“I Hope It Doesn’t Hurt Too Much!” – The Inevitability of Pain and the Optional Nature of Suffering

“I Hope It Doesn’t Hurt Too Much!” – The Inevitability of Pain and the Optional Nature of Suffering

“I hope it doesn’t hurt!” grimaced my husband as I drove him to the doctor this week.

He’d recently had a hip operation and was due to have the staples out. Well overdue actually. His physiotherapist had tut-tutted at the wound when she saw him the week before,

“Those staples should really come out,” she said, frowning, “Otherwise they can become embedded under the skin and that makes them impossible to pull out. And very painful.”

Pain. Great!

The delay was due to some paperwork mix-up with the GP. “Couldn’t be helped,” they said. Hubby was worried though, imagining the embeddedness and, no doubt, violent extraction of said staples.


Is Pain a Problem?


“Is it a problem that it might hurt?” I asked him, glancing over.

He looked at me with surprise.

“What do you mean? I don’t want it to hurt!”

Sure, none of us wants to experience pain, but in some circumstances, pain is inevitable, and it looked to me to be one of those times.

The future is always unknown, and worrying about it wasn’t going to alleviate the potential pain. It did, however, add stress and anxiety to his experience of our car journey.

“Hmm,” he mused, and went quiet. We continued the drive in silence.


Pain versus Suffering


Here what happens in life: we face things that hurt. Sometimes it’s physical pain — a fall, an illness, an operation, cycling through nettles(!) Sometimes it’s emotional pain — hurtful words, a loss, the illness or struggle of someone we love. Life sucks, and we’re in no position to control it.

AND, what we seem to be trained to avoid the hurt; to make the pain into a ‘bad thing’, something we would rather be without.

We don’t have to welcome pain, but we don’t have to avoid it either. We can take care of ourselves: a dressing on an open wound, chicken soup and a romantic movie for a low mood.

What doesn’t seem quite so sensible is bringing that pain with us. My husband wasn’t in pain in the car, but he was still sitting in a bubble of worry about what might be coming.


A Life Less Pleasant


Just as a surfer takes the choppy breaker with the perfect wave, when our circumstances are less than pleasant, we are simply riding the ebb and flow of life. Our experience isn’t something to run from — we couldn’t outrun it anyway, no matter how hard we tried!

In the words of Sydney Banks,

“If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience,
that alone would change the world.”

For my husband, the staples came out easily enough; the nurse was halfway through before he realised she had started. When that happens the pointlessness of worry is obvious; what’s not so obvious is that worry is pointless no matter whether the hurt is coming or not.


Preparation is Good!


To not worry isn’t the same as to not prepare. Preparation is good. The anticipation of future circumstances and getting ourselves ready for what’s coming is sensible, whether that’s saving for retirement or booking an early appointment to save the pain of staple-removal!

But, worrying about things we can’t control, bringing our suffering into the present and missing out on our current experience… well, that looks like a waste of life to me.

Have a beautiful week, happy reflections, and talk next time.

With love,


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Asking for Advice and Why You’re Looking in the Wrong Place

Asking for Advice and Why You’re Looking in the Wrong Place

In my coaching practice, clients sometimes want an answer.

“I’m thinking of doing X, what do you think?”


“This just happened. Can you tell me what to do?”

Sometimes they lament. Not always blatantly, but I can tell by the questions that the client has run out of ideas and is looking to me for an answer.

And I have answers. Plenty of them. I am ‘never-knowingly under-opinionated’ as one of my friends calls it (talking about herself of course ;-)).



Are (My) Answers Helpful to My Clients?


While it’s easy to give my opinion, or to think that the person in front of my wants my information or advice, I prefer to stop and ask myself,

“What is my client are really looking for?”

“What will help him or her best to get unstuck and move forward?”

“Will information or advice help? (even if it looks as if it will)”


When Does Information Help?


Sometimes we know where we’re going and we need a missing piece of information, or we need some options to help open us up to our own imagination.

That’s when information or advice can be helpful. Not in a “do this!” sense, but to free up a blockage, to loosen the imagination, or to shift a fixed assumption.


When Does Information Hinder?


What I find though, is that those times are less frequent than the times it would be more helpful to sit back and shut up.

We ask for advice out of habit, or out of laziness. Or sometimes our questions come from the discomfort of sitting with “I don’t know!”

What we don’t see in those moments is that creating a little space, a time-out to sit with our question a little longer will usually reveal the perfect answer.


The Problem with Advice


So what if we get some unsolicited advice? We can always ignore it, right?

Yes, of course, we don’t have to do anything that anyone ‘tells’ us, even when we’ve paid them good money for their advice.

But, does it actually hinder? Is it problematic? And, if so, why?

When we get advice, we are getting is the other person’s experience, the other person’s worldview, the other person’s partial perspective on our worldview.

Often, that advice limits rather than expands our horizons. It’s backwards looking. The advice we get is based on what someone did, or what they can see from where they stand; it isn’t based on what we might be capable of, or what opportunities are over the horizon that we can’t yet see.

One of the things that I love about coaching is that my clients aren’t doing what I do. They are in their world, and their world looks nothing like my world. It’s my job to make that world more expansive and to help them navigate something bigger than either of us can anticipate.

Who am I to tell them what to do? That would be as useful as my husband’s armchair advice to his favourite football team.

Why would I want to limit the solutions and the opportunities that are waiting to unfold for them?

Sure, when my client is clear about what he or she wants, information can help get them there. When we’re gathering ideas, looking around can spark ideas or inspire innovation. But, when we’re stuck, advice is usually the very last place I like to go.


Do (You Think) You Need Advice?


What about you? Is there somewhere in your life where you think you need advice? Are you looking for someone to guide you to a solution? Does it look as if someone else’s model of success will help you find success for yourself?


Don’t Be Afraid of the Frustration


It can be annoying not to have your questions answered, but frustration in the moment isn’t a measure of the effectiveness of the support you’re getting. What counts is what you see in hindsight when your head has cleared and you’re back on track.

It might feel less comfortable, it might feel as if you aren’t getting your questions answered, it might feel slow. Leaning into any discomfort is where the breakthroughs come from, and the exhilaration of knowing you’ve struck gold.

Giving advice always serves the giver more than it serves the recipient.


What Does Work, Then?


The only thing that will get us unstuck is an insight and we have to see that for ourselves. There’s no shortcut, insights come when they come. I can’t wave a magic wand and activate my client’s crystal ball.

What I can do, though, is to walk with them as we look for answers together.

A good coach, a close friend, a supportive boss or a loving partner will recognise these distinctions and support you to see something new for yourself.

They will listen and ask questions. They won’t simply ‘tell you’ what to do. Or, if they do, they are doing it in the spirit of rocking your boat, rather than giving you instructions.

And (hopefully!) this will help clear the fog in front of you.

Have a great day and talk next time.

With love,


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Stress Management Advice from Buddha (And Why It Works)

Stress Management Advice from Buddha (And Why It Works)

Following along with the theme of overwhelm, busy-ness and the stressful feeling that we sometimes experience, I was reminded of this Buddhist saying,

“Meditate for an hour every day unless you are too busy.
In that case, meditate for two hours.”

It’s one of those phrases that (usually) makes someone laugh. Of course, it’s counter-intuitive; when we’re too busy we try to do more in less time, but at some level, we know that slowing down is actually our deeper need.

What I see in this is that when we feel that sense of being too busy, or being overwhelmed, or feeling the pressure of everything we have to do, what we’re actually experiencing is the power of thought.

Or, rather the illusion of thought.

As I talked about here, we may or may not have a lot to do; those tasks may or may not be important (after all the size of our to-do list is only a function of which of our ideas we’ve decided to implement!).

What IS true, is that sometimes we feel super-heroically productive and sometimes we feel like a swarm of hornets has decided to nest in our hair.

I call it the ‘illusion of thought’ because the noise of those buzzing hornets is caused by the hornets (imaginary though they are).

It isn’t caused by the to-do list, the pressure from our boss, or the weight of making our business or venture a success.

The feeling of stress or pressure does not come from the circumstance of the to-do list (or any circumstance). It really doesn’t, and therefore the solution is not in the action, it’s in seeing the illusory nature of the noise.


Back to Buddha…


The reason the directive to extend our meditation time works is because it gets us to stop, smile, and turn the volume down on the nesting hornets.

It helps us shift our focus from the noise in the system to what actually matters. We don’t actually need to meditate for two hours, we simply need to see that listening to the noise is as helpful as a dog chasing its tail.

If there is something to ‘do’ then we know, in that instant, exactly what it is — and we are fully capable of taking the action we need to take. Once we see it, it’s as if it’s done.


Where are you seeing, or not seeing, the hornets?


What’s in your head this week? What are you looking at, or listening to, that’s the equivalent of those buzzing hornets?

And what’s lying behind that? Where is it you want to put your focus — and what do you already know to do once you can see that they are neither real, not harmful?

I’d love you to connect and let me know.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week.

With love,



P.S. If you’d rather write to me privately, please use the contact form on my website — I see and reply to every email.

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The Domino Effect: Change Your Life in the Time it Takes to Read this Post

The Domino Effect: Change Your Life in the Time it Takes to Read this Post

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote out to my email list about overwhelm and why it has nothing at all to do with the size of our to-do list.

The post touched one of my readers so strongly that she wrote to me,

“Cathy, I’ve been in perpetual overwhelm for as long as I can remember and now it’s completely disappeared. I can hardly believe it! It isn’t often that something impacts me in a jaw-dropping way like this. Thank you!”

I’m happy, of course, to have had a positive impact on her — especially because time pressure is something that entangles so many people I know — especially high-achievers.

What I love most, though, is that she saw the immediate and permanent nature of how change works. What she’s seen isn’t a solution for overwhelm, it’s the key to unlocking everything she could ever want in her life.


Change Happens in an Instant


When we see something — really see it — our lives are 180 degrees different.

When something makes complete sense, looks astonishingly obvious, and yet, is so different to what we’ve seen up to now, then, then we’ve had what I call an insight.

An insight happens in a flash, and it creates a change that can look, and feel, like a miracle.


Stop Looking for Tactics


We’re tempted, when we have a challenge, or something we aspire to, to look for more things to do. We want to learn new strategies; we go to google, or to books and courses to gather information, case studies, solutions.

The trickiest challenges though — the ones that give us the sleepless nights and the stomach-knotting anxiety, don’t respond to information. They are not problems of reality, they are problems of perspective. Therefore, looking for tactics, habits, and new ways of ‘doing’ won’t solve them.

When we have a problem of perspective, we don’t need to add in more things to do, we need to do less. We need to create the space to see our challenge differently, to go back to the basic principles of how we are creating what we think is the problem.

Because, chances are, the problem isn’t what you think it is.


You Have it Backwards


It happened with a client this week.

She wanted to approach her week differently, to make space for strategic thinking rather than dive into the mundane each day when she got to the office.

She wanted a ‘framework’ and some ‘rules’ that she could commit to, because she believed that the framework would create a new (more strategic) way of working and that being more strategic in her work would create different results, thus calming the tension she was feeling.

The wiser ones amongst us, however, know that that’s equivalent to moving a pile of paper from the desk to the floor: we haven’t solved the problem, we’ve simply moved it.

Just as my subscriber didn’t need productivity tips to get over her feeling of overwhelm, my client didn’t need a time management framework to help her focus on the strategic work.

She had it backwards, as many of us do.


Tactics Are like Deckchairs


That phrase “moving deckchairs on the Titanic,” refers to the pointlessness of activities that have no impact on the real problem. Yet still, sometimes, we engage in those activities.

Much of life is like this.

Certainly for my client, searching for time management habits was about as useful to her problem as stacking deckchairs on a sinking ship. She might have a neat pile of deckchairs but the ship was only going in one direction.

As we talked more about why she wanted to create that strategic approach to her work, what she was really seeking, and why, she had an insight about the direction of her work. And, from that, she immediately knew how to allocate her mornings.

As soon as she understood what she was looking for, the action presented itself as if by magic. Action follows understanding. Always.

Sure, sometimes it’s helpful to create a framework to shift habitual ways of doing things, but in support of a direction, not because we think it will create one.

Just as turning the volume up and down on a radio makes zero difference to the channel it’s tuned into, tactics and transformation live on two separate dials. If we want to change something in our lives, we need to see it first; the ‘radio’ equivalent of tuning in to the channel we want to listen to. Then it makes sense to adjust the volume.

If overwhelm is your ‘thing’ then this post on my blog might help you see something new. If your challenge is related to something else, then read the post through the lens of that problem, because the solution will come from the insight you have, not the tactics you apply.

Have a wonderful week,

With love,



P.S. If you’re curious about how coaching can help you tune the right dial on the radio, then please contact me and enquire about what options are available right now.

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What does ‘dignity’ mean to you?

What does ‘dignity’ mean to you?

A few weeks ago I spent some time with a powerful entrepreneur and philanthropist, someone I respect for his achievements but, more meaningfully, for who he is, and how he acts.

The conversation flowed from technology to culture, to creating a positive impact in the world. He’s putting a new initiative together and we were bouncing ideas around.


Then the Word ‘Dignity’ Came up and We Both Lit Up


One of the non-profits I work with has dignity front and centre of their mission, and my inspiring colleague told me the story of his grandfather, a cabinet maker who, for him, had embodied the word in the work he created. Dignity in form.

Our conversation stayed with me and today I was reflecting on the meaning of the word ‘dignity’.

It’s commonly used to describe a way of being, and the conditions that facilitate that for other. We see dignity in someone when we see a person who has agency, not dependency, who is able to express their essential humanness.

When I looked up the origin of the word, though, I saw that it comes from the word ‘worthy’. Of course there is more than one definition, but the one that struck a chord with me was this:

“the state of being worthy of respect or honour”


‘Worthiness’ Is a Term That Is Bestowed, It Is Earned Rather Than Claimed


And that made me think: what if we looked for dignity, not in others, but in ourselves. What if it was our intention, in every interaction, to come from a place of dignity, whatever the situation or perspective of the person in front of us.

We are all human after all and the more we can identify with the humanity of the person in front of us, the more likely we are to be worthy of respect or honour ourselves.

Not that honour for its own sake matters, but for the positive impact that can ripple out into the world when we act as our best selves.

I’m curious — what does ‘dignity’ mean to you? Leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation.

With love,


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