars align and everyone is on our side, sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to.

Which brings me to the topic of surrender — to maybe just giving up. What if we just stop trying so hard. What if we surrender to God, spirit, universe — whatever you call the higher power in your life — and let it go.  Let go, let God. Can we do this? What level of acceptance does this involve? And, what level of personal responsibility remains?

For me, this always leads to me still doing the work. Still making the plans. Still trying as hard as I can because fate rewards the doer — at least in my book. While I’m busy doing, can I surrender regarding the outcome of my actions? Can I accept that though I’ve planned, acted, and did my best, that the result might not be as I want? Does that make the doing any less important? What if I just gave up? What if I focused more on being and less on doing?  What’s the saying? “You’re a human being, not a human doing.” This always strikes me as an incredibly clever saying but it leaves me empty existentially. What does it mean to “just be”? Can someone please show me someone who is being and not doing? If we’re honest, I think they are inextricably connected. I would be delighted to hear contrary evidence, and please fill up the comments with your stories, because I’m really puzzling over this distinction.

Ironically, however, I do have evidence in my life of times, especially in work settings, when I stopped trying so hard — felt like I had given up and wasn’t an A+ worker — and yet suddenly the rewards for that workplace setting started coming to me. One time after an extended vacation and months of “just doing enough” I received a lavish raise and a significant promotion.  Really?!  Okay, higher power, explain that one to me.

This isn’t a post with answers.  This is something I’m exploring and probably a dance I’ll partake in until I can see things differently.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.  How do you balance acceptance and being driven in your life?