Why You’ll Never Find the ‘Perfect’ Information (no matter how hard you search)

Why You’ll Never Find the ‘Perfect’ Information (no matter how hard you search)

Rules versus Understanding

 

I love to read about health and fitness and, over the years, I’ve become aware that I’m seeking a ‘right’ way to eat: five small meals a day, low carb-high fat, intermittent fasting, meat, no meat, and so on.

It’s the same with fitness; for a long time I valued endurance exercise (I used to run), mid-distance with a reasonable amount of interval training, until (after injuries!) I switched to more and more low-heart rate endurance.

Of course, there are general principles which apply to fitness and healthy eating — we need to move rather than not move(!), we want to avoid processed food and eat more local food, fruit and veg, freshly prepared and seasonal etc etc.

But there’s a very subtle (and I think insidious) temptation to make something that feels right now, or that works now, into a system and so create rules for ourselves. And therein lies the danger…

Not so much of a danger of getting the rules wrong, but of believing that better rules are the solution to anything that we want to change or create.

This happened with a client of mine who was telling me how much she was getting out of her meditation practice.

I must start meditating every day!

she said.

Really?

I replied.

Be careful you don’t set up a way to judge yourself, rather than create something that serves you.

She looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

Yeah, I can see how I could do that!

We went on to talk about the difference between finding a new set of ‘rules’ and being able to better tune in to what we need in the moment.

The more we listen to what we know, the more the ‘rules’ that we are seeking will reveal themselves, not as rules but as what is obvious to do, the more adaptable we’ll become to our changing needs, and the less we’ll feel the need to beat ourselves up when we slip up.

Oh well,

we’ll say to ourselves.

When we haven’t broken any rules, we’ve simply taken a side turn and we can bring ourselves back to balance — not through willpower — which is limited and tends to take a toll on our mental energy — but through knowing what to do, because we are developing a greater understanding of what works for us.

It’s far easier to develop an unconscious competence; something we learn how to do through ‘tuning’ — listening and adapting, than it is to follow the imposition of external ‘information’. That latter approach requires us to remember, and to seek ever more information, to look for the ever more perfect solution.

 

Listen to What You Already Know

 

The hardest part I find, for myself and when working with clients, is that we need to be able to quiet down enough to listen.

Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the ability to be able to do that — my personal theory is that it’s harder in those places that we’ve been trying too fill with information, so food is one of those for me.

I’m not talking about being adaptable, and willing to change. I’m talking about our innate ability for knowing what is right and getting out of our own way enough to be able to develop that ability, that instinct.

Because, when we can do this, we have less need of anything external to guide us. We already know, we’re simply not able to hear.

What if you were to pick one area of your life or work where you’re relying on a lot of external information? What if you developed your own sense of what you already know in that area? Do you think it would make life easier?

I can tell you, with the utmost certainty, that it does for me!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you’re curious about how coaching can help you tune in better so that you can create more of what you want in your life and work, please get in touch and let’s explore what’s possible for you.

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What If You Could Make All Your Problems Disappear in an Instant? (Wouldn’t That Make Life Easier!)

What If You Could Make All Your Problems Disappear in an Instant? (Wouldn’t That Make Life Easier!)

Here’s the Problem…

 

If you were living across from a river and, one day, you noticed that the water had turned orange, with a strange smell, your first thought might be to investigate what had caused it.

You might even assume that it was spillage from the paint factory a little upstream. Perhaps your friends and neighbours confirm this for you. Some even begin to tell you about the risk to life and to your pets from the chemical fumes being given off by the paint residue.

You need to do something about it, right?

Or, at the very least, you might worry about what’s happening and ruminate over ways to solve it.

“That’s such a problem!” “How can I stop that!” “They shouldn’t be doing that!”

And then, if you’re anything like most people, you might start to think about ways to stop thinking about it all the time.

At some point you might realise that the constant worrying is wearing you down, causing even more pressure, and so you try to switch off, or change your thoughts. You hear yourself saying things like:

“I know I shouldn’t think about it all the time, but I can’t help it.” “If only I didn’t take it so seriously, but I don’t know how to stop.”

But how can we not take something like that seriously?

Who, in their right mind, would ignore something so dangerous?

That would be like trying to convince yourself of something that isn’t true. Or trying to block out thoughts that you don’t want to hear, simply because they are unpleasant. That would be irresponsible, and, no doubt, pretty ineffective.

When we live with problems like this, life gets more and more difficult; there’s a very real situation that’s causing the pain, and then the added stress and anxiety that comes from worrying about it.

And we continue to repeat the pattern day in day out.

 

This is Your Life

 

When clients come to me with whatever they’re coming with, they’re basically telling me about their equivalent of the toxic chemicals and the stress it’s been causing them and the people around them.

Sure, some people are more, or less bothered, some are more, or less in action; but pretty much everyone takes their problems seriously — as well you would if you thought you had a toxic waste dump outside your front door!

 

Where Does This Come From…?

 

Rather than tackle the problem head on, I prefer to lead my client very gently to the source of these problems, so we can look together at where it’s coming from and what it’s made of,

“Let’s go and have a look where that coloured water is coming from…”

What we see when we go ‘upstream’ is that the source of the colour in the water downstream is coming from nothing more harmful than vegetable dye.

The dye might change colour over time, or become iridescent in the light, but it’s perfectly harmless; beautiful even, something to be marvelled at for the shapes and shades it creates.

Suddenly there is nothing to do, nothing to worry about, and no problem to solve.

We didn’t need any ninja techniques to re-frame the situation, or to ‘stop thinking about it’, we didn’t need to close down the paint factory, nor did we need to manage our stress.

It would never occur to us to worry about vegetable dye in the way it occurs to us to worry about poisonous chemicals. Everything problematic about the situation dissolved when we saw what was causing the river to change colour.

This is the difference between trying to manage an experience that looks real, versus knowing where our experience is coming from.

When we understand the latter, we have way more perspective on what to do (or, in most cases, we see that there is no need to do anything!)

 

Live Life Happy

 

What happens next is the fun part.

When we have less to worry about, we’re able to respond better to the innate love of life that we all have.

We have more fun, we’re more engaged at home, we have more commitment and joy at work because we’re excited about what we can create, versus exhausted from all the worry and problem-solving we’ve been doing in the past.

We have a lot more time and energy to spend on doing the things that excite us, that we think are important, or creating the new things that we want to see in the world.

And that’s a much better way to live, in my experience!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you’re curious about how coaching can help you dissolve your problems so that you have more time for the ‘big stuff’, get in touch and let’s explore what’s possible for you.

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Why “If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It” Is the Worst Possible Success Advice and What’s a Much Better Plan for This Game of Life…

Why “If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It” Is the Worst Possible Success Advice and What’s a Much Better Plan for This Game of Life…

I was prompted to write this after a conversation with a connection about what it is that we’re ‘believing’ when we tell ourselves we just need to summon up some self-belief and then things will work out.

In this case the person I was talking with was talking about building a new business, but it can just as well apply to anything — running a marathon, writing a blog post, taking on a complex project….

There’s a common phrase that’s thrown around in personal development and that pumped up “you can do it!” kinda coaching / motivational speaking,

If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

The obvious implication (were this phrase true) is that, if only we can convince ourselves to believe something, then, assuming we can work hard enough, the achievement is inevitable.

What a load of tripe. (pardon the insult to tripe!)

I don’t see this as true at all — AND I see why it’s so easy to confuse belief in things outside us, with real, true belief in our capacity as humans to create what we want in the world.

Here’s the way it looks to me:

 

What’s True

 

1. My happiness and peace of mind do not come from my external circumstances. I don’t ‘need’ my projects to work out in a particular way in order to be ‘happy’ or to feel ‘successful’.

‘Success’ is simply a construct of my imagination. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it looks pretty solid because a lot of people happen to have constructed it the same way, but that doesn’t make it true.

That would be like saying that ‘success’ is finding a good place to bury a bone, or making a great cup of coffee in the morning. Both are fun and enjoyable, but they don’t have any more meaning than that which we create for them.

2. My state of mind goes up and down throughout the day. I can wake up happy and excited for the day regardless of what’s on my agenda; or I can wake up frustrated and tired and that feeling will pass as soon as I engage with what’s in front of me. Or it won’t. Who knows!

Knowing that the way I feel does not relate to my external environment means that I can be more present to the tasks and the people around me, regardless of how I’m doing in that moment, and, surprise, surprise, this can help create or reinforce a feeling of connection and joy.

3. When it comes to creating things, whether that’s my business, my job, or my children (!), I absolutely do not control the results that I get. Full stop. No matter how much it might seem like I’ve ‘done’ something, there is always a randomness and an unknown factor in creating anything.

[I could become even more philosophical and ask who is the ‘I’ that is creating, but let’s leave that for another day…]

Of course, I have a part to play in achieving outcomes. If I didn’t sit down and write, then nothing would get published. If I don’t respond to emails and calls from people wanting to work with me, chances are I wouldn’t have much of a business.

I’m not saying I’m not responsible, I’m saying that, even when I do the very best I can, there are always things beyond my control.

It’s the difference between the tennis player who loses a match because she has a weak backhand — better work on the backhand! Versus the tennis player who loses the match because she’s having a bad day. Oh well, no point dissecting what could have happened differently, some days you win, some days you lose.

In business, I want to build the very best products and services I can, I want to listen to customer feedback, to look at what’s selling and what isn’t, to test, to experiment, to play the game of business full out.

I want to be persistent, and yet, the most successful entrepreneurs will tell us that there is an element of being in the right place at the right time. Luck. Serendipity. Things outside their control. Like the tennis player, I master my skillset, I do the best I can, some days I win, some days I lose.

The key to winning at the game of life is to not take the losing — or the winning — personally.

4. I believe that I have infinite potential for new ideas.

[Side note: I actually typed out ‘good’ ideas but then I realised that maybe not all my ideas are ‘good’! Let me call them ‘new’ ideas and allow the quality to be revealed in the testing.]

I also know that those ideas are more accessible to me when I step outside of ‘needing’ anything, and when I step outside of ‘needing’ the business — or the tennis match — to turn out a certain way.

That potential for innovation and creativity (new ideas) is greater the less I have occupying my mind, the less self-conscious I am in asking for things that sound crazy or embarrassing to my tiny ego. Ego is a construct of my thinking self, it isn’t the part of me that creates amazing results in the world.

I believe it to be true that I have no idea how things will turn out and the more I hold this space the greater chance I have of stumbling upon success. Success, in this context, meaning a positive (and likely unpredicted) result for the business.

5. And, at the end of the day, I come back to 1. I am fine, regardless.

If the business does not work out, then I will take another path. To me, finding another path in the world has no more ‘real’ consequence than going for a walk and finding the way blocked by a flooded river. We take another route; one that looks interesting to us in that moment and, who knows, it could turn out to be a much more enjoyable walk than the one we had planned. Or not.

 

What’s Not True

 

1.  If I believe it, I can achieve it.

I don’t believe this is true. At all.

I believe that I am capable of way more than I can imagine AND I believe I don’t control the results of my efforts.

If this sounds contradictory, I ask that you reflect on it for a moment and consider where have you achieved more than you thought you were capable of? And also consider where have things turned out differently to the way you expected? Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

There is good evidence that ‘blind’ self-belief can even have a negative impact on results; it leads to complacency because we think there is nothing to do other than ‘believe’. More tripe. There is plenty to ‘do’ in the world of creating things.

2. If I simply work hard enough, or long enough, I will get the results I want for my business. Again, this does not look true to me.

There are some things that won’t happen no matter how hard or long I work. Sure, I need effort (and this is another piece that can sound contradictory); I need to do something, but who knows whether there is a better way to do something, or even if the thing I want is even on the cards for me.

So, what to do instead? What can we control and where should we focus our efforts?

 

A Plan for This Thing We Call Life

 

The way it looks to me is that I have no idea whether the things I’m working on are going to work out or not — but I do them anyway.

I have some belief that I’m heading in the ‘right’ direction, otherwise I wouldn’t be going that way, but equally, I don’t know what diversions and roadblocks and landslides are ahead of me. I don’t make failure personal.

Like the tennis player who realises she just isn’t getting to where she wants to get to, changes sport and becomes a world champion at something else. Who knew!?

Where I see people getting very lost (and me too sometimes!) is equating one thing with another.

The unwritten subtext of the exchange I had with my contact went something like this,

I’m a failure at my business if my business doesn’t make money.

How could this possibly be true?

The way it looks to me is that business is like a play thing. We do what inspires us, we seek to master our craft (the craft of business as well as the craft of our business), and we aim to make money. BUT, holding out for money as the only measure of success is like saying art is only valuable if it looks a certain way, or it achieves a certain price point.

Sure enough, just like art, some things will sell better than others. And, like an artist, maybe we take commissions, maybe we find a patron, or maybe we find a part-time job until we’ve figured out whether people want to buy what we’re selling or whether we want to sell what people are buying.

But, again, ask anyone who’s had ‘success’ at what they do, and you’ll find a long string of ‘failures’ behind them; things that didn’t work out the way they expected.

Yes, of course, there is some judgement to make about how long to continue something that doesn’t seem to be working out, what to change, when to ‘pivot’ and so on. But judging ourselves for creating a painting from time to time that no-one wants to buy — to me that looks like craziness! It’s just one painting, put it aside and move on.

We have an inspiration, and we play full out to make a go of it.

The belief part comes from knowing that ideas are unlimited, that my potential for having ideas is unlimited, that I have way more capacity than I am aware of, and that I am OK regardless of how this particular chapter turns out.

As soon as we take our focus off things having to turn out a certain way, then it’s amazing how much more ‘success’ starts showing up for us.

I’d love to know what your experience has been of where ‘self-belief’ has served you, and what it is that you’re actually believing in.

Let me know…

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. I cover topics like this, and more, in more depth, in my podcast ‘Tuning In’.

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The #1 Solution for an Easier Life… (yup, this will work for you too!)

The #1 Solution for an Easier Life… (yup, this will work for you too!)

Making Life Hard…

 

I have a friend who’s always looking for the latest app, or shortcut, or system to make his life easier.

At least that’s what he tells me, but I wonder, because he always seems to be on a short fuse. Overwhelmed, or struggling.

We were on a call this weekend and he told me about the latest calendar app he’d installed to help with his scheduling.

It’s so easy!

he told me.

 

…Versus Easy

 

In my head I wasn’t so sure I agreed with him, so I asked if I could share something…

You know, Bob (not his real name), ‘easy’ is a state of mind; it isn’t always about finding the best system. Maybe there’s something that could shift the way you’re looking at this whole ‘easy’ thing?

At first, he was skeptical.

If I save time, surely that’s what makes my life easier? I don’t have to spend so long going backwards and forwards with emails. I hate scheduling.

Ah, therein lies the challenge. If we think we hate something, chances are we’re going to find it ‘hard’ (or some other negative adjective — boring, difficult, complicated…) but it isn’t the task itself that is ‘hard’, it’s the state of mind we bring to it.

Of course, we can always streamline our processes — and it seems pretty sensible to me to cut down time spent to-ing and fro-ing to find suitable dates for a meeting!

And, like most of us, I love to hear about what my friends and colleagues are using, what new app I can download, or what time or effort-saving technique I can implement (I’m forever grateful to the friend who introduced me to do-note!)

But does that automatically make something ‘easy’?

I say ‘no’.

 

No Amount of Apps Will Save You!

 

No matter how streamlined my processes, sometimes I experience them as easy and sometimes I experience them as frustrating. And, conversely, sometimes I love to immerse myself in the task at hand; to take time and pleasure in the ​doing​.

However, what’s different about my experience to that of my friend, is that I know when I experience frustration, it’s not about the task itself, it’s coming from me. I know that what makes most of my activities ‘easy’ (and his more challenging to him) is the degree of engagement and the assumptions I’m bringing to them.

I also know when to back off.

I know that when something starts to feel sticky or complex or overwhelming, it’s my state of mind, therefore the best thing to do is to back off for a second, or an hour, or however long it takes for me to get perspective again.

 

Where to Find ‘Easy’…

 

I know to look to my state of mind for an explanation, not my systems and processes. In a different state of mind, I can more easily see whether I do in fact need that process-based solution (and, I’m more likely to find it!)

My friend and I went on to have an interesting discussion about this, looking at all the times he finds life easy no matter what he’s doing, and the times he can find those same activities confusing or annoying.

Huh, I’d never looked at it like that. Maybe I’ll try to slow down when I’m losing the sense of ‘easy’; take a break, or at least take a breath.

He concluded.

That sounds perfect,

I said,

because that’s where you’ll see what to do next. And it’s also where ‘easy’ lives so you might find there’s no need to do anything at all!

It’s funny how we often make things in our lives much more complex than they need to be.

And, in the complexity, we can lose the sense of what it is we’re doing, or looking for.

It’s not so hard to come back to our centre when we know where it is.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. I’ve just launched a new podcast where I talk about everyday work and business challenges in a very human context. I’d love you to go over and check it out!

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Comparison-itis: Do You Feel Less Than Adequate When You Look at Other People? (And What to Do About It)

Comparison-itis: Do You Feel Less Than Adequate When You Look at Other People? (And What to Do About It)

“It’s like imposter syndrome,”

my client said.

“I know I’m capable, but when I look at other people, I judge myself for not being enough.”

 

Comparison: oh so common, and we think the solution is to ‘fix’ something, or to talk ourselves into feeling better.

 

What if what we were doing was trapping ourselves in an illusion of contrast that was no more real than a game of charades. We can try on the comparison, but it doesn’t make us feel better, or help us actually get better at what we do.

It’s so common to look at people who seem to be doing better than us — they’re thinner, richer, more accomplished… and we find ourselves wanting.

There’s that shrinking feeling of not being good enough.

But what about other ways we compare ourselves. What if I looked around and found myself to be better off: I’m a better cook than most people I know, for example, (true!)

AND, if that was where I looked then I would create a glass ceiling for myself. I’d never look at what I could do to be better, I’d never look at where I wanted to learn more. I’d never realise my potential and I’d be holding myself back from achieving mastery (or simply having more fun in the process of learning!).

My client went on to tell me how this ‘imposter syndrome’ had haunted her since she was 18. She’d been in the top one or two students at school, but, when she went to an elite university, she’d been middle of the pack and suddenly felt inadequate. She couldn’t reach the top no matter how hard she worked.

As we started to prod and poke at her experience, she realised that her single-minded comparison-itis had held her back at university.

“I always tried to work harder,”

she told me.

“What if those study methods didn’t work for me. Maybe I could have tried something else?”

Yup.

That’s how it works.

Whenever we are caught in examining our own thoughts — whether they show up as a comparison or any other flavour of thought, we are restricting ourselves from seeing something new.

We think the solution has to come from the ‘thing’ that looks real to us, the truth of our ‘middle of the pack’ grades, for example, but that so-called ‘reality’ is a smokescreen.

 

Sure, it can be helpful to look at how we’re doing, but a score is simply a milestone — it doesn’t have meaning. And it especially doesn’t have meaning about you.

 

I told my client that I’d been to the beach with my dog the previous weekend. He loves playing with other dogs and he came across a friendly spaniel who took up the chase. The spaniel ran rings around my guy — literally, until he flopped down on the sand.

My fella’s a Dalmatian, so he’s kinda lollopy. He can run, but he has (or will have as he gets older) more capacity for endurance than for speed.

We laughed, the spaniel’s owner and I. But, at no point, would it have occurred to us to think our dog was lacking in any way. One dog was simply faster than the other — she had different qualities. It didn’t make her ‘better’; simply ‘different’.

What if we brought more of this into our own lives? What if we celebrated our potential and focused on that amazing capacity we humans have for learning? What if we engaged in the excitement of what we were doing, simply for its own sake.

And then, sometimes, we looked at the score to see whether we liked the direction we were heading and to take stock of whether to try something new.

If we judged our dogs on speed the spaniel would win every time. If we judged cuteness…. well, there’s no comparison — my guy would win every time!

 

But those comparisons aren’t relevant to the dog, nor to how much we love them.

 

I was out in the forest and met a dog walker who’d just taken home a rescue dog.

“I never thought I’d have this kind of dog, I’ve always like chunky dogs,”

she told me (the dog was a saluki-cross — gorgeous!).

But I love her soooo much.

And isn’t that the truth: when we look with love in our eyes, surprise surprise, it shows up in whatever we’re looking at.

As I talked with my client about this thing she was calling ‘comparison’, and how we made up standards and scores, she started to laugh.

What’s actually true is that we’ve made up the whole idea of university, we’ve made up assessments, we’ve made up that there is a right way and a wrong way to study, we’ve made up that one degree means something better or worse than another.

 

The reality is that we can choose any group of people and compare ourselves, favourably or unfavourably, but why would we do that, other than it’s a fun game?

 

It’s like counting the spots on my dog and deciding he has too few or too many. Sure, some people might do that, but it doesn’t mean anything — we’ve made up that there’s a standard for spottiness.

In that moment, my client realised that her obsession with doing better had only limited her. Had she been able to wind back the clock ten years, she would have tried different ways to study. She wouldn’t have tried to cram, she would have done less but deeper.

It never worked for me learning off by heart, but I thought that was what everyone else was doing.

 

Our best work never comes from thinking we are better or worse than someone else. Our best work only ever comes from immersion. From joy. From seeing the potential that we have, and knowing how to release it into the world.

 

Just like the dogs. When we look at them as they are, and we see the energy of aliveness in them, we’re filled with love.

How would it be if you looked at yourself with that same love? How would it be if you felt appreciation for who you are and what you’re capable of? How would it be if you stopped comparing yourself to some made-up version of what you think you ‘should’ be?

I’d love you to comment and let me know what you see!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. I’ve spent decades developing a deep understanding of human performance so that I can support leaders to create more impact with the work they do. If you’re curious about how I can support you or your organisation, please email me and we can explore.

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