Thursday, July 23, 2009

None of The Above

Have you ever had a problem you’ve had to solve and found yourself with a list of possible answers that did not satisfy you? This is the place we find ourselves when we think and think ourselves into circles around the problem. It can be exhausting and worse yet, it can bring about a sense of defeat. I hear my clients saying, “I give up” or “I am stuck”, or “it’s just the way it is”. They feel hopeless and defeated. I believe that this type of resignation comes after we have mentally exhausted all of our resources. The left hemisphere of our brain has done a heck of a job overworking and over-analyzing the situation with no satisfying answer. In other words, none of the choices: (a) through (d) is acceptable. The answer is (e), or none of the above.

This is the perfect opportunity to invite our right brain or our creative side to take over. When we do this, we actually step outside the tight circle that we had drawn around our self and the problem with our left brain thinking. The creative solution comes unexpectedly and might be so “out there” that at first we might not even recognize it. For example, I worked with a client who was stuck on something and couldn’t see anything beyond the limitations her brain was telling her were real and formidable. Once she got out of her own way, or out of her head, she realized that she was much bigger than this problem and in fact, at one point she realized that the problem wasn’t hers at all. In other words, the problem had changed or she could see it in a different light. At that point she realized that what she thought was her problem, was not it at all. She now could see the real problem and had an array of solutions at her feet. All of this was possible by unplugging her analytical, rational brain so she could come up with more creative solutions.

What happens at this point, is that the client goes home all excited, energized, and empowered to solve their problem and the “real world” comes crashing in. The next session is the tough one for the coach, because the client is now angry and disappointed that it did not work. Now, the client is questioning the method and its validity. What has happened is that the client has trusted their own creative solution, but the 3-D world around them is still operating under the old constraints of left brain thinking. The people around them are still analyzing and rationalizing everything to death. The client is questioning his/her own experience. He/she starts falling back in his/her own ways and pretty soon that glimmer of hope has died. Frustrated the client is mad at the world and at the coach!

So what is the alternative? Do we want to give up and force one of the answers (a) through (d) even though we know in our hearts that they are not the right answers for us. Do we want to pretend that our world is limited to four options or do we want to live in a bigger place where the potentials are limitless? Yes, it takes courage to take a chance on a new way of thinking and living, but the alternative is not a viable option for me. No, it is not easy and we all fall off the wagon from time to time. It takes practice, discipline, and trust to live the big life. And if you’ve had even moments of living creatively, outside the box, broken all the rules, and free to experience all of life’s potentials, you can’t go back. So, I invite you to choose option (e) or none of the above when you think that your options are limited. And then find the right coach to help you explore all of your other potential creative solutions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Coaching and New Consciousness

One of the reasons I love painting with watercolor is the lack of control you experience while painting. Once the paper is wet and the paint introduced, anything can happen. Sometimes you facilitate the rendezvous of two different colors into each other. This is the most fun, and the most frustrating part of painting with watercolor, you have little control over the end result. I find that I do my best work when I have no expectation and truly play with the medium and the paints. Things happen that are beyond my imagination and it grows and expands in ways that I couldn’t have planned for. However, for me to have this grand experience, I have to be willing to be present, playful, and drop all of my expectations.

I find living life in the new consciousness and coaching to be similar to painting with watercolor in that way. New consciousness is about living a life that flows, a life without harsh edges. Old consciousness is all about those darned edges. In fact, we have all been trained to sharpen our tools so we can be masters of creating sharp edges. In so many ways, it has been fun, cutting and being cut! But now for those of us who are tired of that game, it is time to move on. This is easy to say, but what does it mean? Everything that we have known and most of what we have experienced has been made up of old consciousness. So, how do we operate in a medium that we don’t “know” anything about. There- in lies the answer. “Knowing” in old consciousness has been about the head, the brain. “Knowing” in new consciousness is about something much deeper that goes beyond the mind. For example, I know in my head that blue and red make purple, but what happens when I allow turquoise blue that is somewhat dry, to touch the alizarin crimson that is runny and wet? It is definitely not purple! Now, if I just trusted that piece of information that I have learned and re-learned from some book or class somewhere, I might not have experimented with those two colors in those two states. Or worse yet, I would expect purple to emerge (the purple that I have seen in the back of a crayon box somewhere) and be sadly disappointed at the messy color on the expensive paper! Similarly, in coaching, anything can happen, and clients are usually amazed at the outcomes they obtain especially if they’ve been open and willing to let go of their harsh beliefs.

Life in the new consciousness asks us to let go of our hard earned knowledge and be prepared to travel the road without our luggage full of expectations. Life in the new consciousness asks us to walk a bit barefoot on the grass and feel the blades against the soles of our feet and breathe the vibrant green in between our toes into our feet and up our calves. Life in the new consciousness asks us to stay a while, take a break, smooth out those edges, let our colors run into each other, and be willing to be amazed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You On Mute?

Yesterday was one of those crazy Summer days that those of us with younger children and who happen to be working from home could relate to. Doors to the patio slamming shut and then opening up again two minutes later, little voices squealing in delight, water running, wet foot prints all over the floors, grass and dirt tracking in, the dog eating the leftover crumbs and ice cream off the patio floor, pantry door and drawers wide open with the intermittent call: MOM, where is the sunscreen? MOM, do we have any chips?, MOM, can we have soda?,… All this happened in the afternoon after a few hours of peace to myself when they were in their Summer Camps for the morning. Needless to say, I didn’t get any work done. I was on a coaching tele-class and had to put myself on mute, so the other attendees wouldn’t hear the insanity around me. After the class, exhausted trying to focus and ignore the madness, I started to pick up the bathing suits and the mess all around the house like cleaning up after a wild party and I realized that I had been on mute the whole day. When energies are flying high like they have been with my kids in the Summer, I find myself on mute.

My thought for today is about just that, being on mute or holding back your voice. Where and when do you put yourself on mute? When do you stop engaging and just do what is necessary for that moment without thinking about what you really want? I know that for me, it is exhausting being on mute, I have things to say and if I hold back too long, it could get pretty ugly, just ask my kids! However, there are people who are continuously on mute. They have disengaged from what is happening. Some are that way at work, at home with their spouses, with certain family members, etc. Is it that we are afraid of speaking our truth? Why? The potential repercussions could be dangerous? Why rock the boat unnecessarily? Or is it that we don’t care about what is happening? We hate our job so much that it just doesn’t matter what is going on at work, we show up, do our job and get out at 5. Or is it that we are doing it temporarily? That is the case for me and my kids, I know that Summer will be over and when September is here, everything will be back to normal. I choose to let them run a little wild in the Summer to get it all out of their system. Some of us put up with a job we hate because we have bills to pay, but we know that it is temporary. Once we have found our ideal job, we’re out of there. That makes it bearable. Unfortunately, too many people stay in conditions that are far from ideal for far too long and then the disengaged, lack luster existence becomes part of their consciousness that they carry around everywhere. The other danger to living on mute for too long, is that since your voice hasn’t just disappeared, it shows up as cynicism, apathy, sarcasm, and negativity at all the wrong times. It becomes part of your personality. You become resentful of others who are happy and seem to have it all.

I met someone this past weekend who was in that negative, disengaged place I am writing about. He had a million reasons why he shouldn’t speak up or do something different. He was a husband and a father who had other people to think about. His needs were not important, or so he claimed. I noticed that he wouldn’t look me in the eye when he spoke. I realized that he was in so deep that one friendly conversation was not going to get him out of the hole he had dug himself into. I spoke to someone else this week who seemed hopeless after losing his job and his identity. Somehow, he didn’t feel like he could do anything about it. It cost too much he told me. He’d rather stay on mute for at least a little bit longer.

On this beautiful Summer day, I’d like to leave you with the following questions: Where have you given up? Where have you resigned yourself to what you don’t like? What is the cost? Are you willing to change your position? What might that change offer you? I ask myself the same questions and I decide that I am going to go on the “slip and slide” in the back yard today with my kids, regardless of what the neighbors might think!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Courage to Trust

What constitutes a courageous act? Most recent events that have been in the headlines have used the word courage over and over again: Farrah Fawcett battled courageously against cancer, the courageous battle of the demonstrators on the streets of Iran to have their vote counted, etc. So what makes these actions so courageous? Is it the fact that the consequences these two were facing were dire, i.e., Farrah Fawcett lived and shared her life despite her knowledge of the fact that she was losing the battle, or did she believe that she would be cured? Did the demonstrators believe that change was imminent, or did they go out there and risk their lives despite the knowledge that nothing would change? Or it just didn’t matter to them how the story would end? I wonder…

According to the dictionary courage is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Does courage require things to be dangerous, fearful, and difficult, so that we have to take some kind of action? Let’s go back to the beginning of the definition: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand…” It’s almost as if, we don’t have to do anything in face of danger, fear, and difficulty. Is courage just about facing the challenge, looking it straight in the eye and acknowledging its strength against yours?

From my experiences with coaching clients, their battles are diffused the moment they face it. It is as if they are not clear what is in their path, or they do not want to know. But the moment they are ready to face whatever that obstacle is, it just dissolves away, or they find another path to follow. For me, courage is the moment you decide you’ve had enough and decide to do something about it. After that, it takes trust or a knowing that regardless of how things turn out, you will be fine. That trust is the second most difficult step or process once you have found the courage to face your issue(s).

Trust is so easy when we are children and we believe that our parents will take care of us. In 1980 after the first Iranian revolution, my family and I left Iran to come to the US without any long-term plans. I remember, that I was worried about how I would adapt to an American school speaking English, and how I would miss my friends back home, but I also remember that I had this total trust in my parents taking care of me. I knew that everything would be fine, because they were there.

Trusting one-self or life itself is the most difficult kind of trust, because it does not come with any guarantees, promises, or even prior experience to build from. When you are going into uncharted waters, you have only you to trust, and that takes courage! This is the type of courage that most people need when they make life changing decisions. It is difficult, scary, and lonely when you go against the grain. Nothing you have learned is useful when you are in the midst of making some big changes. It is as if you have jumped out of the plane and don’t even know if you have a parachute strapped to your back, let alone if you know how to use it or if it will work. Yes, it took courage to jump out of the plane, but now, you are way up high, floating down and you have only you to count on. The only way you will figure out how to land safely is if you can once again courageously trust yourself and believe that it will work out.

On this Independence Day (in the U.S.), I wish us all courage and trust to live a big life of great satisfaction like those before us who dreamed big and made this country and freedom a reality.