Welcome to the Insights Series!
This is a series of short, random inspiring insights about life – and especially midlife – drawn from my own experience. I wrote this series in 2008-2009, so it reflects what I was learning as I developed along the path of being a life and executive coach.
My approach has always been to test what I’ve learned by throwing my whole life at it, so you will hopefully find something that is practically useful and which has been pressure-tested. There is a strong focus on the midlife transition, and discovering strengths, as well as other typical coaching-related issues.
INTROVERTS HAVE this one the worst. When you’re out there with the gregarious, the ebullient, the always-delighted, and you are forced to play along, you are likely to tell yourself you should be like them, that your life would be easier or better if you were that way. You might even think there’s something wrong with you.
Making yourself wrong and beating yourself up internally is a pointless thing to do. It’s a repeat of the familiar – what you get from your parents as children you take to be love. If your parents – with all the good intentions in the world – constantly compared you to others or to some standard, you’ll be living with this self-abasing internal voice.
The great thing in midlife is that the energy behind that voice starts to dissipate. The problem becomes, what do you replace it with? Can I trust myself when I say I’m OK? Can I just leave myself to be the way I am? It seems so wrong, so irresponsible, so unfounded!
Those old thought patterns are just habits, a painful memory that we replay like a sad, old song just because it’s familiar. Becoming aware of them, then replacing them with something else – something you choose – is a process; it can take years, and I can honestly say that a separation is possible between the automatic internal voices and a conscious awareness that can make choices about itself – who it chooses to be, and how.
So you don’t have to change your personality. You can learn to love the one you have. Great rivers of peace flow from this.
IF YOU manage to slow the whole process down enough, you’ll see that habits and compulsions are outer expressions of the deeper habit of not honouring oneself.
It goes like this: you know something’s not good for you. You know you shouldn’t do it. You don’t even want to, and so you decide not to. Then you break down and you do it anyway. What’s the conversation in your head that makes you give in? It’s the habitual one that says, ‘Oh nonsense, it’s not that important.’
When did you learn that habit? When you were a kid, and you wanted something your way; you wanted to not wear socks, or to write with a colour pencil, and you were made to do what you were told instead. At that moment, you didn’t learn that socks are good, or that lead pencils are better. You learned that your unique wants or needs – what that inner you calls for – is not important.
Now, when that same inner you calls for what it knows is good and right for itself, the learned you says, ‘Oh nonsense, it’s not that important.’ Give up the habit of not honouring yourself, and you’ll give up every bad habit in the book. Each time you do it, it gets easier, and each time you open a doorway to a new level of self-respect.
WHEN YOU stand on a bridge and watch the water flow, you can create the impression for yourself that the water’s standing still and it’s you and the bridge that’s moving. Our view of time creates that impression for us: we think it’s us that’s moving, but it’s not. We’re on the bridge, in the moment, and stuff happens. That stuff is the water that flows past. It’s like junk falling into a plug hole, and we are that plug hole, seeing all this stuff falling in and thinking that we’re moving but we’re not. It’s just stuff happening that has us think that.
For years I struggled to find the thing that I should do that would make me happy, lead to success. I always looked for it ‘out there’ and ‘in the future’. I would observe what others were doing and think how I could do something similar and one day enjoy the same happiness and success. When I saw for myself that there’s only this moment, and when I heard Eckhart Tolle say that enjoyment is what you put into a situation or action, not what you get out of it, then for the first time I really got this: I got that there’s nothing else to do but enjoy what I do and the success will come. This is true gratitude, not as a concept, not convincing myself, but seeing it.