Authenticity and Soul Firemen

Au-then-tic-i-ty (as found in The American Heritage College Dictionary): the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine – is a rather dry and concise explanation for the liveliest, most dynamic, freshest, most creative, and amazing (and sometimes confusing!) aspect of each human being. However, it’s also very accurate in that when we are at our most authentic and genuine, we are also at our most trustworthy.

Have you ever taken time to think about how authentic you are, how true you are to yourself? Although I’m in no way implying that you’re a fake, how well do any of us really know ourselves? How well do we know our talents, our strengths, our needs or potential? How many of us live our lives as something we’d rather not be or do? The phlebotomist who would rather teach philosophy; the CEO who yearns to preach from the pulpit; the analyst who would rather be a triathlete? There’s absolutely nothing fake, per se, about any of those things, but they’re not totally genuine either.

There are so many reasons we end up doing something for years that is not what we really want to do. Messages drummed into us as young adults to follow in the family tradition and be a doctor, lawyer, candlestick-maker, etc. Emulating somebody we much admire; falling into a career because the opportunity was there; simply choosing to do something because nothing stronger jumps out; the list goes on and on.

How about taking some time to peer inside and see what might ignite the fire in your soul? Ask yourself some tantalizing questions and answer from your gut if you can – be ruthlessly honest, nobody will hear you or laugh at you. What would you rather be doing if you didn’t have to pay the bills? What gets you burning with excitement? What did you love to do as a kid? What do others compliment you about most often? These are just some questions to get the juices flowing.

What so often happens when we answer these question out loud, or perhaps when we have answered them out loud in the past, we’ve heard dampening messages in return: oh that won’t work, you don’t have a degree; you’ll never earn enough doing that; live in Asia, are you nuts? you can’t even get a visa! – you know the score. Here is where soul firemen come into the picture. Firemen, bless every one of them, are great to have around when either your house or your car is on fire. When your soul is on fire? Not so much. Avoid the soul firemen, don’t let them douse your soul’s raging inferno. Get those matches busy – ignite the fires within!

Have fun!

We wear trousers, so why don’t we wear power?

What is finally going to make us women get the message that we are, as a gender, squeamish about the subject of power? We don’t seem to be clear about whether we admire it or hate it in other women, we’re not sure if we want it for ourselves (but of course many do), and to top it all off, we don’t even seem to know how to talk about it. Although we’ve become very comfortable wearing trousers – once the exclusive dress for men – we have nowhere near reached the same level of comfort in wearing power – another once-exclusive male domain.

When I saw Sheryl Sandberg interviewed on 60 Minutes recently, I instantly knew a firestorm would ensue – and it has. Sandberg, the avowedly feminist author of “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” stirred a veritable hornet’s nest. And. Good. For. Her. As far as I’m concerned, there are not enough Sheryl Sandbergs in existence. She’s being chastised for having enough money to become powerful while other capable women raise her children, clean her house, and otherwise make life manageable for her. Does that sound familiar? Sounds like me when raising my three daughters, going to school full time to get two degrees, working part time, and loving it all. I relied upon, from time to time, amazing young women to care for my children. I relied upon my husband – also working hard to keep us solvent – to partner with me throughout the years. Many, many women I know do, or did, exactly the same. Is it the amount of money she makes that brings such wrath? Let’s be honest now.

However, I can look back now from my perch as a woman in her late 50s, and see how my gender – and the messages I bought into about women and power – gave me an excuse to hold myself back in my early career. Luckily I have found my power over the ensuing years, and life and work are even more enjoyable now. Men are no longer the “enemy”, but the peers that so willingly and graciously walk the path of life with me.

Here’s the shocker: I think it all boils down to our own sense of esteem and confidence. We are our own worst enemies when wanting or needing to be seen as powerful. Nobody puts us down quite as exquisitely as we do ourselves. Nobody intimidates us quite like the image in the mirror. Isn’t it easier to point the finger outward instead of inward? Instead of lashing out at the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, perhaps we should see them for the blessings they are: incredibly brave women who ask us to step up, to raise the bar, to make something of ourselves, and to model that bravery for our children and our grandchildren. And to do it all unapologetically!

Must we wait for permission? If so, we’ve just received it loud and clear from Sheryl Sandberg.

Communication the Old Way!

Anyone remember how we communicated before cell phones? There must be some of you out there who do!! How did we ever leave the house without being instantly and constantly connected? Text, email, Facebook, Tweet, to name a few – a whole new vernacular has sprung up that we wouldn’t have understood a couple of decades ago. The means of communication have been developing at warp speed, I wonder where it will end up? Communication!

Here’s where it was a few decades ago – London phone boxes. What amazing contraptions they were at first. Now they mostly function as outdoor toilets, shelters from London’s plentiful rainfall, places where you can still make calls (sometimes). Of course this photo is a few years old and on my last trip to London a week ago, I didn’t see any at all.

Although current connectedness improves communication in so many ways, we’ve lost some of our old freedoms – such as kids no longer being able to spend time with their friends without parents checking in, or strangers being able to find out all kinds of things about you online. For the most part, we also have to make a conscious effort to speak face-to-face (sharing non-verbal as well as verbal messages), make a phone call (at least sharing voices), or write a letter (sharing precious time on another person).

How I make the best of all of this? I communicate using all methods I can master, appreciating the richness and potential of it all. I consider us profoundly lucky to have so many choices.

Adversity can be a Friend

I consider myself lucky to have led a rather charmed life, with very few major downs and many major ups. That is until my mother died in 2011 from cancer. That was a game-changer for me. It wasn’t that it was so hard for me to go through (after all she was the one bearing all the pain and indignity), in fact even at the worst moments there was a feeling of “right” to it all. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2010 and was dead by April 2011. The decline was so quick and violent I think it left us all stunned and operating on autopilot until it was all over. Then I realized I had no clue how to live my life without her in it.

I’ve learned how to do that in the almost two years since her passing, but my life has changed in ways I never would have imagined when she was alive. My mother, father, sisters and I lived an ocean apart for most of my adult life – they in England and me in the US – and I spent many air miles in the last months of her life to be with her as much as possible in the time she had left. I’m so glad I put my life on hold to do that – I have no regrets.

What that particular life lesson taught me was to become more spiritual, compassionate, and tolerant. It taught me to live my life fully, to not shy away from my potential, to do the things I’d always wanted to do but now realize life is short and precious and I’d better get on with it. It taught me to quiet those hurdles I’d put in front of myself – those hurdles that said things like “you can’t do that, you don’t have the time/money/talent/fill in the blank”. One of the changes I’ve made as a result is that I’ve actually moved the central focus of my coaching practice to helping others identify and then live their lives to their fullest potential and abundance.

Through the years as a therapist, consultant and coach, I’ve seen time and time again how adversity can propel people into living lives they never thought possible. I’m not surprised that it happened to me, just grateful.

In the coming months I’d like to interview people who have experienced achieving their dreams through recovering from pain and misfortune. I’ll show through their stories how courage and fearlessness can spring into action. These videos are a must-see. Some will be interactive on Google+ Hangouts and YouTube, and all of them will be available on my website and blog to download at your convenience.

Stay tuned for previews! By the way, nothing would make me happier than having you contribute your story – contact me at fcattermole@catt-alyst.com.

I Know What I Want. Don’t I?

Since I’ve made it my career to help people identify and live their true purpose, people often ask me “But what if I don’t know what that is”? As far as I know, that is the absolute best way to start a very important conversation. If we all knew what our true calling or purpose is in life, there would be no need for coaches like me!

It’s true, some people do know, and have always known, just what they were put on this earth to do. They’ve always “followed their bliss”, and life – with its inevitable ups and downs – has evolved for them just as they wished and expected.

There are also many who have sensed a deep longing or yearning that they are here for some purpose but they’re not quite sure what that is. And then there are many others who ask the question posed above because they would like to live a more meaningful or fulfilled life, but don’t know where to start, or if it’s even possible.

Whether or not you are consciously aware of what your life’s calling is, one does exist for you just as it does for everyone else.

Well, let me assure you of three things right off the bat:

  1. Whether or not you are consciously aware of what your life’s calling is, one does exist for you just as it does for everyone else.
  2. It is entirely possible for you to identify exactly what that passionate, yearning part of you is trying to say.
  3. There is a proven process you can follow that will help you build a life based on your unique passion, calling, or purpose (select one or add your own!)

When I first heard this, I have to admit I felt doubtful I could live my best life as I defined it. I heard how others did it; I saw how fulfilled and joyful they were, and I knew it was possible. For them. I just didn’t believe it would be possible for me. The way I looked at things made me a bit depressed – would I ever have what seemed possible for others to have? Would I ever be able to hear that tiny voice deep within that had something profound to reveal? The answer to both questions was of course “yes”, but my habitual way of thinking and interpreting the world around me was part of what was getting in my way.

I’ve come a long way now towards my purposeful life, moving toward my calling, and enjoying the rewards – as well as the journey along the way. In fact, it will always be a journey since I don’t believe there is an end point. Once you arrive at one destination, there is another one just ahead that lengthens the journey and deepens the purpose.

If you just open your mind to the possibility that you can have a life of abundance, begin to think about what that life would look like? What would you be doing? Who would you be helping? What would be making you feel complete?

Authenticity & Soul Firemen

Au-then-tic-i-ty (as found in The American Heritage College Dictionary): the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine – is a rather dry and concise explanation of the liveliest, most dynamic, freshest, creative, and amazing (and sometimes confusing!) aspect of each human being. However, it’s also very accurate in that when we are at our most authentic and genuine, we are also at our most trustworthy.

Have you ever taken time to think about how authentic you are, how true you are to yourself? Although I’m in no way implying that you’re a fake, how well do any of us really know ourselves? How well do we know our talents, our strengths, our needs or potential? How many of us live our lives as something we’d rather not be or do? The phlebotomist who would rather teach philosophy; the CEO who yearns to preach from the pulpit; the analyst who would rather be a triathlete? There’s absolutely nothing fake, per se, about any of those things, but they’re not totally genuine either.

There are so many reasons we end up doing something for years that is not what we really want to do. Messages drummed into us as young adults to follow in the family tradition and be a doctor, lawyer, candlestick-maker, etc. Emulating somebody we much admire; falling into a career because the opportunity was there; simply choosing to do something because nothing stronger jumps out; the list goes on and on.

How about taking some time to peer inside and see what you find, to see what might ignite the fire in your soul? Ask yourself some tantalizing questions and answer from your gut if you can – be ruthlessly honest, nobody will hear you or laugh at you. What would you rather be doing if you didn’t have to pay the bills? What gets you burning with excitement? What did you love to do as a kid? What do others compliment you about most often? These are just some questions to get the juices flowing.

What so often happens when we answer these question out loud, or have answered them in the past, we’ve heard dampening messages in return: oh that won’t work, you don’t have a degree, you won’t earn enough doing that, live in Asia, are you nuts, you can’t even get a visa – you know the score. Here is where firemen come into the picture. Firemen, bless every one of them, are great to have around when your house or car is on fire. When your soul is on fire? Not so much. Avoid the soul firemen in your life and get those matches going to ignite the fires within.

Have fun!

 

My Bahama Beach

P1010050Whenever I need a little boost to my confidence or motivation, I go to my “beach in the Bahamas”. Maybe you sometimes need a beach in the Bahamas.

 

We all have moments when fear, anxiety, and other feelings bring us to our knees, or when our futures look bleak and we feel we’ll never achieve the life we yearn to live. Because of the inevitability of moments like these, it’s a good idea to develop skills that can diminish the negative impact they have on us. One of the best ways I know of to diminish anxiety or create motivation or enthusiasm is to have access to a powerful visualization that can instantly give a boost to flagging confidence or courage. I call this my “beach in the Bahamas” therapy.

I kick my “beach in the Bahamas” into gear whenever I need it. I see myself lounging in a sumptuous beach chair, my legs stretched out luxuriously, toes in the warm sand, dressed in feather-light cotton, eyes closed in ecstasy as I drink in the sunshine, hear the gentle lapping of the waves, and feel the tropical air caress my skin to a vibrant aliveness. I open my eyes and devour the beauty before me – azure water, white sand, cloudless blue sky, lazily waving palm fronds – and it fills me with indescribable pleasure. In the purest way this visual evokes an extremely sensual experience and one that is deeply calming and motivating for me.

From a little kick to get through a particularly boring Monday morning to calming the jitters before a sales presentation, to major support in recovering from significant disappointment, we all need to feel and believe that life can hold better things for us. Having ready access to a visual or sensual cue that overcomes the negative feeling and evokes a more positive one allows us to break the spell the negative event has on us and take control of the situation.

If you don’t already have a Bahama beach visual, how do you create one? Here are some tips:

  • There are no rules in developing your visual, you can visualize the impossible if you so desire. Just as long as it evokes pleasant or calming or motivational feelings.
  • Flesh it out with all your senses: what do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? Feel yourself there, fully.
  • While enjoying the sensations it evokes, make a physical cue that will serve to take you there in an instant the next time you need it (such as joining the tips of your index finger and thumb of your right hand). Your physical cue can be anything, but it’s best to keep it low key or inconspicuous.
  • Now when you feel the need to return to that experience, use your physical cue and enjoy the break!