This week I had the pleasure of being a guest on Phil Goddard’s The Coaching Life Podcast. At the end of the podcast he summed up a theme from the interview as the importance of listening for what is right for you and taking action on it. I wholeheartedly agree, but it does make it sound like I knew what I was doing all along. When in fact, much of the time, especially when I was younger, I was more of an impulsive risk taker rather than a reflective listener. What I see now as most important is recognizing my resilience no matter what harebrained scheme I got myself into. I obviously would encourage my clients to listen to their wisdom and let that be their compass, but I wouldn’t want them to dwell on that because it can lead to self-absorption. Falling into the trap of ruminating on, “Is this my wisdom?” tends to lead to inaction.
I much prefer taking action on what makes sense and figuring out if it is an inspired idea or not as I go along. We will always get feedback to help clarify this, and we have the innate resilience to navigate and course-correct along the way. We learn by doing and rise to the occasion when things don’t turn out as planned.
I experienced the capacity to respond to life real-time and create from nothing at a young age. I left home at seventeen after finishing high school to study in France. I got the idea after speaking with one of the owners of the restaurant I worked at about my plans after school. He had gone to university in France, and he encouraged me to go there. He told me I could simply go and sign up during registration. I was nearly bilingual in French from living in Québec, and I was up for an adventure, so I decided to go. I chose the University of Provence in Aix-en-Provence as the school I wanted to attend. I left for summer travels with my boyfriend to Europe. After we visited the sights in London and Paris we arrived in Aix, and shortly after he returned home.
Things took an unexpected turn when I went to register at the university. I found out that previously in the year the French government instituted a policy that all foreign students needed to write and pass a foreign language test before they could register. I hadn’t written the test, and the next one wasn’t offered until February. There was no way around it. This not only impacted my studies, it also affected my accommodation. I had been counting on living in the university residence once I registered for school. So not only was I not in school, but I also had nowhere to live.
At the time, I had moved out of the pension where my boyfriend and I stayed and was sleeping on the floor of a Judo dojo that belonged to the boyfriend of a friend. I was able to stay there for free, and there were showers I could use. But, I needed to leave by the time classes started every day. It was a very temporary accommodation. I was disheartened. I thought about returning home to Canada, but I was not willing to give up on my life in France. Even in my funk, exacerbated by reading A Farewell to Arms by flashlight at night in the Dojo, I got the idea of enrolling in a French high school. I thought I could study French, and then write the foreign language test in February so I would be eligible to apply for university the next year.
The first high school I went to was the Lycée Vauvenargues. The director had studied in Texas. Monsieur La Grange conversed with me in English in this booming voice with a Texan drawl. It was quite surreal. I explained my difficulty, and he immediately agreed to allow me to enroll. I happily joined the classe de première littéraire. Now I had something to do, I just needed somewhere to live. I knew I was over staying my welcome at the dojo, but didn’t know where else to go.
I had saved up $1000 to start my new life. However, the money order had been stolen in Paris, and the bank was not forthcoming in replacing the funds quickly. I was low on cash. Luckily Aix was, and probably still is, a town full of students with a rich café culture. It was easy to connect with people and make friends. Through a series of conversations, I eventually met a Nigerian PhD student who was looking to sublet his university residence room because he was going to be working in Paris. Not only could I sublet his room, but I would also have access to the university meal plan while staying there. Perfect! Things fell into place.
I had a fabulous year in Aix-en-Provence. I did write and pass the foreign language test in February. I was accepted into the Université de Montpellier in the medical faculty for the fall of 1986. I was able to earn money through tutoring one of the high school teacher’s children English. The teacher’s family invited me into their home every Wednesday and took me on vacations with them. One of them was to Chamonix in the French Alps where they attempted, without much success, to teach me to ski. And thanks to my friend who convinced her boyfriend to let me sleep in his dojo, I was introduced to a hairdresser who became my boyfriend. We had many fabulous adventures. Through him I became completely immersed in French life and culture. He gladly showed me the country and shared his passion for nature and spending time with friends in Saint-Tropez snorkeling, drinking red wine and fully enjoying life. This is where I fell in love with the Tarte Tropézienne, and the man who introduced me to it.
It was with a heavy heart that I returned to Canada rather than pursuing studies in Montpellier. I received a scholarship to a prestigious Canadian university, and my mother strongly encouraged me to entertain the offer. I ultimately felt it was the right thing to do so I returned. Now, however, I don’t think there was a right or a wrong choice. I simply did what made sense at the time. If I had chosen to stay, I would have had a different experience, and would have made the best of that.
I can’t say I was consciously listening to my wisdom when I decided to go to a French university. I simply wanted to do something different, and decided to act on the possibility presented to me. I couldn’t have prepared for the twists and turns of my experience. In fact, if I had known I would have been turned away from the university, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Nonetheless, I always trusted in my ability to work things out. I was stubborn about not wanting to leave France, and I got resourceful. If the first high school had not worked out, I would have tried the others. If none of the high schools had accepted me, I probably would have found a job. I would have just kept going.
The inner well of potential we all have to come up with ideas did not let me down. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t, but it was always there. I simply took the next step that occurred to me. This seems to be the common sense way to approach life in general on both the professional and personal fronts, and reminds me to not get precious about waiting to hear my wisdom.
Follow your dreams, and when things take a turn for the worse, take the next step that makes sense and keep going from there. There is no need to worry about the right or wrong way. There is only one way — the way that makes sense in the moment. Every way has its benefits as well as its challenges.
When I see that my wellbeing is innate and untouched by the trials and tribulations of life. It frees me up to enjoy the journey no matter what turn I take. I like the freedom of feeling I can’t mess it up. I can’t get in my own way. I will naturally make the best of what is based on my understanding in the moment. The greater and deeper part of who I am — my true nature — will always be there, constant and unchanging, no matter what I get up to in life, whether I consider my current circumstances a success or not. This makes it so much easier to take action. If I get egg on my face, I will wipe it off. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I have the blessing of being alive and able to have an experience. The miracle is that, not what the content of the experience is.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their true nature. She is a psychotherapist, a transformative coach, and author of the forthcoming Soul-Centered Series. She has an international coaching practice helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. She also co-facilitates The Space Mastermind for Solopreneurs with Barb Patterson. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, watch her Vlogs with her husband, Angus Ross, and subscribe to her weekly blog on her website, rohiniross.com.