Generating Momentum – The Art of Tending Fire
Clients of mine, whose desire it is to have a thriving business, find it challenging to get out of their own way. Many of them are budding coaches who are passionate about their work, yet carry lifetimes of patterning that continually reminds them of how failure met them at every turn. Repeatedly, dreams of achievements are dashed, and they are left to their own undoing. Inevitably, the patterns of lifetimes ending in death leave us to remember our inadequacies to succeed in the face of death.
Exploring current circumstances, clients’ themes, and how they are tethered to lifelong patterns, make easy work of mining the root source of those beliefs, which generated the manifestation of resistance, withdrawal and playing small. It’s a wonderful game of seeking that which has been present and effective yet out of site and overlooked literally for lifetimes.
Last night, while awake, it dawned on me that I have a session with my client Rusty today, and that I’ll need to put on my running shoes for this session. This image made me smile. Working with Rusty has been a gentle and slow building of an inner momentum within her being. Like all clients, I’ve found thus far, regardless of their station in life and their achievements, she/they are all tender and vulnerable beings. Requesting coaching is out of their comfort zones, especially for Americans who are taught to be independent and that needing others proves them to be weak. It takes time to cultivate trust – within the client, of their own capacity to self-empower, and to also trust that their coach will not make them explore and face the depths of failures and weaknesses. Engaging someone like Rusty into a self-study process that explores the source of her current belief system, which manifest her current conditions and has held her hostage for lifetimes – well, it’s an art form, similar to tending fire.
A fire tenders’ job is to bring life to the being called fire, nurturing it to its brightest and fullest expression. This is what we do with our clients. And, this is what clients do with us coaches, too.
Putting a flame to tender twigs and leaves starts it all off. Shall we use a blowtorch or match? The right amount of presence and mindfulness to what is will make the process effortless from the start. Also, creating enough space so that air can fuel the flame and engage the energy within the leaves and twigs is essential. Loading up the session with more than my client can manage exhausts them, and they leave with no energy to remember how they were enlivened for too brief a time. Gentle blowing to engage – too much will put the flame out.
Throughout our work together, Rusty has cultivated an ability to sort through leaves, twigs and branches for deadwood. Deadwood has no fuel left for any internal fire to burn brightly. As Rusty chooses with more care those thoughts and beliefs that contribute to her fire, her flame kindles a spark within, which has been there all along; though smothered almost to extinction by patterns of beliefs, which continually reminded her that she had no right to shine at all.
Clients like Rusty, who return after years away from coaching, make my days happy! Because of our ongoing relationship, as she grows and generates momentum to self-empower herself toward greater degrees of fulfillment, well, it means I have to meet her – with my running shoes on; keeping pace with her own self-generated drive. Over time, Rusty and others bring to our session that which fuels our fire for excellence. Together we continually tend a fire that burns away old debris, allowing only the purest of flames of our essential nature to be ablaze!
There is no distinction between Fire Tender and Fire. There is no distinction between Coach and Client.
In the moment, both are on the edge of their seat – on the edge of their comfort zone. Simultaneously, each is expanding their bandwidth of awareness, cultivating unknown territory into the life-giving ground of being that inevitably becomes the foundation and framework of the momentum that is built through building.
I do my best work as a coach when the territory my client is inviting me into, is unknown, even desolate. This is their journey, yet they’ve asked me to be their guide, their thinking partner.
As coach and client, what is required to venture forth in this manner?
Curiosity and fascination; Courage; Faith, Patience, Trust and Knowing that all that we encounter is part and parcel of humanness. The art of tending fire requires the belief that we are here to experience that which presents itself in this moment. We are one with the fire of life. We are presence, synergy, balance, harmony, mindfulness and LIGHT.
Today is the Day!
This is the day I’ve been waiting for all of my life. Actually, it’s the day I’ve been preparing for all of my life. I thought it would be different – bands playing and a lot of whoop-ti-do. But, no; it’s just me and Gracie on the mountain, overlooking Crow Valley, clouds rolling by with the sun peeking through on occasion.
It sounds like a normal, run of the mill day, but something dramatic has shifted: I’m happy!
I used to think happy was a vacuous, mindless, blissful state. I’ve realized how much effort it takes to be happy – I mean what it actually requires is a huge amount of mindfulness.
I realize too that happy and peaceful are constants in my life. Over this lifetime, I’ve actually been creating unhappiness in so many ways – it’s ridiculous. Through imagining the future, where I hope my life will be happy and fulfilled, or remembering either when things were good or not so good; the inevitable belief underlying all my daydreaming is that something is lacking in my life.
Thinking about what I had in the past but I don’t have now, or waiting with intolerance for what has yet to arrive – well, of course I’d be frustrated, disappointed, suffering and barely surviving – not to mention full of worry and anxiety! This moment couldn’t possibly be fulfilling – could it?
I check off the items on my to-do list and wonder what value is being served by any of it. I’m finishing the re-design of my websites and wonder what’s the point! Is it really going to make a difference in the number of people who call for coaching, who buy my books or invite me to be a keynote speaker? I have no doubt that it will contribute little to my financial well-being. So why bother?
On the other hand, financial well-being aside, my life is great! And, the creative process of the website, logo, tagline and content has been a process of refining the essence of my work – the essence of me. I’ve come to define my sweet-spot in my work and resonate more clearly with the quality of the experience available when I’m in that sweet-spot. I’m now allowing myself to pick and choose my clients and students much more carefully. I have no idea whether there will be a future; and, A Course in Miracles, Oneness and other spiritual writings all say the same thing: Do what you love, let go of the attachment to the outcome, don’t worry, be happy! So, more often than not, now I’m not worrying and I’m happy!
Most of you, over the past year or so, who have been reading my blogs, know that there’s been a lot of deep work that goes into experiencing the simplicity of life in this moment. Excavating and removing lifetimes of patterns of beliefs and assumption, and all of the emotions and behaviors associated with those beliefs – well it’s damn hard work. I don’t blame people who are busy distracting themselves from personal and spiritual evolution. I say “GO FOR IT! Cause, when Spirit is ready, she will find you; and that will be the end of that! Once Spirit’s got you in her grips – well, you can’t run but you can’t hide!
I’m as creative as ever, I’m as productive as ever, and though I’d like my financial well-being to catch up with all the other ways I’m in well-being, well, it’s just a big fat be-with, and it’s a great area within which to let go, let God and continue leaping in faith. An interesting fact: Money influences our happiness by only 10%. We don’t know how little it contributes to our happiness until we have that money and find it’s not really making all that much of a difference.
This may sound depressing to many of you – because it appears as though, no matter how hard I try I just can’t get ahead. In our current paradigm, I would totally agree. However, as the paradigm shifts, the reality I once lived in is no longer the one I reside in now. I had no choice but to surrender my grip on what was, in order to embrace what is – now – in this moment. I had to let go of a belief that something was lacking in me, in my life, in the world at large. This has made room for the cultivating of awareness of a reality where nothing is lacking – in me, it or the world. In such a practice, I find peace and happiness regardless of my circumstances. And, like the Hokey-Pokey – that’s what it’s all about!
What to Do When There is Nothing to Do!
A client of mine in Toronto, Frank, is challenged in this moment with an interesting dilemma. His project is stalled due to a number of factors outside his area of responsibility. He’s in a “wait and see” place, and what he’s finding is that he’s experiencing a lack of motivation, a sense of inadequacy and he’s questioning his competence.
“Something must be wrong with me or the way I’m doing my job.” Frank says, as he’s struggling to find what’s missing in order to get some momentum going for his project. “On the one hand, I know there’s nothing for me to do but to wait for decision makers to take the next step. On the other hand, though, I keep wondering if there’s something I can do, or something I’m not doing that’s precipitating the stall. I feel unmotivated and I don’t know what to do about that.”
What Frank is calling unmotivated stems from thoughts and beliefs that arise in this period of incubation for the project. In our coaching session he and I discussed the life cycle of essentially every living thing on the planet, including relationships, corporations and projects. By viewing his project within a natural and normal cycle of being, Frank was able to draw from a reality that allowed him to take his proper place in the unfolding of his project. At the same time, he couldn’t stop himself from asking “Am I doing something wrong? What’s mine to do here? Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along?”
Frank’s questions are good ones. First things first, though. One of Frank’s fears is that people are going to find out or decide that he is inadequate. So, in circumstances such as the one he currently is finding himself, the first thought that comes to mind is How am I being inadequate that is contributing to the stall out this project?
Frank’s boss has acknowledged him for his leadership role in bringing the project to this level of completion. He’s been clear with him that he’s done everything he can and now it’s time to wait for others to do their part in order to bring about the next level of the cycle of the project. So, by all indications, there are no inadequacies on the part of Frank. This is one choice-point Frank finds himself at: Can he let go of his fear of inadequacy and allow himself to experience the full capacity of his competence? This is an important step in him defining himself as a leader.
The second question: What’s mine to do?, is the next step. At first, Frank could find nothing to do while waiting for others to do what’s theirs to do; however with a little prodding he was able to come up with a list of five tasks that would be valuable to consider.
- Make a list of all the smaller projects and tasks that have not been attended to while he’s been focused on the larger project and take actions towards completing them
- Take time with individual members of his team, connect with them, perhaps provide some mentoring and supervision – something he’s unable to do when caught up in the momentum of the project
- Meet with others in his company to talk about these types of dilemmas, perhaps brainstorming what’s possible to move projects like this along, as well as openly exploring what he may be missing, as well as provide support for each other when things are not going as planned
- Find projects outside the workplace that provide fulfillment when fulfillment isn’t forthcoming in his work
- Realize that he is more than the fulfillment of his project, and that he needs to explore other meaningful ways to bring fulfillment into his life.
For Frank, and so many of us, this last item is really important. We’ve forgotten that we are not our projects. We are not our degrees, certifications, job titles, our bank accounts, our successes or our failures. We are beings engaged with the life experiences we currently find ourselves in. We are here to be curious, to explore and experiment with what we know and what we haven’t yet discovered about ourselves. Fulfillment comes from courageously stepping into that adventure – for Frank, the adventure is exploring who he is in the midst of nothing to do. That’s it!
Frank’s final question: Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along, is also important to consider. Frank is conscientious enough to ensure that he’s doing everything he can do to keep the project moving, as best he can. He is now in the dilemma of being with patience and understanding that some things take the time they take; you can’t pull on a seedling to help move it along to becoming a tree.
This period of time is growing Frank. He too is incubating, and something is happening within him, just like his project, that, when its time, will automatically generate the beginning of the next phase of the cycle of life. This just may be the very thing required for the project to begin to get some traction. Everything is interrelated. Frank is growing the project, the project is growing Frank, and a greater cycle of growth is being generated that is way beyond our imagination. There’s more to all of this than meets the eye!
Success: Where does it lead?
Harvey, a client of mine for over four years, lives and works in LA in the television industry. Brilliant, creative and kind, he makes everyone feel appreciated by his character and presence. Harvey has finally arrived at his dream. Not only does he have the dream job for himself, he’s also getting paid what he’s worth. He is in the groove!
Harvey grew up in the bible belt of Texas. Allowing himself to be worthy of a salary that reflects all of what he brings to his career was a huge undertaking since it went against the primary tenets that money is evil, and that we shouldn’t want material comforts. The underlying conflict between being spiritual and making enough money to thrive has been an underpinning of Harvey’s financial demise for all of his adult life. Now, in his mid-forties, he’s taken the steps required to receive the full benefits and reap the rewards of all he brings to his work life. Success!
This all within the past two months; so Harvey has been adjusting to a whole new reality – money, prestige, a new BMW motorcycle and more. And …
What I love about Harvey is that he is very much awake when it comes to seeing that having arrived at his desired destination doesn’t mean the journey is over; he knows that in many ways, a new journey has just begun.
I was unsure what would show up in this coaching conversation once Harvey fully owned his worth, asked for a raise, got it and so much more. What did arise had me breathe a sigh of relief; for what Harvey brought to light was the realization that the money, the position and the motorcycle does not bring an individual to a sense of fulfillment but for just a few brief ecstatic moments.
To see that the striving for more money, prestige and power as just that, takes a breaking through of a reality that we believe to be the only reality. To see the striving as a spiritual practice changes the attachment to the outcome to something that is accumulative and builds something greater over time; we find ourselves with more wisdom, clarity and strength.
It’s not the destination but the journey
Harvey certainly wanted to enjoy the increase in income, prestige and position, as we all do; but the significance was what he had to shift in himself in order to bring this level of success to fruition. He had to dig deep beyond bible belt beliefs and family circumstances in order to truly honor his gifts. It required him to recognize all of what he brings to the workplace – just as he’s always wanted and provided for others. He had to reframe spiritual tenets to see that it’s not about the money or about worthiness; it’s about breaking through belief systems that don’t serve one’s awakening. He had to think outside the box of a very seductive context in order to realize himself more fully.
Now that he has come to this part of the journey he asks: “What do I have to do to feel comfort and security? I don’t see it as a possibility for myself.”
I wanted to ask: “Why did you get this raise and position if it wasn’t for the comfort and security that comes along with it?” It wasn’t a question to be asked out loud, not yet, because to Harvey, there was so much more going on.
Up until this moment, the edge of Harvey’s comfort zone had been receiving equal payment for the value that he brings to his work. Now that he has expanded his comfort zone to include this he is now, once again on the edge of his comfort zone – how do I allow myself to actually enjoy my life, experiencing the comfort and security I’ve created for myself. This is a whole new world he is opening up to, because he was able to get the value/worth dilemma complete – at least to this point.
There’s a point where one realizes that there is no end or finish line. Those who pretend this is so tend to mask the physical discomforts that arise when living inside a box that will consistently feel smaller and smaller. What’s the point if we never arrive at our final destination – we never get to fully reap the rewards of our labor? Why not just settle for less – less stress, less effort, less personal abuse …?
The questions lead us to ask: What is success? What is fulfillment? What’s it all about? If it’s not about stuff and winning, then what’s worth the effort?
For many people, especially men, the crisis in the mid-life crisis means coming to the edge of one’s reality, peering over, and saying “there’s nothing there!” Illnesses, job loss, collapses of the economy all bring us to these same moments of realization that reveal there’s no security, there’s no money, there’s only nothing! What’s that about?
Go forward – there’s nothing.
Stop - and there’s nothing.
The reason so many of us choose to not choose is because, whatever dilemma we face, choosing to choose brings us to the edge of our comfort zones. It requires that we be uncomfortable, that we be open to seeing ourselves and our reality different and that we be willing to explore and experiment with the countless facets of the achievement we’ve come to be, already, in this life. The edge of nothing is the same edge as thing. The practice of walking both sides of this edge, fearlessly, well, it’s pretty darn scary.
Harvey has gone forward, found that it’s not about the money, about winning or about things. He’s now onto his next big adventure, knowing that whatever he finds, it won’t be about that either. Fortunately he sees the humor in it all and we both laugh our heads off. Being in business is a very fun venture!
Good Choice – Disappointing Outcome
My client Madeleine has recently been hired as the financial manager for an international corporation. She is overwhelmed currently because she is learning the ropes of her current position while understaffed and in the midst of hiring on new staff. She’s in a pickle.
Carl, a direct report of Madeleine’s, who used to be an equal co-worker before Madeleine’s promotion, is, and has been unhappy for a number of years. Carl has complained to Madeleine all of these years, and now that Madeleine is in a position to do something to help Carl, there’s nothing she can really do in this moment, understaffed and overwhelmed. Carl is threatening to leave, which would put Madeleine into deeper angst; she just can’t afford to lose Carl and at the same time, she can’t afford the time and energy taken up by Carl and his needs. This is a dilemma for Madeleine.
Madeleine is committed to fulfilling her duties to her boss and his boss who oversees the European Market. She needs Carl to stay and do what’s required in order fulfill this commitment. She’s also committed to ensuring her colleagues and direct reports are being served effectively by her leadership. She knows that it would be best to let Carl leave, but how will she manage?
Being in such a dilemma challenges managers and executive alike. Is there a possible win-win situation here or is Madeleine facing a win-lose or your basic no one wins this time around. Sometimes that happens, you know.
One aspect of my work as an executive coach that I like so much is sitting with my client in a dilemma such as Madeleine is facing and exploring what’s possible. Given that in this current situation the outcome will create more frustration for Madeleine, she still has to choose which outcome will create the least amount of stress on her, her team and the company. That takes a lot of presence and maturity to be with such a dilemma.
How does one handle such a circumstance? Madeleine is facing a big fat be-with; a circumstance that challenges her sense of being responsible, reliable and in integrity as a company officer. She’s struggling with her identity as a person that managers and her team can count on.
It’s not that she can’t do the work; it’s not that she’s ineffective; it’s that, in this moment her circumstances are providing challenges in which she thinks she needs to get it all done and all right; however this is impossible, given her current situation.
There’s no right or wrong, good or bad, in a situation like this one that Madeleine is facing. However, the human aspect of each of us that fears for our job, our reputation, our respect and trust, is coughing out strategies, trying to put out fires as quickly as possible so as not to be found out as incompetent and replaceable.
Madeleine is prioritizing her commitments then organizing her thinking to reflect these commitments. Something or someone may have to be sacrificed. How does she choose? Does she choose to choose based on her fear that her boss will reprimand her for her lack of performance. Does she choose to choose based on already being overwhelmed and losing Carl will put her under even further? Is there another way to look at this? Is there another place from which to choose?
We all face moments in our work and personal life when there is a no-win situation. I don’t think it matters that Madeleine is new to this level of management and leadership; she’s up to her eyeballs in alligators. Now what?
Here is my point. We can’t get it right all the time. When we can’t get it right, how do we be with this dilemma, especially when so much seems to be at stake?
Corporations run as if every second counts. Madeleine’s dilemma will stop the clock one way or another. So assessing, not from panic, not from fear, not from inadequacies, but from what choice, in this moment will be most effective, is the key. Choosing to choose from grounded clarity and a level of maturity that reflects confidence in oneself; willingly relinquishing the fear of the consequences – that is what good managers and leaders do. You make your best calculated guess at what’s best to do, then let go. If you’ve done your best – what more could you expect of yourself?
This is the most challenging place to be for any corporate or business person. Letting go of your attachment to doing it right in order to please everyone. Choosing from integrity and professional wisdom is the best any of us can do. Why barrage ourselves with self-deprecating self-doubt and criticism. Allow the chips to fall and be with the you that has done the best. Acknowledge the challenge and be with the experience that comes with failing to be perfect, liked and appreciated.
The most effective leaders and managers in any business setting choose without fear of the consequences. It takes courage to take a stand for your competence, your choice-making and who you are behind the role you play at work.
Madeleine is actually in a perfect situation. She is facing certain failure, as she will face many times in her career. This is an opportunity to explore this territory of the Big-Fat-Be-With. In doing so she will realize a deeper, stronger, more resourceful self; one that will no longer be controlled or influenced by fear.