When Things Don’t Go the Way We Want and Why (Sometimes) It Feels like a Big Deal

When Things Don’t Go the Way We Want and Why (Sometimes) It Feels like a Big Deal

I’ve been at my computer for a couple of hours writing my usual weekly post (about slaying our imaginary dragons by the way).

It’s been more of a ‘battle’ than usual and I can’t get it to a place where I feel OK to post it. I have a draft, I know what I want to say, but I haven’t nailed the words in quite the way I want.

So I’ve put it aside (at least for today.)

As soon as I did that, I saw an opportunity to write about ‘the gap’ I often see with clients (and in myself). The ‘gap’ that creates all our discomfort, the ‘gap’ that we think is the barrier to getting what we want, and the ‘gap’ that, to many of us, feels like the thing we have to ‘tackle’ before we can put our focus on achieving our goals.

Ah, how wrong we are.

 

It’s Illusory

 

When I first bring up the idea of a ‘gap’ it’s possible your mind goes to somewhere in the future — something you think you’re moving towards?

In fact you’ll often hear coaches tell you that’s what they do — “help their clients close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.”

I see it differently, though; I see that the gap isn’t really a gap. It’s illusory, and therefore seeing through the illusion is more important than ‘doing’ anything about it.

Let me share an example or two…

 

The ‘No Gap’ Example

 

When it comes to my writing — like today — sometimes I’m not in the place I assumed I’d be. The post I thought I was writing is still in draft. At one point this morning I wasn’t even sure I’d post anything!

In fact it goes further: I’m planning to write a book this year and, clearly, that book hasn’t been written (yet)…

“Oh well, that’s interesting!” I say to myself. I am an observer in what is happening, I am not ‘in control’ of how things unfold.

There is no ‘gap’ (for me) in this scenario; I’m not experiencing the place I find myself as anything other than kinda interesting.

It doesn’t matter that I haven’t written the book, I’m totally content to be moving towards it and yet not know where I will end up; I have no attachment to this post versus the post I thought I was writing… what is is simply what is.

There is no pain or discomfort because I don’t feel as if I need to be anywhere other than where I am. AND, still, there is a direction to look — the direction of my next book.

 

The ‘Mind the Gap’ Example

 

However… there are other places in my life where it feels, in a very real way, as if there is a gap between ‘where I am’ and ‘where I think I should be’.

Meaning, it feels as if it ‘isn’t OK’ to be where I find myself.

Imagine, for example (well there is no need to imagine, because it’s a real example!), that, right now, I’m not as fit as I want to be (or have been in the past).

I find myself dissatisfied with my body, my level of fitness, my lack of stretchiness in yoga, my unwillingness to go out for a run. I look back to a rosy past and compare myself to the younger Cathy, or I look forward, creating an imagined life of misery and inactivity.

Ouch!

What I’m doing here is feeling the mental anguish that comes from not seeing that all of this is an illusion. An illusion that looks (sometimes) as if my present situation is not OK.

To an outsider (a fitness trainer perhaps) it could look as if my dissatisfaction is coming from my desire to be somewhere else, and therefore we could work with that to drive a change in my behaviour. A ‘burn your bridges’ approach; the worse things get the more motivation I have to do something about it.

Sorry, but no, that’s not how things work.

What’s happening for me in this example is simply that I do not see the illusion. The ‘gap’ looks real. But how can it be? I cannot be other than where I am?

 

Being With the Moment and Still Moving Forward

 

Of course, being where I am, and seeing that I am always whole and complete, doesn’t mean I have to stay in one place! (I couldn’t anyway since we are in perpetual motion.)

If I want to look towards a place of being more fit, to get back into my running, or find an alternative, more long-distance walking and cycling, maybe indoor climbing (my boys love this, why can’t I have a go too?!), etc etc, then I can do that.

The more it looks to me as if this ‘gap’ between my present reality and my imagined present reality is real, however, the more difficult it is to create that in my life. I’m looking at the illusion, not the beautiful unfolding of life.

 

The Problem Isn’t Where You Think It Is

 

The problem is never in the future. It isn’t somewhere to ‘get’ to. The gap between where we are and where we want to be is never the problem.

It’s the gap between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we think we should be right now’ that is draining us of mental energy, that is taking our focus away from doing what we want, from being fully connected with the person in front of us, from showing up as our best self, from doing the work that needs to be done.

The more clearly we see that the gap is an illusion, that it only looks real because we create it as real, the better we are able to move forwards on the path we are guided to take.

The more clearly we can see the complete irrelevance of where we are, the more things will begin to shift.

After all, where we are is always perfect.

There is no gap. (which comes back to my piece on imaginary dragons — more on that later…)

With love,

Cathy

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Where Are You Comparing Yourself to Others? (How to eliminate that gut-wrenching ‘comparisonitis’)

Where Are You Comparing Yourself to Others? (How to eliminate that gut-wrenching ‘comparisonitis’)

It breaks my heart when people tell me they are suffering from ‘comparisonitis’; that gut-wrenching feeling of inadequacy when you look at someone else and find yourself coming up short.

We know it holds us back and yet, from time to time, we find ourselves envying someone who seems to have more than we do – better market positioning, a better tagline, better dress sense, better hair.

But what (or rather who) are we really looking at? And why, if it makes is feel so bad do we continue to do it?

What we’re doing when we compare ourselves (negatively) to others is we’re actually looking at ourselves and feeling intense dissatisfaction about where we are. We kinda realise this but we might fall into the trap of thinking it’s real, and believing that there really is a ‘gap’ between where we are and where we should be.

I feel this intensely from time to time around my fitness and body. I know other women who feel it around their business. (which isn’t helped by a well-meaning partner or friend asking ‘are you making money yet?’ Sometimes I point out to clients that no-one would ask this question if you’d chosen to go on a gap year to Thailand, rather than start to build a business. It’s completely contextual.)

OK, back to the gap…

If you ever feel this kind of comparisonitis, I want you to know two things:

1. It really isn’t about them

There is nothing in the other person that can make you feel a certain way. What you’re looking at (and believing to be meaningful) is the illusion of a thought-created gap between where you are and where you think you should be.

(and I’d go further and say, not only can no-one make you feel this way, but nothing can make you feel this way. It isn’t Facebook, it isn’t where you live, the job you have or don’t have, the relationship you have or don’t have. It’s an illusion.)

2. We are always whole and perfect

The second is more subtle; it’s harder to explain, and, yet, it’s the key to unlocking everything for you.

However bad or dissatisfied we feel in the moment, we are always in the perfect place. We have everything we need, and we have ultimate and infinite well-being because we are divine beings living a human experience.

Yes, really.

I don’t love the religious language yet I can’t find better words to describe what we are – spirit, soul, god, energy, nothingness – they all come with an association that doesn’t align with what I’m trying to say. It’s a feeling and when you ‘get it’, you get it at an instinctive, intuitive, insightful level.

Know this, we have something at our core – a shining light of wellness – that is whole and perfect no matter what the scales or the bank book say. Look to this place and you will find all the peace of mind imaginable.

And if you don’t believe me, then email and we can talk further.

With love,

Cathy

 

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Androids, Electric Sheep and Perpetual Motion: Life Lessons from Philip K Dick

Androids, Electric Sheep and Perpetual Motion: Life Lessons from Philip K Dick

We’re making plans for a family outing to the new Bladerunner movie this weekend. It’s on new release, and the internet is buzzing with stories about Philip K Dick, who is the author of the short story that inspired the original Bladerunner film. This quote, in particular, caught my eye,

“…I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it.

Do not believe — and I am dead serious when I say this — do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly.

What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.”

My shortened version of what Dick is saying here is that life is in perpetual motion, and therefore anything we do to search for, or impose order and structure is ultimately fruitless.

 

The Nature of Life

 

A better strategy is to approach life knowing that its very nature is one of change.

That loss, disappointment and rebirth are unavoidable, and, if we want to live an authentic life — a life that is true to our (human) nature — then we must embrace that reality.

Holding this duality, as I sometimes describe it: the idea that we are alive and that we are creative, loving beings, together with the idea that life is ephemeral, that our world changes before our very eyes; is the key to living life with a sense of purpose and well-being.

Holding this duality as true is what gives us the freedom to throw ourselves into work that matters, to fully embrace and to love our families and friends, to step forward with all our heart and commitment and reach for dreams that inspire us. And, at the same time, knowing that we matter little in the grander scheme of things.

 

Rumi

 

Think of the words of Rumi as an antidote to the rigid search for order and stability; to putting things and people in boxes, and, by doing that, making them less than they are,

“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”

We wouldn’t seek to control to universe, so why do we think we can control our small human life?

I don’t know how my evening at the Bladerunner movie will turn out. Maybe it will be a letdown and I’ll romanticise my memories of seeing the original. Maybe we’ll find it engaging, a feat of storytelling and on-screen drama.

Either way, I have no plan to create order and stability, even in a small event such as a cinema trip. I can only experience it as it shows up.

 

Let me ask you a question…

 

How do you see life?

Do you see life as something to be ‘controlled’? Many of my clients first show up that way so there’s nothing wrong with believing that order is saving us from chaos.

Or do you see it as an organic unfolding? That the joy of being alive is in experiencing the unknown, no matter how it might make us feel.

Maybe you can answer this question for me,

“Where in your life are you trying to control things?
And… how’s that working out for you?”

I’d love you to get in touch and let me know.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you’ve already seen it, no movie spoilers please!

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What It Takes to Be a ‘Visionary Leader’ (And Why Most of Us Are Looking in the Wrong Place)

What It Takes to Be a ‘Visionary Leader’ (And Why Most of Us Are Looking in the Wrong Place)

I’ve been reflecting on a question a friend posed on Facebook this week. He’d asked,

“What would you say are the parts of society where visionary and inspirational leadership is most lacking but is most vital?”

People responded with the obvious: the much-maligned government and public bodies came in for some criticism, large organisations, those seemingly tanker-like structures that take an age to turn around.

And yet…

I was puzzled by his question.

 

My Definition of ‘Visionary’

 

It seems to me that having a vision is a function of being human.

And, humans are pretty evenly distributed throughout leadership positions.

Any of us can be a leader, if we feel minded to do so. From my 17-year-old taking charge of his school’s Politics’ Society (despite his preference to be in the shadows rather than the spotlight) to the Chairman of the Bank of England, whom I heard being interviewed on the radio this morning.

Therefore…

…according to the syllogistic logic of Aristotle, it must follow that visionary leaders are evenly distributed amongst the population and the organisations we associate with.

 

Take Helga, for Example…

 

Take my client Helga. She’s had a long and illustrious career in ‘The City’ (finance and banking: pinstriped suits and seven-figure bonuses, not the most obvious place to look for visionaries perhaps).

Over the last year, she’s become increasingly unsettled–she wants more meaning in her life. So she’s been on a journey; she’s taken a non-executive director position with a charity, she volunteers time with another non-profit. she’s done meditation and mindfulness courses.

And, finally, she’s come for coaching.

She thought she was looking for a job, an organisation, at the very least a sector, which would give her meaning, and where she could express her leadership potential.

She thought her circumstances dictated her peace of mind.

However…

…what she’s come to realise through our coaching is that peace of mind is available anywhere, at any time; and that the meaning she gives to her life and work comes from the inside, not the outside.

Like being hit over the head with a plank of wood she woken up to the blindingly obvious: she’s been looking for a vision in the wrong place. It isn’t in a non-profit, in travelling, in spending more time at home. No, it’s in her, which means she can combine her expertise and experience in a way that creates the meaning she wants.

She’s on her way to becoming what I think my friend would call a visionary leader in a very traditional sector.

You see, what makes Helga, or indeed any of us, ‘visionary’, is where we look, not where, or who, we are.

 

‘Visionary’ is Beyond the Patio Doors

 

I have French windows in my office that look out over my garden. If all I do is look at the computer in front of me, I will never see what’s out in the world. Yet the world is there for me to see each and every day.

As soon as I raise my eyes, look into the garden, start to look beyond the garden to what might be over the fence, over the hill, even over the sea, then what I’m looking at has changed, even though my position has not.

If that vision is compelling to me–if I see a beautiful flower or I can imagine taking a chair outside and reading under a tree, then I’m going to do it, regardless of any ‘leadership’ or ‘decision-making’ (or even ‘manual handling’ ;-)) training I have or haven’t had.

When we see something that moves us enough to take action, the action becomes inevitable.

 

We Are All Visionaries (If We Do This…)

 

Each of us has the capacity for sight, therefore each of us has the capacity to be a ‘visionary leader’. Whether we activate that visionary leadership depends only on where we look, not where we are. I am in front of my computer, yet that doesn’t define my vision.

There isn’t anything ‘special’ that only a select few can access; visionary leadership isn’t the product of a job role, sector or industry; it isn’t about environment or training, or the company we keep. It isn’t what we do or where we live.

It’s simply a product of being able to see.

In any moment we can open our eyes and look in a new direction. When we see something compelling enough to move towards, then we will step into our innate leadership, just as my normally back-seat-driving 17 year-old has done with the Politics’ Society.

In my work, I see examples of this in sectors that many consider boring or staid or plain exploitative. Just this week I spoke with someone running a small chain of franchise restaurants, implementing what my friend would most likely call ‘visionary’ management practices.

Which is why I was so puzzled by my friend’s question.

Every single one of us–you, me, our friends and colleagues, our children and partners, all have the gift of sight.

The only thing that separates anyone from stepping into leadership is whether or not we see something that compels us to move forward.

Have a beautiful day, happy awakening, and talk next time.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you want to step into your leadership potential, just like Helga, there’s no doubt that coaching will help you. If you want to find out whether I’m the right coach for you, contact me through my website, and we can find out.

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Confidence, Courage and Conviction: a Conversation on How to Be Brave in Any Situation

Confidence, Courage and Conviction: a Conversation on How to Be Brave in Any Situation

Confidence Isn’t THIS…

 

I used to be super-reflective on all the reasons I couldn’t do something…

Those words are from Maren Enkelmann, my interviewee today.

If you’ve ever thought that confidence is something you need to have, or that you can get by going on a course, practising techniques, reading books, or even ‘just doing it’, think again.

In today’s interview, we shine a light on the true nature of confidence and we (gently) shatter the most common confidence myths. Whatever you’ve been told, whatever viewpoint you hold or teachings you’ve bought into, I ask you to put those aside for today and open up to a new perspective.

Maybe it will even make your need for confidence redundant?

 

Maren’s Story…

 

Maren’s epiphany came one winter’s day, sitting on a railway platform, musing,

Someone needs to do something about this!

Ah, the universal ‘someone’…

But what if that ‘someone’ was her? What if she was the person to ‘do something’? No, surely not. Even her husband thought it was a joke at first…

As you’ll hear in our interview, on that day, and in the weeks that followed, Maren saw something very different about needing to be ready, needing to feel confident, needing to pluck up courage, needing to ‘work on herself’, or put on a brave face before acting.

 

Confidence versus Comfort

 

I realised it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel comfortable in certain situations; that doesn’t mean I don’t have confidence.

Maren declares herself as someone who isn’t super-confident and she admits to struggling with confidence for many years. She’s now come to realise that this doesn’t matter at all — it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have confidence, it simply means she isn’t comfortable in certain situations.

This conversation, however, is much more than Maren’s story. It’s a conversation about reaching for what we want, acting when we have conviction that we have something to offer, something of service to someone else, something they can’t or don’t see for themselves.

 

It’s Our True Nature

 

When we see that confidence is natural, that it’s gentle and true, and that we already have it, then, suddenly, there’s a lot less to do.

We can forget the tactics and habits and preparation. We can focus on doing what needs to be done, stepping up, no matter how ‘difficult’ it looks. We can show up knowing that our embodied knowledge and expertise is enough. We can show up knowing we’re ready, knowing we’re good enough — because it isn’t really about us, it’s about where we can be of service.

What I love most is Maren’s definition of confidence.

It’s probably very different to what you’re used to hearing, and it flies in the face of the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ advice.

Listen in and let me know what you think…

 

 

Trust Comes First, and It Can Be Created

 

We also talk about trust, about employee relations in a stand-off situation, about corporate culture, about performance and about ‘getting back into your calm’.

When we dial back the noise in any situation, there’s something beautiful that is always present underneath. That’s what I heard today and I hope you hear it too.

I loved this conversation, I’m grateful to Maren for joining me, and I hope our short conversation helps you find a new perspective on your need for confidence.

With love,

Cathy

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