WORLD-SAVER SIDEBAR: CAMPFIRE STORIES ABOUT THE TEAM

 

I’ll keep blogging away about the methods the Team needs to save the world, but I also want to pepper this blog with my favorite profiles of, and stories about, some of our Teammates. For thousands of years, humans spent their evenings sitting around a fire, sharing experiences, ideas, and dreams (that’s why TV is such a hypnotically compelling attention-getter; because it’s a flickering light that tells stories). and So I want to tell a few campfire stories by the light of your computer.

I know dozens of Teammates now, from all over the world—some rich and famous, some obscure but amazing, all currently experiencing a sense of quickening.But the first person I want to mention is the one who convinced me the Team was real:My handy-dandy portable blond Zen master and Number One Son, Adam Beck.

I wrote a whole memoir about my experiences gestating and giving birth to Adam; he was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome when I was a PhD candidate at Harvard, and the entire event was life-changing for me.I had so many mystical experiences that it blew my rationalist world-view to smithereens.But there are things I didn’t put in that book, because I didn’t understand them.Now, as Team Time approaches, pieces are falling into place in the particularly spine-tingling way that things tend to happen around Adam.

Before Adam’s birth, I began believing in miracles, and this led me to hope I could magically “fix” him so that he’d be born “normal” (of course, he’s a totally normal person with Down syndrome, but I couldn’t wrap my head around that for a while).When the miracle I wanted didn’t happen, I wondered what Adam’s reason for being actually was.I never believed that he was “here to teach others,” as many people told me.I sensed he had his own life mission, but what could that be?I used to ask him, as I put him through the newborn “early intervention” exercises we did for hours every day.No answers came during the day.

But at night, when I was dreaming, Adam answered.

 

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There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Chiefs (At Least Not on the Team)

Well, hello!You’re back! That must mean you’re interested in my theories about the save-the-world Team. Whether you’re right on my wavelength, or merely fascinated by what you see as the deterioration of my sanity, I’m so pleased you’re here.

You may recall that in my last post, I hypothesized there are certain people who are born with the natural tendencies of shamans, and who feel somewhat lost and misplaced in modern society. Furthermore, these shaman-types (whom I call the Team) are feeling more and more compelled to facilitate a transformation in the way humans think and live, since without some such transformation, humans will continue to destroy the planet’s ecosystems until we’re all crispy little bits of toast. The way for Team members to be happy, I claimed, is to live in whatever way feels most joyful, since shaman-types are finely tuned to be miserable when we’re not fulfilling our life missions.

In this post I want to elaborate on what I think Team members will end up doing as we live more and more joyfully. It’s all very well to say “Follow your bliss, child!” But how does that translate into pragmatic action? How do we pay the mortgage, especially in these officially Troubled Times? How should we actually make our way in the world, let alone change it, with whatever tiny personal influence we possess?

I’ve spent my whole career helping individuals answer these questions. What I’ve found is that for Team members to live optimally, we must do three things, to wit:

 

  1. Internally (that is, in terms of our energy, thinking, and world view) we must be perpetually creative, receptive, and communicative, so that new ways of living can be expressed through our ordinary, everyday existence.
  2. Socially (in interpersonal interactions and any life situation that involves social structures of any kind) we must be leaders. Part of the obligation inherent in charting new territory is being willing—and able—to lead.
  3. Economically, Team members typically end up being paid to do steps 1 and 2.  Shamans are always – brace yourselves for this one – entrepreneurs.  The word “entrepreneur” comes from the French entre and prendre, and means “one who takes [something] into [somewhere].”  Leading your own life by thinking and behaving in total harmony with your inner nature is your full-time job.  People will pay you to do it, though how you deliver it will be unique.  However this happens, I doubt you can fit it in around a 40-hour week doing something you loathe.

My self-help work to this point has been about individual life strategies: “Finding Your Own North Star,” “Steering By Starlight,” and so on. In this and future blog posts, I’ll be covering points 2 and 3: how to lead your life, rather than following exiting patterns in any situation; and how to make a living taking (prendre) a new way of thinking into (entre) the world.So today’s topic, Team mates, is Leadership 101.

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There’s No “I” in “TEAM”…But There’s ME

Yo!  Martha’s First Blog Post!

Hi, it’s me, Martha.  I recently realized that all I really want to do was sit down and yack with my coaches and clients.  I tried doing this on the phone, and lost six pounds because I forgot to leave time to eat.  So I’ve decided a blog is the way to do my yacking.  I’ll be posting every couple of weeks.  I wish we were hanging out drinking margaritas and roasting marshmallows somewhere in a wilderness paradise, but for now, this will work for a “campfire.”

So about a year ago, I decided I was about to die.Not in a hypochondriacal or suicidal sort of way—I was healthy as a horse and happy as a clam—but because I’d finished every project and realized every dream I could imagine.I was standing on the summit of my personal Everest, looking out at the amazing view, filled with gratitude, with nothing left to climb.Since no new dreams or goals sounded interesting to me, I figured I was all finished, and was about to experience the adventure of death.

So I made sure my will was in order, doubled my life insurance, and headed off to Africa, to run a coach training course.Along the way, I had to stop at my favorite place, Londolozi, a game reserve in northern South Africa that feels like heaven. I wondered, with no little excitement, if I was destined to be killed by lions.I mean, what a way to go, right?  Tell me where I’m wrong!

But to my astonishment, no lions ate me.Instead, I got operating instructions for the rest of my life.

AND HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN.  (Probably.)

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have some sort of interest in, or at least curiosity about, my work: writing, coaching, speaking.And if you have such interest or curiosity, it’s probably because you’re on the Team.

I’ve been aware of the Team since I was a small child, though I still don’t quite understand it.I just felt oddly different from most other people, as I think most children do, except that occasionally I’d see someone and feel a small burst of recognition:“Oh!That person’s on my Team!”I had no idea why I thought this, or why some people were so clearly my Team, while others clearly weren’t.There was no age, gender, race, ethnic, or socioeconomic bias to the Team: I “recognized” people who seemed wildly different from one another.

What all these people shared was a faraway perspective, a sense of standing outside ordinary society and puzzling over its many problems.For a while I called them “Watchers,” though I had a sense they were meant to do more than just watch.At some point, I always felt, the Team had a job to do.And we were all in training for that job.

I pushed these thoughts away during my skeptical adolescent years, but they came back like a tsunami after my son Adam was born, when I was 25. I still had no idea what the Team was meant to do, but I was getting a vague picture.It had something to do with facilitating a major change in the way human beings think.I was in academia, so I figured I’d add a tiny pebble to the edifice of social science, and that would be it.No one would even notice, which was okay by me.

Over the past 20 years, the number of Teammates I’ve spotted has grown exponentially.For the past two years, Team members have been coming out of the woodwork.Many of them have simply walked up and asked me, “We’re on the same Team, aren’t we?”I’m not even surprised by this any more.I just say, “Yup.”

“Do you know what we’re doing?” they’ll say.

“Not exactly,” I tell them.“Something about a transformation of consciousness.”

“Of course,” they say, as though this is very old news.“But do you know exactly how?”

“No idea,” I tell them, then add something I heard from Teammate Betsy Rapoport: “but whatever it is, we move at dawn.”

 

The Task of the Team

This conversation happens to me more in South Africa than anywhere else (you South Africans are big-time Team, the whole kit and kaboodle of you).So I should’ve expected that instead of dying on that Africa trip, I’d awaken to a whole new slate of dreams and goals.

That trip, I met a whole slew of Team members, whose lives are about “rebuilding Eden.”I learned that Londolozi, the wildest place I’ve ever been, was reclaimed from dessicated farmland by John and David Varty, who inherited the land when they were teenagers.Since then, they’ve repaired massive swathes of land all over Africa.According to one of the geologists who’s helped them do this, it would cost $38 billion dollars to repair every ecosystem on earth.This includes having healthy humans who can live on the land by preserving it, rather than ruining it.When I read Dave Varty’s book, The Full Circle, I finally realized why I can’t die just yet.I have to help the Team accomplish one little task.

We have to save the world.

Oh. That.

Understand that I am a natural pragmatist and a trained sociologist.Long ago, I assessed the way the human population was expanding and affecting ecosystems, and decided that I’d tell my kids not to have kids, because that way there would be fewer humans to suffer when everything goes to hell and only the cockroaches survive.To preserve a world where humans can thrive, we not only have to stop ruining the planet, we have to repair much of the damage we’ve already done.Until a year ago, I didn’t think this was possible.Now I believe it may be.But it’s going to take the whole Team, pulling together.

So, are you in?

 

Your Role On the Team

There are probably millions of Teams on earth right now.I only “recognize” people who happen to be in mine, but this isn’t an exclusionary categorization, just a functional one.I’m still not at all sure how we should coordinate our actions when dawn breaks.But I can tell you some of the common characteristics of my Team, and these characteristics will give us some clues about our respective and collective jobs.See if you identify with any of these criteria:

  • You’ve always felt separate and odd, misunderstood by others while having the ability to make them feel understood.
  • You’re haunted by a feeling of having something incredibly important to do, but you don’t know what it is.Over the past couple of years, this feelings has become almost overwhelmingly intense.
  • You hate small talk, but find that large talk is not encouraged.
  • You love, love, love animals; in fact, your life feels incomplete unless you’re interacting with animals.  This is your posse:
 
  • Your childhood and adolescence were difficult.Like really, really difficult—abuse, addiction, years-of-total-despair difficult.
  • You’ve had a significant “life accident” such as losing several family members to death, being physically disabled, or having a child with a disability.
  • You’ve had a long-term, disabling and/or painful illness that was mysteriously unresponsive to medical treatment.
  • You occasionally feel compelled to learn or create certain things, without really knowing why.
  • You’ve begun meeting people who are like you, in a strange way you can’t articulate, and you feeling powerfully drawn to these people despite lots of surface differences.

If this is ringing your chimes, you’re the kind of person who, in a traditional culture, would probably have been identified as a shaman, a wizard, a druid, a medicine person.  You may also have been burned at the stake.  Oh, well, nothing is perfect.

So it’s wonderful to live in a time when the burning-at-the-stake thing has been scaled down.On the other hand, it’s a bummer to be a natural-born shaman in a culture that doesn’t believe in shamans.You may not know exactly what to do with your life.Maybe you’re posing as a therapist, a hospice worker, a human-resources coordinator, or some other identity that is our society’s pale version of tribe mystic.You probably haven’t been trained as a shaman—I haven’t been, and I’d never claim the label.But I was born with the bug.And if you were, too, we probably have similar roles in the saving of the world.

 

Getting Ready to Save the World

The traditional life’s work of a tribe shaman has two components:

1.Learn to align oneself with the Powers That Be.

2.Use connection with the Powers That Be to teach and to heal.

Of these two tasks, the former is far and away the most important.In my “life coaching” system, which is really a form of tribal teaching, we say we have to “live it to give it.”

The good news is that if you live it—if you behave according to your own ethics and constantly work to be more authentic—you can’t help giving it.People will hunt you down to ask for your advice, and they’ll feel healed by being near you.  The word “wizard” comes from the same root as “wisdom,” and wisdom is always in short supply.  It’s a seller’s market…with one catch.

The bad news is that trying to give it without living it (not walking your talk) can make you diabolical.No one does more damage than a born shaman who’s aligned with the wrong Force. Both “living it” without “giving it” and “giving it” without “living it” are impossible.  You must stay in balance to be a Good Wizard.

It’s worth noting here that the term “charisma” is a Greek word that refers to the quality of being connected to the spiritual realm.A “charismatic leader” can create either great good or great evil, be a Martin Luther King or a Hitler.Even if you were born to serve only yourself, your kids, and the dog, being born a shaman means you’ll have unusual influence, so it behooves you to live rightly.

Once you set out to live as authentically as possible, you’ll automatically download the operating instructions for your particular role in saving the world.You may feel drawn to active application of geology and ecology, like Dave Varty.You may become a politician.You may adopt a stray cat.Everyone on the Team has a different, unique path.Shamans are alike in some ways.In other ways, we’re wildly different.The way for you to teach and heal is your way only.So how do you know you’re on track?In a shamanic kinda way.

 

How To Stay On Track

Happily, shamans have a built-in safety mechanism to help keep them (us) on track: if we don’t live authentically and serve others, we become physically sick and psychologically tortured.To stay healthy and happy, you must follow your singular path, even when every bit of social pressure and cultural custom dictate otherwise.You have to realize that “shaman sense” and “common sense” may look very divergent to the people around you—but for you, the two are always aligned.

When my life was filled with activities and intentions that weren’t “on course” for me, I was clinically depressed and/or crippled by massive chronic pain, eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, and a few other incurable illnesses.As long as I live my shaman-path, however, I’m very happy and my “incurable” illnesses are completely dormant—no symptoms at all.

 

So the way to follow your own personal operating instructions is to do whatever makes you happiest.That may sound selfish, but shamans are only happy when helping others.When we’re helping, we’re happy, and when we’re happy, we’re helping.Saving a swathe of Africa, becoming a doctor, writing a book—these are all just byproducts of living in the joy zone.

Right now—ever since that trip to Africa—my operating instructions have been telling me to do what I’m doing right now: find the Team, and tell them who they are.If you’re not on my Team, this whole blog post is ridiculous to you.I don’t mind.I’ve been accused of heresy and insanity plenty of times.But maybe you’re thinking, “I’m on the Team!I’m on the Team!”If so, I’ll be writing to you and about you in future blogs.For now, all I’ll say is, this is Martha Beck, and we move at dawn, and what’s more, my dears, it is almost sunrise.

 

 

 

Confused about which of your inner voices to trust?

by Pamela Slim

A core part of Martha’s approach to life coaching is the concept of the Body Compass. Housed deep inside you, your compass is always pointed True North, towards the life that will make you happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.

The body compass speaks through your physical body. So as you think of incredibly positive experiences in your life, you pay attention to how your body feels when you are having this experience. Then, you do the same for incredibly negative experiences. (See complete Body Compass instructions at the end of this post)

Everyone is different, but many people find the following physical reactions when they are pointed in a positive direction:

  • Open, full breathing
  • Relaxed muscles, especially in the shoulder and neck area
  • A feeling of lightness and openness in the head

When pointed in a negative direction, they find the following physical reactions:

  • muscle constriction in general, in the shoulder and neck area in particular
  • tightness or “pit” in stomach
  • headaches, inability to concentrate

With this information, when you are faced with tough decisions, you can use your physical feelings to guide you towards a good answer.

But here is the catch: What do you do when your body compass talks trash? Here is an example:

My client was frustrated on our call. He is a talented musician who has wrestled with the idea of performing full-time professionally vs doing it for kicks on the side of a day job. He was unsure of the right answer, since in the past when he had done lots of live performances, he was plagued by insomnia the night before shows.

After doing the body compass exercise and lots of research and reflection, he came to the conclusion that he did, indeed, want to do music professionally. He scheduled a show, and shared the following experience with me:

“I don’t know about this body compass stuff. I did all this work to get clear on what I wanted to do, and it all pointed to music. I scheduled a gig that I was excited about and all seemed well. Then the night before my performance, the insomnia hit again. When I would start to drift off to sleep, it felt like a chemical would shoot through my body and my eyes would fly open.

If music is something that I am supposed to do, why am I getting such a strong negative signal from my body when I pursue it? Does this mean the body compass is bunk, I am moving in the wrong direction, or my compass is broken?”

I had an inkling that what my client was feeling was a strong case of lizard fears. To check my assumptions, I called Martha. After explaining my client’s situation, she said:

“Now that you mention it, in my books, I have never directly addressed the issue of how anxiety frequently comes up when you are on your path to your North Star. In my own life, I felt intense anxiety, sometimes paralyzing, when making positive life changes like writing a book or becoming a life coach. I am so used to it that I never thought to write about it. But it is very common, and can make it really hard to read your body compass.”

She suggested I look at the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. This is what I discovered, via the National Institute of Mental Health:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include:

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • muscle tension
  • muscle aches
  • difficulty swallowing
  • trembling
  • twitching
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness
  • having to go to the bathroom frequently
  • feeling out of breath
  • hot flashes

Do you notice the link with these physical symptoms and the negative body compass symptoms? Not everyone will have full-blown General Anxiety Disorder of course, but many of us experience mild versions, like my client’s insomnia.

Why do we get so anxious when we are headed in the right direction?

Steven Pressfield, in his brilliant book The War of Art describes it this way:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign.

Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.

Have you ever watched Inside the Actors Studio? The host, James Lipton, invariably asks his guests, ‘What factors make you decide to take on a particular role?’ The actor always answers: ‘Because I’m afraid of it.’

Anxiety can hit anyone, regardless of his or her level of talent (Sir Laurence Olivier and Barbara Streisand both developed social anxiety disorder at the height of their careers). It makes sense that enormous talent would feel like an enormous responsibility, which can lead to anxiety.

So how can you distinguish between “anxiety because you are on the right path” and a “negative body compass reading,” which means you are heading away from your North Star? Here are a couple of ways:

1. In The Joy Diet, Martha outlines four questions to ask when considering a course of action that scares you:

  • Is this risk really necessary to achieve my heart’s desires? Do I feel a genuine longing for whatever it is I’m seeking?
  • Does the thought of taking this step create an inner sense of clarity, despite my apprehensions? (When a risk is good for you, you may feel apprehension, but little or no confusion)
  • Do I feel only fear, or is there also a sense of toxicity akin to disgust? (Pay attention: a good risk feels like taking a high dive into a sparkling clean pool; a bad risk feels like taking the same leap, but into polluted swamp water)
  • At the end of my life, which will I regret more: taking this risk and failing, or refusing to take it, and never knowing whether I would have succeeded or failed?

2. Do the arm test

This physical exercise is your built-in lie detector. It requires 2 people.

  1. Person A asks Person B to stick out his arm in front of him
  2. Person A asks Person B to repeat one phrase at a time while trying as hard as he can to keep his arm up
  3. As Person B sticks out his arm and repeats each phrase, Person A pushes down on Person B’s arm
  4. If Person B’s arm remains very strong as he repeats a phrase, most likely this is a true statement for him
  5. If Person B’s arm is weak as he repeats a phrase, most likely this is a false statement for him
  6. It is good to start with items that fall pretty clearly in each direction. Martha’s favorite “false” statement is “I love to vomit.” A good true one (for most people, not all!) is “I love my child.”
  7. Once you get warmed up with some reactions, throw in the tough questions, like in my client’s case, “I want to play my music full time.”

I conned my son Jeffery into demonstrating this for you since the instructions can be confusing if you can’t see it live. Here is our home-grown instructional video:

Martha says she does the arm test with her drug-addicted clients with tremendous results. While their body is screaming “I want heroin!,” their arms are weak uttering the same phrase.

If you think you have any issues with general anxiety, get some professional help. There are great therapies available these days to quell your symptoms without resorting to medication.

If your physical symptoms are more like the butterflies that you get while falling in love, press on! The world is waiting for your gifts.

Do any of you have any “anxiety hitting just when achieving my wildest dreams” stories? Any effective ways you have learned to distinguish between “good” and “bad” body readings? Please share!

Addendum: Body Compass Exercise Instructions

  1. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think about an exceptionally unhappy event in your life or a very unhappy period in your life.
  2. Now focus on your physical body and notice how this memory is making you feel, not emotionally, but physically. Where in your body do you feel sensation? What kind of sensation is it?
  3. Some people notice a pit in their stomach, or tightness in their chest or constriction in their shoulders. It is really important to identify the particular place or places in your body where you feel the sensation.
  4. Now think of a name for the sensation. It can be something like “the crushed feeling” or “acid stomach.” Use a term that will help you recall the specific physical feeling.
  5. Next, assign a score from 1-10 to this negative feeling, with the worst possible manifestation ranking a 10.
  6. Complete the entire process using the memory of a very positive event or period of your life.
  7. The physical memories, named with a catch phrase and scored, will be indicators of your “bad” and “good” compass readings.

Is life just one damn thing after another?

by Pamela Slim

My cellphone rang yesterday.

“I can’t believe I’m calling you,” a woman I will call “Beatrice” said. “I don’t know where else to turn.”

“I read Martha’s North Star book a few years ago and, while pursuing a dream job on account of a man, actually made tremendous progress in my career. I have since received national awards for my work. I never thought it would be possible to get paid for work I love, but I made it happen.”

“Now my romantic life is a disaster. Today was a breaking point. I was in the Disney store with my daughter and saw an ad for a cheesy movie about a robot who finds love on another planet. I thought “Even a freaking robot finds love. Why can’t I?” and I started sobbing. My 25-year old daughter looked at me like I had lost my mind. I have been divorced for years and have gotten to a point where I am devastatingly lonely. I don’t even know where to begin to fix it. Can you help?”

This situation, while extremely painful for Beatrice, is a very common occurrence.

How is it that you can be really together in one area of your life and a wreck in another? Why can one area of your life skyrocket (career, love life, finances) and the other tank (health, relationship with kids, level of grunge in ring on bathtub)? Is it just a big conspiracy to keep you from being happy?

I think it is actually a kind and gentle way that life lets you chip away at improving different parts of yourself at different times. In the complex web of your brain, heart and spirit, all parts of your life are not always in similar states of health and harmony. This is why you see cases of:

  • The blockbuster actor going to prison for 3 years for tax evasion
  • The successful governor cavorting with prostitutes
  • The supportive husband and excellent father sticking with a dead-end, miserable job

We all become ready for change for different reasons. For Beatrice, her “Disney meltdown” was a cry for help. She realized that if she did not attend to this long-neglected part of her life, she was going to lose her mind. I have witnessed or experienced the following catalysts for major life change:

  • A father finally making a career change after learning that while he was working 200 miles away, his 3-year old son was crying for him in the middle of the night. Realizing how much he missed growing up with his own father, who had died in the Korean War, he got chills realizing he was not present in the lives of his children. So he quit his high-paying job the next day, and started a career working from home.
  • My own health crisis spurred by a toxic relationship. It took me getting severe pneumonia to finally take action to leave a poisoned relationship. Lying in bed, wheezing, with a strong fever and not even enough energy to reach the remote control that was one foot away, I realized it was time to change my life. I picked up the phone and told my best friend for the first time how bad things really were.
  • A successful young career woman radically changed her work and lifestyle after the untimely death of her mother. A now thriving entrepreneur who travels the world for a living told me that what finally moved her to quit her “secure” corporate job was the death of her mother. Suddenly, it became clear how fleeting life was, and she realized she was in charge of her own destiny.

Whatever spurs you to change, once you are ready, what do you do?

Martha’s Finding Your Own North Star is the robust road map for doing this work, and clearly lays out a methodology for how and what to do. Her new book Steering by Starlight expands and deepens this work. But if you don’t have a lot of time to read, here are a few shortcuts, drawing from some previous posts on this blog:

  1. Commit to working on this part of your life. Beatrice’s Disney meltdown moment was powerful enough for her to pick up the phone and reach out for help. She is interested in working with a coach to help her navigate what feels like the shark-filled waters of attracting a loving partner. Your defining moment will be different than anyone else’s, and may not even be voluntary, but it is worth it to step into the Ring of Fire.
  2. Examine your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Beatrice and I spent a short time on the phone, but I could tell that she had some powerful thoughts and feelings about love and relationships that were causing her a lot of suffering. Common limiting beliefs in the area of relationships can be things like:
    -All men are dogs
    -I am not lovable
    -In order to have a strong relationship, I have to give up my own needs
    -I will find love only when I lose 50 pounds/clear up my acne/finally get a nose job
    -Love hurts
  3. Once you zero in on some thoughts or beliefs that cause you suffering, apply the 4 questions from The Work:
  4. 1. Is it true?
    2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
    3. How do you react when you think that thought?
    4. Who would you be without that thought?

    and

    Turn it around.

    Master Coach Brooke Castillo put together some more tools and information on Self Coaching here.

  5. Leverage the strength you have in one area of your life for others. Beatrice told me that she totally amazed herself with the progress she made in her career. Although the process she used to get there was not ideal (In her words, “I want to make sure that I point out that I wound up with the job of my dreams because I wanted a relationship with the man I worked with. He is one annoying human being and I drove myself to reach far beyond what I ever I had before because I was trying to prove to him I could do it and I wound up proving it to myself in the process. I wasn’t exactly trying to become what I became, it just happened and then I realized 18 years ago that it was secret desire I had harbored all along. I just literally came to the point where I couldn’t keep waiting for him but by that point I was at the top of my field. I’m not sure if you’d want to recommend that method to anyone – however I think it does fall along the lines of what Martha mentions about being so attracted to someone or something that it leads you where you’re supposed to be.”)
    Regardless of how you got there, if you feel ease and strength in one part of your life, use it to remind yourself that you are capable of taking on huge challenges and succeeding.
  6. Create a positive, supportive Everybody to help you along. In Is there a conspiracy by The Man to keep you down? I describe the broad, generalized, highly judgmental “Everyone” that keeps many people from making progress in their life. You know that you need to do some Everybody juggling when your soul screams out “I must make a change in my career!” but your mind says “But everyone will think I have lost my mind if I change my job! When you surround yourself with good thoughts and supportive people, the process of change is much more manageable.
  7. Take turtle steps. Making major life changes (starting a business, looking for a life partner, cleaning up financial chaos) can bring up a tremendous amount of overwhelm and panic. If you try to tackle the whole thing, you will most likely end up on the floor of your bedroom in the fetal position. We are very fond of turtles around the virtual halls of Martha Beck Inc. (hence the photo!) and have seen the power of slow, steady, steps for making significant change. For a cool tool, try a 4-Day Win.

I am honored that Beatrice had enough trust to share her innermost fears with a total stranger (me). And that she agreed to let her own struggle be a point of education and support on this blog for others (you) who face similar challenges in your own life.

An encouraging sign? Beatrice and I are already laughing in our email exchange about the Disney meltdown moment. She was the one that suggested her pseudonym: “Call me Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing!” When you start to laugh at what has felt deeply painful and frightening, you know you are squarely on the path to your own North Star.

Happy travels Beatrice — we are cheering for you.

If you have any advice or encouragement, chime in with your comment!

Growing Wings: The Power of Change

I used to think I knew how some caterpillars become butterflies. I assumed they weave cocoons, then sit inside growing six long legs, four wings, and so on. I figured if I were to cut open a cocoon, I’d find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed. I was wrong. In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis. If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you’d find nothing but a puddle of glop. But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar.

If you’ve ever been through a major life transition, this may sound familiar. Humans do it, too—not physically but psychologically. All of us will experience metamorphosis several times during our lives, exchanging one identity for another. You’ve probably already changed from baby to child to adolescent to adult—these are obvious, well-recognized stages in the life cycle. But even after you’re all grown up, your identity isn’t fixed. You may change marital status, become a parent, switch careers, get sick, win the lottery.

Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis. I don’t know if this is emotionally stressful for caterpillars, but for humans it can be hell on wheels. The best way to minimize trauma is to understand the process.

The Phases of Human Metamorphosis

Psychological metamorphosis has four phases. You’ll go through these phases, more or less in order, after any major change catalyst (falling in love or breaking up, getting or losing a job, having children or emptying the nest, etc.). The strategies for dealing with change depend on the phase you’re experiencing. 

Phase 1: Dissolving (aka Death & Rebirth)

Here’s the Deal
The first phase of change is the scariest, especially because we aren’t taught to expect it. It’s the time when we lose our identity and are left temporarily formless: person soup. Most people fight like crazy to keep their identities from dissolving. “This is just a blip,” we tell ourselves when circumstances rock our world. “I’m the same person, and my life will go back to being the way it was.”

Sometimes this is true. But in other cases, when real metamorphosis has begun, we run into a welter of “dissolving” experiences. We may feel that everything is falling apart, that we’re losing everyone and everything. Dissolving feels like death, because it is—it’s the demise of the person you’ve been.

What to Do
When we’re dissolving we may get hysterical, fight our feelings, try to recapture our former lives, or jump immediately toward some new status quo (“rebound romance” is a classic example). All these measures actually slow down Phase One and make it more painful. The following strategies work better:

In Phase 1, Live One Day (or 10 minutes) at a Time 
Instead of dwelling on hopes and fears about an unknowable future, focus your attention on whatever is happening right now. 

“Cocoon” by Caring For Yourself in Physical, Immediate Ways 
Wrap yourself in a blanket, make yourself a cup of hot tea, attend an exercise class, whatever feels comforting. 

Talk to Others Who Have Gone Through a Metamorphosis 
If you don’t have a wise relative or friend, a therapist can be a source of reassurance. 

Let Yourself Grieve 
Even if you are leaving an unpleasant situation (a bad marriage, a job you didn’t like), you’ll probably go through the normal human response to any loss: the emotional roller coaster called the grieving process. You’ll cycle through denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance many times. Just experiencing these feelings will help them pass more quickly. 

If you think this sounds frustratingly passive, you’re right. Dissolving isn’t something you do; it’s something that happens to you. The closest you’ll come to controlling it is relaxing and trusting the process.

Phase I Mantra

“I don’t know what the hell is going on… and that’s okay.”

Phase 2: Imagining (aka Dreaming and Scheming)

Here’s the Deal
For those of us who have just a few tiny control issues, Phase 2 is as welcome as rain after drought. This is when the part of you that knows your destiny, the imago in your psyche, will begin giving you instructions about how to reorganize the remnants of your old identity into something altogether different.

The word imago is the root of the word image. You’ll know you’re beginning Phase 2 when your mind’s eye starts seeing images of the life you are about to create. These can’t be forced—like dissolving, they happen to you—and they are never what you expected. You’re becoming a new person, and you’ll develop traits and interests your old self didn’t have. You may feel compelled to change your hairstyle or wardrobe, or redecorate your living space. The old order simply seems wrong, and you’ll begin reordering your outer situation to reflect your inner rebirth.

What to Do
Here are some ways you may want to respond when you begin spontaneously imagining the future: 

Create a “Vision Board” 
Cut Out Magazine Pictures You Find Appealing or Interesting. Glue them onto a piece of butcher paper. The resulting collage will be an illustration of the life you’re trying to create. Look at the images and “feel them” or imagine yourself experiencing them for up to 10 minutes everyday. 

Let Yourself Daydream 
Your job is to try out imaginary scenarios until you have a clear picture of your goals and desires. You’ll save a lot of time, effort, and grief by giving yourself time to do this in your head before you attempt it in the real world. 

Phase 2 is all about images: making them up, making them clear, making them possible. Moving through this stage, you’ll start to feel an impulse to go from dreaming (imagining possibilities) to scheming (planning to bring your vision to fruition). Write down both dreams and schemes, then gather information about how you might create them. 

Phase 2 Mantra

“There are no rules… and that’s okay.”

Phase 3: Re-forming (aka The Hero’s Saga)

Here’s the Deal
As your dreams become schemes, you’ll begin itching to make them come true. This signals Phase 3, the implementation stage of the change process. Phase 3is when you stop fantasizing about selling your art and start submitting work to galleries, or go beyond ogling a friend’s brother to having her set you up on a date. You’ll feel motivated to do real, physical things to build a new life. And then…(drum roll, please)…you’ll fail. Repeatedly.

I’ve gone through Phase 3many times and watched hundreds of clients do the same. I’ve never seen a significant scheme succeed on the first try. Re-forming your life, like anything new, complex, and important, inevitably brings up problems you didn’t expect. That’s why, in contrast to the starry eyes that are so useful in Phase 2, Phase 3 demands the ingenuity of Thomas Edison and the tenacity of a pit bull.

What to Do
Expect Things To Go Wrong 
Many of my clients have an early failure and consider this a sign that “it just wasn’t meant to be.” This is a useful philosophy if you want to spend your life as person soup. To become all that you can be, you must keep working toward your dreams even when your initial efforts are unsuccessful. 

Be Willing to Start Over 
Every time your plans fail, you’ll briefly return to Phase 1, feeling lost and confused. This is an opportunity to release some of the illusions that created hitches in your plan. 

Revisit Phase 2 
Adjusting your dreams and schemes to include the truths you’ve learned from your experimentation. 

Persist 
Keep debugging and reimplementing your new-and-improved plans until they work. If you’ve followed all the steps above, they eventually will.

What goes on in the cocoon of change isn’t always pretty, but the results can be beautiful. Martha Beck talks you through the four phases of human metamorphosis. Get ready to fly!

Phase 3 Mantra

“This is much worse than I expected… and that’s okay.”

Phase 4: Full Flight (aka The Promised Land)

Here’s the Deal
Phase 3 is like crawling out of your cocoon and waiting for your crumpled, soggy wings to dry and expand. Phase 4 is the payoff, the time when your new identity is fully formed and able to fly.

What to Do
The following strategies—which can help you optimize this delightful situation—are about fine-tuning, not drastic transformation. 

Enjoy! 
You’ve just negotiated a scary and dramatic transformation, and you deserve to savor your new identity. Spend time every day focusing on gratitude for your success. 

Make Small Improvements 
Find little ways to make your new life a bit less stressful, a bit more pleasurable. 

Know That Another Change is Just Around the Bend 
There’s no way to predict how long you’ll stay in Phase 4; maybe days, maybe decades. Don’t attribute your happiness to your new identity; security lies in knowing how to deal with metamorphosis, whenever it occurs.

Phase 4 Mantra

“Everything is changing… and that’s okay.” 


This is a foundational concept to my life coach training program.  All of my life coaches are trained to understand and coach their clients through the change cycle. You can read more about it in my book, Finding Your Own North Star, or understand it and work through it with one of my Martha Beck Life Coaches.