With the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hitting cinemas this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the first film. If you haven’t seen it, Newt Scamander has a bunch of magical creatures, who have escaped and are hidden around New York and Newt and his friends need to go find them. (I guess at this point I should throw in a Spoiler Alert, although if you haven’t seen it by now then really it’s your own fault…)
One of these beasts is called the Occamy, a beautiful snake-like creature that will fill any space it’s in – if you put it in a matchbox it will be the size of a match, if you let it into a football stadium it will grow to fill the stadium. In the film, The Occamy has managed to expand to fill a huge room and Newt can’t seem to control it. Luckily, Newt manages to trick the Occamy and lures it into a teapot, where it curls up nice and small and Newt can safely restore the creature to his bag. Crisis averted, well done Eddie Redmayne. But I can’t help but wonder: are we the Occamy in this story?
That’s quite a weird sentence, so I’ll explain: I wonder if we fill the spaces that we’re given, and then we stop. Maybe we have the potential to grow and flourish and fill the whole room, but in our work, in our relationships, in our personal lives, we have been lured into a cosy little teapot and we stay there. It’s appealing to be a big fish in a small pond, to be in a safe little space and feel like you fill it well, but perhaps that’s keeping us from moving on up into a new space – one we could fill just as well if only we took the chance.
So I pose to you three ways in which we can create more space to grow in our lives:
- What are you making space for?
We all have our wish list of things we want to be and do. We want to be more flexible at yoga. We want to learn the guitar. We want to be more creative. We want to be a better friend, a better spouse, a better Christian (whatever that means). But if we don’t make space in our calendars for those things, we’re never going to achieve those goals.
How will we do downward-dog like a pro or play the guitar like Hendrix unless we’re giving ourselves regular time to practise? How will we be more creative if we don’t have space to think and reflect and explore new ideas (I literally came up with this blog while I was waiting for a delayed train – a pocket of time I would never have given myself on purpose which allowed me to let my mind wander). How are we going to be better in our relationships – with friends, with partners, with God – if we don’t spend quality time building those relationships? If there’s something in your life you want to improve, you need to make space for it.
- Where are you not getting the space you need to grow?
I’m all for breaking down barriers and smashing glass ceilings, but sometimes our circumstances determine the space we have. Whether at work, in our relationships or in our personal lives, other people influence those spaces. Our bosses have a say in whether or not we have opportunities to progress. Our friendships can help us to build each other up or squish us down into little boxes. Our romantic relationships can be a space in which we are loved and accepted, or a space in which we doubt ourselves and are possibly not even safe.
If you’re not in the right space, if you’re getting smaller and smaller instead of growing and flourishing, it might be time to find a new space. Look for a job that allows you to become what you want to be when you grow up. Spend time with people who make you the best version of yourself, and limit your time with people who bring out the worst in you. Hold yourself to be of worth, and make sure the person you choose to spend your life with is going to help make your life bigger and fuller than if you did it alone. As Nelson Mandela put it, “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
- Who are you making space for?
And as we now know that people in power can influence our spaces, so too can we influence how much space others have. If you’re a leader, if you have a voice or power or authority in any situation – be that at work, in your small group, or just in the conversation you’re having – who are you making space for? Who, in this room, could be capable of so much more if only they were given more space to grow into? Who needs to be given the opportunity to step up and do more? You have influence over every almost space you’re in, and if you make sure others feel welcome and valued in that space, you never know who might surprise you with something amazing.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti