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.
The “Guilt-Free” Diet
Okay, so I found the diet of all diets! Obviously, by the title you can imagine that it has something to do with being guilt-free while engaging in any number of diets. Are you wanting to lose weight, stop spending, exercise more, quit smoking, spend more time with your sweetie, more time away from electronic companions? I get it! A guilt-free diet may be the way to go!
Throughout my whole life, my body image has been really important to me – the ‘image’ part is one thing but also the health that comes as a consequence of eating well and exercising daily. I’m far less successful than I want to be, yet I’ve been able to maintain my weight within a five pound band-width for about twenty years. Not bad, eh?
Being sixty years old, there’s nothing that will stop my body from doing all those things bodies do as they age: the sagging, creeping and wrinkling – well there’s nothing to be done but to appreciate and value the degree of health and vitality that I have today, as well as continuing to eat well and exercise daily. I’m so grateful to have the stamina and strength that I do have.
However, I keep pushing to lose weight – it’s a constant conversation in my head. And, I realized the other day that for the majority of my sixty years I’ve laid an incessant barrage of guilt and shame upon myself. Guilting myself has been the primary strategy responsible for staying thin and fit. But I realize the price I’ve paid using this strategy over others.
I decided, as an experiment, that I would stop working toward a particular weight goal, which only served over time to solidify how inadequate I am in fulfilling commitments. I would also stop the barrage of “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts” regarding everything to do with food. And, I had an “OMG” (Oh, My God!) moment. A list of attack thoughts spewed out a mile long regarding the “I’m not enoughs” that I’ve been living with forever!
I listed a minimum of 10 statements of guilt and shame that were so automatic I didn’t even know they are there. “You’ll look like an old person; you’ll get plump; you won’t be beautiful anymore; your clothes won’t fit; you’ll be out of integrity with who you say you are, on and on and on. That’s when I decided I’d go on a Guilt-Free Diet!
I heard the wee voice in my head say “What will keep me from gaining tons of weight or being a lazy good-for-nothing if I give up guilting myself? I then asked myself if the harmful side-effects of the guilt may be worse than the extra pounds I might carry. Just another one of those darn dilemmas.
Guilting oneself is not uncommon. For many of us, we don’t know any other way to manage and control ourselves but through guilt. Once I realized how I use guilt regarding food and beverage consumption, I also saw how I use it regarding work, productivity, and my financial where-with-all. I use guilt to make things happen and not happen in every aspect of my life.
Is it possible to live a guilt-free life?
So, while on this guilt-free diet, my practice is to notice the thoughts that are embedded with guilt – notice for instance, when at lunch time, the voice in my head says: “You should have a salad.” That “You Should” is most likely laced with guilt. When I’m about to do something based on that guilt-filled thought, my practice is to say STOP! Then re-calibrate my choice based on what I really want. This requires me to think like a mature and wise adult, instead of that more adolescent part of me that constantly wants what I want when I want it.
Does guilt have to be the only source of motivation?
I’m now more aware of making choices based on integrity and accountability. My intention is to enjoy life and I certainly enjoy it more feeling good and looking good. It’s a fascinating process revealing those thoughts that control and manage my behavior but are harmful and actually create dis-ease, self-hatred and other behaviors to compensate for the guilt and shame. Brow-beating ourselves usually creates the desire to anesthetize that voice – so we choose to eat, drink, do retail therapy, sex, TV, Internet surfing – you get the idea. SHEEESH!
Is There Another Way?
I want to be in alignment with my highest truth and my highest good. I know that spewing guilt thoughts at myself, and at others, for that matter, isn’t in alignment with my highest truth or good. I want health and well-being, and I also want to enjoy freedom and flexibility, which may be in direct conflict to well-being.
It’s interesting just to notice what happens when I take guilt out of the equation – not try to replace it with something else, not try to fix or heal the source of the guilt; just stop the guilt. I consider being a parent to myself and speaking without guilt – only loving thoughts – not manipulative, candy –sweet, but just love and care. It’s just an investigation, an experiment. I’m not trying to loose weight or fix my behavior in any way – I’m just exploring what IS without guilt.
Little by little, so far in this experiment, I’m realizing a greater degree of peace and relaxation – something I’ve not experienced for a very long time. I realize too, the degree to which the incessant pressure to be productive, effective, appropriate, worthy, attractive and desirable, never, never stops. It doesn’t take a vacation, and neither do I.
An invaluable resource that grows with aging is wisdom. Inevitably, we come to discover that who and what we think we are isn’t actually who and what we are at all! What matters to me more than anything else now, is that I compassionately reveal and dismantle self-loathing thoughts that impede my capacity to be the fullest expression of my essential self. How can I be anything but fit and attractive if I follow this advice?
I enjoy the adventure that comes with being curious about myself – how I’ve come to this reality I live within, in this current moment. I have no idea what will unfold from this exploration and practice. I do know that my experience thus far is that it’s contributing to a greater degree of well-being that’s guilt -free!
Saying Yes When You Mean No
I met with a team of engineers yesterday. Up until now I’ve been meeting with them individually as each was facing dilemma’s that affected their personal and professional life. Over the past couple of months all of them have gained greater degrees of emotional intelligence and greater degrees of clarity of intention and accountability for what’s showing up in their work lives. They all realize that how they are being impacts on them personally and professionally – they can no longer assume they can act on behalf of their own personal desires without negatively influencing the team, the organization as a whole and on their professional aspirations.
An exercise I do with teams is a context exercise, where we explore a specific context, such as team, to reveal beliefs, assumptions, expectations and judgments – essential what is true – in this case about teams, which has members act the way they do in relation to each other, to the team and a whole and to the organization. In this particular group, we included sport teams and teams in business, seeing the parallels and differences, and then we put together a list of what’s impossible given what’s true about teams. The process unfolded a couple more levels by exploring what needed to shift in order for the impossible to become possible and what needed to be practiced to consistently bring that into the workplace on a day to day basis.
We had consensus regarding trust, collaboration and effectiveness, being three aspects of team work that needs developing. This was all very positive. There was a high degree of exposure as each one spoke, as I hoped would happen. No one deferred, held back or was withdrawn from the conversation. This tells me that there was a degree of trust in the room that brought us to this level of disclosure and sharing.
Pride go-ith before the fall.
Their desire to elevate their own personal standing within the company is still a primary intention. Though, we talked about healthy teamwork they haven’t yet truly bought into the actualization of committing to being a good team player. Most wait until the other proves themselves trustworthy.
Meeting together as a team, with me as their coach meant they stepped into a greater degree of visibility, accountability and hopefully credibility; saying what they mean and meaning what they say. It all sounded good and I was heartened by what I heard from them, as they described the values and practices essential to being the team they see themselves being. It was a good start!
My last comment to the group before ending the session was that they will each witness the others not walking their talk. “You can get mad, disappointed; you can yell at them and blame and shame them for not showing up as they said they would; however, the practice is not how to get the other guy to do what he said he’d do; It’s focusing on you being accountable for walking your talk; looking at your response or reaction to the other’s behavior and communication in the highest good of everyone. That’s the only practice that matters – live into your own highest truth in service to your own highest good and the good of the team.”
I met with each member separately after the team meeting. It was interesting to hear feedback from each member reflecting how so-and-so said this, but doesn’t walk his or her talk – they don’t act in alignment with what they are saying. I had no doubt this was going to be part of the process. Though trust was at the top of the list of priorities for this team to be most effective, little trust has truly been earned by any one member.
Communicating from an objective point of view
Each of us face the dilemma of wanting to look good and say the right thing, yet, at the same time we are invested in having things go the way we want them to. We hope to look like we are in integrity but the fact is, people who know us and know when we are not walking our talk have no business trusting us. They are fools to believe us when they’ve most likely experienced degrees of inconsistencies consistently. How do we break the stalemate for ourselves, and how do we do that for others too.
We can’t change what we can’t acknowledge. Having a thinking partner or coach to empower you to cultivate awareness is almost essential to seeing how you operate and getting clear that the way you operate is either working in your favor to advance your career or it’s not. Pretending to be who you say you are never worked and will never work, so you might has well give it up as a way of growing yourself or your business. You’ve got to be that person you want to work with. It’s no longer possible to hope people will trust you with greater degrees of responsibility and power if you aren’t reliable with the power you have. You will inevitably find that saying yes when you mean no is a pretty unsatisfying way of doing business. You don’t like it in others – why keep believing that they don’t mind it in you?
Every Choice-point Grows Leadership
Leaders aren’t made by titles, position, and prestige; they are made by the choices they make at points in their career, which in the moment seem to have nothing to do with becoming a leader. It has only to do with current situations throwing curve balls in their direction, requiring them to make choices that are in the highest good of the company and in their own highest good as well.
Let’s say that the company you work for is challenged on many fronts. They are not fulfilling agreements made, which initially enticed you to join the organization. You still believe in the product and service, but no longer trust the competence of the leaders to generate what’s required for success to be yours. Given the current state of the situation, you feel powerless to make a difference for yourself or the company.
You saw yourself rising in the ranks to a level of leadership where you’d make a difference in how this company functions and fulfills its mission. You looked forward to the responsibility that came with the title and position. You want to make a difference but in this moment you are asking yourself why work for a company that seems chaotic, disorganized and off course.
Though you’ve seen yourself on this trajectory towards leadership, currently you feel stuck, with no clue how to choose what’s next for you. You feel as though your future may have been stolen from you and now you are at the mercy of this company to make choices that will hopefully impact in only positive ways. Should you go or should you stay? What to do … what to do.
Too often we look at the situations we find ourselves in and feel disempowered, disappointed and perhaps depressed. We’ve put trust in the company we work for to make good choices, which will inevitably bring rewards to us personally and professionally. But what happens when they don’t seem to be making good choices – choices that lead to healthy development of the organization itself, its bottom line and its employees – you in particular?
Leadership development takes place in the present moment – now! The challenges you currently face are the very elements that are required for leadership capacities to be cultivated. And, the choices you are making now, regardless of your current level of power, have a huge influence on the company. It’s rather funny how we miss this point.
We think that the trajectory to leadership is one thing and when we arrive we will have what it takes to lead well. However, it doesn’t occur to us that we actually have to develop muscles of leadership somewhere along the way. Learning theories in trainings, books and MBA’s isn’t the same as having to actualize those theories in real business situations. Every good leader learns to walks their talk through countless moments of uncertainty. They’ve learned which muscles were required for each specific situation. They strengthened and stretched those muscles – and others they were yet conscious of, in order to be the leader they’ve become. Leadership is an evolutionary process. Every confronting situation builds a repertoire of skills. Over time, those skills look natural and intuitive, as those that individual always had what it takes.
Choice-making is the essential element of leadership. How you choose to be, given the circumstances of this current moment, are very telling. Being present to the dilemmas that face the company and face you – personally and professionally, is the point where great leaders are born. They are born, not by their companies or their promotions; they actually birth themselves through every choice-point they meet.
Every one of these choice points have to be met with a level of presence to one’s personal and professional investment in the organization with the company’s needs and requirements. These dilemmas can be very weighing. Great leaders intentionally cultivate their capacity to lead in situation they meet; distinguishing all the variables at play and discerning what’s in the best interest of the company at large, which includes themselves.
In the previous article The Personal is the Professional, we explored how every choice made by every employee is personal and professional. Some choices we face are good for us but not for the company. Sometimes the choices we make are good for the company and not for us. Some are not good for either the company or for us, and what good leaders are able to discern is how to choose so that the highest good for all is attained.
Every situation provides opportunities to grow leadership capacities. Attempting to bypass challenging or confronting relationships and situations means you are missing opportunities to cultivate the very skills required to be the leader you see yourself to be.
You might be expressing frustration right now because you think you don’t know how to cultivate what’s required to be in your current situation in anyway other than frustrated, powerless and incapable of change. I encourage you – and your organization to bring in a thinking partner – a coach or mentor to empower all of you to look at your situation differently; allowing you to see the choice-point you are currently engaged in and what’s required to choose most effectively as a leader for your own development and for your company as well.
Choices made from integrity and accountability will always be in the highest good of all involved. Every moment will provide opportunities to cultivate your leadership capacities. Be curious about yourself and notice opportunities to experiment with different ways of being. Today is the day to step into the leader you see yourself to be. Enjoy the exploration!
Ignoring What We Know to be True
I deny aspects of me that I know to be true – those dark shadowy aspects that if people were to find out about – well, it could mean rejection, humiliation and annihilation. It’s best that I pretend they don’t exist.
On the other hand I have a knowing of certain things to be true, yet I deny myself these knowings too. I live in doubt and uncertainty as strategies that diminish my potential power in the world, diminish my light and visibility. In past lives, I’ve probably been murdered or tortured for standing out beyond the norm. “Won’t do that again,” we say; yet living within the protective cocoon of our disguise and pretending is also torturous.
Many of my executive clients over the years have gone through a 360 degree evaluation process, whereby they ask for feedback from lots of people they work with and live with. An enormous about of information is generated, assessed and then returned to my clients so they can see how they show up, what they bring and what they perhaps want to consider bringing to the party.
These 360 processes are really valuable, and yet, my clients share that most of what is said isn’t new to them; they are already aware of what they do well and what they need to enhance, grow and develop.
I always find this fascinating that we know what we know, yet live and work as if it weren’t so. We wait to have our internal wisdom, knowledge and experience validated by the external world. WHY?
When people are doing bad things and are caught and brought to justice, they say “I knew it was wrong and is punishable, but spare me, please.”
This is crazy making; that we have the wisdom to know right from wrong. We have a knowing beyond what makes sense in the reality of the cause and effect world; we know this and yet we choose to deny our culpability and our God-given powers to be the fullest expression of the gifts of our being.
I finished a novel last week by Michael Sky, called Jubilee Day – A Novel. It is about our current circumstances regarding those who hold the power in the United States, how they use that power and the opportunity to choose differently. It’s a brilliant book!
Most of us use our power for egoic gains. We don’t stop ourselves. We also use our power to distract ourselves from the internal knowing that, if nothing else we are violating our own integrity and the dignity of our soul. We know and we pretend we don’t know.
For those of us who attend church every Saturday and Sunday, hearing over and over the importance of using our power in support of all people, not just our little ego self, too often we ignore opportunities to practice what we preach when we enter our Monday through Friday Church of the Almighty Dollar.
We are faced with a dilemma.
Do I do what I know to be in the highest good of all – my company, employees, my own soul, or do I act in alignment with my personal desire for safety, security and control.
There is so much at stake!
Each individual is teetering on the brink of personal devastation. It is only a reflection of the devastation that we witness in all aspects of our Global system. Where current and flow of the Universal and natural unfoldment is ignored, diverted or stopped, in service to our insatiable hunger to be powerful and invulnerable in every way imaginable, we will come face to face with the consequences of our choice-making. Funny how it works that way!
If you’ve ever been around adolescents, you’ve noticed that they have that attitude of invulnerability, impenetrable to attack – They have become a super power unto themselves. As parents of adolescents, hopefully we remember our own teenage years when we knew that we knew everything, and no one could tell us any different. As adults we know it’s a stage in the learning process and that someday there will be a day of reckoning when these teenagers will fall off their pedestal and realize they are just human, just like the rest of us.
I think about the European Countries who have been around far longer than the US. In their youth they built their empires and have been super powers; and all have been demolished, have fallen into ruin, only to be rebuilt from a more mature perspective. I see the more dignified and wise ones smiling at the US, knowing of our youthful attitude of “no-one will take us down.” It is part of the process of maturing that we lose what we’ve not rightfully gained, in order to cultivate right-relationship with our currency of resources – the earth, our people, all of it.
The dilemma we face as individuals is that we are committed to holding onto our super power ideation, yet, at the same time being conscious of the cost of ignoring that fact that we can no longer build skyscrapers in the air. We hope we’ll get away with it, but …
Pretending that choosing to choose not to choose will keep us invulnerable to our human frailties is adolescent thinking at best. Inevitably, our commitment to avoiding mature and wise choice-making will lead us to a phenomenal human experience called despair. Despair is when we realize that the reality of our own creation – our skyscrapers in the air, are coming down, detonated by our own ignoring – not ignorance.
All of us face dilemmas that inevitable puts us in the line of fire of our own humanity. It’s your call to make life-choices consciously or unconsciously. From my point of view, it’s far more fun to powerfully engage in life fully awake, conscious and mature – willingly acting from a ground of wisdom and knowing … you already know what I’m talking about. Enjoy the adventure!