Patience is a byproduct of understanding how the mind works

Patience is a byproduct of understanding how the mind works.

The mind has an innate capacity for clarity and creativity. That’s our default state but for the moment to moment experience of personal thinking. When that thinking innocently creates an insoluble problem, the personal mind tends to ramp up, work harder, and increase pressure. This is like spinning your tires when you car is stuck. If you keep it up you shred the tires.

When we understand that mentally spinning our wheels (ruminating over frustration, anger, resentments, etc.) always results in shredded mental tires, we naturally discover the “patience” to allow our minds to settle down. It takes no more effort to choose to settle down than it takes to remove your hand from a hot stove.

[A minimally edited transcript follows]

I just finished a conversation with my ongoing Art of Living group. We were looking at patience. One of the folks in the group commented that it looks to her like one of the keys to living wisely and well, and working wisely and well, is to cultivate patience.

We had been talking about how each of us has a perfectly functional GPS, internal guidance system, that delivers information, inspiration, and guidance that is formulated specifically for each moment in our lives and work. We often innocently muck it up, because we have a head full of personal concepts about what we should be doing, where we should be going, how fast things should be moving, or in some cases that things shouldn’t be moving so fast. We muck up our capacity to respond wisely and well in the moment, because we’re innocently imposing a lot of assessments, opinions, worries, and analyses that aren’t actually contributing to the quality of the data and insight at hand.

In response to that, one of my clients said, “Well, that takes patience. So many times in our meetings, I’ve written down, ‘Patience, cultivate patience.'”

What I said to her is, “It looks like it’s patience, but patience is a side effect of understanding how life works, understanding how you work, understanding how you work optimally. When you understand how you work optimally, it’s natural to exercise restraint when you recognize that you’re not optimized.”

It’s natural to not pick up the phone and make the angry phone call when you have a deep recognition that that isn’t likely to work. You don’t really have to restrain yourself by an application of will if you know it won’t help. You may still want to, you’re just as angry, you’re just as wound up, and it just doesn’t make sense to make that phone call.

socks don't require patience, they require understandingPeople often tell me that they wish they could knit, but they just don’t have the patience. That’s always puzzled me. I don’t have patience either. It would drive me crazy to wait for a sock to get done. But I don’t wait for a sock to get done, I make socks. I don’t wait while I’m working on a sweater for it to be finished, I’m making the sweater. I’m engaged in it. There is no waiting, no patience required. No patience required, because I understand how the sock is created and I understand my role in that creation, and I’m good with it.

When it comes to taking action in life but being frustrated in the process, we are going to be more effective when we understand how the mind works. If we allow the mind to grind away, analyze, and ruminate, it’s like spinning our wheels when the car gets stuck. We can spin our wheels and shred the tires, or we can look for a way out of the stuckness. Spinning our wheels and shredding our tires just doesn’t make sense to most of us after we learn that spinning your wheels will shred your tires. Patience (the willingness to stop spinning the wheels and look for a better way) is a byproduct of understanding.

Understanding doesn’t necessarily prevent frustration, but it prevents amplifying the frustration. When we see that we can use our minds to ramp up our frustration levels or allow our minds to quiet, it just makes sense to us to choose the latter. We don’t have to work at it; we just see that it’s a better option.

New options and ways to move forward emerge when we tap into our intelligence, our understanding, and recognize what doesn’t help. This may not sound like a big deal, but recognizing what doesn’t help in a deep and profound way takes a lot off your mind. When you’ve taken that off your mind, so many things that we think of as skills (patience, acceptance, wonder, creative thought, making new connections, looking for a new way, being open-minded) emerge naturally out of the intelligence that we’re part of.

When we understand how life works, when we understand that there’s a certain state of mind in which we’re tire-spinning, and we recognize that trying harder from there will only shred our tires, when we understand that, even if we don’t know yet what to do instead, we can plug into the intelligence to stop spinning, in that space, every time, some new possibility will arise.

If you try to manage the emergence of  new possibilities, you’re doing a subtle kind of tire-spinning. It takes some insight and some appreciation of when you’ve had this going for you in your life to trust the process and allow fresh possibilities to emerge. You can cultivate a feel for spinning your tires and not spinning your tires mentally. You know of times when you’ve done tire-spinning and when you haven’t done tire-spinning. Let yourself notice and appreciate how natural it can be to recognize the difference and exercise your free will to choose the better option.

I’m saying that all you really need to know is that not spinning your tires reconnects you to new possibilities and new options. While you’re spinning your tires, you can’t see beyond your current thinking. As soon as you stop spinning them, you become available to new solutions. You’re not in charge of the timing. You’re not in charge of the nature of the solution. The more deeply you understand the difference between spinning your tires and opening your mind, the more quickly and simply you’ll notice that next steps emerge. They may or may not look like full-blown solutions, but you’ll always see a next immediate step. That’s always an improvement over shredding your tires.

I’d love to hear where this lands, what lands, what doesn’t. So email me or comment. Thanks for watching!

Effective coaching addresses the signal not the noise

I spent three days last week in San Francisco exploring and practicing ways to make coaching more effective in the third 7 Paths Forward workshop with David Goldsmith and David Peterson. This work made me more and more convinced that honing skills is helpful, but only to the extent that coaches also understand the human operating system.

Most efforts to explain how humans work and thus how to optimize or catalyze or unleash (choose your verb) human potential and performance add layers of complication and complexity. New theories and methodologies are developed to address inconsistencies and unintended consequence from earlier theories and methodologies.

The 3 Principles understanding is subtractive rather than additive. It clarifies the principles, or primary constituents, of human experience. This clarity is a game changer. It orients coaches and clients to the signal rather than the noise in life and work. Noise, in this instance, is the mental chatter and insecurity that impede learning, damage relationships, and cloud perception.

Most coaching addresses the noise: reduce it, filter it, change it, or replace it with better noise. That takes time, energy, attention, money, and other resources. It’s expensive, and it never alters the underlying reality that noise is a given in the human experience.

Principles-based coaching produces insights into the phantom nature of insecurity and mental noise. As clients appreciate that the noise is not definitive unless they choose to make it so, they are free to re-orient themselves around signal, around what they want to create, learn, or accomplish. Noise continues, and it matters less and less and less.

If you are a coach, a client, or responsible for coaching in your organization, check out the replay of the Wholeness Hangout in which I and my guest panelists explore coaching from a Three Principles perspective. Each of my guests have been trained in the International Coach Federation (ICF) tradition of coaching in a variety of programs. Each of us has encountered the Three Principles after this training and found that the Principles provide the robust basis or source code for what our coaching tradition has attempted to codify.

Click here for the replays and resources from A New/Old Story: Considering ICF Coaching from a 3P Perspective.

 

Resilience: Riding the Roller Coaster of Life with Ease

Western Lecture SeriesResilience: Riding the Roller Coaster of Life with Ease

I’m delighted to announce that next month I’m teaching an affordable, local, in-person course in the principles that give rise to resilience in all aspects of life and work.
This is not another stress management or mindfulness course. My co-instructor, Dan Webster, and I will share fundamental principles that make up innate human resilience. Understanding these principles enables you to respond resourcefully and wisely to even the most unexpected twists and turns in life. Results include increased calm and lightheartedness, reduced stress and emotional reactiveness, higher quality relationships, higher levels of creativity and insights and access to our “groove” or “mojo.”
Dan and I are offering this course through the Academy of Lifelong Learning at Western Washington University. Here’s the quick scoop:
  • 4 Sessions: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27
  • Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
  • Location: Village Green Community Center, Kingston, Washington
  • Cost: $69
  • Suggested reading: The Missing Link by Sydney Banks.
REGISTER for this course and other Academy for Lifelong Learning Courses at  wwu.edu/allpeninsulas

On messing up

On messing up

Some years ago I made a horrible mistake. (And yes, I’ve made tons of mistakes since then; this is just the one that comes to mind in the moment.)

I was president of a local arts organization, and in that role I was making the rounds of galleries during an Arts Walk. I was particularly struck by the quality of work in one gallery, and I said as much to the owners, who introduced me to the artist.

And then I said, “What’s a talented guy like you doing in a dump like this?”

I didn’t notice at the time that it wasn’t funny

I didn’t notice that my remark had gone over like a lead balloon. As I look back, I see that I wouldn’t have noticed because the same self-consciousness that gave rise to my insensitivity kept me from authentically connecting with the other people in the room.

I might never have noticed but that the gallery owners sent me a letter of complaint.

I was horrified and defensive

I got home late one night to find the letter. I was horrified and defensive. The gallery owners were being unreasonable. They had no sense of humor. They should have known that I had intended no harm.

I wanted to believe those things, but somehow I couldn’t quite settle down behind that interpretation.

I went to bed with a disturbed mind, and as I lay there, I got curious about what was behind my upset.

And then I saw the first piece.

I couldn’t resolve the gap between our realities

I truly had meant no harm, yet I saw that they truly had been hurt. I couldn’t resolve that gap.

I also had no clue how to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. How do you apologize for that?

If I acknowledged the reasonableness of their position, I would need to do something about being a smart-aleck, and I felt powerless to accomplish that.

It seemed to me that I lacked a key ingredient for a sincere apology, and that was insight into how to prevent a recurrence.

And then I saw the gift I’d been given

In a flash I saw that the key to having better awareness in the future was taking in feedback in the present.

I didn’t need to be able to second guess other people’s reality. I could simply care, invite feedback, and rely on willingness to do better and the ability to learn to do the rest.

I got out of bed and wrote an apology. I said that I had felt both horrified at causing hurt and that it had been unintentional. I told them that it was unintentional not to defend myself, but to underscore that in no way was my remark related to my experience of their professionalism or contribution to the arts.

I then thanked them sincerely for caring enough to complain and told them that, but for the feedback of friends like them, I would feel helpless to see what was clearly a blindspot.

Life gives us what we need

More and more I see that life gives us what we need.

Life, in the form of circumstances, experiences, and people, will give us exactly what is required for our next itty-bitty evolutionary step.
This is how we learn to walk, to talk, to love.

The less personally we take it, the easier the lessons go

It appears to me as I write that the less personally we take these lessons, the easier they are to learn. But you know what?

We’re going to take things personally until we don’t.

Like walking, talking, and loving, we learn not to take it personally as we go.

If you’d like to have an easier time with the lessons life delivers, consider The Art of Living

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with magic, meaning, and the in-built human capacity to evolve. Together we will explore the deeper intelligence available to every human being, an intelligence that can guide you in the creation of what you want in life, whether you think it is possible at the outset or not.

Almost everyone who has done this work for me comes back for more–not because they need more in order to be whole, but because they finally realize that they don’t need a thing. Participants report greater ease, optimism, and resilience. They feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience massive reductions in anxiety, second-guessing, and analysis-paralysis. And when they do get caught up in those things, they know how to find their way back home to peace of mind and clarity.

The next session begins November 9. Click here for details. Gift pricing.

Can you have a quiet mind even when you’re really busy?

Most of us live in the illusion that it’s difficult to have a quiet mind if you are really busy. We have grown accustomed to the idea that busy-mindedness is a natural consequence of being busy. There is an implicit assumption that some amount of stress, pressure, and tension simply go with the territory of having a lot to do.

Well, it ain’t necessarily so. There is no inherent stress, tension, or pressure in having a lot to do. The stress, pressure, and tension come 100% from Thought, not from circumstances.

Given that many of us live in a culture of busy-mindedness and are steeped in the habit of expecting a busy mind to go with a busy life, it is natural that we would fall for the illusion that the stress, tension, and pressure are coming from the outside. But they just aren’t.

You can “do busy” without being busy-minded

Most of us live in the illusion that it’s difficult to have a quiet mind if you are really busy. We have grown accustomed to the idea that busy-mindedness is a natural consequence of being busy. There is an implicit assumption that some amount of stress, pressure, and tension simply go with the territory of having a lot to do.

But stress and busy-mindedness don’t come from having a lot to do

Stress, tension, and pressure are not an inevitable product of having a lot to do. The stress, pressure, and tension that we feel, when we feel them, come 100% from Thought, not from circumstances.

You can test this for yourself

Most of us can readily think of times when it seemed like stress was coming to us courtesy of our circumstances. Yet when my clients give themselves space to reflect, they invariably find instances when they were extremely productive and juggling multiple calls on their time and attention without being busy-minded.

That couldn’t ever happen if stress was actually inherent in certain situations, experiences, or circumstances.

It’s easy to overlook

We may overlook the absence of stress for the simple reason that we aren’t wired to notice what isn’t there. Yet the more you reflect, the more you are likely to observe multiple times each week when you handle what is right in front of you in the moment without being preoccupied by all the other possible things you might be doing, have just done, or could be doing next.

Play with it

Play with it. See if you can recall times when you have had a quiet mind even though you have had a lot to do. Then see if you can remember times when you have had a busy mind with lots of stress and tension even though you didn’t necessarily have a lot to do. (Don’t get me started!)

Then tell me what you observe. As always I welcome your comments, questions, and push back. If this has been helpful, please share it with friends and colleagues.

If you’d like to do more with less busy-mindedness, check out The Art of Living

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with the possibility of high engagement and low stress. In a small group (maximum 12), we will tap the deeper intelligence available to every human being, an intelligence that will guide you in the creation of what you want in life, whether you think it is possible at the outset or not.

Starts November 9, 2017Click here for details.

 

Overwhelm is optional (really!)

Overwhelm is optional—really

If a surfer riding the crest of a wave obsesses about the last six waves or the next six waves, she’s certain to wipe out.

Yet human beings do this all the time when we (yes, me too!) innocently generate overwhelm.

The illusion of overwhelm

Most of us live in the illusion that overwhelm comes from overwhelming circumstances. We think that our jammed mental circuits, tight shoulders, irritability, and confusion are inevitable and natural consequences of the situations we face.

But that’s just not so.

Overwhelm comes to us courtesy of thought, not the world

Overwhelm is the product of overwhelming thought, not overwhelming circumstances.

Consider surfing.

If overwhelm were the natural byproduct of circumstances, every surfer would be utterly and completely freaked out by the ocean all the time.

I mean really, what’s more freaking overwhelming than the ocean and wind?

Successful surfers only focus on one wave at a time

A surfer who succeeds isn’t thinking about yesterday’s waves or tomorrow’s weather. She succeeds and improves to the extent that she pays attention right here, right now, and allows herself to be educated by the experience.

The surfer who stays in the moment learns naturally and organically on multiple levels as she gains experience. If she overanalyzes that experience, she’s going to gum up the works, stop learning, and perform poorly. (In golf this is known as the yips.)

Overwhelm arises from using the small personal mind to do a job it isn’t designed to do

Overwhelm arises when we try to think our way through situations that we are designed to live our way through.

When we live in the moment, life educates us in exactly the ways we require to meet whatever life is serving up. Like babies learning to walk and talk, life invites us to whole body, whole mind, whole spirit learning.

So long as we come back to the wave we are on right now.

Talk back

Play with this. Reflect on your experience. Where do you notice you or someone around you learning and growing organically? And where do you see you or someone else gum up the works by trying too hard or getting hung up on the past or the future? Play with the possibility that you are designed to do life with less mental effort than you may think.

Let me know what you notice in the comments at the bottom of this page, or email me.

Check out The Art of Living

How would it be to really see that you are perfectly designed to do life? If that sounds good, check out The Art of Living. It’s starts November 9, and three of 12 places are already spoken for.

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