Tuning in to Your Soul

Tuning in to Your Soul

As a (former) economist, I set a lot of store by analysis.

Evidence-informed decisions seem to be to be a ‘good thing’.

If we have limited resources and we want to achieve something specific, then why would we not want to maximise the effectiveness of what we do?

Whether this is getting the best value for money accommodation when we go on holiday (my criteria might be the cutest, most stylish and most comfortable place within a certain budget range, yours might be top-end luxury at budget prices, someone else’s might be as far from the madding crowd as possible), or whether it’s how to create the most jobs of or above a certain quality jobs for the resources available (as it was when I worked in government), there’s generally value in paying attention to evidence and data.

 

Data with Soul?

 

I’ve just returned from a three-day retreat: “How to maximise the contribution of philanthropy to achieving global sustainable development” (big title, super-fancy venue and lots of lovely, smart, motivated and experienced participants).

The first evening we had a ‘fireside chat’ (by a very real, very grand Tudor fireplace) with two speakers who were allegedly on opposite sides of the heart versus data divide.

The first woman spoke about her crowd-giving platform, about the desire people have to give from an emotional place, because of what they feel and what they want to feel.

When the second speaker spoke, he started with,

“Ah I can see why you put us against each other!”

…and went on to talk about his analytical initiative, curating expert opinion and collating data to explore whether there was a ‘best’ order to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — were there foundational pieces which would create a domino effect of positive impact if certain ones were tackled first?

I laughed to myself as he spoke because I heard exactly the same message from both of them, I felt exactly the same passion and exactly the same connection with soul.

 

This Thing Called Soul?

 

But what is soul? And why is it even relevant?

There’s a passion and purpose that shines through us all and that we can see most clearly when someone feels truly connected with this thing I’m calling ‘soul’.

We can see that thinking and emotions become irrelevant, that they are clear-headed, productive, and in what we might in different circumstances, call ‘being in flow’.

It isn’t always a conscious experience for that person. In fact, it’s usually unconscious — think of the unconditional love you feel when you hold a newborn baby — that’s the feeling that comes when we are connecting with what we know to be true in our soul.

I know that soul can be a tricky word, one that will either resonate with you or that will stir some misgivings. Let’s not get stuck there, let’s call it whatever that sense of being alive is for you — whether you believe that to come from our neuro-biology, the electric circuitry of our brain, our humanity, or something beyond us, the love that we are all made of.

Definitions don’t matter, to me it’s the same thing and it’s something we all have — because it’s what it means to be alive.

That’s what I saw, heard and felt when I listened to those two speakers. And, yet, I wondered whether they saw it in themselves? I suspect not. In fact, I think both of them missed completely the fact that we can’t not connect with our soul, that there is no contradiction in acknowledging that is where we are most true to ourselves, and that it is how we connect with other people beyond prejudice and judgement.

I laughed afterwards as I told the analyst that he’d done a pretty poor job of dehumanising his work, but it was also there in the heart-centred entrepreneur.

She thought it was something to do with feelings and was looking to the effect of our humanity, not the source of it.

And, yet, she knew it was there, as did my new analyst friend, he just thought it was something that was getting in the way of his work, rather than the thing that was creating his impact.

 

Humanity versus Emotions

 

You hear me talk a lot about acting regardless of what we think and feel, and I know that can sound as if I’m denying that feelings matter.

There’s a void of difference, though, between acting from our in the moment emotion, which is fickle, unreliable and transient, and acting from our soul, our aliveness and our humanity, which is where truth comes from; it’s constant, steadfast, reliable and loving.

 

Listen for the Difference

 

I encourage you to listen for the difference between heart, intellect and soul. To refine your ‘ears’ so that you can tune in to what it means to be human — like you might tune in to a beautiful piece of music. I encourage you to learn to look for the humanity in others — which is always there by the way, no matter how shrouded, to learn to remember it in yourself, and to allow it to guide your work and your life.

That’s how we create the change we want to see in the world.

With love,

Cathy

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For the Love of the Work

For the Love of the Work

I was in the car with my youngest son recently. He was laughing about how he’d been unable to get the ‘Wallace and Gromit’ theme tune out of his head the night before and how it had kept him awake.

The conversation drifted to the making of those wonderful ‘claymation’ figures and in the next moment he was explaining how the movies were made and how the filmmakers blurred the camera lens with Vaseline in order to create the effect of motion.

The clay figures, of course, are fixed and filming motion involves jumping from one expression to another. When we move in real life, however, (try this with your hand right now) we don’t see a series of fixed pictures; we see a blur — because our hand is moving faster than our eyes can keep up with. Hence we lose focus and it appears blurry. The filmmakers at Aardman Animations had figured out how to replicate this effect with old-fashioned Vaseline.

My son (who loves films in case you hadn’t guessed!) then went on to talk about the new ‘Incredibles’ movie and the detail of the animation in the weave, and even the balls of fluff, on the t-shirt of Mr Incredible. I laughed that most of us probably wouldn’t even notice by the time the film hit our local theatre.

 

For the Sake of Art

 

This is so typical of people who are dedicated to their craft; their artistry.

The quality of the animation in the Incredibles movie is probably way overboard for the quality most of us will be viewing — and certainly by the time it makes it through Amazon or Netflix to the small screen of our iPhone or tablet.

The animators care not at all about this final loss of detail.

For them, the joy is in the art, in the continued mastery of their art, their craft, their work. The best of them won’t care at all about public or private recognition. In those moments when they are making choices about which details to include, they are in the flow of the work, which is all that matters.

I love it when I see someone going above and beyond what is absolutely necessary, for no other reason than dedication. Because they can. ​Because they care. Because it makes life beautiful.

 

In Art so it is in Coaching

 

This conversation with my son reminded me of a conversation with a prospective client earlier in the week.

We’d also laughed. Not at Wallace and Gromit, but at the challenge I’d offered around why he’d connected me. Poor sales technique he told me, but he also told me that I’d made him think in a way no-one else had. And, from that contemplation, he’d seen something new about what he wanted and how to get there.

For me, there’s never the presence, or absence, of a ‘sales technique’, nor is there even a conscious awareness of what “I” want form a conversation. I’m there because I love the coaching process and I ask questions because I can see something that someone doesn’t see for themselves.

Like the animator who’s making magic behind the scenes, I want to create magic for my clients, and prospective clients, whether we speak again or not.

 

The Magic in Mastery

 

Something that looks effortless often only looks that way because of years of mastery and dedication that have gone before. And, when we choose to dedicate ourselves to something, it becomes a never-ending journey.

I’m not saying we should do this in all areas of our life. My house probably isn’t the cleanest house in the world, especially not compared to someone whose art is creating a beautiful home. But we can, in those few areas where we commit to being our best, dedicate ourselves to a lifetime of practice and love.

We don’t do it for the glory, for the recognition, for someone else, or for the money. We do it simply because we can.

As soon as we turn our thoughts to what we can get from our work, then it ceases to be mastery. We do it because we can’t not​; we feel a desire and a pull beyond the consciousness of intellectual reason.

 

Because You Can

 

I love that phrase, “because we can…” Why wouldn’t we do what we are drawn to in life? Why wouldn’t we do what feels natural and bigger than us?

What is this for you? Where are you working towards mastery in something you do? Is it something professional? Something personal? Can you see how it’s something that chooses you rather than you choosing it?

It certainly feels like that for me.

With love,

Cathy

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Money: Is it a Measure of Value, or Worth, or What? (the surprising truth)

Money: Is it a Measure of Value, or Worth, or What? (the surprising truth)

As I prepared for a recent event, ‘Coaching Skills for Social Impact’, I got curious about the 100 people who signed up almost immediately the email went out. That was more, and more quickly than the organisation I’m co-hosting with anticipated–so we decided to survey them and find out more.

 

We Crave Meaning

 

I shouldn’t really have been surprised to see that the #1 reason people were attending — and these were coaches as well as executives and professionals — was to deepen their leadership skills so that they can make more impact with what they do.

It reminded me of something that Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate, pioneer of microcredit and founder of the Grameen Bank, said at a talk I attended last week.

“When we chase profit, it diverts us from chasing social impact and social impact is where we should be looking for the future of business.”

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with Professor Yunus about future business being 100% about social enterprise — I think anything that prescribes a model of the world limits human creativity — but he is right to divert attention away from money.

 

Money Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means…

 

Money is a means of communication, a means of exchange, just like the words on this page are a means of communication.

Sure, in 2017, it’s tough to pay my rent with an email, but I can trade words for money and money for a place to live.

The model of trading words for rent, though, isn’t completely unknown — it worked pretty well for Shakespeare and it works for artists, thought leaders, and others who lived and live by patronage. Go to the website of any newspaper or broadcaster and you’ll be asked to support them financially — a kind of crowd-funded version of what kings and queens have been doing for centuries.

And yet, somehow in the evolution of our economy, the amount of wealth and earnings we have has been conflated with our personal worth. We’ve been led to believe that it means something!

What if it didn’t mean what we thought it meant?

What if we dug down a few levels and started to communicate and connect from our essential value as a human being, rather than looking at the access to money someone has as a measure of anything meaningful?

 

Good, or Bad?

 

I was reminded of this at my own recent event on ‘Delivering Powerful Social Impact’, when one of the social entrepreneurs craved ‘freedom’ from her part-time job so that she could grow her social business and more of an impact in the world.

But, just as I don’t see why we should value money in itself, I also don’t see why we should avoid it. She lives in London, an expensive city, and she too has to pay rent and bills.

What’s wrong with having a part-time job? Why is it better to be spending all her time growing her social business? What if she could make just more impact where she was and grow her social business at the same time?

You see, when we start to make meaning out of money, good or bad, we lose a sense of what it is to make a difference. We think that money has to be there first, and then we can do something; that it’s a precursor to doing something positive — the model that many modern-day (and ever latter-day!) philanthropists adopt.

No, it’s neither good nor bad; it doesn’t mean comitment, energy, or anything at all. We make up stories about all of those things and each of us, in the moment places a different meaning on it. Underneath the stories it’s simply a means of communication and exchange — an intermediary for what we want.

I wonder, as you read this, whether it’s shone a light on some of your beliefs and ideas about money? If so, I’d love to know what they are and whether, on reflection, you can see that there might be another way of looking at things. A way that gives you more freedom to go where your wisdom is guiding you.

I’d love you to let me know!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you want to be the first to know about future events I’m hosting, make sure you’re signed up to my emails.

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Could You Run a Marathon This Afternoon (And Would It Bother You If You Couldn’t?)

Could You Run a Marathon This Afternoon (And Would It Bother You If You Couldn’t?)

I was talking to a prospective client this week and he was sharing details of his last job where he’d felt under incredible pressure to deliver against what looked to him like impossible targets.

For some reason the analogy came to mind that it would be like me being asked to run a marathon this afternoon and to complete it in less than two hours. Well, that would look like a ridiculous ask; the sheer impossibility of it would be self-evident.

Now, in theory, I might get anxious and worry about failing, but the task sounds so ludicrous that I’d more than likely choose a different response:

•  I might say “Thanks, but no thanks!”

•  I might decide to go for it, have fun and see how far I got.

•  I might decide to look at it creatively and ask if I could cycle the course instead of running. Or be at one of the support tents, some other way to join in that was within my abilities and felt like fun for me.

You see, as soon as I can laugh about it, and not feel under any obligation to achieve the goal, then I release any and all pressure. It’s the pressure that creates the anxiety — not the task itself.

It’s easy to see this in the marathon example but perhaps there are examples in your life where it’s more difficult to see?

That was certainly the case for my client. He was in a situation where there was no way to ‘finish’ and he’d been hoodwinked, innocently, into believing it meant something about him, rather than something about the situation as it presented itself.

 

Which leads me to…

 

a recent conversation about burnout and an interview with my friend and colleague, Lisa Swanson.

Relating to the marathon story, the more it looks as if we are somehow failing in this impossible task, the more we are likely to experience what many people call burnout. Whereas when we see that we are doing the best we can, and whether we complete the race, or we don’t doesn’t mean anything at all about us, well, somehow the situation appears less stressful and therefore we both perform at our best, and are able to stay closer to our natural state of well-being.

http://cathypresland.com/burnout-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Do you have any experience of burnout? Or any thoughts on the interview? Please do share.

With love,

Cathy

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Are You Taking the Easy Option Rather Than Asking for What You Really Want?

Are You Taking the Easy Option Rather Than Asking for What You Really Want?

Clients often say this to me: “If I do X then it will get me closer to Y.”

They usually have a justification — the path is easier, faster, the ‘X’ thing is closer at hand, and ‘Y’ appears further away or harder to achieve (at least in their thinking).

But justification is made-up. We create a story and then we look for evidence to make it true. Who are we (they) to know what is really ahead? We might ​think​ from where we sit right now, that it’s a better strategy. That doesn’t mean it is easier or faster or more likely to show results.

 

Me, Too

 

And not just clients; we all do this from time to time in our lives. My youngest son is applying for university right now and was choosing between two closely related courses at one of his favourite universities. One had a lower entrance requirement than the other and it didn’t look as if there was that much difference in the courses.

So he asked the obvious question, “Mum, should I apply for X because I’m more likely to get in?” My advice was the same for him as it would be for a client, “Why would you do that? Decide which course you prefer and put all your resources behind going for it. Otherwise it’s a distraction and there’s no guarantee either way.”

He didn’t feel he had enough information to make a choice, so we went on an Open Day and it became immediately obvious that one course was much better suited to him than the other (of course, the one with the higher entrance requirements!).

My advice remained the same: go for what you want and cut out any dilly-dallying in the middle. What’s come back to him is more than he thought possible: not only has he been offered a place with the exact same ‘lower’ entrance requirements as the course that was supposedly easier to access, but he’s been offered a complete by-pass of any entrance requirements if he selects this university as his first choice.

He’s a bright young man and he had a good application but there are many, many teenagers with better grades than him; yet for some reason he was given one of the ‘free’ passes on entrance requirements.

 

Yeah, But…

 

Of course, you might say, oh well that’s the luck of the draw, and yes, that might be true. He could have been asked for the higher entrance requirements, or he could have got the by-pass for the other course, had he applied for it. Results are never guaranteed. AND, I think it’s precisely ​because ​results are never guaranteed that we should go for what we want rather than waste time doing things out of convenience.

There’s something about fit and commitment that comes across in the words we write and the actions we take when we come from the place of what is 100% true for us. We subconsciously know when someone is speaking the truth, and it can be very convincing.

And, at the same time, knowing that we will be fine ​whatever​ the outcome is what gives us the freedom to make the bold ask. In my son’s case, he will be fine whichever university he ends up going to, and whatever he ends up doing.​

 

It’s Exactly the Same for You

 

Are there places where you’re not asking for what you want? Or places where you feel so attached to the outcome that you feel as if your well-being will be affected if you don’t get it? The more you can let go of those, the more pure freedom you will experience in life. Have a think and let me know what comes up for you.

With love,

Cathy

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