devotion is the doorway

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There’s a part of me that is gleeful in sharing with the trainees in our life coach certification that I spent something like two years working with my own coach, Matthew, being resistant. I argued with my coach. I paid money to come to sessions and then didn’t do any of the work that he was suggesting. I was what the industry would have defined as “uncoachable.”

And then things changed, in that way that you can have a series of a-ha moments that stack themselves up with one another in a short succession of time. Or perhaps it’s as Oprah is wont to say, that first life throws a pebble, then a brick, and then the walls come crashing down.

I got it. Shit needed to change, and shit needed to change—now. I was not fucking around with my life, anymore.

So I got devoted. I became devoted to the work.

I booked more sessions. I did the work he was suggesting, all of it, no cutting corners, absolutely every single day.

For a year or so, I was absolutely rigorous about “using my tools,” Matthew’s phrase for the work he’d suggested I undertake between our sessions. After a year, “using my tools” wasn’t some life coach-ey series of exercises that I was trying to allot time for, each day. Those tools were just the way that I lived my life.

Flipping the Devotion Switch

We spend a lot of time wrangling with whether or not we will be devoted.

In my experience, once someone has been turned on to devotion, once they realize how hot it is, there’s a shift in their entire being. There are the people who get it—who have had the switch flipped, so to speak—and the people who don’t.

Most of the time, I’m interested in talking to the people who know that they don’t get it—but wow, do they WANT to. They really, really want to flip the switch and get devoted.

I’ve come to understand that whether it’s something as basic as a yoga practice or something as important as a marriage, devotion is the doorway.

When I stopped skipping the yoga poses that I didn’t like—when the devotion switch flipped—I began to get more out of yoga than I ever had, in more than a decade of practice.

When I decided that I was devoted to my husband, that I didn’t just love him but that I was also devoted to him and to the partnership that we had created, it forever altered our marriage.

When I stopped mis-trusting the coaching support that I was paying for, my entire life changed, and radically.

Get Devoted

What’s funny is that actual devotion, the being-ness of being devoted, isn’t nearly as tough as is everything that comes before it. What comes before devotion is the questioning of the devotion and the commitment.

Will I do this? Will I really, really do this, this time? Am I actually going to (for real) be devoted, and (for real) follow through?

That back-and-forth wondering if you really (truly) will be devoted takes far more energy than the actual commitment.

In yoga, it takes more energy for me to debate with myself about skipping the hard poses than it does to do the hard poses. In my business, it takes more energy for me to debate with myself about whether or not to work on a task where I’m resistant, than it does to just get the task over n’ done with. In my marriage, it takes more energy for me to debate with myself (or my husband), than to take a breath and ask in a non-pissy voice, “Okay. I’m sorry. Let’s talk about this.”

And in personal growth, I’m glad that I finally came to understand that if I devoted myself to any practice intended to nurture me, that’s exactly what it would do.

Perhaps that’s the good news: that any practice intended to nurture you will qualify. You don’t need to go seeking new ones. Just stop, breathe, and look around at your life. What are the practices that you’ve already been offered? The ones that you’ve resisted or discounted?

That’s where the juice is. That’s where the greatest return on the reward of devotion will reside.

I wouldn’t presume

kate swoboda life coach
Someone told me that when they first met me and I introduced myself as a life coach, they’d hesitated before becoming friends.

“It seems like most life coaches are running around thinking they know how people should be living their lives,” they said.

And together, now friends, we rolled our eyes at the marketing that creates this mis-perception.

Life Coach Confesses: She Doesn’t “Know”

Look, even I admit that I dispense a lot. I speak from my experience and the experience of thousands of hours of interaction with people. I’m declarative, and some interpret that as authoritative.

Nonetheless, I don’t presume to know what you “should” be doing with your life.

I couldn’t know what the “right” choices are, for anyone else. I endeavor to practice love, no matter what people’s choices are, which means accepting that none of us can “know” with any certainty.

Sometimes, I fail miserably at practicing love in the way I’ve worked it out in my head. Even I, the life coach, has some conception of an ideal in mind and she falls short.

The only experience I ever want to offer, is holding space for what your experience is.

And perhaps the only thing I’ve ever wanted to say in any really definitive way is that when we hide out from who we truly are, we sell our lives short.

Cut the bullshit and go all the way in; tell the truth about who you actually are, I want to say.

Hello, fear.
Hello, courage.

when you’re not sure you can do it

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I’m always reminding people: just because I understand how fear works, doesn’t mean that I no longer experience it.

Also, trying to never experience fear is a huge waste of time.

It’s because of those two truths that I can tell you that I’m training for… a half-Ironman.

1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and then a half-marathon (13.1 miles of running).

Oh, and–I’m totally afraid.

What Fear Says To The Courage Expert

You’re not an athlete.
You’ll just get injured.
You hate swimming; why bother?
You’re probably going to get injured.
You’re the slowest swimmer in master’s swim class.
You’re the slowest cyclist on group rides.
You haven’t even put the clip pedals on your bike, yet.
It’s not like you’re a real triathlete.
You HATE swimming, and it’s cold, so why bother?
You don’t even know how to change a bike tire.
Why do you keep getting cold in the pool? No one else gets cold.
Oh, and–you’re probably going to get injured.

Swap any of those out for your own Big Life Thing–writing a book, changing careers, deciding to have another baby, selling everything you own and traveling, no longer people pleasing.

The voices will be some variation of Why bother? You’re not good at this, anyway; It won’t be worth the work; You’ll look foolish.

The idea of “fearless” is bullshit. Courage isn’t the elimination of fear. It’s the integration of fear. It’s the integration of feeling fear, diving in anyway, and transforming.

If you’re afraid, you’re actually…normal. (If you hang out on Instagram, find me at @katecourageous . I routinely use the hashtag, #courageousnotfearless).

Ideas That Haggle

How do you know the signs to keep going, despite the voices of fear that you can’t or that there’s no point? You keep going when an idea haggles at you and just won’t quit.

“Ideas ‘haggle’ at you, Kate? What’s that?”

When an idea is haggling at you, things like this happen:

– You want to write a book, and then out of nowhere your co-worker mentions that she’s decided she wants to write a book. Then you see something on TV about someone who writes a book. Then you read an interview with a writer who says that she wanted to write a book for a whole decade before she finally did, and something in you thinks, “Huh, this published writer who’s getting all of this attention–she wanted it for a long time, just like me?”

– You want to change careers, and someone brings up their cousin who is running a career change workshop. You keep thinking about it. You look at the date when the workshop is being held on your calendar, and you keep resisting scheduling an appointment on that date. For some reason, every single time you look at that particular Saturday, you’re thinking of that workshop.

– You want to stop people pleasing–you’ve read a book about it or talked it through with your therapist or coach. And suddenly, all around you, people are more demanding than EVER before. It’s driving you nuts, because you had hoped to have just a few casual opportunities to practice saying “No” as a complete sentence, and now they are everywhere. Then the thought occurs to you that maybe, this isn’t an accident. Maybe this is the call to rise.

So in other words, whether it’s a desire to do a thing (like write a book), or change your life’s circumstances (like changing careers), or embrace a new way of being (like no longer people-pleasing), things will keep popping up in your life, reminding you of this thing that you want.

Also, if you’ve always wanted to do a triathlon but told yourself that you can’t, and then this post is popping up in your inbox or a Facebook feed, consider that your sign.

When You Aren’t Sure You Can

I am moving forward on this, even though I’m not sure that I can. I get sore from a training session and worry that I’ll get injured. I think about how much more work there is to do, and wonder how I’ll ever get there.

Not being sure that you can, is no reason not to.

Not being sure that you can, might be THE reason why it’s a really great idea.

Speaking of Instagram, that’s the place to go for workout pics with little updates on my progress: Instagram.com/katecourageous.