Before you jump to a false conclusion, I do like new things. And I love new ideas, especially good ones. I’m pretty sure the thing that holds me back is that I don’t love failure, and so it follows that I don’t want to have people watching me try out something new and fail.
Having said all that, in January, when I was in the midst of several large sewing projects, I had the idea it might be time for me to get a new sewing machine. Keeping in mind my old Kenmore has been with me for my entire adult life, this was no small decision. I went back and forth for quite some time and finally, toward the end of the month, when I could hear myself encouraging my machine to just sew a little bit more, I put a deposit on a beautiful new quilting machine. The deposit was needed since the machines could be ordered but there was no guarantee as to when they might arrive. Part of me was delighted with this. I knew if the new machine arrived when I was on a deadline with my projects, I wouldn’t have time to learn how to use it and finish the projects too. With the delay, I could finish my projects on my comfortable machine, then learn the ins and outs of the new one. One month turned into the next, and finally, last Saturday I got the call. My new machine was available for pickup.
I’d had a hint the machine might be on the shipment due to arrive last week, so I spent a bit of time at the beginning of the week clearing off my sewing table and putting my old machine away. I was making space for the new addition. It crossed my mind as I did this that making space is my way of getting ready for new things in my life.
The sewing machine was, of course, an example of a true physical space that needed making. If I was going to learn to use this machine (and please, may I be granted many, many more years of sewing; I’m going to need them all to figure out all the new features) I needed a space to put it. Even before I brought the machine home on Saturday, I looked at that space every time I climbed the stairs. It helped me get my head ready for the adjustment. I guess I needed to be in the right head space too.
I’ve been pondering this idea of making space.
For every single thing I have undertaken in my life, willingly or not, my first step to a successful transition has been the one where I make space. As I mentioned before, I’m a late adopter, so when I hear about a new idea, or when I’m asked to try something new, or incorporate a change into my life, or even when I myself think of something new I could try, my tendency is to give a very quick, ‘no thanks’.
Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned to keep my ‘no thanks’ inside my head. I try to not let it slip out of my mouth. What I understand is I really don’t mean ‘no’. What I mean is ‘I just need a bit of time to make some space in my mind for the idea’. I need to create a space for the idea to live for a while. Then I’m usually ready. This time is a very good friend to me. Sometimes the time I need can be measured in a few heartbeats, sometimes in minutes, sometimes hours and sometimes even months. Sometimes after I ponder for awhile, I recognize the idea or change will not be a good fit for me and I can easily say no to it. But if I say no too quickly, I close my self off to the possibility of a wonderful opportunity.
About three years ago I texted my friend, Rhonda to ask if she wanted to join me for a once-a-week bike ride. I was training for my first Gran Fondo, the Sea-to-Sky Fondo from Vancouver to Whistler, BC. When I had the idea to text Rhonda, I didn’t do it right away. First, I needed to make space. I knew she had a bike but I had no idea if she was up for a long-distance challenge. I needed space for the courage to reach out, not having clue if she might be interested. I needed space to understand this meant a commitment to the race. I needed space to allow myself to believe in my ability. I needed space to set aside one day each week to train with her. I needed space to know I could be turning a friendship into a much closer friendship.
I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to create my space for this. I know it was longer than a few heartbeats but shorter than a month. I’m guessing Rhonda is not quite as slow an adopter as am I for her response was quick and certain. YES! Came the immediate text back.
I can’t imagine how less rich my life would be now if I had had the thought to text Rhonda and then had discounted it before I let the idea come to life. If we don’t make space for things in our lives, we are choosing for them not to have the chance to fit. We are discounting them before they have even the slimmest chance to form into something wonderful, or valuable, or meaningful, or fun.
Clearly, sewing machines are easy to make space for. Other things, things like new ideas, new people, new skills, new attitudes, new activities, new adventures, new mindsets and new stages of life, take a little more finesse. And yet, the concept is identical.
This week, I’m practicing making and noticing space. When I care for Ben, I make space for our relationship – these early years build our foundation. When Greg found a new road bike for me to go look at, I made space for us to go see it together and also for us to spend time outdoors this summer doing something we love. When I noticed the nice weather might take a pause on the weekend, I made space for an early outdoor birthday celebration for Kaitlyn and Matt. When Brenda and I were out on our bikes, instead of on foot for our Tuesday Trek, we made space to try to conquer a hill that had, only a week before, looked impossible. When I texted with my friend, Al, this week, after not being in touch for a few months, we both made space for the importance we have in each other’s lives.
This week, a lot of my time has been spent with little Ben and not a lot has been spent sitting at my new machine. I have however, set it up, figured out how to thread it, and have sewn a straight line. When I start to think I’ll never figure out all the features, I take a beat, pick one little thing I think I can make space for, and march ahead. For the record, I’m already planning my next quilt.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What am I making space for?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to make space.