From the time you were born until this present moment, you have been learning from each and every encounter and experience you have. You carry all of it with you, and it shapes how you interact with and respond to the world around you. I like to think of it as “Your Backpack.”
Your Backpack goes everywhere you do and each and every experience you have gets put in there. Without realizing it, your backpack becomes the basis of your beliefs and perspectives, which are the lens through which you see the world.
If you don’t do anything about it, your experiences unconsciously shape the way you interact in the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What’s in your backpack?
Your Backpack holds lots of stuff–your personality, education, upbringing, familial, generational and cultural experiences and more. Over time, you have collected a lot of stuff in your backpack. And just like anything else in your life, taking it off and looking at the stuff inside is what helps you determine if that stuff is helping you or holding you back.
I do an exercise with my clients to help them “unpack their backpack” so they can make foundational shifts that allow them to show up differently in the world, which changes everything! Unpacking your backpack allows you to connect deeper with yourself so you can understand what is holding you back from getting the results you want.
When you ask yourself why you are BEING in the world in a particular way, you can often trace it back to an impactful experience, especially when you were young, that led directly to the beliefs and values that are being expressed now. Because the stuff you carry around not only creates your belief system, it also drives your actions.
In order to make meaningful change, you have to learn to make conscious choices about what you actually want in your backpack, and what it’s time to stop lugging around.
Downsizing my backpack
By the time I was in my mid-40s, my backpack was super heavy and the weight kept knocking me down. The burden of all of the stuff in my backpack that was no longer serving me was causing me to push toward external goals rather than living in alignment with the kind of gentle, loving, in-the-present-moment life I was longing for. Instead, I was like a turtle on its back. I found myself constantly overwhelmed, stressed out, ruminating about the past and projecting stories into the future.
It took me a long time to dump out my backpack and really look at what was in there. But when I did, here’s what I found… my ability to go around roadblocks and solve problems is one of my superpowers! My parents did a great job of teaching me that. I’m really good at that, and I’ve decided I don’t want to let go of it.
On the other hand, my family never talked about emotions, which may have had something to do with the fact that both of my parents experienced the death of their fathers at very young ages and both in very traumatic ways. Talking about emotions was just something we did not do. Instead, my parents just pushed on. I realized I had created a belief that it wasn’t ok to have emotions, not to mention talk about them! That’s a belief I chose to change, which has transformed my life in countless ways. It was the backpack exercise that allowed me to see that.
Over time I’ve completely overhauled my backpack. Today it’s more like a day pack because I have learned to keep only the beliefs that are still serving me and let go of the ones that hold me back from getting what I want! Now when I get knocked down, I bounce back up fairly quickly.
Pack For Freedom
Your prior experiences DO influence how you show up in the world. Your past shapes you and the way you react to and perceive things. But you have a choice. You can take off your backpack and lovingly examine what’s in it. You can find the things that are serving you well. You can even find a superpower or two. You can also find the things that aren’t serving you anymore and you can, lovingly let them go. That is what frees you to follow your own path, unburdened.
This process doesn’t happen overnight. This is the work I do with my coaching clients, helping them to identify and unpack the beliefs that are holding them back, letting them go and creating new ones that serve them better for where they want to go.
When you know what’s in your “backpack” you can go ANYWHERE! Maybe you’ll decide to hike your way to a new career, skip into a more intimate relationship, or walk the path to happiness and contentment.
Once you are good with your backpack, your journey is up to you!