Who doesn’t love the movie Dirty Dancing? It’s a classic coming-of-age American film that despite being nearly 30 years old is still a summertime standby. Heck, it still airs on ABC Family on a regular basis and by now has likely found its way to a whole new generation of fans, so I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that few of us are “too young” to know it well (no matter what we might say!). Features some iconic movie moments, too (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!). But there is one moment in particular in the movie, a moment that flew by fast and pretty much without consequence that has stuck with me for many years. It’s when Baby is looking to get her older sister Lisa to cover for her with the parents so she can go do her dance gig at the other hotel with Johnny (sigh!). Goes like this:

Baby: Lisa! You just gotta help me!
Lisa: I don’t just GOTTA do anything.

Sure, it was merely an older sister power play, but for some reason, that simple snarky retort stuck with me. “I don’t just GOTTA do anything.” I said it to myself, let it sit. And then for some reason I started to take the simple words to a whole new place. I Don’t Gotta Do Anything. Interesting. What if that idea not only applied when refusing to help your little sister keep her good standing with the folks, but also when creating your dreams and your life? (Leave it to an INFJ like me to come up with something like that!)

What if, in life,  you really don’t gotta do anything? What if everything really is just as it is, and that’s OK? What if you don’t need to fight, stress, panic, and conquer in order to be happy?

I’ll admit it was an interesting prospect. For many years since I’ve revisited that silly and seemingly throw-away line from a movie much more remembered for its snazzy dance sequences and “I carried a watermelon”…. and it has been useful ever since. To this day, when I find myself fractured and dazed by what I believe I have to do or else, I just remind myself:

You don’t gotta do anything. Whenever I say these words to myself, somehow things shift for me, and I never fail to be pleasantly surprised by what happens next. I find myself able to move toward relaxation, toward a state of calmness, which invariably leads to a state of awareness. An awareness of all that is.

But here’s the best part: after the awareness comes, the action tends to follow. And it often turns out to be the best kind of action in my book–action of the inspired kind. The kind of movement and creation with all of the joy behind it that helps me create and share something that REALLY makes me happy. (Such as writing this post for you right now!)

What is the difference here? It would seem at first rather illogical that taking away the sense of urgency to get something done would actually make things happen. So why has it been such a successful strategy so many times in my world?

Because the pressure is gone. (Or at least greatly reduced!) Things are calm again. With the calmness comes the awareness. And with the awareness comes the right action.

Sure, there are times that deadlines arise, crises that emerge, funks must be busted through, and good old-fashioned elbow grease gets the motor running again. But when you find yourself in these moments (provided that circumstances allow for reflection and it’s not a genuine 9-1-1, of course!), what do you do if you’re resisting it all, hating every moment of what you are doing, and are either grudgingly getting things done with unnecessary pain/drama or are not getting anywhere at all?

I often look at what it is I am scared about when I feel that the struggle is real. Why do I feel pressured into action, and what do I believe will happen if I don’t get moving? If things fall apart? If the big goal doesn’t happen?

If you ever experience this,  do you ever find that it somehow points to a particular “why” about a situation? In other words, does it bring to light something that is driving you, something that seems all too important, something that might be real OR not real?

Good! This is great information to have. To begin to understand what drives you and makes you want what you want is AMAZING. Because even though it might feel awkward, uncomfortable, and scary sometimes, knowing your personal “why” for what you dream about will in the end do nothing but beautiful and illuminating things for your life. It’ll help you know more about who you are and what your purpose is, and when you know, action is so much more natural!

Ah, but getting back to the “chill” factor we were discussing before. How does this fit in when I just said that analyzing your fear might lead you to your real motivation? Well, it’s like this, in my experience: looking at the source of resistance can serve two purposes: 1) as I mentioned, it can help you determine the reason why you feel the way you feel, and 2) it can also help you remember something else: that for the most part, most of the things we tend to fear are not going to happen. (Right, Mark Twain?) Barring any major catastrophes, most of the troubles we envision in our ever-well-meaning but intrusive minds probably won’t come to pass.

From there, looking at the big fears and realizing that most of them aren’t real, ask yourself now what it is that you might be stressing about. And is it helping? So many of us out there who really and sincerely mean well want to tell us what to do, where to go, how you’ll only succeed in business and in life if you do x,y, and z, and you just GOTTA do this thing or else…..and I can definitely see how such talk could be motivating. A lot of advice is probably worth heeding, too. But I have often found that when I get too worked up about something I feel that I HAVE to do or die, if I take away the iron-clad mandate and just look at the task, something magical happens. I think of the obnoxious older sister’s cheeky comment, “I don’t just GOTTA do anything”. And almost invariably I am relieved.

But it gets better still. Then I take it even one step further. If I don’t gotta do anything, then everything I do really IS a choice. All of it. It is all a choice, and it is all up to me. Nobody is making me do anything, not even me.

Wow. How empowering! And relaxing at the very same time! How counter-intuitively COOL is that?? All of a sudden it is as though you’re part of the Universal flow of energy rather than flailing against it in an upstream battle. You have the power to make your own choices and in your own time. Doesn’t it make you want to get up and go do something cool?

Then watch as the plans seem to fall into motion, the steps get taken, and the path to your dream becomes a lot more clear.

So to try this at home, why not give this a go?

-The next time something that you have to do that sounds perfectly awful in the moment–I don’t care whether it is show up for your day job, write your next blog post, drag yourself to the gym, or whatever–remind yourself that you don’t HAVE to do it. Just say it to yourself. Put yourself in charge and make doing it a choice.

-How does it feel? When you take the internal insistence away, what happens? Does it seem a little bit less of an overbearing task? Maybe not so bad after all? Or perhaps even a bit fun?

-Write down the choice you made and the outcome. Did you wind up going through with it? Did it turn out to be something that would ultimately serve your purpose, something that fell by the wayside because it really wasn’t necessary to do, or something that wound up being a lot more fun when you saw it as a choice?

Remember: it’s all OK in the end. You are safe. You are enough. And you are loved. And always remembered. Once you realize all of this, everything else takes its proper place….everything else is yours for the choosing!

So has this ever happened to you? Have you ever found yourself so freaked out by a “have to”, then realize it might not be that big of a deal? Or are you the type that is more driven by the adrenaline of “must”? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week!


4 Comments on Just So You Know, You Don’t Really “Gotta” Do Anything….(An Unusual Approach to Action!)

  1. Merri
    June 17, 2015 at 8:34 am (2 years ago)

    Absolutely love this! Such a great reminder to “be here now”! Thanks, Coach Pete! My “freak out” sessions always come when it is time to memorize for a recital. I always hit the wall when it ‘s time to perform! However, I settle in … Take the lines one at a time until it’s saturation time and “not fun anymore” (as a great music teacher once said!) I start to relax, the words and music start to become part of me, and I get my presence and moments back! Thank you for the reminder ! 😀

  2. Jennifer
    June 17, 2015 at 12:14 pm (2 years ago)

    It does make a difference when you decide to see that everything in life is a choice, doesn’t it? Gives you not only responsibility but also a lot more freedom!

  3. Mandy
    June 20, 2015 at 12:25 am (2 years ago)

    I am truly exhausted from constantly flailing against the flow in an upstream battle! I love how you worded that! It is time to stop fighting and let myself just go with the flow. Your words have come to me at a time when I need them the most, thank you. My choices do NOT have to be what is expected of me!

    • Jennifer
      June 20, 2015 at 10:08 am (2 years ago)

      Exactly! Sometimes the more you relax and the less that you push yourself, the more things just happen. And that is the best part! So glad that you got something out of this post, and at the right moment too! Nothing in the world makes me happier than to hear than that! 🙂


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