Client Insights – Do You Savour Your Life?

Client Insights – Do You Savour Your Life?

Client Insights is an occasional series of articles on breakthroughs that clients have experienced during coaching sessions. Client details changed to protect those released to fly.

One special client I worked with was Susan. She embodied the spirit of beauty in all aspects in her life. She found unending joy in creating beauty in her home, with her clothes and accessories, and in life in general. What she saw in beauty and creativity was excitement, and bringing them to life gave her that thrill. Her local art store was the first place she headed to when she felt disconnected from her creative source.


Susan wanted to see if coaching could help her improve her physical condition so she could continue taking on creative projects.  She had been diagnosed with a disabling condition that was expected to worsen over time. She wanted to explore the options she had to continue her deep connection to creativity. When we first started working together, she had put her creative projects on hold to focus on her health. 


She felt she was handling her health well – doing all the things she could to take care of herself and surround herself with caring specialists and talented alternative therapists.  I asked her to check out her hormone levels with her doctor.  As we hit peri-menopause, our sex hormone levels start bouncing around from day to day and underlying stress hormone issues can pop up. Some of the symptoms we attribute to other conditions can potentially be the symptoms of stress.


Understanding Your Strengths


It was easy to see that Susan could count on her strengths of creativity, kindness, excitement about constantly evolving and expressing herself through art. Her heroes were women in the popular media who made a success for themselves by being true to their creative, nurturing spirit.  They were the ones we all love – who’ve lived their lives along with us.


Her immediate circle – family and daily contacts – were much more conservative and “left-brained” thinking.  As much as they loved her, they didn’t know how to react to her “flightiness” – her multiplicities.  As much as she loved them, Susan felt a bit like a fish out of water with them.  Even though she didn’t really think of herself in these terms, she was the sole artist in her world. They did not get her talents.


And when she looked at the world through their eyes, she did not get her talents, either.


I asked her: “Have you ever done anything to savour your accomplishments?” She found them hard to see as accomplishments even though they were of staggering brilliance (her talents shone in design and she could make just about anything). For her it was moving from one challenge to another, without making a big deal out of it.


When she stopped to savour her talents and really look at how she was using her strengths all the time, she was excited by the amount of creativity that already existed in her life. 


Susan’s big shift was realizing that she didn’t have to work towards what she wanted.  She already had everything she needed. When she realized this, she got a sense that time opened up for her. Time wasn’t something she had to fight to preserve anymore.  She was free to savour the time she had now.


When she re-ignited her creative vision, she grew even more in patience and kindness to help teach the people around her what she needed and how they could support her vision.


The shift that Susan made in her own thinking created space for her to disengage with the fear of change in those around her. The symptoms of her condition improved, opening up more possibility for new creative projects.  She looked great and said she felt great.


Now my question to you . . .


Do you savour your life?  Do you look at your talents and uniqueness with a kind and loving eye?

Image: iStockphoto

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Client Insights – Being Enough

Client Insights – Being Enough

Client Insights is an occasional series of articles on breakthroughs that clients have experienced during coaching sessions. Client details changed to protect those released to fly.


Before we get to the rest of the post, I wanted to remind everyone that today is an official “blue moon”.  What it means is that August has two full moons this month – one on August 2nd and one on August 31st. It’s not really anything more a scheduling blip between the calendar and the moon. But it does remind us to go and do something we only do “once in a blue moon”.  I gently suggest that you make that something fun.


Penny and I were coming towards the end of our sessions and I was feeling like we had just started getting close to the heart of things. I was constantly amazed at the tales of accomplishment she would bring to our sessions, but concerned because she didn’t see them as accomplishments herself. She couldn’t bask in the glory of her talent and awesomeness.

I really enjoyed coaching Penny – she has a lovely, ironic sense of humor and always showed up to coaching raring to go. She’d been working at the same place for over a decade before making a change to a new company, right around a milestone birthday. She was worried about falling into the same patterns at work – of being the underappreciated office go-to who got left holding a lot of bags. She was starting to feel that her personal time was more important and she wanted to have more control to focus on life outside of work.

We circled through a number of calls as Penny was establishing who she was going to be at her new job. She was determined to make things be different this time, but was often unsure as to how to do that. She found herself falling into old patterns, even in the new environment. We talked about the things that gave meaning to her life – spending time with friends, having downtime at home and, most importantly, getting back to a writing career that she’d put aside to make it in the “real world”.

The place where core values and actions fail to meet is a juicy place to spend time in coaching.  I wanted Penny to get really clear for herself: “What is it about writing that is most meaningful for you?” She felt writing let her express herself in way that was never open to her before.  She had absorbed the lessons of early life to be hard-working and always do a good job at your paid job. The first big aha she had was when she made the important distinction between time spent and time invested. She realized that spending time writing was an investment in her and not a silly hobby spent to pass the time.

Her insights started coming fast and furious from there.

On the next call she mentioned speaking to a co-worker late on a Friday afternoon.  He was bemoaning the fact that the week had run late, and he had so much work for next week, and his weekend was booked with family events, and he had so much to look after at his house, and . . . . .  Penny laughed as she called him a “sad-sack”, moaning about the state of his life when he was steeped in abundance.  The abundance of a good job, of a healthy family, of a loving home.  She marvelled at how he couldn’t see the riches that were right in front of him.

And then she said something that made me cheer inside.  “You know, Deirdre, I saw too much of myself in him. Seeing life for the burden that it is and not for the gift.  And now I see how my previous co-workers saw me. No wonder they avoided me.”  She chuckled for a moment – good sign, I thought.  And then she said something that really made me cheer. “I want more for myself from now on.”

Her first act was to put aside the perfectionism she’d been controlling herself with for years. She decided that her best efforts were going to be enough for her job.  What is truly remarkable about this insight is that she broke through something that keeps so many of us stuck in life. 

She decided she was enough.

After that huge insight, many of the qualities of that Penny wanted in her life fell into place – a bit like dominos.  She felt a lot more efficient, and much less anxious, at work. She knew what she was capable of doing and decided to do her best to not worry about the rest. She decided to change up her exercise routine to suit her mood. She wanted to capture the great days to walk outside with her husband during the summer.  She felt that coaching had freed her up to take less responsibility for everyone else’s experience and more for her own.

And she started writing regularly. 

So I ask you . . .

Where do you downplay your achievements?

Are there core values in your life that you’re not taking daily or weekly action to express in your life?

What is one small action you can take to plant a seed of creative self-expression?

Image: iStockphoto

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Illness as a Road to Wisdom.  Or Not.  Your Choice

Illness as a Road to Wisdom. Or Not. Your Choice

A kind friend (and lovely soul) sent me a poem this week on how illness and suffering can help us remember our best self – our compassionate, patient and accepting self.  Illness is never a welcome guest. It throws our daily lives into chaos and forces us to strip away the fluff. But we have so much time and energy invested in the fluff that its removal adds yet another layer of anguish to our days. All the things we should be doing . . .  What will I miss? What will I lose?

Illness offers us a time to re-evaluate our lives and to grapple with some of the deeper human issues we skate over in our daily life.  How each person grapples with the questions and searches for answers is as unique . . . as each person. There are those, like author Toni Bernhard, who see a path to spiritual grace inherent in illness. They see the chance to transcend illness and find meaning and connection and to appreciate the moments of grace and healing.

Others find that perspective a crock. The idea that illness has special powers to teach and transform is an offensive and distressing burden to place on someone who is already at the edge of coping. As Jessie Gruman, a physician who writes about her experience with cancer, says: “If I do not find spiritual or philosophical benefit, I fall short: Either I haven’t tried hard enough or I’m not smart enough to do so.”

Most of us, luckily, are able to stay far, far away from this inquiry. But for those who want to wade in, Havi Carel wrote a very readable, and short, philosophical treatment of the experience of illness. She argues that medicine (and, indeed, everyone) needs to take into account what it is like, moment to moment, day to day, for a patient to live their life within illness. She writes about the social life of illness and finding health within illness. Her account is personal, as she struggles with a life-threatening disease, and graceful.

Prayer for Healing after Pain

O God our undying hope, we thank you for the warmth which steals back

into our hearts after a while; for the healing which comes to wounded

bodies and spirits through time;

for the blessed fact that the flood of pain does not last forever, and for the

incredible bliss when the tide begins to ebb;

for the cheerfulness which breaks into our dark dungeon and strikes off our

fetters when least expected, we know not how;

for the strange sadness which haunts our brightest hours because our hearts

are made for a joy deeper than happiness;

for the insurgent courage which lifts its head above past mistakes and woes,

and affirms its right to try again;

for the way in which old quarrels often become forgetful, and afford us the

opportunity of being calm and compassionate;

for the golden thread of valor and good will never quite lost in the tragic

wanderings of peoples and nations;

for the labors of those who have sown that others may reap;

for the dear kindness of those who see us as we once were.

We thank you, God of our little faith, our greater hope, and above all our

faltering love, which can never fail because it is more yours than ours,

Vivian Pomeroy (1883-1961) from New Prayers in Old Places


Posted by Deirdre Walsh

Image: Death to Stock

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