Like many of you, I have spent a good amount of time and money on–to use the technical term–Healing My Shit. The old stuff, the inner kid stuff, the wounds, the chronic niggling stuff that came back around when I thought I was truly done with it, the stuff that whothehellknows I might’ve reincarnated with and there’s nothing that has even happened in this lifetime to cause it.
Pain. Plain and simple.
We all encounter it. What matters, of course, is what we do with it.
What was I willing to do with my pain? Why, be courageous with it, of course. Acknowledge that it existed rather than pretend that it didn’t.
I was willing to go into the core of the wound as many times as it took.
And something has happened, as a result of that hard work: life is pretty amazing, on a regular basis.
Open. Expansive. Nurturing. There is more love, and more connection, and more trust. When things get off-kilter (and because this is life, of course they still do), I still feel initially reactive but it’s much easier to access the breath, and remember that it’s all okay, and that I am blessed beyond measure.
But something curious has happened as I’ve healed layers of pain. The carefully cultivated habit of being open to the pain so as not to numb out from it means that sometimes, I catch myself not fully receiving my blessings.
Not Receiving Looks Like…
What it looks like to not receive your blessings :
You have a great marriage and your husband is your best friend. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? Looks like getting irritated with him about the little nit-picky thing that doesn’t even really matter, in the long run.
You’ve learned all sorts of life lessons about accessing and listening to your intuition and utilizing appropriate boundaries. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? Looks like totally subverting your intuitive hits and not speaking up even though all past experience has shown you that not speaking up only makes things worse.
You’ve got money. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? Hanging out in the fear that money problems are inevitably right around the corner. Or blowing all of it. Or not saving for emergencies. Or never having any fun with it.
You’ve got time. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? Wasting time by endlessly surfing Facebook or not using any of that time for self-care (such that any available free time becomes solely about “getting more stuff done.”)
You’ve got friends who genuinely care about you. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? Never getting vulnerable. Not letting them in your heart when life is difficult. Avoiding them completely during times of conflict, rather than trying to work things through. Filling your schedule with so many to-dos that there’s no hope of a slow cup of tea, anywhere in your future.
You’ve got a beautiful home, plenty of space. Blessing!
Not receiving the blessing? You don’t clean it. You can’t find anything. Perpetual mess, perpetual chaos.
Parasitic Personal Growth
When you’ve given your time in service to doing “the hard work,” aka, Healing Your Shit, you see the benefits. The temptation to avoid, here, is to sign yourself up for “more hard work” without ever stopping to enjoy those benefits.
The fear underpinning all of this? That you won’t know who you are if you let life get really, really good. That you’ll never actually outrun that past pain.
When you’ve spent a lot of time wading through all of the darkness and trying to get a small glowing ember of light to be full on ablaze, it’s easy to forget that all of this mucky darkness? It’s just a stop along the way. It’s not where you’re supposed to live.
The muck has its place, its purpose. Its purpose is to be healed. You’re here to start a revolution from within, one that starts with you, and expands outward.
Too many of us are light-bringers who forget that at some point, we need to cut ties with pain and suffering, so that we can live fully within the light.
It’s always got to start from within. Whatever you aren’t giving to yourself, you’ll have no capacity to give to anyone else.
Note: that’s how self-help can become parasitic and start to dissolve the host (that’d be you, babe). When we get so busy looking for the next thing to heal and keeping our joy under a lid because we don’t think we can really celebrate until we’ve lined up more of our life’s circumstances, we’re not practicing healing. We’re practicing perfectionism.
And perfectionism, as writer Elizabeth Gilbert has said, “is just fear, in nicer clothes.”
You’ve Given. Now Receive.
Like so many of you, I’ve spent years self-identifying as having “Issues” that “needed work.”
Truth? I don’t have quite as many issues, anymore. Still have ‘em, yes. Just not as many, and they don’t feel as intense.
Friends are beyond what I ever could have imagined, these powerhouses of women surrounding me. My house of money and career is rocking a sexy slow jam. My husband and I leave nothing unsaid. In any relationship conflict, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m clear and grounded in what integrity and compassion look like. Best of all, every time my daughter smiles, it’s clear: I am winning at life.
To be honest: This is Kate, figuring out a new Kate. This new person is someone who doesn’t need people’s approval as much. Someone who knows how to say “no” with grace. Someone who knows how to make requests without attachment. Someone who is willing to release relationships that don’t have a shared vision around what respect looks like. Someone who has more fun, smiles more, laughs more. Someone who prioritizes self-care even when she’s up against deadlines.
In other words, someone who’s getting the fruits of all of that “hard work.”
So yeah, I thought to myself the other day, as something worked out for me rather seamlessly. I think it’s time to drop the storyline that life is…hard. What if it’s just…easeful? What if I just keep thinking it’s hard and looking for what’s hard because…that’s what I’ve been doing for so long, that I’ve forgotten to just soak in the expansion?
I’ll always be an advocate for people having a willingness to look at what’s not working in their lives. Numbing out is endemic in our society and just simply practicing the courage to pay attention is already a huge first step.
But the flip-side is this: if we want to be light, we’ve got to live in the light. All the way, and with our whole hearts.
So you might’ve picked up on the fact that I lead a life coach training program. Graduates of the program are given the option to become licensees to teach some content from the Courageous Living Program as part of a group coach offering (my thinking being that instead of having to create an entire course curriculum as a brand-new coach, it would be great to give our graduates something that they can start teaching).
As I have been working on the training for this licensing offering, I started reflecting on the top lessons of leadership that I’ve learned from more than a decade of teaching. So here it is–the hard-won wisdom, the mistakes made, the lessons learned, the celebrations of how sacred the contract is between teacher and student.
1. You cannot be all things, for all people. This is the biggie. Trying to be all things for all people will only exhaust you. Keep coming back to the center of yourself, and the center of why you created the group experience that you did.
2. Upholding the integrity of the group is the leader’s job. Integrity is: when your words and actions match, and they are in alignment with your values, beliefs, commitments, and life vision (Matthew Marzel). You can’t make people do anything that they don’t want to do, but you can uphold the integrity of the group and its purpose. A leader who fails to address a lack of integrity is just colluding with it.
3. Never get caught in the upswing (or the downswing). When I was a college professor, my Ego was big-time wrapped up in being a student’s Favorite Teacher. It was a high like no other when students loved my classroom. And–it was a crushing blow when they didn’t. There’s plenty of advice out there about not believing the naysayers too much. There’s less said about the dangers of getting caught in the praise. Praise feels good, but it can easily be used to stroke the Ego. When someone praises you, receive it, and then like a meditation…release it. Let it go. Don’t let praise “mean something” about who you are, because that just invites the criticism to “mean something” about who you are.
4. Everyone shows up to the group experience, differently, but everyone really wants the same thing: connection. Even when they don’t say so, that’s what they want. They say they want answers or clarity or a new career? Well, they want those things because they feel that having them would make them feel connected to themselves, to their own lives. Everyone wants connection. You want it, too–that’s why you teach.
5. Everyone has a right to make a request. Years ago, I was annoyed when anyone made any requests of me. This was a time of profound isolation, where my life really pivoted around the spoke of “I’ll just do it all myself so that I never need to ask you for help or rely on you–and you do the same.” The truth is that people always have the right to make a request, no matter how outlandish it is. Resenting them for making the request becomes problematic. Let your people know that they’re safe to make requests, with you.
6. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything. Discernment is an important quality of leadership. Be clear about what you will and won’t say “yes” to. Be particularly careful around those places and spaces where a “yes” to someone else means saying “no” to yourself.
7. Believe in your people. It’s incredibly common that when people feel fear, they start justifying that fear with all the reasons why they “can’t” do something. They will logically lay out and explain some very, very legitimate reasons for why they can’t do something. Despite that, believe in your people. When I was a classroom teacher, students told me, all of the time, their absolutely and totally legitimate reasons for why they couldn’t get a paper turned in on time, and why they needed an extension. I never doubted their reasons or the challenges they were up against. I also never doubted…them. I believed in them and in their capacity to deliver. I know that if something is important enough to you, you’ll find a way to get it. 90% of the time, students who swore that there was absolutely no way that they could get a paper in, got one in. Some of them hated me for not granting the extension, but–well, see #1 on this list. And #2. And #3. And #6.
8. Let them see your awe. When I was reviewing the sessions that our life coach training program trainees had recorded and submitted as part of their final portfolio, I was routinely, awesomely, supremely…blown away. Wow. Sometimes I’d feel my heart rise or beat faster, as I heard a coach who only months before had felt afraid and shaky in her coaching, suddenly asking that perfect question that hit the client in just the right way. Every coach in the program has an exit call of sorts, a one-on-one call where we talk about their portfolio, and holding these calls made my day because it was an opportunity to share with this newly graduated life coach, how amazing they were.
9. Let them see your excitement. I am unabashedly excited about life coaching–being one, talking about the process, teaching the skill-set. As a general rule, that excitement is on full display. Your passion for a topic is magnetic. Let them see it.
10. Walk your talk when it comes to self-care. Lots of coaches talk about “the importance of self-care” and then they don’t set up their lives to actually live in accordance with what they try to teach other people (free tip: I have a theory that clients can suss out when this kind of inauthenticity is happening, and that’s why there’s a correlation lack of self-care and lack of clients). When you teach, when you lead, you need a supreme form of self-care. You simply can’t phone it in if you want it to be done, well. You’ve got to get rest, take vitamins, schedule a massage, suit up n’ show up. Sometimes, “getting rest” will mean that you’re later than you’d like to be on things like returning emails or having a perfectly clean house. But whatever it takes to show up beautifully, that’s what it takes. Self-care is a must.
In the Courageous Living Program, I talk about orienting your life to prioritize what matters, most.
When you get clear on your vision for your life and start to prioritize that, the ruminating and second-guessing and all of the “trying to figure it out” stuff of life starts to fall away.
Here is priority #1 in my life: my kid. My sweet little daughter who just basically wants to smile and interact with people and be curious about the world.
Like any mom will tell you, this means that sometimes, things can get complicated. This can get particularly complicated if you run a business.
It hit me how complicated this could be when I looked around and realized that I was not just running Your Courageous Life. I am also the Editor of the Coaching Blueprint.com website, and the creator and lead facilitator of the Courageous Coaching Training Program. This fall, I signed on to be one of the first people to lead a Desire Map workshop.
And somewhere in all of that, I’m caring for my child. And, just like you–doing all the stuff like laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, taking my car for an oil change, grocery shopping, making dinner, and hopefully spending some time with my husband. And somewhere in there, hopefully remembering to take my probiotics and use the foam roller (I use the Commit app to remind me, every day, because otherwise I’m hopeless and forget), and once a week I’d like to get to yoga, and at some point I’m convinced that I’ll establish a regular triathlon training schedule, again (this last might be a bit of fantastical thinking for at least a few more months).
What Getting Clear Allows
But here’s what I’m clear on: Priority #1. My kid.
And so here’s what hit me on one of those average, ordinary days when my brain was buzzing with emails that needed to be answered and questions that the life coach trainees had posted to our private boards and I wanted to remember to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer and I had an oil change:
Am I choosing the task or the moment ?
I could feel that tight feeling across my chest and in my shoulders, the feeling that indicates that my breathing is short and shallow.
I was hustling to get the diaper bag packed and I hadn’t had lunch yet and– and– and–
I look at my daughter. She smiles at me. She’s in absolutely no rush.
I soften. I smile back.
I could hustle to get to that oil change appointment right on time. Or to see if I can fit in one more laundry swap or one more email check before we leave.
But you know, when I look back on my life, I really don’t want to say that those are the things that I chose.
I don’t want to be remembered as “Kate, who always made it to her oil changes on time.”
I’d like my daughter to always remember that I took time to stop. To breathe. To soften. To smile.
I’d like her to learn how to do that for herself, too. She’ll only learn that if I model it, first*.
The Task, or The Moment?
So this is my mantra on those busy-busy-busy, go-go-go kinds of days:
The task, or the moment? Task, or moment? Task, or moment?
Note that this choice takes a certain level of faith and trust. Trust that the laundry will get done (and faith that you’ll survive, if it doesn’t). Trust that your business is going to be fine (and faith that you’ll survive, if it’s not).
There’s no short-cut to trust or faith. No one has any “better circumstances” that make trust and faith easier a place from which to live.
It’s a choice, just like any other.
The task, or the moment?
I know what my #1 priority is. As long as I’m honoring that priority, I wake up each morning feeling proud of myself, living my life in integrity.
It can be a courageous choice, but in the end–that’s what I call winning at life.
*Since I also want to model not inconveniencing others by bailing on commitments, this was a relatively simple fix–calling the service department to see if I could change my appointment. In a world where people abuse and mis-use self-help, this is also worth noting.