100% Responsibility: It’s Up to You, and It’s Not on You

Baby with mirror meeting itselfI’m participating in Michael Neill’s 90-day Creating the Impossible program, which has recently been released in book form. Some other time I may share what a hoot it is that I would do this. The very name of the program would have once given me hives.

But I digress.

This week, Michael asked us to reflect on how much responsibility and control we have for creating our impossible projects. Another way of saying this is, “What percent is up to me, and what percent of accomplishing my impossible goal is up to Mind/Life/God/The Universe?”

I landed, to my surprise, on 100% up to me and 100% up to the Universe. And 50/50 is not the same thing as 100/100.

  • It’s not up to me to make the right choices (even as to my goal). How could I know? Nor is it up to me how my actions work out. How could I know?
  • It is 100% up to me to choose and act (or not) moment by moment, day by day.
  • It is 100% up to Mind/Life/God/The Universe to generate or give rise to the possibility of choice and action.
  • For all I know it is 100% to Mind/Life/God/The Universe to move me to choose or act and make it look like I moved.
  • And it is still 100% up to me.

100% responsibility is the essence of freedom. Who knew?

I’ve never before seen 100% responsibility as so fundamentally freeing. I can (100% of the time) show up for this goal or not. What showing up for this goal looks like will vary, and it may include times of inaction. It’s always up to me (innocently) as the local agent of Mind. I can do a crap job of it, and it’s up to me. I can do a great job of it, and it’s up to me. Oddly, it’s not up to me to know what is going to make the difference between a crap job and a great job (how would I know in the scheme of things?). And it’s still up to me.

For the first time in my life I see “up to me” as the simple fact of the matter and not the basis for an indictment or praise. I’m the hands, the eyes, the voice; it’s up to me, and that includes choosing to still my hands, look away, and be silent.

Click here to learn more about my impossible project, making the Three Principles the foundation of the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching and Core Coaching Competencies.

Click here to learn more and purchase Michael’s book, Creating the Impossible.

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!

Dancing with impossiblityy

chalkboard heart impossibleMy current definition of coaching is “meeting clients at the interface between formlessness and form for the sake of creating something marvelous.”  Michael Neill is especially skilled at pointing to and working at this interface, which is why he’ll be my guest next week for the Wholeness Hangout to talk about his latest book, Creating the Impossible. 

My own relationship with the idea of creating the impossible has been bumpy. As an artist and a coach–heck, as a human being–I have had myriad thrilling experiences and insights into the mystery and actuality of creating at and beyond the edge of possibility. I’ve also seen (and indulged in) a good deal of BS around the topic. I get prickly about magical thinking and the suggestion that we get to boss the Universe around.

What Michael is up to is grounded, deep, funny, and fun. I find his perspective on creating the impossible thrilling, challenging, and immensely worthwhile.

I hope you’ll join us with your questions, insights, and dreams via Zoom on Thursday, February 1, 2018, at 10 AM Pacific time. Wholeness Hangouts are always free, you don’t even have to sign up. Click here to join us. 

Michael Neill bestselling author of The Inside Out Revolution

What art tells us about life

I frequently use art as a metaphor for living life wisely and well. There’s The Art of Living, an exploration of how we are designed to live creatively and joyfully and the potential for waking up every day like children eager to paint on walls and splash in mud puddles. (Imagine!) There’s the Reboot Your Life Creative Immersion Retreat I’m doing with my friend, Cherie Ray, at the end of the year. For over 20 years I’ve been coaching people to be visionary (even revolutionary) and effective, whether they are corporate executives, music teachers, or boat builders. In every field, the fundamentals are the same.

The questions we ask ourselves to help us live wisely and well invite different answers when we ask them as if we were making art. When we realize that human beings are inherently creative it just makes sense to lean into this way of thinking about our challenges and opportunities.


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.

Things happen for a reason. Really?

“Things happen for a reason.”

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it; I certainly have. And today I realized that it’s not all that helpful.

Maybe things happen for a reason; maybe they don’t. As my mentor George Pransky likes to say, “That’s beyond my pay grade.” In other words, I don’t actually know.

What I know down to my toenails is that things happen. And really, it’s more useful to keep our attention on that simple fact so we can resources we can encounter, experience, and respond to what happens, as it happens, with our whole selves. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to divert attention we can use for that to figuring out the cosmic reason or lack of reason for what’s going on.

Sure, in quiet moments, it can be interesting, even rewarding, to muse about why things happen. But on a go forward basis, it probably makes more sense to simply notice that things certainly do happen and that human beings are designed beautifully to respond.

What comes up for you? Tell me about it! Please comment. ♥

Join me for The Art of Living: Rediscovering Magic and Meaning in Life and Work

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with magic, meaning, and your innate resourcefulness and resilience. Together we will tapping into 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, 2017. Click here for details.

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