I recently started reflecting how I got to where I am today and the one thing I keep coming back to is – meeting Alan, my first life coach.
His wisdom has stayed with me over the years so I thought I’d share some of them with you.
- The story of the plant
It’s 1996, and Alan and I are sitting in the foyer of one of those large hotels in London. It’s one of those posh hotels with a secluded space apart from the hustle and bustle of guests checking in and out.
Alan is sitting on one of those plush sofas; I choose the armchair. Between us is a large coffee table with a large plant, one of those real ones, not the artificial sort.
We order coffee.
I’ve been feeling really discouraged. All kinds of challenges keep hitting me over the head, metaphorically speaking, and try as I might, I can’t seem to be able to do anything about them.
I start telling Alan all my setbacks, disappointments, problems. I fall a little into whingeing mode but he doesn’t judge me. He also doesn’t indulge me for long.
He stops me and points to the plant in front of me.
“Look at this plant. Can you see it grow?”
I’m thinking, “what a weird question!” and reply, “Of course not!” with a tone of voice that implies “what a stupid thing to say!”
Alan looks at me and says, “Aaahhh, but it is!”
It took me a long time to really understand what he was saying.
Sometimes things feel like nothing is ever going to change. There are still times when that thought weasels itself into my head.
But then I think of him and the plant and I remember what he was trying to tell me.
Just because we can’t see it right now doesn’t mean things are not moving along.
The truth is, change is the law of the Universe – sometimes instant, sometimes it takes a very long time. It took me 37 years before I was ready to change my life but, even though I didn’t notice it at the time, I was changing all the time until I was finally ready to make that move.
So, if you feel stuck and nothing seems to happen, don’t be discouraged.
- “People live the lives they love, no matter what they say”
Alan and I are sitting on a park bench in Regent’s Park. It’s autumn and the trees are changing colour. It’s a stunning view and very relaxing. I’m lulled into a sense of security which is always dangerous when you’re with Alan.
Unexpectedly, he speaks these famous words,
“people live the lives they love, no matter what they say”.
I’m jolted to the present with a bump. From feeling peaceful I turn quite angry. “That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”
Not in the least put off, Alan replies, “Not at all. Actions speak louder than words.”
My first reaction was to list all the reasons why it’s not as easy and, to be fair, most of the time it isn’t.
Not everything Alan says is absolute gospel but the point is that, fundamentally, it’s true.
We make choices and decisions all the time, more often than not out of habit or fear or from a limiting belief which bears no resemblance with who we really are.
A mindset is a powerful thing – the challenge is to become aware of it and to change it. That takes insight, awareness, time and patience. And often a helping hand.
Alan’s comment may have been a bit harsh and more than a little simplistic but there was definitely a grain of truth in it.
- The importance of grieving
I’m in the middle of leaving my marriage. To my distress and surprise, I can’t stop crying. I need to call my Mum every day and cry into the phone.
I can’t understand it. I’m the one who took the step to leave. I should be feeling free, hopeful – OK, also a little scared of the unknown but, all in all, I should be feeling fairly positive. Instead, I can’t stop crying.
My Mum, bless her, is puzzled and so are my friends – and, of course, I’m puzzled too.
Fast forward 2 weeks. I’m in the office. It’s empty because everybody has gone out to lunch so I decide to take advantage of the privacy and call my Mum.
“I’m really fed up with myself!”, I tell her, “I’ve decided to stop crying!”
She sounds really relieved. “Bravo!”, she replies.
By the time we end our conversation, I’m feeling quite positive.
Fast forward a week and I’m having my regular session with Alan.
“I decided to stop crying!”, I tell him proudly. His reply is not at all what I expected.
“Don’t be stupid!”, he snaps.
“You can’t pretend not to feel what you’re feeling.”, he continues, “Repressing your feelings would cause real damage.”
Secretly I feel relieved he’ given me permission to continue to grieve. In truth, my body wouldn’t have been able to stop the tears however hard my mind tried to get me to hide my feelings, even from myself.
This last ‘pearl of wisdom’ came to me recently because far too many of us and far too often we tell ourselves we’re wrong to feel the way we feel.
If we’re in pain, we tell ourselves other people have a worse time than we do, when we feel sad, scared, angry or resentful, we tell ourselves we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. We tend to make ourselves wrong for feeling the way we do.
If this chimes with you then try this.
When you catch yourself feeling bad – identify the feeling – then simply say to yourself,
“I’m feeling (the feeling) and it’s OK to feel like that.”
Repeat this exercise every time you catch yourself feeling bad.
To add power to this exercise, gently stroke your arms up and down – like you do when you’re feeling cold but more slowly and gently.
This releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.
Try it, it’s very soothing.
If any of these ideas chime with you tell me if you tried any of them and how it worked with you. But be patient with yourself. All change takes time.
With love and gratitude
P.S. If you need a helping hand, contact me for a free Obstacle Smashing Exploratory Session. By the end of it you will walk away with at least one idea to get you moving on your path to a happier and more fulfilled life. Text me on 07903 795027 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.