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!

ICF and 3P: the time has come

Here’s my “impossible project” for Michael Neill’s Creating the Impossible 2018 program.

In the next 90 days I will make the Three Principles the explicit foundation for coaching in the International Coach Federation (ICF) tradition. It will be obvious that this has been accomplished when the Principles are incorporated into International Coach Federation (ICF) Core Coaching Competencies and standards for accredited coach training programs.


The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the most widely recognized and respected global professional organization for the coaching industry. The ethics, values, and knowledge encoded in ICF policies and standards have been invaluable in my own professional development. As a trainer and mentor of coaches, I’ve seen that coaches who can demonstrate the ICF Core Coaching Competencies are more effective by far than those who cannot.

Seven years ago I encountered the teachings of Sydney Banks, now popularly known as the Three Principles. Almost immediately I saw the Principles as the “source code” for coaching. Syd shared profound realizations about the nature of human experience and the truth of our connectedness and access to wisdom and insight moment to moment. These realizations are the principles that ground the values and standards ICF has developed.

Here’s one example of the impact that understanding the Principles has on coaching. The opening paragraph of the ICF definition of coaching states:

ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.

According to ICF, coaches “believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.” According to the Three Principles, this is a truth of human nature, not a belief or framework.The shift from adhering to a belief about client creativity, resourcefulness, and wholeness to seeing it as an actuality has profound implications for how coaches work.

Dr. Judith Sedgeman points eloquently to how understanding the Three Principles transforms our understanding of human potential in this post, The Infinity of Possibility. Without a 3P understanding, professional coaching remains a game played on a finite board. Coaches already understand the notion of limiting beliefs, but too often miss the fact that those beliefs are made up. What is made up does not need to be deconstructed; it can be seen through.

If you are a coach and interested in knowing more about the Three Principles, or a Three Principles practitioner interested in learning from the rich base of skills encoded in the ICF Core Coaching Competencies, let’s talk!

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.


The critical difference between wondering and chasing wonder

The critical difference between wondering and chasing wonder

I’ve posted about wonder as the key that unlocks state of mind and the beautiful distinctions between confusion and wonder as ways of not knowing. In this video I point the the critical difference between wonder as a noun or concept and wondering as a verb or way of being in the world.

Who doesn’t love the experience of wide-eyed wonder? When we experience wonder, our minds are open and free, available to insight and fresh thought. We have a keener appreciation for beauty, a sharper awareness of all there is to be grateful for. But when we try to make that experience happen, we may innocently chase a concept of wonder rather than engaging in the act of wondering.

What shows up for you? Let me know in the comments. ♥


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.

Are you playing “What’s wrong with this picture?” with your life?

Are you playing “What’s wrong with this picture?” with your life?

Too often we try to change things by tweaking a problem that we don’t realize we created. We play “What’s wrong with this picture?” when we could simply paint a new picture.

Here’s the deal: Every problem we face is constructed of our preconceptions, assumptions, memories, and expectations. We simply cannot see beyond the limitations of our current thinking. However, when we insightfully understand how those limitations work, the mind spontaneously opens to new possibilities. It’s not a trick or technique or practice; it’s the natural and inevitable by-product of insight into how the mind works.

If you’d like to experience for yourself the possibility of shifting from tweaking the picture you see to creating a whole new picture, join me for The Art of Living. It’s a 12-week encounter with magic, meaning, and your creative capacity. 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.

Pin It on Pinterest