What to Do When You Experience ‘Fear’. And Why I’m Not Still Trapped in an LA Bathroom…

What to Do When You Experience ‘Fear’. And Why I’m Not Still Trapped in an LA Bathroom…

The theme that’s coming up in my conversations this week seems to be ‘fear’ and how it can hold us back, or at least slow us down from the things we want to. We know it, it’s frustrating, and yet it persists.

One of my friends laughingly said “oh yeah, I had a coach once who thought the way to deal with it was to help his clients move so fast that fear doesn’t have a chance to catch them.”

I laughed but I was also kinda surprised that anyone would fall for that — it looks to me like the very definition of a dog chasing its tail.

Sure, you can outrun fear, but only in the way a tail outruns a dog. It’s always ahead of you but it’s never going away — until you see it’s a tail and then you can decide whether that’s the game you want to play, or whether you’d rather play a more interesting game like chasing a ball, or chewing a bone.

 

What Even Is ‘Fear’?

 

When I ask, people will usually associate the fear they’re feeling with something real — oh yes, it’s fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being seen. It looks as if the fear is entangled with a set of circumstances and we need to either learn how to manage the feeling, or we need to change the circumstances to get rid of the feeling.

But, the circumstances and the way we feel are separate, and unrelated, processes in life and — in the same way that seeing that he is chasing a tail, not another dog has an immediate and calming effect on the dog — seeing that our focus on the feeling is simply a focus on the feeling, can release any tension and has an immediately calming and productive effect on us humans.

 

Sure, We Have Habits of Thought…

 

Yes, we have habits of thought and habits of action and we can get confused about how they link together.

I was in LA a few weeks ago and (forgive the bathroom analogy!) the toilet roll holder was on the opposite side to the one I have at home. Time after time, I reached out the wrong way.

Sometimes I laughed at myself, sometimes I was a little exasperated and sometimes I didn’t have much of a thought about it at all.

The reason I experienced that LA bathroom slightly differently each time was a function of my mood — of my thoughts and feelings in the moment. It was absolutely not a function of the position of the toilet roll.

What I didn’t do was make those feelings or that experience mean anything — either about me (for mis-remembering where the toilet roll was, for being forgetful, an idiot, or whatever…), or about the toilet roll holder for being in the wrong place, or even about the landlord for his brazen disregard for my wellbeing and clearly intentional attempt to wind me up.

No, my experience was absolutely not caused by me, my circumstances, or anyone around me.

I simply had a habit of behaviour and it was obvious to me that my behaviour would change all by itself. It had nothing at all to do with how I was feeling, I didn’t have to change my feelings, and I didn’t have to change the position of the toilet roll holder in order to protect myself from an undesirable emotional experience.

There was, in fact, no need to do anything, beyond remembering where the toilet roll holder was positioned — and, surprise surprise, remembering something that is true happens without any effort at all.

This is exactly how it works with any set of circumstances—we can take the action that occurs to us (reaching for the toilet paper) without needing to stress about, or attend to our feelings — they are ​simply background noise​ that comes and goes, is sometimes present and sometimes not.

 

You Don’t Have to Do Anything

 

This is exactly how it is with ‘fear’. It might ​look as if​ there is a connection between the situation and the feeling, but there isn’t.

A feeling can arise randomly, or it can come because we’re in a pattern of thought.

If I’m in a pattern of self-judgement, sure I might get all judgey about not remembering where the toilet roll is. But the judgement is coming from my pattern, not from the toilet roll.

The toilet roll isn’t triggering me, it isn’t responsible for how I feel, and — importantly — I don’t need to change anything at all about the toilet roll in order to stop judging myself. It’s much easier (and more effective) to laugh it off as what it is — a random thought — and focus on what’s actually important in life.

Understanding that any mood — annoyance or fear or even those good moods like excitement — will pass as quickly as it arrives, and setting our feelings aside from how we make decisions about what we do is the only sensible way forward.

If the feeling was relevant in any way, I’d still be on that toilet in LA, working out new ways to change my thoughts and manage my feelings so I could be empowered to reach for the toilet paper and begin my day…

Hmm, doesn’t sound like such a great idea when you put it like that now, does it?

You do not need to connect your actions to your feelings. Full stop.

The more deeply you can see the truth of that, the less you’ll want to do anything about your fear, and the more you’ll be able to focus on the actions that create what you want in your life.

And, sometimes, like me, you’ll forget.

When this happens, and I remember again, I usually laugh at myself.

You might want to try that…

With love,

Cathy

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100 Years of Suffrage and Why Do We Still Imprison Ourselves?

100 Years of Suffrage and Why Do We Still Imprison Ourselves?

This week marked the 100 year anniversary of the first UK laws that gave women the vote. (Not all women, not quite yet, but it was a milestone).

It got me thinking about freedom, what we mean by it and what’s in the way of us having more of it.

 

Freedom?

 

If I were to ask many of my friends and clients what it is they want in life, one of the answers that would come back at me would definitely be ‘freedom’.

Different people mean it differently but there’s often a common thread about choice, being able to live life in a way that they want to rather than being at the mercy of other people or circumstances; being able to have some freedom of lifestyle – travel, a fulfilling career or job, and some way of making a difference in the world. Sometimes I hear someone mention money as a means to this, often not.

And this elusive ‘freedom’ looks like a real thing that we can’t ‘have’ in the future. Something like the laws that one day didn’t exist, and then one day did.

 

Is It Enough?

 

Just as it looked to the women (and some men) of the early twentieth century that universal suffrage was an important milestone in tackling discrimination against women.

Well, in many ways it was but I don’t want this to be a history lesson. Instead, I want us to look at how we (women and men) continue to imprison ourselves, even when we have more freedom of circumstances than we even realise.

 

It Starts in the Mind

 

A client, Joe, I worked with last year, came to me because he wanted to create more freedom in his life as he got older.

He’d had a successful career and he wanted to transition to something with more flexibility, and perhaps some location independence so that he could travel and visit family around the world.

To Joe it looked very much as if the parts of his life that needed ‘working on’ were his options for future jobs or business opportunities, maybe there was something about ‘confidence’, and maybe something about ‘decision-making’ since he was, literally, faced with a world of choice.

To me, in those kinds of client conversations, the first place I’m curious to explore, however, is freedom of mind.

You see, once we see that most of what is holding us back is a creation of our own thinking, then this thing called freedom that looks like it’s somewhere in the future, somewhere outside ourselves, suddenly explodes into our present.

 

You Have More Freedom Than You Realise

 

Joe and I had one such conversation.

He was telling me about a previous team member who’d transferred to the company’s offices in the US some years ago, who’d recently been back in London for a visit.

“What’s to stop you going to the States, Joe?”

I asked him.

“If the company offered you a six-month stint in New York starting next week, you could take it couldn’t you? What’s actually stopping you?”

As we talked Joe began to see that the only thing stopping him was that he’d created an image that his future looked a certain way.

The more we disentangled what was actually true from what he was creating as true that wasn’t, the more he saw that he had all the freedom he was looking for right now.

He could pretty much say ‘yes’ to any interesting offer that came along, and he could start to create more opportunities in his present – there was no need to wait for some made-up future. Time has a vertical as well as a horizontal axis.

 

Vertical Time?

 

As long as we are creating a fixed version of ‘freedom’ (or anything), and as long as we believe that it is within our job description to own it and control it, then we are prisoners of our own imaginings.

The suffragists weren’t just fighting for an equal right to vote, they were fighting for equal access to education for women, improved pay and conditions, especially for manual labourers, better housing, social security, the full panoply of social change. We have those campaigners, and the politicians who finally agreed to legislate, to thank for creation of many of our social safety nets and social reform of the last century.

 

However…

 

Much of what holds us back isn’t about our physical circumstances. Most of my clients are sitting in relative wealth, or at least comfort. Most of the people who attend my free seminars or low-priced workshops have nice homes and a business or a job to support them.

Yet many of us still feel dissatisfied. We still feel sometimes trapped and it looks as if we are bound to our situation.

 

Ready to Break Free?

 

Isn’t it just time you broke free of some of those imaginary chains that are holding you back?

In the words of Rumi,

“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
The entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

With love,

Cathy

❤️

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Values: How Important are They, and Where Do They Come From?

Values: How Important are They, and Where Do They Come From?

There’s a lot of talk in the professional development community about ‘values’ and how they’re the cornerstone of being an authentic leader or organisation.

Yes, I agree (to a point anyway). It’s a way of communicating, and a way of finding common ground.

However…

 

Here’s How It Looks to Me

 

There’s something (somewhere) that’s more important than values.

There’s the place that values ​come from.

In those quiet moments, when we experience peace of mind, mental clarity and wellbeing; when we feel in harmony with the world, we’re experiencing the very essence of what it is to be alive. The peace and the joy and the creativity of being human.

There’s something about ​that​ place which is common for all of us.

It’s why we can enjoy a conversation with a stranger on a train or at the supermarket.

It’s why neighbours pull together in a crisis.

It’s the place I’m looking to connect with when I’m coaching.

When we experience ​that​ feeling, then we are all experiencing the same thing. And we might each articulate what that place feels like a little differently. When we’re asked to describe it, we will put different words around it, and if we’re asked what we ​value​ about it, then those are the words that will become our values.

We’re really describing a place, a feeling, an experience, something that is beyond words. Which is why the words change but the state of mind they’re describing is always the same.

 

I See It as a Place That’s Upstream of Values

 

Like snowflakes. They all become different, original shapes, and those shapes are beautiful, but if we want to make a snowflake machine, we need to understand what they’re made of, and how they come into form.

It can be interesting to look at the shapes, entertaining, engaging, something to wonder at.

Just as it can be interesting to explore what words best describe our values. Is it ​this​ or is it ​that?

What’s even more useful, though, is to know that the source of our values is always there even though the descriptions, the shape — the words — may change, just as the shape of a snowflake changes.

 

Life Gets a Lot Easier!

 

This is one reason my clients have so little to do.

What we explore together is way more valuable and life-changing than doing values exercises, or identifying strengths and weaknesses.

Rather than picking a handful of snowflakes and trying to keep them alive in a jar, they have the life equivalent of the ‘ultimate snowflake machine’. ​

Now, that’s a lot more fun to work with!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you’d like to explore whether coaching can help you find that place that exists in all of us and will create the ultimate peace of mind, and the freedom to create your equivalent of magnificent snowflakes in your life and work, contact me and let’s see how to open up what’s possible for you.

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The Experience of Sadness, and the Infinite Nature of Love

The Experience of Sadness, and the Infinite Nature of Love

It’s been an emotional week, as you know dear friends. On Sunday evening I arrived back from LA. On Monday, we got up to find my dog, who was old and had been struggling with nerve damage in his back and hips for a while now, had got himself into an awkward position and no amount of trying could get him up.

I called the vet, sent my teen off to school and waited. I knew we had only days with him but the vet’s diagnosis was that our old fellow had most likely slipped a disc and had little or no sensation in the back half of his body. We took the decision that it was the right moment to end his life.

I held my dear sweet boy as he went, first, to sleep with a sedative, and then as his heart stopped and the life slipped from him. He seemed peaceful and, as always, he looked at me with complete trust and friendship.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been with someone, or an animal, at that point of death?

We can feel, almost see, the life evaporating out of the body.

It reminded me of breathing air in and out of our lungs, What comes from the atmosphere, returns to the atmosphere. Dust to dust we used to say at funerals, but it feels more like life to life. My lovely boy’s life energy returning to the greater life energy, to come back in some other form.

I’m not necessarily being literal; I’m describing how it feels (how it felt to me in that moment). We makes sense of god, spirit, or the great big nothingness in our own way. Whatever you believe, for sure there is a difference between life and death.

 

It’s OK to Be Sad

 

This dog has been with us since the children were small and we mourned and mourned him all week. Many tears were shed.

Later in the week I had a call with someone I buddy coach with.

“I’m experiencing you as very sad,” she said, and offered to sit with it, maybe talk about self-care.

“Yes,” I replied, “I am sad. But that’s OK.”

It seems to me that we don’t do that well with sadness, depression and the range of emotions that fall at the ‘negative’ end of the spectrum.

 

Why is that?

 

If we choose to have pets, it’s very likely we will experience their death before ours. It’s simple maths.

I talked about this with my 17 year-old. We don’t have to not feel the emotion — what would life be without loss?

We’ve cried and cried this week, and we’ve also laughed at all the antics our dog got up to, all the fun we had shared together. That reminiscing, surely, is a normal part of life?

Yes, we have a hole in our hearts in this moment — most likely we always will when we think of him.

But, our capacity for love doesn’t diminsh.

I don’t know whether we’ll get another dog. Or, maybe, I should say I have a sense we will get another dog, I’m just not sure when(!)

The love doesn’t go away — because when we talk about love we are talking about life itself — it’s what’s all around us, it’s what we are made of.

The feeling of love we have for our old boy is coming from the very essence of the presence of life itself.

And, when the new guy or girl comes along, we will open up a new space and fill it with even more love.

 

Love is Infinite

 

I remember when I had my second child someone said to me, “it’s strange, we think we we are full up with love for our first child, that there is no space for more love, and then the second one comes along and our hearts simply expand and more love pours in.”

Love is infinite, and the more we experience it, the more it will multiply.

And, from time to time, we need to mark the passing of the form that love takes with a deep, deep sadness.

With love,

Cathy

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Living and Giving Without Expectations

Living and Giving Without Expectations

The idea of giving without expectations has come up a couple of times for me in recent weeks.

I was in conversation with my husband — he’d brought me a cup of coffee and I thanked him.

Although I was grateful, I was slightly distracted and I could see my words weren’t quite enthusiastic enough for him. The look on his face told me he had an expectation of greater appreciation.

We all do this from time to time — we act (often unconsiously) in the expectation that we will receive a response or a reward.

When we do this, our action becomes a ‘transaction’ — an exchange — I am giving you this so that I can get that.

What about those times when we do something without any expectation of anything pinging back? What doesn’t that look like?

 

Secret Santa?

 

Last week I had a conversation with a client about exactly this topic and why it might mean in a leadership context, including how it could impact his company and the quality of their service delivery.

He told me about a time when he’d worked in the hospitality industry where the business imperative to put a smile on someone’s face without them ever knowing why or where it had come from.

How beautiful is that?

And, what a great way to get our own ego out of the way.

If our objective is for someone — at home or at work — to never feel the container of the service, only the impact, what might that look like?

 

Removing the Expectation of Exchange

 

For most of us in a work scenario, we imagine that we’re in a transactional relationship: we do business for a fee, we turn up at a job for a wage.

And yes, it’s true, there is an exchange. When I go into the supermarket, I don’t expect to walk out with a bag of groceries that I haven’t paid for.

But what if we separated them completely?

We’re paid to turn up at work, and we do.

What we then do at work, or in business — the way we deliver the service — doesn’t have to have any entanglement with the payment.

Let’s mark them out as separate, for an experiment.

Just as the pint of milk might cost the same in the no-name discount store, or from the personal delivery to our doorstep by a friendly milkman, the payment does not relate to the quality of the service (or the product).

Why wouldn’t we always give the utmost that we could in any scenario? What if we did that without ever expecting anything back?

It might mean we do different things, or we do the same things differently.

For those of you with children you’ll spend many years of your life being under-appreciated for the things you are doing.

There are some things we do for the sake of it, we don’t them because they will make us happy, we do them because it’s the right thing to do and we can take pride in a job well done.

We do them for the love of the work. No matter whether there is a ‘thank you’ at the end of the day.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around?

 

I’m not sure I believe in ‘karma’ exactly but I do believe that going about our day with a smile, without expectations, and I believe that being the best person we can be is more likely to create a positive experience for those around us.

Maybe they will be touched enough, at an unconscious level, to create that positive experience for someone else?

The way we act can resonate with the deepest part of the people around us and create a ‘signal’ that goes out to create wonder in the world.

 

The Best (and Easiest!) Job Ever?

 

What if your only job was to go about your day, to do your best work, and to sprinkle joy wherever you went?

Would that change the way you showed up? Would it change the interactions you have and outputs you deliver?

It might be a very interesting experiment to try out for a week or two; even a day!

Let me know if you decide to give it a try and what happens when you do.

With love,

Cathy

❤️

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