Imagine that you’re a college student living abroad, wandering the beautiful, winding backstreets of Barcelona. You’re on your own for the first time in your life, feeling completely immersed in carefree joy, peaceful solitude, energizing independence, and open-hearted discovery.
That’s a memory one of my clients conjured up recently,* as we explored how she might overcome the challenges she’s encountering with working at home, in a new city, in the midst of a pandemic, in a new job that comes with staggering responsibilities.
The frightened voices in her head had created an unhelpful cacophony of conflict:
“I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“If I ask for help, I won’t look good.”
“I’m worried: did I mess it up?”
“How am I going to get this job done?”
“I want to scream.”
“I want to quit!”
We’ve all had a similar chorus of dirty rotten scoundrels take over our cognitive and emotional functioning. When circumstances are overwhelming, progress seems impossible, and we’ve completely lost our balance, these critical voices try to protect us from further emotional harm.
While those thoughts fill us with dread and threaten to bury us with the weight of their accusations, they can also be a helpful signpost.
Whenever we hear the voices of fear, sabotage, and shame, it’s a signal that we’re out of alignment with our most closely held values.
We’ve temporarily forgotten the qualities that we embody when we’re living our best lives, when we’re most fully, authentically ourselves. And if we know what those qualities are, we can call them up whenever we start to feel the tightening, contracting, heavy feelings that accompany the voices of doom.
When my client observed the contrast between the calm, centered awareness of what she came to call her “Barcelona Moment” and the noise and confusion of her untethered thoughts, she recognized the value of having a touchstone to return her to herself.
She was able to understand that the noise was just that: noise. It didn’t mean she was failing.
She was able to offload the giant cinderblock that had been crushing her, making her feel irritable and withdrawn, and return to the funny, happy, engaged person she knew herself to be.
Simply by returning, with all her senses, to a quiet back street in coastal Spain.
I have dozens of stories like this, including my own experience, that demonstrate one of the most helpful processes for resilience in the midst of this coronavirus maelstrom (or any difficult time): creating a conscious connection with your most closely held values, and using it as a touchstone for returning to your best self.
When I ask people what their top three most closely held values are, they either don’t know, haven’t thought about it, or fill in the blank with a random selection of “should-y” human virtues you can find on any list—honesty, integrity, compassion, generosity.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those.
But I believe that the best process for finding out what’s truly meaningful is to remember what it was like to “choose yourself,” to allow yourself to be completely content for a moment, to experience the magic of presence.
Perhaps your Barcelona Moment takes place in a hammock near the lake where you grew up, in quiet seclusion, bathed in warm light. Maybe it was in the middle of a presentation, when you realized you’d found the creative artistry of your life’s work was in perfect alignment with your desire for intellectual curiosity and deep discovery. Perhaps you were hiking with your family, connected to nature and excited for the next cool thing that would happen. You might recall one perfect summer evening, feeling all kid-like, noticing things that were always there as if they were somehow new, magical, and put there purely for your enjoyment.
Whatever brings you home to yourself, your “Barcelona Moment” is your benchmark, your touchstone, your tether to authenticity and resilience. Revisit it every day, and watch your life transform.
*Story shared by permission.