Money Coaching Blog

We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.

Are You Dirigible?

In looking for something to lend a bit of cheer this time of year — and perhaps some new money perspectives — I’ve come up with a new slant on your money beliefs.  What happens when you treat your money like a blimp?

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a truly silly 1930, Cecil B. DeMille film called ‘Madam Satan’.  I love these pre-code movies with the risque dialog and wild clothes, not to mention wacky plots.  This one is about the wife trying to get her cheating, playboy husband back from the ‘party girl’, Trixie.  Of course most of the action centers around a costume ball which includes auctioning off the ladies to rich guys!  The party is being held on a Zeppelin because that is what every wildly rich person does, right?  It’s quite a ride.

You won’t be surprised to find out that in the midst of the musical numbers and witty repartee there is a thunder storm which causes the Dirigible to go down.  It is a DeMille movie after all.  Naturally, there are some clever ways our ‘heroes’ end up surviving.

All this reminded me of the actual definition of Dirigible: “capable of being directed, steerable” — thus a blimp, air ship, or Zeppelin is a ‘steerable balloon.’

Okay, now this is not just a bit of whimsy.

It got me to thinking about the challenge that many folks have ‘directing and steering’ their personal money.

Your money can certainly feel like this big bag of air that seems to get untethered and wander off on its own, leaving you holding the string.  Perhaps it even feels like it has a mind of its own.  For many folks, things like student loans and credit card debt feel like big unwieldy things looming over you.

The crucial thing to do is to become more “dirigible”.  How might you make your money easier for you to manage, control and “steer”?

Like most complex things, it’s about smaller chunks, and processes.

How do you manage other projects?  What techniques work for you?  I’ll bet that there is a way you can use those same ideas around money?  Going back to the blimp analogy, it feels like you have to steer your money the way ‘experts’ do.  To that I say “not so much”, especially when it comes to your day-to-day money “dirigibility”!

The important thing is to find an simple way  to pay attention to what you are up to with your money — a way that allows you to ‘direct and steer’ it and also to enjoy and engage in the process.  Something more manageable than a giant zeppelin above you  that you try and steer from a tiny basket underneath!

Play with this a bit and see where it takes you.  And of course, if you need a bit of support in figuring out how to be more dirigible with your money, let me know!

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

Rabbit Holes

While working with a client the other day, I hit upon this amusing way to conquer your inner critic.  Well maybe not exactly conquer?  More like avoid getting swamped by?

It’s all about Mr. Bunny here.   He’s a great example of how that inner critic (gremlin, monkey mind, whatever) works — it focuses on distracting you, big time!  Think about all those cartoons where Bugs drives Elmer and others wacky with distractions, interruptions, and wild antics.

The result is that the object of all this behavior just cannot think straight or function.  And that is exactly what your inner critic wants.  It wants to keep you safe by not having you do ANYTHING different.  After all you are currently safe, right?  You are not, in this moment on fire, so you must be safe.  What I’m pointing to is that your critic has an exceptionally narrow criteria for safety.  As long as you are not in imminent danger, it does NOT want you to do ANYTHING different.  Guess what — the best way to keep you from doing something different is to distract you!

This distraction technique can be very irritating, and hinder your progress.  I propose a new way to both think about it and react to it and it’s about the rabbit in two big ways:

First, it’s about the distraction technique of taking you down a rabbit hole.  Changing the subject, fussing about some detail, even getting angry — all examples of ‘falling down a rabbit hole’.  If you can imagine Bugs pushing you down that hole, it just might give you the idea of avoiding the hole!

Second, it’s all about the ‘Yeah, but…’ technique, which to my ears sounds amazingly like or at the very least rhymes with “Wabbit”.  You remember Elmer Fudd saying: ‘You wascally wabbit!‘  The ‘Yeah but…’ happens when someone has an idea.  Before the idea can actually get any traction the critic instantly blurts out a ‘Yeah but…’   Yeah but we don’t have the money for it.  Yeah but it will be hard.  Yeah but you’ve never done it before.  Yeah but…on and on it goes! The result being more distraction to take you off course, to stop you from getting anywhere close to going after your dreams or goals. What if when you said:  ‘Yeah, but…’ you could picture Elmer and the wabbit (yeah/but) in your brain?  It just might grab your attention long enough to help you recognize the ‘yeah, but’ as the distraction it is designed to be.

Here’s the bad news: Sorry, our critic voices are not going away — AND — you CAN choose to not let them overtake you  and run your life!  A very effective way to do that is with humor.  Our inner critics want you to take them seriously.   And one of the techniques they use to help that along is to get you seriously distracted from anything that might result in you doing something new and different.  Humor is a very effective way to interrupt the critic’s game!

Frankly, my job and goal is to help you actually leap into doing something different because as the old adage goes:  ‘You can’d keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’  See if a bit of Bugs can’t help you create new and different results!

Okay, it’s a bit cliche, but I can’t resist it ‘That’s all folks!’

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in avoiding your own rabbit holes, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

The Upside of a Bad Money Behavior

This week I’ve invited my friend, Kathleen Burns Kingsbury to be a guest blogger.  She and I have been chatting about money and how it effects our clients every month for years now.  As you can tell from her words below we clearly have a similar take on how money thinking stymies us! See more about her, at the end of the blog.  If you’d like to check out her fascinating new book:  “Breaking Money Silence®” 

Have you ever wondered why you don’t always act in responsibly ways when it comes to money? Or maybe you are financially fit and find it hard to understand why a loved one seems to spend or invest money in an irrational manner. The reason is simple. There is an upside to every bad money behavior.  That is why it is so difficult to change poor habits, including unhealthy financial habits. The short-term gain keeps you coming back for more.

Dana is a great example. She loves to buy expensive gadgets, but knows that she spends too much of her take home pay on these toys. Dana knows that this spending behavior is getting in the way of her goal to save for a down payment for her first home. When asked, Dana tells me that she wants to stop overspending on electrics.  But her actions tell a different story.

What Dana doesn’t realize is that buying something new gives her a rush, makes her feel good after a long week at work, and boosts her self-esteem. All her friends fondly call her “the gadget queen.” There is a big upside to this unhealthy money behavior. Until Dana appreciates the benefits of this habit, it will be hard, if not impossible to change.

Do you identify with Dana? Do you have a habit or behavior that you would love to stop but find it difficult to let go of? If so, here are some inquiries for you to consider.

What is the short-term benefit of this money behavior?

As a trained behavioral change specialist, I always look for the brilliance in the bad behavior. In other works, what are the benefits of staying stuck or not changing? In Dana’s case not changing her spending habits helped her feel good about herself and good in the moment.

What would it be like to not receive this short-term benefit?

The first step in changing an unhealthy habit is realizing how it serves you. In Dana’s case, the bad habit was paired with feeling good and special. If she is going to save more money, and spend less money she will have to grieve the loss of the excitement she feels each time she buys the latest gadget. This is not an easy task, but possible. It is easier to sit with uncomfortable feelings once you label them and know that feeling them is temporary and part of what will ultimately help you heal. 

What other coping strategy can I use to get these needs met?

Dana’s desire to feel good about herself is not unhealthy and in fact, is a good thing. It is just that how she is going about it is hurting her financially. When you want to change a habit make sure you find other ways of meeting your underlying need. In Dana’s case, she started a blog about gadgets. This way she didn’t have to buy every toy, but could stay up on the latest trends in electronics. She also was still seen as “the gadget queen” by her friends and that was an important part of her identity.

Asking these three questions will help you identify the upside of any unwanted money habit. While the answers are not a magic wand, they do provide valuable data to aid in the change process. So the next time you are beating yourself up for a bad habit, instead wonder about the upside.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, host of the  Breaking Money Silence® podcast, and the  author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. Her new book, Breaking Money Silence:  Shatter Money Taboos by Helping Your Clients Openly Discuss Their Finances was published September 30, 2017. For more information, visit www.kbkwealthconnection.com.

Thanks Kathleen, I love having you come play!

Shell Tain, The Untangler

 

First Things First

When it comes to untangling our myriad of personal money knots, it seems to me there is an essential concept that is missing.  It’s about putting first things first.

Do you have some challenges with money?   Around 97% of us do.  There are bunches and bunches of problems people have with money.  Although there are many, many variations, it mostly it comes down to:

  • Not having as much as we want.
  • Not knowing how to manage it.
  • Spending more that we make.

In other words we realize that something isn’t working for us around money.  And whatever we have decided the missing piece is, we then seek to ‘fix’ it directly.  We try to make more.  We take a class on budgeting.  We set rules around spending.  All that sounds like a great idea… and yet, it doesn’t work, does it?

It’s actually pointing to a much bigger issue, one that I discovered long ago in ‘Corporate Land’.  In my day as a Controller/CFO, the ‘rule’ was to not bring up a problem unless you had a solution.  Sounds good, but there is a big trap in there.

The trap is that you end up ‘fixing’ things that aren’t the actual problem, and thus actually creating more problems.

Huh?  Well in business the fix is usually a form or a procedure, and if it doesn’t address the real underlying issue, it just makes for more bureaucracy and fiddly irritation, right?  I finally learned that the longer process of actually discussing the issue came up with much more effective solutions!

So let’s go visit a hypothetical married couple and see what’s happening in the money tangle of their marriage.  For grins lets say that he keeps a budget to the penny and is watching money all the time, and that she never looks at it and spends it on things that make her feel good.  They fit the criteria we had above — not having enough, not managing it well, and spending too much.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that talking about money is less than fun for them? It’s pretty messy and challenging, right?

So what solutions do they try?  My guess is all sorts of things that are based on changing the behavior without actually understanding what caused it in the first place.  They get into a push-me/pull-you power game that doesn’t take into consideration the ‘Why’ under the behavior.

And yes, I’m back to my concept that we all have 5-year-olds running our money:

  • Because it is the most taboo topic on the planet
  • Because no one talks about how to actually deal with it
  • Because we make up ways to manage it that make sense to our little kid brain
  • Because we then leave the little kid part of us in charge so we don’t have to deal with it

And so I come back to ‘First Things First’.  No budget or plan will work until you understand what your little kid part decided about money.  No lecture or personal rant from yourself or your spouse will help until you dig deep and find out what you made up about money.

By what you ‘made up’ I mean conclusions that you came to, most likely as a child, about money.  Let me give you some actual examples of conclusions clients have shared with me:

  • Money ruins families
  • Money was the only way my family showed affection
  • Money was the only criteria for success in my family
  • My family believed money was bad and evil

Are there all sorts of wonderful ways to manage and handle your money more effectively?  Absolutely!  I have, use, and share a bunch of them—and they don’t help at all until you’ve untangled the underlying knot.  Until you’ve addressed the likely ineffective thinking you’ve been operating under for years.

Please give yourself the gift of addressing first things first before you leap into the action steps!  The results will be much more effective, truly!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in untangling that really old hidden money knot in your head, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Tension Pattern Breaking

As humans it seems like there is only so much we can take before we explode.  We’ve all been there, to some degree, at some time.  We find something is so frustrating we just sort of snap.  What I’ve noticed in working with clients is that there is often a pattern—or dare I say a “dance”—to this progression.

Think for a moment about how couples fight. There is a dance to that right?  She says X, he says Y, then she counters with X on steroids, and he follows with Y on steroids, and they are off to the races.  It’s a well worn groove in their relationship.

Unfortunately, these patterns can be harmful and destructive to us and others.  And they are deeply ingrained, whether it shows up in road rage or the same argument over and over with a family member.

How do you know if you are stuck in one of these places?  Well, it shows up like your own personal ‘Ground Hog Day’ movie.  You keep repeating the events.  You have the same arguments, with the same results.  Perhaps you keep falling into the same traps in your family?  You to do something to try and please them, and find yourself being criticized for it.  Then maybe you blow up at being treated that way, and then end up having to apologize.  Somehow,  a couple of weeks later, it all happens again.  Yipes!

Yes, it’s messy, complex stuff, and it can have you feeling trapped and helpless.

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this.  I’d like to share some thoughts I have about one way that you may not have considered to both look at it and to change the pattern.

Long ago I read a piece in a book that was about the tension of seeing and wanting the shoes in the shop window.  The author talked about the tension that the desire created, and how it builds.  He then pointed out that the way the tension gets relieved is that you actually buy the shoes!  This a really interesting revelation to me, and really has helped me with a lot of clients.  The recognition that we can only take the tension so long, and then we somehow have to resolve it.  (I would love to share the book with you, but it turns out I have no clue as to where I read it!!!)

So that relief of the tension thing is what happens with a lot of those places where we are frustrated beyond our edge and some how lash out.  We don’t want to keep running around in circles, but we feel stuck, so we do something that resolves it, ends the event, blows things up—whatever.

That leads me to a different book and an idea on one effective way to change this.  This book I have and know!  It’s The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  He talks about how habits have a Trigger — Routine — Reward pattern.  While we are talking about these negative results allow me to take the liberty of changing one word to make his process more accessible to our challenging situations.  My re frame is Trigger — Routine — Result.

Take a moment to see how this pattern of Trigger — Routine — Result  shows up in the places where you get emotionally challenged and caught.  The Trigger is the thing that gets it started.  It’s seeing the shoes, or noticing that something is happening that you don’t like. The Routine is what you do in response to the trigger.  For example you pine and fret about the shoes, or you complain about what you don’t like.  The Result is you buy the shoes, or end up in an argument.  Your example may, of course, be more complex and sophisticated.

Okay, we are up to the place where we change the behavior!  And the change is all about the Routine.  It’s really the important thing to change.  Most of the time you don’t have control over the Trigger because it’s about what someone else said or did.  But you do have a choice around the routine.  You can choose to do something different!  Duhigg’s book really is all about  the idea that we can’t just stop a habit or pattern—we can replace it.  I love this idea.  Part of why I love it is that it reinforces the notion that we have to do something different if we want different results.  So if you change your routine, or response, to the trigger you will create different results.

Try it out, perhaps start with something that isn’t emotionally charged and see if you can’t create a different Result by changing your Response to an old Trigger!  It’s worth trying!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support in changing your messier patterns, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

Money doesn't grown on trees… but it can grow!We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we?  It’s an example of a money belief—an idea that we have about money.  We all have beliefs around money, yet somehow we don’t actually try to untangle them. We shy away from looking at the beliefs.

Instead we tend to try some method of crunching numbers or budgeting.  We put money in envelopes, we watch our spending on our cell phones.  Some even play with my handy dandy “GOSH” model.  (Which by the way is very cool and useful!)

And here’s the truth:  None of that really works until you figure out what your money beliefs are, and if you want to keep them!  Your money behavior is driven by your money beliefs.

You will create and perpetuate your beliefs around money.  You just will!  Frankly we do that with all our beliefs.  We find the information that supports them, and we ignore the information that refutes them.  It’s part of all that lovely pattern making that goes on in our heads.

Of course, with money it’s more complex than with other things because of that whole money being a taboo topic thing!  Since we don’t talk with others  or even ourselves about our money beliefs that just keep influencing our choices over and over.

Which of these have you ever heard, thought or found yourself believing?

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • You’ll have to work really hard and you’ll still never make any money.
  • There is never enough!
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people.
  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • I am not good with money.
  • I can’t do math, so I can’t do money.
  • I feel like I must have been out sick the day they actually explained money.
  • Having debt means I’m a bad person.

Those are just some of the most common ones.  There are no doubt thousands of possible money beliefs that will hinder or hold back your effectiveness with the stuff.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about how much of it you have, I’m talking about what is your relationship with money?  Do you see it as a tool and ally, or as an enemy?

What do you make up about money?  Really, what do you make up about money?  Make a list!  Now look at each one of those beliefs and ask yourself a couple of questions, like:

  • Is this really true?  Like 100% of the time TRUE?
  • Is this my belief?  Or is it my family’s belief?  Or even, is it my cultures belief?
  • What might be different if I changed this belief?

That’s one of the cool things about beliefs: we can change them.  It takes noticing that you want to change the belief.  Then it takes both patience and maybe even humor to work on changing it.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish the change in beliefs is to throw in another option every time I hear myself either thinking or saying the belief.  It works like this: You follow the belief statement with something like, “…except when it’s not!”  (Examples:  Money’s hard to come by… except when it’s not.  Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people… except when they are!)

So ‘Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees‘ — except it can grow.  It can be different.  And you can do better with it.  It all starts with choosing how you want to think about it.  As humans we are really committed to proving our beliefs.  We see it all the time.  So figure out what your beliefs are, and, if continuing to prove your current beliefs to be true actually makes your life worse, try understanding and re-framing the belief.

Just imagine how much easier all this money stuff would be if you had some positive thoughts about it!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to play with this belief changing idea more, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Misplaced Loyalty

Loyalty can be a truly wonderful thing—on both the giving and receiving side—and like most things, being loyal can lead to some negative results.  The misplaced loyalty knot I’d like to talk about is all tangled up with biology and anthropology.

It starts before we are born.  On the biology side it really stems from those big brains we have—or rather how much more growing they need to do after we are born.  We have to be cared for by the parent for a much longer time compared to many other species.  It’s not just about walking and talking, it’s also about the complexity of human society.  We need to learn how to communicate and behave.  All very complex things going on in a brain that isn’t really ‘grown’ until early adulthood—despite our strong teenage opinions!

We have tons of things to learn, and we learn those things from our parents.  To make that learning more effective we are biologically hard-wired to be loyal to the parent.   We take whatever they say or do as the “gospel truth” when we are little.  We HAVE to!  They are our protection from danger, our source of food, and our primary source of knowledge.  We absolutely cannot afford to piss them off—they might abandon us!  And if they did that, we would die.  That is as true for us today as it was when we humans were hunter/gatherers long ago.

That hard-wired loyalty has a bit of a dark side though.  When it comes to money it gets messy.  And around money, all that loyalty creates huge problems for generation after generation.  It’s that thing where we don’t talk about money since it’s so taboo!  We learn about money without any actual training,  by observation only and thus we absorb and create many odd ideas.  Not only are the ideas a bit strange but they are hidden—we aren’t conscious of them.

This misplaced loyalty creates a bunch of strange results:

  • If your parents fought about money you will likely fight with your spouse about money.
  • If your parents fought about money you may very well decide that money is evil and bad, and make sure to have as little of it as possible.
  • Women will often unconsciously make sure they do not make more money than they perceived their fathers did as some kind of loyalty.
  • Perhaps the only way your parents expressed affection was with money, so that’s the currency for you to give or receive affection.

On and on it goes, and we don’t actually consciously recognize we are caught in these old familial traps around money because they somehow just “are”—they are so ingrained in our brains we have never ventured to distinguish and analyze them.

That is exactly what I would invite you to do!  Spend some time thinking about—maybe even journaling—about you and your money.   Do some digging.  See how what you are doing with money relates to how your family handled and talked about it.  You’ll find that you are doing something very similar to what you perceived your parents did, or you are doing the opposite of what they did.  The ‘perceived‘ word is in there because the topic is so taboo you probably don’t know what they actually did with money  You only know how you percieved what you saw and heard around money.

It’s a knot well worth untangling because this misplaced loyalty has been influencing your relationship with money all your life.  If you look more closely at it you can then make a choice to keep it or change it.  That’s the problem with taboo things that never get discussed.  We don’t even recognize we are caught in them, let alone that we have a choice.   Give yourself the choice!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support understanding how this loyalty piece played out in your family, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

The Eclipse and Money – Something in Common?

I live in Oregon, just about 30 miles from the magic belt of ‘Totality’ so the eclipse stuff has been big here.  Everyone has been talking about it.  People gathered together to get closer, whether in a campsite or a festival.  People all over the country made a special effort to be in it and see it.  That’s a big change!

Centuries ago a solar eclipse was a message from the Gods, and not a fun one!  the sky goes dark, the sun disappears and is left this weird ring around it.  The stars in the heavens shine in the day time.  The animals behave oddly.  “Wow!  Scary stuff.  We’d better sacrifice a few virgins before this gets worse!”

It was a big, scary event.  It made no sense.  There was no ‘science’ about it.  No one knew anything for sure.  Some folks made up things, and they were mostly fear based.  After all, these were generally tough times, what with plagues, droughts, and no plumbing.

And then along came science.  Well, actually science came along, and humans in general resisted it.  Hmm… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Around 500 b.c.  some folks were beginning to embrace the idea that eclipses might be a natural phenomena. Edmund Halley and some others were very sure about that by 1715 a.d.

Today we lean toward it, instead of away — because we know what it really is: the moon crossing in front of our view of the sun.  And those who ventured to see it in totality report it was amazing, emotional, and wonderful.

“Okay, lovely” you say: “What has that got to do with money?”

Well besides the fact that people are willing ‘spend’ a bunch of both time and money to go see the eclipse in all it’s glory, there is a lovely metaphor in this event.

What’s the most taboo topic in our culture?  What’s the thing your parents used everyday and never actually taught you about?  What’s that thing that it feels like everyone else has figured out, and you are  just clueless about?  What is the most bewildering, mysterious, and scary commodity on earth?  Money!

For most people, the real problem with money isn’t money, it’s what we make up about the stuff.  We often treat it as if it was an evil entity trying to keep us from our good — a spirit or god perhaps?  We act as if it has a will of it’s own, like it somehow magically disappears or keeps us from our dreams.

The real issue is that we look at money as a weird, mysterious, almost mystical thing that we just don’t have the alchemical wisdom to decipher.  We align with the taboo about the subject that our parents and ancestors have held for so long.  It stems from the pile of ideas like:

  • The only people who talk about money are greedy people
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people
  • You have to work really hard and you will still never make any money

These ideas limit us, and frankly aren’t the TRUTH.  They are possibilities, but they aren’t absolute truths.  What these thoughts actually do is keep you from actually looking at your money, noticing what you are doing and not doing with it, and changing your thinking and actions about it.

Money will tell you exactly what you are doing with it, if you just look.  And it is you that are making the choices around your money.  Money doesn’t actually cause things, it just reflects what you are choosing.

So how can you look at your money more like the modern day Solar Eclipse experience?  Do you need special glasses (perhaps a bookkeeper?) to help you see what is going on?  Can you think about it as a natural result of the Moon moving across the sun (you spending more than you make?)  instead the will of an angry god?

How can money become the thing you actually want to spend time with and look at?  How can you eclipse your past around money?

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about your own money eclipse possibilities , just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Humans as Pattern Makers

We humans are particularly adept pattern makers — it’s one of our most effective survival methods — except when it’s not.

Long ago I was an Anthropology major, and one of the things we learned about ‘us‘ is that we are pattern makers.   We tie things together in patterns or ‘baskets’ in our brains so we can lump similar things together. It’s pretty effective in lots of ways.  It helps us focus on the task at hand and ignore other things that might distract us.  It can serve to keep us safe too.

There are places where this type of learning gets a bit quirky, and others where it can be dangerous.  I’ll go quirky first — you kinda knew I would, right?

For many years I sat on a ball chair, you know, sort of like the inflatable Swiss ball things at the gym.  I like them, they are more comfortable to me, especially when sitting for a long time.  It’s something about always adjusting a wee bit to keep your balance and minimize stiffness. However, this is not actually a plug for the ball chair.  It’s an intriguing look inside my brain, oh and my cat’s brain, too.

For years I had been using a little technique to get my own attention.  If there was something important for me to do the next day, or after lunch, or even after I went to the Ladies, I would place the piece of  paper about that on my chair.  That way I would see it or at least notice it when I sat on it!  Great plan.  I had it as a pattern in my brain.  This worked really well until I got the ball chair.  It was pretty funny how long it took me to figure out that paper was going to slide off the ball.  Hmm… ball was something I sat on so it went into the ‘chair’ pattern place in my head, however: ball is round, chair is flat… You can see the problem.

Apparently primates aren’t the only pattern makers.  At that time, Agate — the kitty — was used to jumping up on my desk via the chair.  It only took one time for her to learn that balls, even ones I sat on, are round, unlike chairs.  Neither of us were pleased about this learning experience. She lost some dignity — which if you have a cat, you know “simply isn’t amusing!” — and I had to replace the ball because her claws let out the air.

For both of us the learning was something like, just because different things have some elements in common, they do not always create the same results.

Now for the dangerous part: where we lump together things about people and experiences but using the faulty logic created by our intrinsic pattern making.  Here is an example of that.  I was dating a guy named Gary in high school, who was a Taurus.  My parents had a friend named Alan who was also a Taurus.  Additionally Alan also smoked weed.  My mother wanted me to stop seeing Gary because obviously Gary would smoke weed because he, like Alan, was a Taurus.  (Kinda not — Gary really was a mid-western “rule follower”… no weed.)

Now I grant you this association was wacky reasoning, and yet we tend to do it all over the place, don’t we? It’s the fundamental problem with many conclusions we come to especially around relationships, both personal and professional.  For another example let’s look at Jeff. Jeff was a young, studly programmer I worked with in a start up.  He had just broken up with his girl friend and was getting some counseling.   We talked about it over lunch and I asked him what conclusions he had come to?  He said that he’d decided to no longer date blonds.  Really?  Can you see how the pattern making part of his brain was narrowing on something that probably wasn’t really the issue?

So think about where in your life you might be applying this useful — but imperfect — pattern making logic.  Can you find of any of your own associations that might not really be logical?  Most of us can find at least one time when we applied a pattern thought  extension to the wrong thing.

I’m not suggesting that you just forge ahead and ignore the signal of familiarity with a pattern.  Instead I’m asking you to dig a bit deeper, and see which patterns to apply where.  And there is a really simple solution for how to check out where you are applying old patterns that don’t fit, or are not applicable.  See how it’s different this time.  Spend a bit of time considering what fits the pattern and what doesn’t.  Notice when you are avoiding a new possibility by being overly cautious.  Also, notice if the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tells you to avoid the situation altogether.  It’s all good information.   Basically, check to make sure that there isn’t a baby in the bathwater you are throwing out!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about your own pattern making, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Boomers and Personal Growth

First, in case you didn’t know, I’m a baby boomer—a fairly early one since I was born in 1951.  Lots of individual ‘boomers’ have been pioneers and changed the world.  Paul McCartney is just one of many.  In addition to contributions by many of us individually, there are some remarkable changes they we were the first generation to actually experience.  Things like computers for individual use, space exploration, and the one I really want to talk about today—’personal growth‘.

Actually ‘personal growth’ is  the catch-all phrase I’m using to describe a big cultural change.  I’ve decided, based on my own experience, that my generation is the first one to embrace the radical idea that we can work on changing the baggage from our ancestors and our past without necessarily being considered out-and-out crazy.

Things have shifted.  When I was in high school and having a very hard time with a bunch of things, I asked my dad if I could get some counseling.  His response was: “Sure, we can send you to Camarillo!”  Which meant ‘No!‘  Camarillo was that state mental hospital.  It was a stigma for people of my dad’s generation to get help with their emotions.  He even declined the psychiatric help offered to him after he was liberated from a German prison camp at the end of WWII.

As I grew older there was a shift happening in the mental health field.  It was becoming more and more common for people to seek the support of a psychologist or psychiatrist.  It no longer meant that you were ‘totally crazy’ if you tried to untangle your thoughts and behaviors.  There was still a stigma, but it was much less severe.

It’s an important change for all of us.  For literally centuries people kept doing the same dysfunctional things their families did over and over and over.  There was no way to stop the patterns unless you were willing to accept the judgement involved in ‘getting therapy’.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Phil’s statement: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  And I would add the obvious idea that you can’t acknowledge what you are unwilling to look at, work on, or talk about.

I’m really writing this to answer a question I get from a lot of my clients, which goes something like:  Why didn’t my parents do better with this?  The answer to that comes from another quote —this time it’s a paraphrase from Maya Angelou:  We do the best we can until we know better, when we know better we do better.  Our parents didn’t know better. How could they?  Their parents, grandparents, etc. didn’t either.

And then in late 1980’s and early 1990’s all sorts of things started to happen around new ways of not only becoming more aware of our thinking and behavior, but actually consciously doing—as Maya would have said—better!  One of the best of these new ways is the one I work incalled Life Coaching.  Imagine, assisting and supporting people to have better lives,! Helping them to let go of the way it was always done before, be it around work, relationships, or even money!

And it’s all been in my lifetime. Wow!

You know I used to think my grandmother, Cupcake (* see below) had seen the most important and remarkable changes in human history in her lifetime.  She was born in 1900 and died in 2001.  In her hundred years there was electricity, automobiles, flight,  computers — a myriad of amazing and miraculous inventions that changed our lives.

And now I think that it may just be possible that the most miraculous thing is happening in my lifetime — people are readily choosing to break the old patterns and embrace their lives and talents in new ways.   They are doing it through workshops, coaching, counseling, retreats — there are all sorts of paths to personal growth.

Wow, just wow!

(*Okay, I recognize an explanation is in order here—as a little girl I nicknamed her that.  She was short and round and had white hair, thus frosting on top.  The name “Cup Cake” stuck!)

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about this idea of how you can break the pattern, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.