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Freedom from Fixed Ideas…Wisdom from Martha

Freedom from Fixed IdeasAlmost every client I’ve ever coached, including multi-millionaires, has been worried about money. Everyone’s after the magic that will pop abundance into their bank accounts. Often, that magic is hideously oversimplified, boiled down to ridiculous magical thinking.

On the other hand, everything I’ve observed in decades of coaching and observation tells me that there really is a process—subtle and far from obvious, but real—that draws wealth to some people, and almost seems to snatch it away from others.

I’ve spent enormous amounts of time pondering this, thinking of all the people I’ve coached, trying different processes myself. Recently, I realized that I’d formed a subconscious conclusion—one that surprised me. In my experience, two things combine to enable financial success. No, they are not family wealth and the ability to cook blue meth. They are freedom from fixed ideas and attention to inner guidance.

The first element is one very few of us ever try to develop. We’re told to believe a thousand things, but the value of releasing beliefs easily isn’t one of them. For about three centuries the Western economy has been dominated by jobs that require fixed, repetitive actions. A large number of these jobs, up to…um…all of them, are now vanishing. (For a great current analysis of the decline and fall of jobs, check out this article in The Atlantic: A World Without Work.)

The possible disappearance of all jobs isn’t bad news for those who are willing to fall back on the traits that made us such a successful species long before jobs were ever created: our ability to master unfamiliar environments and tasks by playing, fumbling, experimenting, and observing. Returning to the open mind-state that’s natural to all of us enables us to spot new opportunities when old ones disappear and create innovative solutions to unprecedented problems. And this is how one succeeds financially in a time of massive change.

Freedom from fixed ideas also opens our attention to a subtle but consistent source of guidance that seems to come from within. Think back on any major decision you’ve made, bad or good. Hold the memory of making the decision in your mind, paused like a frozen screen. Now, get very quiet and feel within yourself for a calm knowing that said either, “Yes! You go!” or “Um, no. Not so much, dear.” I used to think this kind of guidance was only available to the enlightened. But in working with thousands of clients, I’ve come to believe it’s always right there, nearer than near, whispering a calm truth. Find that voice. Follow it. You are guided.

If these instructions sound frustratingly nonspecific, it’s because I can’t know what your internal guidance will say. Only you can. Ask yourself, right now, how to succeed at anything you’re trying to accomplish. Then let go, get still, and allow. An idea may occur. It will be simple, straightforward, and clear. It won’t tell you your future. You’ll simply know to do something, now. Do it. Then repeat. Luck won’t get you to the life you want. Neither will hard work, good grades, or connections. But freedom and faith in yourself will. Despite everything you may have been taught, it’s letting go, not holding on, that can always show you the way.

How to Track Your Perfect Career

compass on mapAt first I trusted my car’s global positioning system—why not?—but soon its smooth voice began sounding like the homicidal computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Turn left now,” the GPS would command as I drove along a freeway, with concrete barriers to my left. “You have reached your destination,” it would assure me after leading me to a warehouse full of prostitutes and crack dealers. Once my kids programmed it to speak French, the GPS abandoned all pretense of helpfulness and began directing me southward in any and all circumstances. Presumably it was heading for Mexico to escape fraud charges.

These days, listening to my clients talk about their careers reminds me how bewildered I was by my demon guidance machine. People wander aimlessly because the well-worn paths of yesteryear—and by that I mean 2013—are disappearing, while strange new career options pop up before our frazzled brains can map them. The more new technologies and job descriptions have entered everyday life, the more my clients tend to become confused and overwhelmed, finding themselves facing a dead end. Like most of us who have no clue about how to get to where we want, they long for a voice of authority, a career GPS, that will spell out the exact route to a thrilling and fulfilling position. Although they keep beavering away at a solution, researching their options and seeking the advice of people with hot new ideas for them (“Use this career-finder app!” “What you need is a website!” “Blog, blog, blog!”), people end up in my office more muddled than ever. They tell me things like:

  • “There’s so much going on, and it sounds exciting to me, but I feel paralyzed about which new thing to follow up on.”
  • “I keep reading about all these new opportunities, but I don’t really understand them, and I’m afraid I’m being left behind.”
  • “I’d be happy to follow my passion…if only I knew what it was.”
  • “I worry that if I commit to one career, I’ll lose out on something better.”

If any of these sound like you, don’t bother with classic career guides; like my GPS, they’ll have you meandering in circles, stumped at dead ends, or just profoundly lost. The fact is, as we’ve become accustomed to our overmanaged, overstimulated 21st-century lives, we haven’t realized that there might be another—decidedly low-tech—way to get onto the right path.

I suspect you’ve been advised to think rationally about your career decisions. That would be a big mistake. You might expect people with damage to the emotional parts of the brain, presumably free from the distractions of emotions, to be brilliant decision makers. Quite the opposite. Though they retain full use of their rational faculties, such patients are tragically indecisive, endlessly debating logical pros and cons, unable to choose any path. Their brains send out random, contradictory, and confusing directions, like my rogue GPS. It turns out that, as Jonathan Haidt writes inThe Happiness Hypothesis, “it is only because our emotional brains work so well that our reasoning can work at all.”

Although humans are the only beings on Earth with advanced linguistic skills, any animal with a brain has the automatic capacity to form preferences. It’s an irrational sense of “Yes, this!” that takes a migrating goose a thousand miles to its perfect nesting ground, or a whale to its calving waters an ocean away. To find—or rather, design—your perfect career, you have to let your animal self lead you through a wilderness of choices. The way to do that is to make your rational mind not the master but the tracker of your own irrational instincts.

Tracking Your Inner Animal

I was trudging down the traditional career path of academia when my students, weirdly, began offering to pay me for advice. I didn’t think of it as a career path; I’d never heard the phrase “life coach,” and if I had, I’d have gagged like a sommelier drinking Kool-Aid. But I loved my students, and I loved helping them build happy lives. My emotional self trotted cheerfully forward, enjoying the scenery, while my rational, verbal GPS argued, puzzled, and worried:

Animal brain: Me like this!

Rational brain: But what are you doing?

Animal brain: Me like this!

Rational brain: Is it secure? Is it respectable?

Animal brain: Me like this!

Rational brain: Get a job, dammit!

This process continues even now, with my animal self migrating through unknown territory as my logical mind struggles to make sense of where in God’s name I’m going. How grateful I am to be familiar with what one expert describes to me as deductive/predictive animal tracking. It’s helped me calm my nerves and follow my animal into a thousand joyful and productive career events I never dreamed possible.

Deductive/predictive tracking goes like this: Locate a clear footprint left by an animal you’re trailing—a so-called hot track. Make an educated guess, based on the animal’s previous behavior, about where the animal would probably have gone next. Proceed to that spot. Look for more tracks. If you find no tracks—if the trail runs cold—return to the last hot track, make another educated guess, and repeat. Using these steps, you can follow your wild self as it instinctively migrates toward your perfect career:

Step 1. Discover your hot tracks.

Grab a pen and make a list of every time you remember being utterly, happily absorbed in an activity, no matter how odd. This focused attention is the hot track you’re looking for, evidence that your animal self was here. For example, my client Adeline loved helping her mother bake, playing doubles tennis, assisting her husband as he built his business, and raising money for AIDS research. Dora was happiest while shopping, throwing ceramic pots, and gardening. Lily loved singing in her church choir, going to parties, volunteering for political candidates, and working at a large marketing firm. Write your own list of hot tracks from the past.

Step 2. Predict the next track.

If you were tracking bison in the wild, you might notice they migrate along predictable grassy routes. Geese, by contrast, follow a route from one marshy area to another. To predict the next likely step for your inner animal, scan your environment for conditions that seem likely to foster that happy state of absorption, but are just outside your regular routine. Try an activity within that sphere to see if it’s a hot track.

Warning: Many people assume that a hot track is leading them toward a job directly related to that track. Unwittingly, they start heading to the nearest “logical career.” For example, Adeline’s love of baking initially led her to train as a pastry chef. Dora’s shopping passion convinced her she should work as a retail buyer. Lily decided to run for office. Perfectly reasonable predictions—but all these trails froze. Adeline found culinary school boring, Dora loathed working with retailers, and Lily became exhausted and disillusioned running for city council. The lesson: Even if you’re pursuing a course that’s perfectly rational—a job that makes total sense on paper—emotions like boredom, hopelessness, anger, or anxiety mean the trail’s gone cold.

Step 3. Return to the last hot track and repeat step 2.

Many of my clients continue endlessly on cold trails. Some cling to established career paths, imagining that the next promotion will bring happiness, despite the obvious lack of clear hot tracks such as enjoyment, fascination, or any heartfelt desire (apart from the wish to bang one’s head against a wall). Others gallop along any path, without pausing to check whether it’s one their animal prefers. Still other clients give up hope and plod along in so-so jobs. I can’t say it enough: If your trail runs cold, return to your last hot track and test a new prediction.

When Adeline went back to her hot tracks and focused on the elements that connected them, she noticed her animal had left a trail of relationships. She loved working with strong, decisive partners. Dora’s hot tracks always related to arranging colorful objects. Lily’s hot tracks led to large, active groups; teamwork, not politics, was her bliss.

Step 4. Follow your tracks wherever they lead.

You have to commit to following your animal—even if it seems to have the directional ability of my poltergeisted GPS. Trust me, your animal will eventually bring you to the job you were meant to do. Once Adeline realized her strong-partner theme, she teamed up with a friend running online boutiques for custom-designed clothing. Dora discovered that computer graphics let her assemble gorgeous color combinations with a few clicks. She’s now a website designer. Lily agreed to organize a conference for an ex-coworker’s business and enjoyed it so much, she began freelancing as an event planner.

Note that all these careers use new technologies, but technology was not the track. Adeline went looking for a business partner and just happened to find one with a “virtual” shop. Dora was surfing websites when she noticed that the colors of the sites themselves attracted her. Lily hated computers but loved using social networking to connect with people. All began with “What do I enjoy?” and proceeded to beat the bushes for their best-loved activities. New technologies simply facilitated their passions, which, as I used to tell my GPS, is what technology is meant to do.

As you track your career, remember that your inner animal is following primal instincts, not established paths that will necessarily impress your parents, spouse, and friends. Their expectations—and yours—are an outdated guidance system that will only send you sideways and, in my experience, due south. We live in an increasingly civilized, rational-minded, tech-obsessed world. It’s time to break out: Let your wild self explore wild career ideas. Of course, if this makes you nervous, you can always go grovel for a low-paying version of that civilized job you loathed. But as the poet Mary Oliver puts it, “meanwhile…the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” Answer that call, following your instinct through the wilderness of career options, and your inner tracking system will take you to exactly the terrain that’s right for you. Me like that!

Find Your Purpose and Power: Rediscovering Your Superhero Self

1041406_30891902Several years ago, pretty much everyone I know became a huge fan of the television series Heroes. The show’s premise is that people all over the world begin discovering that they have superpowers—they can hear thoughts, manipulate the time-space continuum, become strong enough to break through steel bonds, etc. The kinds of things that couldn’t possibly happen on this planet. Except they do. I watch regular people make these kinds of discoveries just about every other Thursday. Here’s a metaphorical but only slightly exaggerated version of my typical coaching process. Some nice, ordinary-looking person comes to me and says, “I’m Clark Kent, I’m Diana Prince—and somehow my life got off course.” Sometimes they say that perhaps in childhood or perhaps at work they zigged when they should have zagged, sailed south when they should have sailed north. “One morning,” they say, “I woke up thinking, ‘Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?'” “The problem isn’t your situation,” I always tell them (because it’s always true). “The problem is your lenses.”

“My lenses?” the person says, looking at me as though the bloom is definitely leaving the rose.

“I mean the way you see,” I explain. “Your psychological perspective.” I don’t mention (yet) that I’m also alluding to Clark Kent’s eyeglasses, which disguised his real identity. I know that whenever I can help an “ordinary person” remove a set of distorting perceptual lenses—zap, pow, shazam!—I’ll see them levitate right off the floor, flexing steely muscles under neon-colored outfits. When this finally happens, it doesn’t surprise me. But it usually shocks the hell out of the client.

“Oh, my God!” says Superman or Wonder Woman. “Who am I? What am I doing? Holy transfiguration, Batman, what should I do next?”

“I have no idea,” I say.

And at that point, we’re finished.

Because I’m not Batman, or the Forecast Phenom, or the Psychedelic Psychic, or whatever. I was born with just one superpower: the ability to see other people’s superpowers. So I can tell you that pretty much everyone (including you) is a superhero, and that every superhero (including you) has an incredibly important life mission. Figuring out what that mission is? That’s up to every individual hero (including you).

I’m telling you all this because recently I coached three women who were unsure of where they were supposed to be in life. Their path forward looked fuzzy. They thought this was because they were in confusing situations. But I saw each woman looking through her own particular sort of distorting lenses; the fuzziness wasn’t in the surroundings but in the way they saw. At moments when your life appears bleak and the way forward indistinct, the same thing is almost certainly happening to you.

Most people try to think their way out of these kinds of problems. From my perspective, however, adding more ideas to these three women’s heads would be like forcing Clark Kent to add assorted sweaters, parkas, and goggles to his nerdy suit and specs. Finding your purpose and power requires stripping certain thoughts away like street clothes until you hit Lycra. My job with the three women I’d be coaching was to help them peel away illusions until their superhero identities emerged. While we’re following their stories, I’ll throw in some hints that may help you, too, take off your “normal” disguise and liberate your true, superhero self.

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Make It Pay… Insight From Martha

I am coming to you from Londolozi South Africa where I am running our annual self-transformation adventure retreats. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

That last sentence was ironic. The fact is, of course, that I am bizarrely fortunate to be doing what I’m doing right now. That said, this good fortune came my way because my friends and I decided to make it happen. I just said “This is a tough job.” But of course, it’s not a job in the sense that most people use that word. I didn’t go down to the unemployment office in Phoenix where I live and ask an employment officer to please find me a job running luxury safaris in South Africa. I didn’t send out a bunch of resumes and out of the clear blue sky get an offer to do this for money.

Insofar as I can even call this a “job,” it’s a job I made up. I am continuously amazed by the way people frantically look for jobs when almost nobody likes them and they are going away. Most of the clients I’ve coached tell me two things: #1) They absolutely hated all the jobs they’ve done in their lives, and #2) They desperately need another one. This is insane, all by itself. The whole construct of a job is just a cultural anomaly that has existed for a brief period of history. We are problem-solving animals, born with brains that can make astonishing things like computers and Toll House cookies. Why in God’s name would such an astonishing creature submit to a lifetime of drudgery on the assumption that there is no other option, even when that option no longer works?

This may sound a little mercenary because of the way our culture deals with money (obsessing about it continuously without ever mentioning it out loud), but I’m going to say it anyway. Think of something you really really really love. Then repeat the following phrase in your mind: “Find a way to make it pay.”

You may think that the thing you love has no possibility of creating income. You may think your survival hinges on replicating what somebody else made up and labeled “job.” But do you know what that person was doing? He or she was thinking, “Find a way to make it pay.” All jobs are invented. And you can invent a job that has never existed before. In fact, this is the single most important skill you can have in the 21st century­—not to do a job but to invent a job.

Some people get so indignant, even enraged, when I talk this way. They say things like “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you had all the skills and training to do what you’re doing!” But I have trouble recalling even a single moment during my education and training when someone said, “Yes, a PhD in Sociology is just what you need to take groups of Americans rhinoceros tracking for considerable sums of money.”

You can find a way to make it pay.

You can find a way that serves the world, serves your customers, and serves your soul. The job you are meant to have has not yet been named. It has not yet been imagined. It is waiting in the confines of your own heart to take shape in the world of form. I’ll talk to you next month. Right now I’ve got a job to do. Those rhinoceroses are not going to track themselves.


Photos Courtesy of Susan Honnell (c) 2012

Balancing Act: The Dance of an Unbalanced Life

Here is typical scenario from when my children were younger: It’s five o’clock in the morning. I’ve been awake for about 23 hours, having struggled vainly to fit in writing between yesterday’s tasks: getting the car fixed, taking the dog to the vet, answering email, grocery shopping, driving my kids to music lessons, seeing clients, picking up deli sandwiches for dinner, and cuddling one of my children through some of the horrors of growing up. I finally sat down at my computer around midnight—and looked up just now to see the sun rising. 

Since I’m up, I decide to set a historic precedent by preparing breakfast. All goes well as I awaken my children and head to the kitchen, at which point I remember how much I hate to cook. I even hate to toast. The kids arrive, yawning, and ask what I’m planning to serve them. I think for a minute, then say, “We have Oreos.” 

My children roll their eyes. 

“We have cocaine,” I venture. I’m pretty sure they know this is a joke. I’ve never seen cocaine, much less tried it—although frankly it’s beginning to sound like a good idea. Isn’t that how Sigmund Freud got so much done? 

Understand three things: (1) I don’t have a job. I am a writer, which means I procrastinate and get away with it; (2) my children are not young. They walk, talk, bathe, diagnose their own viruses; and (3) I’m kind of supposed to be an expert at combining career and family. I conducted years of sociological research on the topic, wrote several big fat books about it. Plus, I’m a life coach. You’d think I could live a balanced life as a 21st century American woman. 

Ha. In fact, having done all that research, I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn’t say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn’t say it’s rare. It’s impossible. Our culture’s definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way. 

Henry David Thoreau’s classic book Walden recounts two years the author spent living in solitary harmony with the wilderness. The book’s premise is that all humans could live simply and naturally, as Thoreau did. As a teenager, I loved Walden. Years later, as an exhausted working mother, I learned something Thoreau failed to mention in his journal: The entire time he was roughing it, his mother and sisters helped care for his needs, hauling in food and hauling out laundry. The reason Thoreau didn’t write about this is that he took it for granted. Like most thinker’s of his generation, he saw “women’s work” as a product of natural female instinct: Birds fly south for the winter, and women show up to wash men’s underwear. Okay, so I’m a little bitter—but only because this attitude pervaded American culture well into my own lifetime. 

Early American feminists fought for the right to participate in the workforce by assuring everyone that it was easy to do women’s work—perhaps with one’s toes, while simultaneously performing jobs traditionally reserved for men. I once believed this, and I have the colorful medical history to prove it. Women of my generation thought we could have everything; experience taught us we could have everything but sleep (one sociologist who studied an early cohort of working mothers wrote, “These women talked about sleep the way a starving person talks about food”). Bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan while never letting hubby forget he’s a man turned out to be a logistical challenge to rival the moon landing, but without support from Houston.

Three Ways to Lose Your Balance 

I spent the last decade of the 20th century interviewing American women and found that no matter how they sought balance, virtually none of them attained it in their culturally prescribed role. Some of these women were like Meg, a stay-at-home mother who sacrificed her career to care for her children, only to feel devalued by a society that equates professional achievement with fundamental worth. Others resembled Laura, a 43-year-old lawyer who never got the marriage or children she’d always expected. Laura’s heart ached every time she attended yet another baby shower. At work, married people dumped extra work on her, figuring she had no life. But most of the women I spoke to were like Stephanie, who had a good job, two children, and chronic fatigue. For years Stephanie’s boss complained that her work was inadequate because of the time she devoted to her family, while Stephanie (and her relatives) worried that her children were suffering because of the energy required by her work. 

Many of these women were haunted by the fear that others were judging them negatively. They were right. Our culture does belittle women who cannot be both professional high-achievers and traditional moms. It questions the devotion of women who attempt to combine the two roles. My conclusion? Balance, schmalance. Trying to establish a harmonious equilibrium between our society’s definition of What a Woman Should Be is like trying to resolve the tension between two hostile enemies by locking them in a room together. But there is hope. 

The Joy of Being Unbalanced

If someone condemned you because, say, you failed to prevent Hurricane Katrina, you wouldn’t dissolve in shame or work to overcome your inadequacy. You’d probably conclude that your critic was nuts, then simply dismiss the whole issue. That’s the wonderful thing about seeing that our society makes impossible demands on all women. You free yourself to ignore social pressures and begin creating a life that comes from your own deepest desires, hopes, and dreams. You’ll stop living life from the outside in and begin living it from the inside out. 

That’s what happened to Meg, Laura, and Stephanie when each lost her balance in a dramatic way. Meg, the stay-at-home mom, hit the end of her rope when her husband left her for a “more accomplished” coworker. Laura’s turning point was an emergency hysterectomy that meant she would never have the baby shower of her dreams. Stephanie finally realized she was trying to do the impossible the day her mother-in-law scolded her for working too much and she was fired for being too concerned with her personal life. 

There will moments when you really “get” that the expectations you’ve been trying to fulfill are unfulfillable. This epiphany was terrible, because it meant relinquishing the goal of total social acceptance. But it was also the beginning of freedom, of learning to seek guidance by turning inward to the heart, rather than outward to social prescriptions. After her crisis, Laura discovered a passion for gardening that led her to quit her corporate job and start a floral nursery business. Meg spends her time contributing to the local schools and developing relationships that help her see her own value. Stephanie got a new job by developing a proposal that showed how she could add value to a company while working from home. 

On the surface, these aren’t revolutionary acts. But they filled each woman’s life with authenticity and satisfaction. If you feel trapped by contradictory demands, you may want to join this gentle rebellion. You can help create a new cultural paradigm, one that replaces conformity with honesty, convention with creativity, and judgment with kindness. That, in the end, is the gift of the disequilibrium that society has bequeathed to all of us. Being forced to seek balance within ourselves, we can make our unsteady, stumbling days feel less and less like disaster and more and more like a joyful dance—the dance of a wildly, wonderfully, perfectly unbalanced life. 

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!