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What if your Dig Deep button broke?

[ 9 ] September 5, 2012 |
shovel digging a hole

Image by net_efekt on Flickr. Creative Commons License.

Brené Brown, an inspirational speaker and researcher on courage and vulnerability, talks about her Dig Deep button. You know, the button you push when you’re beyond exhausted but you have to soldier on anyway? When you have to dig deep to find untapped reserves of courage and strength to keep going?

She wrote in 2008 about breaking her Dig Deep button. She decided not to fix it, choosing instead to honor saying no, taking it easy, and getting what she needs.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I know I’m not the only one who seems to get around to solitude, creativity, and recharging only after all the “serious work” is done (i.e., never, in some cases).

I used to think it was my duty to put myself last. I think I got the idea from religion initially, but it got reinforced often enough elsewhere. After all, parents, teachers, friends, and lovers all respond well when you do what they want, even when it conflicts with what you want. And everybody hates people who are selfish!

The problem is, you can only neglect yourself so long before you don’t have anything to give. For me, that’s not long at all.

I remember a few years ago, when I first read about the idea of making a to-quit list and quitting everything in your life that doesn’t feed you in some way. If it doesn’t make you feel good, either when you do it or in the long-term, take a red Sharpie to it!

When I read that, I thought, “This guy is crazy! I could never do that!” I was convinced I absolutely had to do everything on my list or something terrible would happen, so I kept doing it, even though I hated most of it. I didn’t just have a Dig Deep button, I had a broomstick propped against the opposite wall of the control room to keep it pushed.

But you know what? In the past few years, I’ve quit everything on that list. Every last thing.

Without me keeping everything running, nobody has starved, no organizations have gone under, nobody has withered away of loneliness. Projects get done, accounts get kept, newsletters get published–all without me. The world has kept turning quite nicely, and it’s surprisingly easier to be generous and loving without the dread cloud of all those “should”s and “have to”s hanging over me.

Since I’ve been perpetually tired lately, I started thinking about that again. What do I want to quit? What am I doing just because I think I have to?

There’s not much left to be on the list. I’ve cleaned house pretty thoroughly over the past few years, even giving the ax to the seemingly impossible ones: my expensive house that nobody seemed to want to buy, my ex, my job.

I’ve let go of doing things out of fear and guilt, and I’ve stopped seeing suffering as a good thing (a training ground for heaven). Overall, I’ve structured my life to include astonishingly little unpleasantness.

But lately, I’ve had reason to spend time with a person who can be a hoot but can also be exceedingly unpleasant. I don’t want to get into the reason here, but I believe it is a good one, worthy of an approach other than the to-quit list.

So, what to do? The criticism and ugliness flowing from this person’s mouth feels awful to me. Others seem to be able to shrug it off. I started wondering, is something wrong with me? Have I made things worse by insulating myself from unpleasantness all this time? Would I be as immune as everyone else seems to be if I often dealt with mockery and scorn?

But then I remembered a time when I was surrounded by all that. No, it did not make me immune. It just made me miserable.

I’ve always been told by people who were treating me poorly that I was “too sensitive.” I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who says that might as well write “Asshole” across his forehead with my red to-quit Sharpie.

So, where does that leave me? These days, the only two things I use my Dig Deep button for are working long hours on the business, and dealing with this person.

What if I just… didn’t? What if I rested when I was tired and accepted that the business schedule will always slip? And, what if I refused to be around this person during times of pissiness or spewing?

This seems ridiculously basic, but sometimes things really don’t need complicated solutions.

Brené Brown recommends thinking about what makes you come alive… and putting that first. Most of us do the opposite. For her, that includes alone time, family, friends, creativity, good music, nature, prayer and meditation, and writing. My list includes many of the same things: solitude, walks in the woods, creative work, time with people I love.

Most of the work I do for the business is work that makes me come alive, and I feel infinitely fortunate in that. I just need to adjust the ratios. Less overhead, less going to things because someone else wants me to, less tolerating. More design, more writing, more star-gazing, more walking in the woods, more sunsets.

What about you? What are you using your Dig Deep button for? What would happen if you stopped? What do you want less of, and what makes you come alive?



About Cara Stein: I'm a Breakthrough Coach and Creative Director On Demand. I'm also an idealist who has stopped trying to play it cool. I offer alignment, clarity, and unshakeable belief in yourself—and then I help you bring your vision to life with great sales copy and graphic design.

Comments (9)

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  1. Albert0 says:

    Kinda reminds me of Will Rogers: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!” And truer words were rarely spoken.

    Your list sure does look a lot like mine — and now I think I’ll just go make some progress toward mine. Adjustment need… adjustment coming up.

    Will Rogers, Brene Brown, and YOU rock!

  2. jessica says:

    Really lovely piece, Cara~ thank you.

  3. Rachel says:

    My dig deep button is on the verge of malfunctioning …today is the beginning of a slow process..and the reason is work.
    I don’t want to spend a minute more of today thinking of work so my thoughts are on the escape from it.
    My struggle is time, my plan can’t start until Sept, returning to college and redesigning the rest of my future, so for today I have just cried. Financially I can’t leave yet although if I could have told my employer to stick my job where the sun doesn’t shine I would have.
    My visit….again to 17000 days is to inspire me a little more and to realise this isn’t for forever, it’s just for now!

  4. Cornel says:

    I love this post 🙂 I fully agree that life is too short to waste it by spending time and energy on things that don’t make you happy.

    I’m trying everyday to make progress towards spending my time on things that matter to me, to get away from the tyranny of “shoulds”. It’s not an easy process I must say, but it’s soooo rewarding! 🙂

  5. I love this concept of the Dig Deep Button! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love your blog and really enjoyed reading your posts. Do you still blog on another site? It would appear your posts are from 2012. I would love to follow you if you are still active. I would be happy to promote you on my blog if you would like.

    Best Regards,
    Kimberly Miller
    Life Coach

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Kimberly! I’ve been focusing on client work for the past couple of years, but I’m hoping to get back to writing here soon.

  7. I love this! So often we get the idea that we need to stay busy, at the expense of our own needs. Slowing down and NOT volunteering for everything has been eye-opening for me as well.

  8. Jordan says:

    Very powerful advice here. I have often found myself in similar situations – things seem to putter out! But this is some great advice for next time I get that feeling. Thanks for sharing!

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