Lean In.

by SJ

This phrase has been on my mind for quite some time now. I’m not really sure where it came from or what it fully means.

As I left my teaching job, I had to ask myself did I fully lean in during my year away? Did I fully engage in it? Was I truly present? Was I actively participating in the opportunity provided to me to the maximum of my ability?

The answer is no. I can’t lie I did not. I realized something about myself that I also look toward the future. A future job, future travel, future degree, future, future, future.. I never live in the present. But it isn’t just about living in the present. It is about engaging with the present in a tangible way and knowing the present is where you are supposed to be.

“Leaning in” is really just about extracting the most you can from any and every opportunity presented to you.

I think this is so revolutionary. For someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, a lot of it stems from the fact that I feel I am not doing what I am supposed to do and I am not where I am supposed to be. I never fully lean into the opportunities afforded to me because I always think they are a means to an end. So, I don’t put in my all because I feel as though I still have another destination. To be honest, there is no end. There will always be the next thing. I risk looking at life like a means to an end rather than what it is. I have started telling myself, “where you are is exactly where you need to be and what you need to be doing for this current moment and time in your life, it is not accident so lean in“.

How does this concept of “leaning in” look?

Well, to lean in isn’t just to live in the moment because that connotes passivity. Leaning in is taking the present by the reigns and experiencing and extracting all that you can from every opportunity because that is all you have and that is where you need to be and why you are there. It is consciously participating in where you are in life. I’ll give a practical example:

I am going back to the university to study a Bachelor of Arts degree in French/Min. Philosophy or French Honours (uncertain yet). The way to not lean in would be to take the courses required of me just to complete this degree and apply to graduate school while the entire time thinking about the next step. Also, it would be like thinking about how I shouldn’t be going back to university because realistically I should have applied to graduate school already if I had done well in my first degree. Not leaning in is treating the present as a means to an end and not engaging in it. 

Leaning in:

I am going back to university for an opportunity and privilege to expand the boundaries of my mind beyond the scientific realm of which I studied during my first degree. I have the ability to stretch myself and become a well rounded individual and study subjects and topics to grow me, and challenge me. Instead of just taking courses that I will sit in a classroom for and read and write, I will mix it up with a community service learning course, a dance course a drama course. These are courses if you asked me a year ago I would never take. I will take a semester abroad during my degree to fully expand myself. I want to profit to the maximum during these two years and gain everything I possibly can. Let me do the maximum amount of education for this Arts degree that I can instead of just settling. Let me push myself to the maximum and out of my comfort zone. Instead of just studying French let me try to get into Honours. Why not? During this degree, let me join clubs and meet people that challenge me to become better, more creative, let me realize another side of myself that I did not know. Know myself on a deeper level.

Leaning in requires something of you. You are experiencing what your current situation has to offer you and taking advantage of it to the fullest. You are saying, “ok I am here, how can I make the best of out this situation (whether good or bad) and how can I experience the most and challenge myself.” You also tell yourself, “I am supposed to be here at this time, at this moment it is not a mistake”.

I am promising myself to really lean in this year into every aspect of my life. Not thinking about the future and especially not the past. The present needs to stop being a transitory destination to a future destination but a destination in and of itself. I need to cultivate the habit of understanding that every new opportunity is an experience to grow, challenge myself and learn something I never would have it.

I want to get this tattooed I love the concept of this so much as this alleviates a lot of my anxiety issues. I don’t think I am behind anymore. I think instead: let me really learn everything there is to learn about this moment, this course, this program, from this person etc. Time is so precious. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in anticipation of a future time that never arrives because the future is unattainable. All we have is the present.

I think this also goes back to the promise of everything working out of our good as believers. Why? Because when we do lean into every single opportunity provided to us, there will never be a downside. If you truly put in your best and stretched yourself to be more and do things you never thought you could, it will never be for your bad. You will find yourself in places you never thought you would be.

Engaging actively in life and experiencing everything there is to experience is the key to happiness. Not just success but happiness. There is no regret, there is no mistake you are where you are meant to be.

The long and short of leaning in:

  • Do your best wherever you are and take chances to stretch yourself
  • Know where you are is where you are supposed to be
  • Participate tangibly with the present
  • Do not waste any time obsessing on the present or the future 
  • Extract all you can from every opportunity presented to you