I had a major realization today. I realized that since I was a small child, all I’ve wanted to be is an adult. I had very little interest in most of the things that “children” did: sports, playing with other children my age and so forth. I always felt like I related better to the adults around me than to those who were supposed to be my peers. I never really felt they were my peers. As a second grader, I didn’t want to learn soccer, I learned computer programming.

Being Adult
Creative Commons License photo credit: young_einstein

Some aspects of this have been a wonderful gift to me throughout my life, I’ve developed my technical and creative skills, and had the opportunity to do some really wonderful things at a remarkably young age.

But this is all familiar territory for me, today was something new.

Today I realized that maybe being a “responsible adult” was not really what I wanted. It had never occurred to me to consider any other possibility, and even as I write these words my monsters (to use Havi’s term) are going crazy yelling at me: “how could you want to be anything but a responsible adult, what else is there that it would be reasonable to be?”

Today I unpacked the meaning of the words “responsible adult” to me.

I came to understand something really powerful in the process of doing this. I realized that in my mind “responsible adult” was nothing more than societal programming, the set of rules that I absorbed unconsciously from the time I was a tiny baby I’m watching the people around me and drawing conclusions about the rules that they operated by based on what I saw. One of the things that’s interesting to note, is that at the time that I was receiving this programming unknowingly I was not in a position to really understand or analyze what was happening. My two or three or four-year-old brain didn’t understand why people were doing what they did, and some of the conclusions it came to are really not useful to me.

For instance:

Urgency should be the key driver of my decision-making. If the phone rings, it needs to be answered immediately. If an e-mail comes in, it needs to be responded to immediately. If someone needs something from me it’s my responsibility to deliver it instantaneously regardless of what else is going on. This is not useful, at least not to me.

Another example:

The only way to be even remotely okay is to be perfect. Less-than-perfect is completely unacceptable. Once again, this is something which is so limiting since perfection, in the sense I’m referring to it here, is not something that I can ever reasonably expect to reach.

Here’s one that really hit home:

When I’m not able to do something easily and naturally, it means that I’m bad, I’m not good enough. Not only should I be doing things easily and naturally, I should be doing them in a way which is unique, but not too different from how other people do them, because that’s not okay either.

All of a sudden I started to understand why I felt painted into a corner so much of the time.

So what now?

Think the most important thing is to recognize that these things which have been part of my worldview till now don’t have to stay a part of my worldview. I find it hard to put into words, but just identifying and articulating is already changing them even as I write this post.

I’ve also become aware, that it would be helpful to encourage myself to be willing to do things in a more childlike way, at least some of the time. This is something I’ve known before, even something I’ve taught when I’ve worked with other people, but I’ve never really given myself permission to do it myself.

Wow, that feels really big. I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Come play with me?

This is big stuff, when we talk about programming, and change work, and particularly our own internal process, it often brings up things both for ourselves and other people. If my processing my stuff has triggered you in a way that’s uncomfortable, I’m truly sorry and that is not my intention. This is also not advice, sometimes I do give advice here–talking about how to integrate storytelling into life and business, or maybe about how to make technical things work better, for example–but this is not advice. This is nothing more, and nothing less than me sharing my process.

I would love to hear your responses, or any parts of your process you want to share that were sparked by this in the comments below. So come play with me.

  • Hey, Andy —

    I appreciate your honesty in this post. I, too, am in a season of my life where I’m excavating beliefs I’ve held about myself for a looooong time, as well as beliefs about my role in relation to others. It’s shocking to realize that just because you have thought or felt or acted a certain way for 30+ years doesn’t mean that it’s essentially who you are or who you have to be. It’s revelatory work, it’s scary, and at the same time, it’s the most promising and hopeful place I’ve ever been.

    Standing with you in this work. Wishing you clarity and comfort.

    — Abby

    • Thanks Abby!
      I’m believing more and more that THE work for me is to let go of these unuseful beliefs and be open to devine grace and that everything else becomes effortless (and not work) as those things happen.

  • Erica

    Andy, it is funny as I read this I SO recognized some of the examples you gave. I USED to put those kind of burdens on myself as well. Especially answering the phone and returning e-mails. Those still come up for me so I have the free will to CHOOSE in the moment what is best for me. It is funny, I too grew up hanging around with adults MUCH of the time and relating to them MUCH more than people my own age.

    I AM so enjoying being more childlike now as I wasn’t able to be a kid, when I was actually a KID.

    So, I LOVE this post, I relate to it on so many levels.

    I love you and thank you for sharing.

  • Another Andy
    • LOL – so true!

      Thanks for sharing it

  • Marie

    I could have written this (if I were a responsible adult–ha ha!). I have been trying to work out the “adult is supposed to be” stuff from what really needs to be done, ’cause some things have to be done.

    But things don’t always have to be done in a certain way on a certain timetable. I’m actually trying to let my kids be a good example of this, because they are not as constrained by the societal expectations (lucky kids!).

    • you know, it’s interesting – a teacher once said to me that in fact there is nothing I have to do. Nothing at all – what ever we do or do not do has results in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we HAVE To do anything – rather we choose to do it because we have chosen certain results we want in our lives.

      The idea of approaching everything from a position of choice can feel very powerful – I’m doing this because I choose to. it also can be a doorway for me to find other ways to get a particular result.

      It can also be a hard mindset for me to hold on an ongoing basis….

      but for what it’s worth…. 😉

  • SO true. This felt really really familiar. Something I’m noticing is that often there’s this implied correlation between “choice” and “selfish” — if you choose for your own needs, then you’re being selfish.

    Not so helpful when yo’re trying to be healthy.

    • yes – that’s such a common thing in our culture today, and it can be so ingrained that it’s like the wallpaper – you don’t notice that it’s there.

      I keep finding the most powerful thing for me to do is notice these things.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • G’Morning, Andy!

    That’s some pretty powerful Ah-Hah! stuff!
    I’ve been poking around in my old programming for a while, and Wow! It changes *everything* when you recognize and unpack it …
    Turns out that many faces of my Inner Judge belong to “old nuns” and Maiden Aunts. Yikes!

    thanks for sharing your process – it may not be ‘advice’, but it sure is helpful to see how others find their Truth.

    Bright Blessings ~

    Karen J
    (Just found you from your comment on Mark Silver’s http://www.HeartofBusiness.com)

    • Thanks! and welcome! Mark is really amazing.

      This process sharing is new to me, and something that Havi inspired me to do. If you don’t know Havi’s stuff check her out.

      If you want to read more of her stuff, click here for her “notes from my personal practice” category – highly recommended, but easy to get lost in.

      Havi is one of the VERY few people who I love so much and who does so much great stuff that I am in her partner program (her name for what most people call an affiliate program)

      ok, I’ll stop rambling now – but, thanks very much for your comment, and please do go check Havi out if you don’t know her (or even if you do…) She’s one of 2 must read blogs for me.

      Be wel!