The idler who does not strive when he should be striving, who though young and strong is given to idleness, whose thoughts are weak and wandering, will not attain Magga Insight which can only be perceived by wisdom. — The Dhammapada
This past week has been family reunion time for the Norris clan. And though I dearly love my family, it does present one of the more difficult times of the year for me as it relates to diet and lifestyle. The opportunities for less-than-optimal eating are off the chain, and in typical Texas, go-big-or-go-home fashion, my family does not shy from 100-proof-fueled, late nights.
Note: activated charcoal works wonders for absorbing toxins generated in such circumstance. But this is like throwing your best Little League pitcher during game 7 of the MLB World Series. That is to say, it’s best efforts are completely overwhelmed.
But it’s all good; you gotta push the system every now and again. And it’s a tremendous opportunity for observing Theory to Practice in action. Both in myself, and in others. You’ve no doubt heard it said that “family is the hardest to change” and that “no man is a prophet in his own land”. True enough, but it doesn’t stop me from putting myself out there; fear of failure (or looking like a kook) be damned. Because you just never know when someone is on the brink of substantive life change.
At any rate, this particular reunion provided backdrop for me to contemplate just what it is that provides the final oomph for someone to carry through with a life-altering habit change.
Know this: people contemplate life-altering change for weeks, months, years…lifetimes, even. But the decision to act manifests in an instant. Seemingly out of nowhere a person will muster damn-the-torpedos courage and make the leap of faith required of initiating lasting change. And the momentum created in this moment carries one through the significant and numerous temptations to throw in the towel and revert to the “safety” and (relative) comfort of the known. Even if that “known” is *known* to be harmful. Smoking and drug/alcohol dependency are great examples.
This much is true: a significant, life altering chasm *cannot* be traversed in two leaps. This “escape velocity” requires a tremendous initial outburst of energy. And that energy release must be potentiated (ignited!) by a spark of action. It’s that spark, in fact, that interests me most. Because knowing what that spark is and how to consistently recreate it across the pallet of diverse personalities is what all of us who are in the business of change are looking for.
That spark is, in fact, the “secret sauce” of any and all manner of coaching. And I’ve seen this play out in the world of athletics, and in the breaking of hard-core addictions.
Some would call that spark willpower; those of us who trade in this currency though, know that it is something more than that. I happen to think that it’s willpower infused with belief/trust in a higher power.
Now, that “higher power” *can* be of a religious nature…but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Atheists, for example, can have a sincere belief/trust in the good of humanity, and their place in bettering that good.
We as “life coaches” then need to be proficient in:
- learning what it is that makes a client tick from a “higher power” perspective
- the alchemy of infusing that with proper doses of willpower (and knowing that willpower is a finite resource)
- navigating blockages, otherwise known as fear, and
- looking beneath the obvious problem for the root source (a note on that below)
Proficiency in this alchemy is, of course, results in next-level coaching skills. We see it in people like Tony Robbins, and the late John Wooden; virtuosos of personal development. And it’s a beautiful thing to experience in action.
Fleshing out point 4
Tony Robbins is a master of immediately burrowing well below what the perceived problem is down to that problem’s root source. Even if you’re not into the whole rah-rah self-improvement thing, do yourself a favor and watch I Am Not Your Guru. Observe how he immediately begins excavating below the “surface” problem for the root source that’s hidden from everyone else…and *completely* off the RADAR of the person with the problem.
I’ve witnessed this same phenomena (in myself, and in others) when working with plant medicine. The problems and fears that manifest in your life are *rarely* the actual root cause, but simply a real-world manifestation of that deeper, buried-from-view symptom. And that symptom is generally something packed away in a deep corner of the subconscious.
Note: In a following post, I’ll dive headlong into the “oak / acorn analogy” as expressed in Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the Dhammapada.
That said, it takes a skilled technician to help someone excavate below the surface to the root cause of the problem. Those who can skillfully facilitate this process are the next-level coaches we all dream of working with. Or, in my case, becoming.
Heal thyself, harden thyself; change the world –