For all of my positive talk and pride in my accomplishments, I secretly carry with me a personality trait that I have fought for years—being “a beast of burden.” Amidst my focus on action and human connection and amazement at the universe’s magic, I have this overarching sense of obligation—to my family…to the business…to society. On the positive side, it pushes me to do all that I do…but on the dark side, it detracts from the many joys that touch my life.
While I am a big believer in every indivdual’s power to choose his or her path in life and overcome any challenges they were born into, I also believe that family legacy is rooted in all of us. And that legacy is either a gift that we can leverage throughout our lives (like a spirit of adventure or a deep love for others)…or a lesson to learn and overcome. My paternal grandmother was chronically burdened and a constant worrier. My father was burdened by his sense of obligation to make the world a better place, I believe that there is a legacy for me to unravel. Obligation and drive are great, but they should not overwhelm the many joys that life has to offer.
I have had many conversations with overextended friends through the years—especially my working-mommy friends who are constantly juggling yet feel that their efforts will never be enough—so I know that I am not alone in this.
Whether it’s feeling that you are burdened or angry or like a victim, many of us carry a dark side that holds us back from the happiness and contentment we seek.
I have spent decades fighting the beast, trying to understand it and overcome it. Different methods help in different ways and at different times. While meditation may not have been right at one point, it has become solace at another. Mantras, exercise, yoga, binaural beats, psychotherapy, acupuncture—the list is endless. I’ve tried them all and incorporated them into the “soup” of my learning and understanding. They have helped tremendously in who I am and how I am each day.
Yet the pandemic’s challenges are bringing many dark traits back to the forefront for many of us. The lack of control due to the disease and the social unrest that makes victims feel even more victimized…angry people angrier…and burdened people simultaneously more oppressed and more driven to change.
I spoke with one of my mentors this morning—Jeff Zimmerman, Doctor of Oriental medicine and developer of “Harmonetiks,” a way to bring your mind and body into harmony in order to unlock and maximize your own energy. We talked about the concept of the “rucksacks” that we carry with us each day. Do you strap on a pack full of rocks and weight? Or one full of joy and light? This wasn’t a new conversation for us, but somehow it hit me differently today.
In the past, I have talked about how we put on different costumes each day—what you wear and how you fix your hair (and makeup) tells a story to the world. Most people are fairly consistent in their costuming, but there definitely are times when a hardcore business costume is right for a strong leader rather than a more informal approachable costume or a simple all-black “invisible” look that you see in most of my video appearances. These costumes can set the tone for not only how others see you but also for how you see yourself. Wear an outfit that you feel great in, and you will present yourself in a confident manner. Wear one that is a little uncomfortable, and you will be vulnerable until that outfit comes off. The great thing about costumes is just that—they are temporary external displays to the world. They change with every wearing, and you can choose a different one each time.
The same thing holds true with our actual rucksack…or purse…or briefcase…or suitcase. When you pack it, you choose what you want to bring with you that day.
But what about that metaphorical rucksack? What do you want to carry strapped on your back that day? I attended the Landmark Forum almost 20 years ago, and the Forum leaders helped us recognize the emotional burdens that we dragged through life and that were holding us back. I remember feeling 50 pounds lighter after leaving a giant “bag of emotional rocks” in the seminar room. It felt so freeing. Yet 20 years later, I still carry some rocks, and Jeff reminded me that those rocks are a choice.
If we are in search of happiness and love and joy, then why choose to put anger or victim or beast of burden in the rucksack each day? When talking to Jeff, I imagined two bags—one, an overstuffed, bulging and heavy bag of rocks…and the other, light and fluffy like cotton candy. A far happier image and one that I will happily work to choose each day.
If you, too, have a beast that you bear, join me on this little journey each day to choose the bag that you carry on your back—will it weigh you down…or lift you up?
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.