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Untapped Potential

Untapped potential is so much easier to see on someone else than it is to see within yourself.  It is easy for me to look at you and see your brilliance, your capacity for accomplishment, and even where you’re missing some opportunities and making some knot-headed decisions.

That may be one of the best gifts that I can give you, to reflect what I see back to you so that you can see yourself more clearly.  No judgment, no demands, no attachment to outcomes.  That is definitely one of the best gifts that you can give to me.

I have received that gift recently.  There is an amazing young man in my life with whom I have had the chance to interact with more closely than usual in the last couple of weeks.  He has unknowingly given me this gift.  I see the potential in him – it oozes out of him – but he has not been living up to it for the past several months.  Years, really.  I wonder to myself how he could miss something so obvious.

Then I remember to ask myself about how I’m doing with that.  Dang it.  I have quite a load of untapped potential myself.  I can’t help but consider my own life and all that I am tolerating and leaving undone and where I am settling for less than what I really want.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I had worked in the corporate world.  I desperately wanted to create a business for myself, doing work that I truly enjoy and doing it on my own terms, but I had nothing left after dragging myself, kicking and whining, to work for way too many hours each week.  I let this go on for decades.

It was a long time coming, but I have an amazing opportunity right now.  Because of my incredibly generous and very successful husband, I no longer drag myself to work.  For the last year and a half I have been totally at choice as to how I spend my days.  I have plenty of money and plenty of time.  Countless people would give a major appendage for an opportunity like this.

I am in the middle of that opportunity and I still have all my appendages. I have been exploring options, searching within to become clear on what I truly want, and have even accomplished a major goal of earning a life coach certification from a top school.  However, the interaction with the amazing young man has made me question whether I am really making the most of this opportunity or just coasting.

Maybe it was appropriate to coast for a little while and decompress after all the years of work that didn’t fit quite right.  I’m okay with that.  But what about now?  I believe the time has come to step up and step into some of my own untapped potential.  As I continue to hold the vision for the young man in my life and help him see what he can be, I’m choosing to include myself in the mix.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and think a little differently than I have been.  It’s time to demand more of myself than what I’ve been living.  I suspect as I do that for myself, it will inspire and encourage those around me to step up in a much bigger and more satisfying way.  Everyone wins!

Thoughts and Feelings, In Tennis and in Life

It would be a challenge to improve on the tennis lesson I had yesterday.  The weather was exactly what makes tennis players salivate:  sunny, ideal temperature, and no annoying Oklahoma Plains pesky winds toying with my tennis precision.  It was endorphine-laced, invigorating fun.  I attribute much of the enjoyment factor to Coach Bob.  His teaching style is effective, and more importantly, the lessons are a blast.  The bonus is that at the end of each lesson, I walk away knowing unequivocally that I got a good workout as evidenced by my weak and shaky legs.  I appreciate Coach Bob, not just because my tennis stroke has improved, but also because I thoroughly enjoy bantering with him about the internal part of the game.  We get a chance to chat during the breaks where he kindly allows me to recover upon seeing my struggle with exertion-induced oxygen deprivation – a malady common amongst the out-of-shape and slightly overweight.

If you are familiar with the book The Inner Game of Tennis, then you know the kind of stuff we talk about.  It is a riveting topic for me because I am endlessly curious about how our mysterious human brains work and why we think and act the way we do, in life’s many scenarios.  I think tennis is a particularly brilliant vehicle for learning more about who you are and how you think.  The game is both very mental and very physical, so you are already stretched, and then the competition factor finishes you off, drawing all your “stuff” right to the surface, for all to see.

On a break during the lesson yesterday, we began talking about playing the game with thinking as the primary approach versus placing the focus on feeling.  Both are required, and it serves you extremely well if you know and understand the concept and can switch focus between the two, at will.  It’s fascinating to consider how this applies to life in the broader sense as well.

When you’re first learning tennis – or anything for that matter – you have to think.  You don’t have the experience to have developed a “feel” yet, so that is not available to you.  However, eventually you progress in the game far enough to start playing by feel , and that is required to reach any level of mastery.  During a high level game of tennis, there is no time for mental gyrations.   The Four Stages of Learning competence model demonstrates this nicely:

Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know.

Conscious Incompetence – Tennis is now on your radar and you’re giving it a try, but you can’t keep the ball in the park, never mind the court.

Conscious Competence – You’re starting to get pretty good at the game, hitting a few good strokes, but you have to really think about it and it’s not happening naturally or consistently yet.

Unconscious Competence – You’re great at the game and you don’t have to think about it at the conscious level much any more.  You’re playing “out of your head”, and you know how to find “the zone”.

But a funny thing happens with some folks.  They resist letting go of the thinking part and unknowingly put a ceiling on their improvement.  They can’t quite shift from playing from their head to bringing their heart and gut, the feeling part, to the forefront, learning to trust their muscles and instincts rather than trying to control everything with their brain.  And, oh, what they are missing!

I have to admit, in my own tennis game, I haven’t been there, to the zone, anywhere near as often as I would like to go, but I have been there enough to know what it feels like.  It is euphoric!  It is truly a “sweet spot”.  I am even more reluctant to admit that, in the broader sense of life in general, I haven’t been to the zone anywhere near as often as I would like to go either, but I’m still reaching for unconscious competence in more ways, more often.

My theory is that learning the roles of thinking and feeling and getting truly adept at applying them skillfully aids tremendously in finding life’s sweet spot more consistently.  Your emotions, how you are feeling in the moment, is guidance for how effectively you are thinking, and thinking intentionally and purposefully helps you to attain desired emotions, which is necessary for enjoyment of life.

One example from my own life in the broader sense is my search for career satisfaction.  I have been trying to think through my career direction for decades, and it has been an exercise in acute futility.  That long-term frustration is painful.  Now I’m learning to bring my feelings into the mix and think AND feel my way there.  Good move on my part.  I’m making more progress with this in a few weeks than I have with thinking alone for decades.  I noticed the feeling of relief and encouragement and inspiration when I set that intention.  I THINK it FEELS good!

Learning to let go of operating solely from thinking, from your head, and learning to expand your modes of operation to include feeling your way to success, both on and off the court, pays huge dividends.

The Voice Inside

“It is better to follow the Voice inside and be at war with the whole world, than to follow the ways of the world and be at war with your deepest self.”
~ Michael Pastore

No one feels your emotions, only you. No one thinks your thoughts, only you. No one can follow your internal guidance but you, and if you’re ignoring, overriding, and circumventing that system in order to follow the advice of your family, friends, and that mysterious “they” who say what you should and should not do, then you are “at war with your deepest self”.

This war with your deepest self results in a separation between who you really are and who you are being. When you are navigating life by outside guidance, chances are astronomically high that you are feeling an uneasiness, a discontent, an emptiness; at the very least, a distinct grumpiness. This “offness” cannot be alleviated by even the best cup of coffee, decadent chocolate, hottest date or fattest bank account. Maybe all of them at the same time. However, whether you’re grumpy or not, those things are nice to have, so knock yourself out!

Close that gap between your real self and your “please-those-around-me” self by learning to listen to your Voice inside and honor that above all else. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. Learn to tune in to the conversation you have with yourself and make that conversation and relationship the best and most important of all your relationships. You can still have all the perks, and they will taste and fit even better!

The Stories Your Parts Tell

You are feeling dissatisfied, discontent, a longing for something, but you feel unclear about what it is.  You know something needs to change.  You feel stuck.  Some part of you knows you want something and it knows what it is.  Otherwise, how could it feel the “wanting”?  Part of you knows what you want AND part of you refuses to know what you want for some reason.  Most likely, you want something, you know you want that thing, and you think you can’t have it.

So why on earth would you hide things from yourself, particularly things that you really want?  These things are things that you want badly enough to feel significant discomfort about not getting it, enough to describe yourself as being “stuck”.  It is much more than craving a burger and fries, but being happy enough with a turkey sandwich and chips.

You may have noticed that you have parts.  Part of you wants to stay, part of you wants to go.  How can these parts be warring when they are both part of the same person?  We humans can be simple and complex at the same time, we can know and not know at the same time, we can feel happy and sad about a single aspect of our experience at the same time.

About a year and a half ago, I retired from a long and, for me, utterly exhausting career in corporate Information Technology.  For pretty much the duration, I wanted to leave that work so badly I could taste it.  I ached for the day I could walk away from it.  Before I could finally pull the plug, I had to drag myself to work each day, the weight of the dread getting heavier and heavier.  I had to cajole, coerce, sweet talk, bribe and kick myself in the butt to even show up.  This was the relentless routine until the glorious day that all the pieces fell into place and I reached my last day of work in that career.  It was finally over.  I walked out of that cubicle for the last time, inhaled a deep, cleansing breath, and promptly  and profusely freaked out precisely because I had reached my last day of work in that career and it was finally over.  How can that be?  How can I feel so acutely uncomfortable in getting something that I had wanted so desperately for so many years?

Life ain’t so simple.  There are at least two sides to everything, and lots more sides than two for most things.  I was happy, ecstatic even, to stop doing the work that I was doing, but I didn’t feel the same about the people I worked with.  I knew that I was going to miss them.  I was also precariously unsure about what my future would look like – and feel like.  I just knew that it would be different.  I knew clearly what was ending, but I was anything but clear about what would flow into the space created by the termination of that work. 

I frequently said dumb things like, “I have no idea what I want to do.”  “I don’t know what makes me happy.”  “I don’t know what I like.”  And day after day I felt even more lost than the day before.  I felt like I was wandering in the desert, and oddly enough I kept passing clumps of bushes (no burning bushes with messages from on high, darn it!) that looked oh so familiar.  I was going in circles.  Until I was reminded that if you want a different outcome, then tell a different story.  I began to actually hear what was coming out of my mouth instead of mindlessly droning on and on with the same toxic mantra.  I began to get a gut check when I heard myself say, “I don’t k now… I don’t know… I don’t know.” 

What you focus on expands in your life experience.  I edited my story so that I could perpetuate a new outcome, so I could finally get out of that chapter and into the next one.  Telling myself that I don’t know what I want was a way of hiding from myself what I really wanted out of fear that I couldn’t have it.  Wanting and not getting can be very uncomfortable.  Telling a newer, truer story was the way for me to coax my desires out of hiding, even with the perceived risk of wanting and not getting.

I didn’t force myself to say affirmations that just felt wrong.  I didn’t lie to myself.  I didn’t tell myself crap I couldn’t possibly believe.  I didn’t say, “Everything is perfectly clear and I know exactly what to do.”  Because one of those parts I mentioned before would have called B.S. on that part that was telling the lie.  I just shifted it to something that was still believable, but that felt better, like “I am finding my way.”  “I know I want something different, I know that much for sure.”  “Knowing what I don’t want is really good information.”  “There are most definitely things that I know about myself regarding my likes and dislikes.”  “There are many ways for me to get more clarity about which direction I want to go, and I’m actively pursuing those.”  “I’m doing all right, and things are working out for me.”  Ahh.  All my parts like that story better than that very annoying (not to mention disempowering) “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” story.

Shortly after I shifted my story, my vision became clearer and things began to open up, ideas began to flow.  My parts were more in alignment.  I found my next step, and I felt confident about it.  When I stopped insisting that I didn’t know, I remembered how I loved personal development and the subject of human potential and had studied it extensively.  It occurred to me that my next logical step was to pursue life coach training.  Which I did, and I absolutely loved it.

I still don’t know the rest of the story, but I have moved to the next chapter.  I am in the process of clarifying and defining a new entrepreneurial venture, which includes coaching, and I am excited about it.  Not surprisingly, I do, on occasion, find myself tempted to slip into the old record groove of “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”  However, remembering to notice my story and intentionally craft a better one comes more easily to me now.  So I’ll get to move on to the next chapter and see new scenery instead of walking endlessly in circles around those same darn bushes.  My parts are chit-chatting more openly now, at least on that topic.

What story are you telling yourself and what is your authentic emotional response to it?  What results and outcomes are you experiencing as a result of the story you are telling yourself?  How many times have you passed by the same clump of bushes – and how many more times do you want to pass by that way?  What story do you want to tell, and how can you begin to tell it?

Birth Announcement for Patterns & Paradigms!

I’m pretty excited about Patterns & Paradigms coming into existence.  I gotta be honest, though.  This version of my business is not a first iteration.  Much to GoDaddy’s delight, I have tried to launch more than once, setting about busily creating domain names,  websites and business cards, only to watch it flounder and fade away.  While my husband is amused and an incredibly good sport about my many false starts, he is cheering me on to find my authentic expression and create a container for my work that truly fits.  I’m supposed to be the coach, but he does an amazing job of coaching me!

So, this version, Patterns & Paradigms, is definitely not a first iteration.  While it seems that it will stick because I’m still feeling very good about it even a few weeks later, I’m 200 percent certain that it has much evolution in its future.  That’s part of my intention and desire for the business, because that is my intention and desire for myself and the clients I work with.

This world is an ever-expanding, ever-abundant wide open space and I want to mirror that expansion and grow into it as much as I possibly can, and my business, Patterns & Paradigms, is just one expression of that.  This company is formed to study, learn and grow in the understanding of the patterns all around us that can be tapped for insight, information, and guidance – as well as understanding and gaining skill in shaping and creating paradigms – frameworks for thinking – that benefit us most and serve us best.  Of course, I want to, and plan to, benefit personally from  this knowledge and understanding, but the richness of the experience comes from sharing it with others and watching the amazing things they create and experience as a result.  This sharing will take place through coaching, teaching, writing and creating rich learning experiences.

This is my idea of fun.  I love to learn about the patterns and paradigms of life because it is incredibly fun to reap the understanding of the patterns and shift and tweak the paradigms, then watch life fall magically into place as a result.  Or, when it doesn’t play out exactly as intended, as is the case sometimes, at least have a shred of hope to understand what the heck happened.  I heard a quote recently that is so spot on:  “Some people let it happen, some people make it happen, and some people wonder what happened.”

I want to hang with the “make it happen” group AND I want to have fun in the midst of it.  Ya with me?