How the Introvert in Me Finally Stopped “Shoulding” All Over Herself

I had the privilege of attending Jenny Shih’s Make It Work Online™ LIVE business retreat last week in Corvallis, Oregon. Over the past few months I’ve worked with Jenny and her amazing team of copy coaches, business coaches, and success coaches as their resident Coaching Skills Trainer.

Needless to say, it felt a little surreal to finally meet these phenomenal women (both the coaches and the program participants) in 3D for the first time.

I didn’t have a specific goal for the retreat, other than showing up and being present to the best of my ability.

Now this may sound like a bit of a cop-out if you don’t know my personal struggle with retreats.

As an introvert, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with them.

Large groups drain my energy.

But I also get something out of retreats that I can’t get through online interactions alone. The insights and the breakthroughs that happen through face-to-face connections are exponentially greater for me.

So I gave myself the challenge of managing my energy more effectively than I ever have at a retreat and… here’s the kicker… not judging myself ONE BIT for doing this.

Allow me to explain.

In the past, I’ve tried to self-manage my energy by taking breaks or having meals on my own during retreats, workshops, and conferences. However, they’ve mostly turned into self-pity parties about how “I should be socializing…” “I should be more appreciative of this down time…” or “I should be able to manage my energy better…”

Yikes! I know. That’s a lot of “shoulds.”

But this time, something had shifted for me. I was able to be fully present for the group sessions AND also fully enjoy my down time and recharge.

I felt joyful, energized, and SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL throughout the entire retreat… even when I knew that I was missing some of the social gatherings.

So I started to wonder about what helped me conquer my “shoulds” this time.

And my answer will probably disappoint you.

But it’s my answer… and I suspect that some of you will relate.

The best way that I can explain it is by quoting a poem that I shared with one of the coaches at the retreat… possibly because it was more for me that her. (Funny how that works isn’t it.)

Bear with me here :)

“There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk – The Romance of Self-Discovery

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

― Portia Nelson”

I finally walked down a different street.

Some of our “shoulds,” our unhelpful beliefs, or our “operating systems” (as I like to call them) are so deeply ingrained that wiggling ourselves free of them just takes more time… no matter how much personal development work we think we’ve done.  

And when we finally do manage to break free of them… oh boy! What a difference!

The retreat was amazing.

Jenny Shih and her coaches are forces of nature.

The caliber of the participants blew me away.

And so many people (including me!) took away life lessons that they needed to learn as well as mind-blowing breakthroughs with respect to running their businesses.

I’m so glad to have been able to take full advantage of the retreat in a way that worked for me and how I’m “wired.”

And so my dear readers, the next time that you find yourself “shoulding” all over yourself… Take a moment and reflect on a few key questions:

What’s the hole in your sidewalk that you keep falling into?

Which chapter are you on?

And last but not least… can you give yourself permission to be exactly where you are, without judging yourself?