Set yourself free

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Do you have an ideal picture of your life, partner, job, children or even how you want your body to look like? It is exactly these ideal images that can create suffering if it blinds other ways of looking and experiencing the world for us.  I recently learned the hard way how I was still holding on too tightly to an old belief of how my CV must look like for me to get the ideal job. In doing that I created my own straight jacket.  When I realised that I was creating my own suffering by my way of thinking, I also realised that I have the power to loosen the buckles of the straight jacket. I can set myself free in letting go of the picture I had in my mind.

This reminded me of what Mary Parker Follet wrote about purpose in the 1920’s in a business management book:

“Last summer I noticed a strange plant in our pasture. I did not know what it was, I had no picture in my mind of what flower or fruit it would bear, but I freed it. That is, I dug around it and opened the soil that the rain might fall on its roots, I cleared out the thistles with which it was entangled so that it might have room to spread, I cut down the undergrowth of small maples near so that it could get the sun. In other words, I simply freed it. Every friendship which is not treated in this way will surely suffer; no human relation should serve an anticipatory purpose. Every relation should be a freeing relation with the “purpose” evolving.”

What pictures, that serve an anticipatory purpose, are causing suffering in your relationships or life?

Let go of the pictures, unbuckle yourself and set yourself free to evolve into more than you can imagine.

Beginning again

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I don’t know about you but all the hype around a new year can make one feel overwhelmed or inadequate at times. This blog is not about how to make this your best year ever. Nor is it about setting new year resolutions that will last. It is about the act of beginning again.

The simple yet extremely difficult task of taking the first step into the unknown. I specifically use the phrase beginning again rather than starting over. In saying you are starting over there is an underlying assumption that what you did previously was incorrect. That you have to wipe the slate clean and start with a blank page. I don’t believe one can really do that. I believe that our past is part of who we are and will always live somewhere in our bodies. Every experience has the potential to enrich us. How we engage with all the different aspects of it (be it success, adventure, abundance, joy or even fear, loss, sadness) will determine how much we grow and learn from it.

Beginning again is about opening your eyes and allowing yourself to see and feel again as if for the first time.  To enter your day with an openness that will enable life to touch you. In order to do that one needs to be present to the moment as it is. Not how you wish it to be. Therefore, it is a decision one makes numerous times a day and not only at the beginning of a year.

Beginning again means picking up the pen to write as if for the first time, though you’ve done it a thousand times before. It means putting on your running shoes to practise for the marathon even if your muscles are still tired from the previous run. It is about pursuing a goal while the voice of the inner critic is saying you are not good enough. Beginning again takes courage and requires trust. It is about opening the door, stepping over the threshold and showing up to who you are in this moment. Just this moment, this breath, this conversation nothing more and nothing less.

We all have the capacity to begin again. As Mark Nepo writes “The world begins anew each day. This is the miracle that makes not a sound, but which changes everything, if we can be quiet enough to feel it happen. When we participate in this, we begin anew each day.”

Beginning again is part of the natural unfolding of life. May you have many courageous new beginnings as you step into this year filled with uncertainty.

Ending 2016 with 3 questions

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This time of the year one looks back at the year and reflect on the challenges and lessons learned. At the beginning of 2016 I started my own coaching business. One of the important skills of a coach is to learn to ask good questions. Therefore, I decided to translate some of the main lessons learned this year into coaching questions so that you can discover your own answer.

  1. How committed are you to you and your vision?

Peter Senge writes in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline’ that a core strategy for any leader is to commit yourself to your own personal mastery and your personal vision. Shared visions for an organisation (what we care about and want to create) arises from personal visions (what motivates me and the future I seek). He writes that ‘ If people don’t have their own vision, all they can do is “sign up” for someone else’s. The result is compliance never commitment’.

But what does commitment really mean? It means that you commit yourself to the process of refining what you truly want. It means that you relentlessly root out the ways you are limiting yourself and continually practise to broaden your awareness. In essence it means that you genuinely care. When you are committed you genuinely care about yourself and what you truly believe you should do. You may think it sounds selfish. It’s not. When I’m genuinely committed to me. I’m also genuinely committed to you. My commitment to my vision is imbedded in my deep desire to serve others. It is not about me. It is about something larger than me but it starts with a genuine commitment to me.

  1. How can you discover your way between the cup and the quart?

The space between the cup and the quart was a metaphor that I kept in mind this year as I held the tension between my current reality and my vision.

In his book ‘The Anatomy of Change’, Richard Strozzi-Heckler provides a wonderful metaphor for the anatomy of change that I want to share with you:

‘Imagine yourself sitting at a table holding a cup. The cup represents the quantity of potential, or energy or responsibility that you are able to integrate into your life at this particular moment. After being with this cup of yourself for some time, you notice that there is a quart container on the table. The quart represents the possibility of even more energy, responsibility, and love. You begin to recognise the quart is within your reach.

 Since you have explored the limits of your cup, you feel an urge to move toward the quart. To remain with only the cup of yourself is no longer tolerable. You make the choice to reach across the table and take the “more” of yourself. Realising it is impossible to hold both cup and quart at the same time, you put the cup down and extend toward the quart. Panic!

 Part way into your reach, you realise that the comfort and familiarity of the cup are gone, and you haven’t yet touched the quart. There is nothing. There are no boundaries, there is no known sense of identity or self – only emplty space, a strange new land. You are thrust into fear and doubt.

 At this point, what usually happens is we quickly retreat to that which is known: the cup. It is safe, familiar, and easily handleable. Or we contract, frozen in our fear of the unknown. Somehow our system of education never teaches us how to navigate these open waters, to trust ourself and our energy in times of change. We need to rediscover the passage between the cup and the quart of ourselves.

The space between the cup and the quart creates emotional tension as well as creative tension. When you use the tension wisely it can be a source of energy. The tension is then exactly what you need to creatively discover your way between the cup and the quart.

  1. How are you tapping into and building your network?

We cannot reach our goals on our own. We need people who care about us and share in our vision. This year I learned the importance of building relationships that nourish you and help to nurture your vision. In her book “Playing Big”, Tara Mohr refers to these type of people as ‘champions’. According to Tara a champion is a person that can see the future that hasn’t arrived yet. They are the people who think that the vision you have is achievable, and even destined. This then helps you to believe it can be done and motivates you to take the next step.

We don’t only need a network of support; we also need a professional network to derive new business from. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way. I realised that these types of networks don’t fall in your lap. You have to be disciplined to build relationships and grow your network in the field you wish to work in. Building that means stepping out of your comfort zone. It also means sharing your vision and making your work visible in a graceful and respectful way.

I trust that the above questions will be as valuable for you to ponder on as it was for me. That it will assist you to bring your unique vision to the world that so desperately needs it.

Starting 2016 on a personal note

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I clearly remember that the 7th of January 2007 was a bright sunshine morning and I was in hospital due to illness. While I was busy with my spiritual morning read it became clear that I needed to start trusting and listening to my Inner (true) voice. I was unconsciously causing my own suffering by avoiding it.

Exactly 9 years (to the day), after I had made a conscious decision to start following the calling that had been entrusted on me, the website of my own business has been made live! For the first time in my life I can honestly answer the question: If you could do anything in the world what would you do?, with Exactly what I am doing now! Not that I have any certainty about the road ahead. In fact, the road ahead is the most uncertain it has ever been, but I’m curious to see where it takes me.

During the holiday I read the insightful book “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkins. Through his studies he developed a ‘Map of consciousness’ that represents the levels at which certain emotions and attitudes calibrate. His research indicates that the level associated with courage and integrity (a calibration of 200) is the critical response point in the scale of consciousness. Any emotions below that make a person go weak and emotions above that level (such as trust, optimism, acceptance, understanding, love, joy, peace and enlightenment) give us strength.

The book reminded me of my nine-year journey. I had to work through emotions of shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger and pride to build up the courage to follow my dream. Hawkins defines courage as;

the willingness to try new things and deal with the challenges of life.

Looking at the year there are many challenges that I still have to face. Knowing that overcoming them are all part of my personal growth process gives me the strength to tackle them one at a time. I want to invite you to join me on this journey in 2016.

What are the challenges and emotions that you need to work through to move to the next level this year?