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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Should you push yourself (or let go)? [Wise Wednesdays #355]

I believe Bruce Lee definitively settled this question: "Be like water”, reviving the Eastern philosophy idea found in Taoism and Buddhism idea of the Middle Way - not forcing, not stopping when faced with a challenge. Bruce Lee often used water as a metaphor for adaptability, flexibility, and the flowing nature of life and combat. He emphasised the idea that one must adapt to situations fluidly, without resistance or rigidity.






Whether to push yourself or let go is a question that often comes up for high achievers close to burnout or recovering from it. It also arises after a setback when fear of failure creates self-doubt. And finally if you’re caught in the semi-comfort of the success trap. But the answer isn’t binary. It involves going deeper into your psychology to reveal the Middle Way.


The architecture of your motivation


Your motivation and impulses are rooted in your psychological architecture. Change the architecture, and you change your impulses. You want to do X or Y (or not) because you have an underlying set of beliefs about what’s worthwhile pursuing and what’s possible. It’s what Tony Robbins calls your Blueprint and what Buddhism calls Sankharas. You also have a deeper, unknown potential that is unshaped. So rather than looking for a quick answer, dive deeper into your belief system (which must evolve over time and with your context, if your life is to represent your true potential). Then you can shift what’s in the way of your full expression.


But it’s not easy because diving that deep brings up emotions and fears - it can be quite scary tinkering with your beliefs and facing old demons. As they say, your mind can be like a risky neighbourhood at night or a wild rainforest - don’t go there alone :)


This is the deep mindset work that powerful coach can help you do, whether it’s Tony Robbins, a spiritual guru, or someone like me. 


When I work with someone, I hear what they are saying but also see the underlying psychological architecture and beliefs that are giving rise to their challenges and getting in their way. It’s like when I was a doctor, hearing the symptoms and then getting a picture of the underlying causes and mechanisms before intervening.


Photo: Learning the limits of solo exploration in Taman Nagara rainforest, Malaysia, 2014.


Examples: diets, drugs, and career pivots


Let me explain with vegetables. In my teens, I went through a phase of not liking vegetables. My body said ‘no’ when I saw vegetables. But wisdom eventually told me that eating vegetables was healthy and that my dislike was linked to an unhealthy dietary system that sold me empty calories and messed with my taste buds and satiety system, making sugar, fat, and salt in the right proportions endlessly more appealing than vegetables. Someone was making money selling empty calories at the expense of my and other people’s health…So I rewired my brain and now incline towards a vegetarian diet. My body no longer says ‘no’ to vegetables. In fact, it misses them if I don’t eat enough of them. This rewiring is also how I stopped taking daily drugs for heartburn after years of use, 15 years ago, and transformed my perception of pain. This happened with help from Tony Robbins’ neuro associative conditioning programmes and what I learned about limiting beliefs combined with mindfulness and meditation. This kind of work can also help you make a rapid career pivot towards more fulfilling impact like my clever client Dr. Amrit (story here). She was wondering whether to push herself to find a new role or just gratefully accept where she was. We quickly found her Middle Way. 


Can you do this work on your own? Sometimes. But it will take longer and be a bumpier ride than with a guide. 


If you want to see the back of your outfit, you use a mirror. If you want to see the architecture of your motivation, your mirror is another human.


The Middle Way


So should you push yourself or let go? Do whatever seems best in the moment and then do the longer-term inner work to ensure your psychology doesn’t get in the way of your deeper potential.


When you take time to tune in, dive deep, and see what’s going on inside your mind, it becomes clearer what you need to do (or not do).


Remember, you have to take time to save time! 😊 Staying busy or putting undue pressure on yourself only clutters your mental space and creates unnecessary stress. However, giving up or distracting yourself is not the solution either. 


There’s no such thing as time management; it’s about choice management. And that is wisdom work of the Middle Way - the work of liberation from polarisation between force and submission.


Be like water - not forcing, not stopping.


Have a great week,Amina


P.S. Join me for the next Surrendered Leadership 60-minute session to develop more presence with yourself and others. It was a joy to introduce the practice to a group that included three countries (UK, US, France) and three industries (healthcare, tech, and communications). Here’s what Liza said about it: "I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the session was rich with insights that expanded my self-awareness of how I show up as a leader and in groups. I appreciated Amina’s gentle guidance on the Surrendered Leadership approach and how to create presence and safety in a short time in a group."


The next session is on 4th July at 7pm UK / 2pm ET. Half of the 6 spots are taken. Get more info and your free spot here >>

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