Picture yourself waiting outside an operating room, all prepped and gowned, ready to have surgery. Suddenly, you hear a voice in your head, clear as day, insisting that cutting into your toe is not the right answer. It urges you to get up, ask for your clothes, and walk out.
What would you do??
This happened to me. And instead of paying attention to my earnest voice of caution, I went through with the surgery. Almost two years later, my poor toe reminds me daily never again to ignore my inner wisdom – no matter how crazy it sounds at first.
That event was a big wake up call for me. In an odd way, I am glad it happened, as my toe is my daily reminder not to slip out of the habit of trusting myself.
In the face of “authorities” and “convention,” I had disregarded my “knowing” and my “truth.”
As very young children, we connect directly to what we feel and what we need. We go after what we want. We are at one with ourselves. There is no separation. In other words, we are all born into this world as Mavericks!!
Then we absorb messages and cues from family and culture that cause us to doubt the truth of what we feel and know inside.
In my first conscious memory, I heard adults gossiping about people I loved (and thought they loved) and it was my first realization that people don’t always act according to how they feel. I remember the shock. But before long, like most people do. I too often fell into separating my feelings, thoughts, and actions.
I also learned very early to deflect positive feedback. I saw women around me doing this so as not to bring too much attention to themselves. I sensed that many people considered it a positive virtue. I wanted a positive virtue. So I never let myself fill up with feelings of being good enough.
This translated into a lifelong need to be constantly improving myself. What a monumental force in my life. What would my life have been like if my curiosity could have developed more organically and from the inside?
My family was not much different from many families in this regard. Consciously or unconsciously, mine, like many, did the best they could to pass on their culture to protect and socialize their young.
But how could I play my Maverick Edge, live more authentically, take the risks needed to follow my own path, and trust myself along the way, under the weight of such rules and conventions?
It turns out that I did reclaim my Maverick Edge in a big way for a decade or so. And I clearly remember how great it felt!
I came of age in the free spirited mid 70’s. and also had the opportunity to experience a wide range of educational opportunities, people, and travel. In those years, I broke the spell of many family and cultural conventions.
Looking back, I see that I deeply trusted myself, openly explored my passions with an independent spirit, and I truly believed in my ability to expand my capabilities in the world as I did so. At the time, it all seemed very natural.
(Why do we sometimes think we need to give this up completely as we get older and/or live or work with others?)
It’s true that I made some mistakes. But in the meantime, I also learned a lot, grew a lot, and felt vibrantly engaged with my life. Personal conviction made my decisions and actions feel easy and natural. I would do it all again.
In case you are curious, I include a short list of the Crazy Ideas I materialized in my early adult years:
I went on several challenging backcountry wilderness expeditions.
I studied three other languages.
I lived in four countries.
I studied women’s history and women’s leadership and became a women’s varsity athlete before the first years of Title IX.
I flew planes solo.
I held poisonous snakes.
I mediated groups of people through problematic situations.
I worked to save struggling front line community organizations.
I developed and grew new groups to serve local needs.
I was a leader in the fledgling co-op movement
both locally and regionally.
I co-created and lived in long-term intentional living communities.
I married outside of my family culture.
I did not walk the beaten path.
(P.S. I think everyone should make such a list to help them reconnect with the memories of what has stretched them, enlivened them, or has otherwise been deeply meaningful and purposeful in their lives.)
Then it happened again.
As I raised my family, I fell back towards convention. And in doing so, I often felt like I was drifting or passing time. I let my direct connection with any Crazy Ideas fade. By definition, I sold myself short – and, who knows – maybe my family as well. The problem for me was that in trying to “do things right”, I let myself get lost in the equation.
I did not ask myself what I needed. Our family life developed a rhythm and I never insisted that we stop to evaluate. I adjusted to my life rather than changing my life. I muddled through (as people often do in family life, or at work, or in relationships).
Now, my children are older, and visions for creating something fresh and new with my life are calling me loud and clear. I am reminded of rich Maverick life I lived in my past and think, “It’s never too late to reclaim that energy and vision!”:
- You CAN be all of your vibrant, loving, expanding self.
- You CAN create a healthy balance of fulfilling work, favorite activities, creativity, play, and time with people you love.
- You CAN do all this and make a good living too.
- You CAN trust your Crazy Ideas and let them guide your way.
What?I think in amazement, I can have all that?
For, sometimes, my doubtful inner voice argues:
- That sounds Crazy!
- I don’t deserve it.
- I wouldn’t know how to do it anyway.
- I have too many other commitments to family, friends, work.
- And what would people say?
But remember the lesson that surgery taught me?
Ignore my Crazy Ideas at great peril!!
So I decided to believe and to trust my Crazy Idea.
I began to take it seriously. And now The Maverick Edge is no longer my pipe dream, but rather it now exists in my life and in the lives of others.
That’s the way it works.
(And, your Crazy Ideas can become real too!)
It is not always easy. But it is very simple. I took one small step, and then another, and then another, “leaning in,” as they say.
Now I am truly on my way.
It’s an awesome feeling and I highly recommend it!
I want to leave you with an image – let me compare this process with learning to surf.
First you choose a beach and a board and you get into the water.
Then, you paddle around a bit.
You learn some more by talking to surfers you admire, and by watching others.
Slowly, you figure out how to spot and prepare for a good wave.
You can continue to watch, paddle around, holding back, and letting the waves roll by.
Or, you can make a decision. You can commit. You can go for it and you start paddling – hard – and with intention.
If you do, before long, you are up on that wave and you get to experience the amazing ride!! It’s glorious.
Everything in my life has lead me right here… education, previous work, personal passions, life learnings, life experiences, things lost, things gained, fate, and of course, my beloved Crazy Ideas.
I am re-committed to “full-on living” and to playing my Maverick Edge. My life is brighter, more full of play and promise than I ever imagined possible. I am sparked. I am deeply connected to and fueled by my Big Ideas. And no, it is never too late.
And This Time I Listened.
And if you hear your call, maybe you know you are ready too.
If so, visit Services to explore your options.
Sandy McDougall, M.S., is a mentor, writer, and speaker who loves creating new possibilities for women’s lives. Specializing in collaborative processes, she has founded, facilitated, grown, chaired, and consulted for women’s circles, organizations, and communities for over 35 years.
She has worked in a wide variety of settings, from corporate to coops. She has served on community and cooperative boards in several states. She has worked professionally as a manager, organizer, mediator, and facilitator.
Sandy is active in women’s empowerment and personal growth work, consciousness and spiritual studies, and improvisation. As creator of The Maverick Edge, she is currently mentor for Mavericks in work, at home, and in life.
**Sandy is available to speak to your group or organization.
Contact her here.