Today, we dive into the last of the four qualities that bring the best of your voice to light: wildness, kindness, bravery, and, today, clarity. (Listen to the other podcasts in the series: your work is not your worth and what does your work have to do with your voice?)
Clarity is tricky in real life, since we’re never given a 27-point plan to follow about anything, let alone the most important parts of our lives. It’s hard to know we’re doing the right thing at any point with regards to something as simple as eating carbs. (Science differs!) Or screens. (Is Netflix self care or self sabotage? Depends on the day.) Throw some big-picture scenarios into the mix and it often feels impossible to know if we’re on the right path with regards to anything at all.
Instead of promising I can give you simple clarity or deliver your life’s mission in 28.6 seconds or via a much-watched TED talk, let me give you a guideline. Guidelines are rarely sexy and often helpful.
Sometimes ‘not this’ is all we get.
As Liz Gilbert describes it, ‘not this’ is what your soul whispers when it’s appalled — i.e. when it can’t believe you keep doing X and it so clearly keeps asking you for ‘NOT X.’
When you’re in a relationship for far too long.
When you know your job is crushing your spirit.
When you’re being abused or minimized or treated like shit in any capacity.
You won’t get the 43-point plan or the ejector seat that makes leaving as easy as pressing a button.
You’ll get ‘not this.’
‘Not this’ is vague enough to be frustrating and simple enough for you to know exactly what needs to happen next. It’s a miracle of a phrase, should you find yourself, say, weeping in an outdoor shower while your life wakes up all around you and you find yourself in the midst of a marriage that feels like strangling, one breath at a time.
It’s early 2014, winter on the East Coast but lovely in California. I’ve just discovered the heaven that is Laguna Beach, and I’ve convinced my husband to move there for a month so I can bring a massive event to life without Seasonal Affective Disorder punching me in the face.
I’m standing outside and showering in the sun. And my body is screaming, ‘This! This place! This sun on my face! This beach! This, this, this!’
I’ve taken to doing yoga in the morning sun, then tossing my clothes off and letting every last bit of hot water pour over me while listening to every talk Rob Bell has ever uploaded to YouTube. It’s like washing the dust off of every portion of me, slathering myself up in the backyard whilst contemplating God and the mysteries of the universe and hoping the hot water heater doesn’t run out just yet.
The minute the water turns off, I wander back inside and wrestle with my marriage.
All the enthusiastic ‘THIS!!!!’ coursing through my body brings the wall of ‘not this’ into even sharper perspective. I cry every single time I manage to face my life by walking back into the kitchen.
The singular pain that comes of knowing a thing has ended and yet staying.
For inexplicable reasons and for far too long. Somehow it’s always far too long.
When you come to a point in your business that’s lovely — in other words, when you find a ‘THIS!’ — you’ll often find a ‘not this.’ Your job is to honor it.
I’ve ‘not this’ed prescriptive formulas and online programs, ebooks and partnerships, long-treasured ideas and very, very expensive advice. (All of which were a ‘this!’ at some point.)
Your job is to keep finding and then being honest about the ‘not this’ bits when you find them.
Maybe you’ll lose forty-three grand and lie on the couch for six months when the event you went to California to finish is a financial dud. (For example. Total hypothetical.)
Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life and learn more about partnership and intimacy, depth and bliss than you could have imagined. (Again: totally made up it’s not like I have a Bear.)
Maybe you’ll discover a spiritual practice that makes your other work seem shallow by comparison and then spend your days pursuing depth in all of your work. (One more time: certainly not my experience.)
Clarity, in its earliest stages, might just say ‘Not this.’
And you might not hear any words other than those two for the weeks or months or years it takes for you to listen.
If you want your voice to be clearer, it can be helpful to articulate the ‘not this’ness of your clientele as well. My clients are deeply feeling, sensitive souls who tend to be creative for a living. That’s great, but it’s a bit nebulous.
The ‘not this’ of my clientele is as follows: my peeps don’t support Trump. They often fall for purchasing prescriptive programs and 6-point plans because it’s easier than facing the solitary path that is following your own body of work wherever it leads. They are not timid, though they might seem quiet from the outside. They are not used to expressing their voice at its full capacity, and they are hesitant to turn people away because money is money — or so they’ve been taught.
‘Not this’ draws a clear boundary. If you love Trump, we won’t be able to work as closely as I’d like, so I’d rather not take your money.
‘Not this’ gives you clues about what’s going on in your soul. Your life and your work have their own opinions most of the time.
‘Not this’ might be all you get.
Let’s suss out your ‘not this’ in everyday life:
When you first heard ‘not this’ described, did any particular situation immediately come to mind?
Is there anywhere — job, business, partnership, family, friendship, everyday life — that you feel compelled to do something different, even though you don’t yet know what it is?
Are there any projects or ideas that keep floating around and begging to be made, even though you ‘don’t have time’ to make them or they don’t make sense with your current business model?
Is there something people keep asking for, but your time is being taken up by some other service, project, product, or program that was previously the crux of your career?
Do any aspects of your professional life whisper ‘not this?’
Do any clients reek of ‘not this’ or ‘not them?’
Do any of your habits speak of ‘not this,’ but you keep doing them?
Does any part of your everyday routine feel like, ‘not this?’
Does any part of your work sparkle more than it used to, and you know it’s time to give it more energy?
Do you keep daydreaming about some inexplicable, ‘impossible’ project or idea, even though you don’t know how to bring it to fruition? (That’s a ‘THIS,’ and your job is to honor it.)
You don’t have to know what will come of it.
Just stating it is probably enough.
Not this, not this, not this.
Make a NOT THIS list of 10 things, as fast as you can and without second-guessing yourself!
If you’d like to send me what you’ve discovered, awesome! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to hear, or you can tag me on Instagram at @kkalp.
If you’re like, WAIT I LOVE THIS PODCAST SERIES ABOUT VOICE AND IT’S OVER — come to the Voice workshop! These sneak previews are part of a larger curriculum that’s going down on May 20th and 21st in Philadelphia! The expression of your voice will be wilder, kinder, braver, and clearer by the time you leave, and you’ll have fun along the way.