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.

Seeking Balance

Maybe it’s just because I’m a Libra?  You know, born in October, the scales thing.  Maybe it’s deeper than that?  It seems like for me it’s always about seeking balance.  Notice I didn’t say finding balance, I said seeking it.  That’s because it’s illusive and fleeting.

One of the things that fascinates me in working with clients is our very human predilection to have black/white, on/off, good/bad thinking.  We are so driven in that direction that ALL this amazing computer stuff in our lives is based on zero and one.  Seems simple, seems practical.  In the context of actually living it makes for very narrow and restricted possibilities.

One of the ideas I latched on to long ago during my coach training is that you need more than two options.  I like the image of black at one end of the possibilities, white at the other, and all the multitudes of color in between.  Wow!  Bringing in the color really helps us find new solutions, experiences, and balance.

The fuel for this blog comes from an Anais Nin quote: We don’t see things as they are: we see them as we are.”  It’s a stunning thought.  While noting our own view, it really asks us to look beyond our own perspective and see what else is there.

There is a dichotomy at work in this.  It is both always about us, and never about us, simultaneously.

One of my favorite coaches would ask me this very irritating question:  “What two percent of this is yours?”  It was irritating, because it was also on point.  All of us always have ownership in it somewhere.  As much as I’d want to be right about the other person, I had ownership in the exchange.

And to play with the Seeking Balance theme here, it is also often true that the ‘rant’ someone is turning on you isn’t really about you—it’s about some place where they are disappointed, frustrated, tied up.  Your question to yourself in these instances might be something like:  What if this really isn’t about me?  What if it’s about something else?  How does that change my reaction to it?”

People seek coaching because they want something to be different.  They want something to change.  And above all else, change requires self observation.  As Dr. Phil puts it: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  Acknowledge the extreme of both edges and the middle.

Getting clear is a crucial first step.  It gives you a way to seek balance.  If you try to skip it you just wander around bumping up against things.  Clarity doesn’t actually mean you have to go over and over and over things.  That’s actually counter productive because it keeps you literally stuck in the muck—you build up your neuropathways around the mess more and more.  The trick here is that by acknowledging what you don’t want you become more conscious and make better choices.

Frankly, part of why this is on my mind is our current political climate.  It’s all on/off, yes/no  —  oppositional.  The idea of seeking—let alone finding balance—has been lost in the fray.  To me the bigger goal is to create a country and culture that allows us to actually have differing views and seek balance and harmony.  That’s up to us, each of us.  And as we do that for ourselves  it ripples out to others.  All any of us can really do is be the change we want, right?

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want to chat about this idea of Seeking Balance? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Separate Business & Personal Money?

The bulk of my clients are working directly for themselves.  They are the company or ‘talent’—be they real estate agents, coaches, accountants, lawyers, artists, or some other sole proprietor. A crucial part of that situation is that there are two distinct piles of money that we (yes, I’m one of those types, too) all need to deal with: Business Money and Personal Money.

Let’s explore some of the challenges and pitfalls with having these two distinct money entities, and some thoughts on how to cope with those challenges.  Here are three possibilities to look at.

1). What happens when you keep the business and personal money together, and treat it the same? This one ends up being messy, ugly, and way too complicated.  It is guaranteed to not only drive your tax person crazy, but to cost you bundles of money, time, and energy, on both the business and personal side.  Frankly it’s an avoidance tactic that will make things much more difficult.  And if you do this you miss one of the really great things about money.  By mushing everything together you miss being able to see what is happening with it.  “Where does it all go?”  “Why can’t I ever get ahead?”  Judgments and nagging voices in your head abound!  Bottom line: this is not a sustainable way to go.

2). What happens when you keep the business and personal money separate, yet still treat them the same?  This option is slightly better than the last one.  At least the taxes are easier.  There is however a subtler and yet bigger issue at play when you do this.  It ALL becomes about you personally!  When you have to tell someone your rates it’s about you instead of what you will do for them.  It’s hard enough to keep what we do from who we are internally without getting the money mixed up in there.  And an even more fascinating thing that I learned in my many years as a CFO: Business Money and Personal Money have different perspectives and scale.  They run on different criteria.  Business is all about growing itself or Return on investment (ROI).  My question was always “what is this expense going to get us as a company?”  And under that was, “will thing be better?” and “will we be more profitable/successful?” Personal money decisions often have a more emotion-based component:  “Will I feel better?”  “Will I be safer, more secure?”  “Will others like or appreciate me?”  Can you see how murky and expensive it can be when we kludge these together?  Those different criteria lead to different choices and result.  

3). What happens when you keep the business and personal money separate, and treat them that way?  I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that this option is the one I strongly suggest!  I’ve been practicing it for much of my life, all of the times I was running a business—which has included not only my coaching practice, but an electronic payment processing start-up (doesn’t that just sound techie!) and a radio station.  Keeping the money separate allowed me, among other things, to see the business as an ‘entity’ separate from me. I’ve always had these conversations with myself about: “What would the business want?” “What would it say?”  “What would make it more solid, and effective?”  Similar questions, yet from a different perspective than the Personal Money questions.  By keeping it all separate you can see what each ‘entity’ has to tell you.  You have clearer information, which will create more effective actions, and better results, both in your business and personal life.

Give it a try.  See what new ways of thinking are available.  Notice that once you get things separate between your business money and personal money—both in your accounting for them and in the way you think about them—you will be simultaneously more relaxed and in control.  A result worth working toward, for sure!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear about what you discover about your own business and personal money workings and ideas. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Talk To Your Relationship

No, it’s not an error.  I said to talk ‘to’, not ‘about’ your relationships.

There’s this very interesting thing about all of our relationships.  They are unique, each and every one.  They have their own energy and spirit.  Think about it.  A different person brings out a different part of you, right?  There are those you giggle and laugh with.  There are those you talk with about serious things.  There are those who you hardly talk with at all.

You probably have assumed it’s just the nature of where you and the other person connect that  makes each relationship so unique.  Here’s another idea.  What if it’s the unique blend of the two of you together that creates the energy between you?  Some particular combination at work?

Each relationship’s energy has its own unique personality.  And you can actually talk to it to see what it has to say about the relationship and the people who are in it.  It’s this wonderful concept I learned about, long ago, during my coaching training with CRRGlobal. The brilliance comes when you actually ask the Relationship, or as they called it the Third Entity, what’s going on.

Yes, I’ll agree it sounds a bit wacky, and it works!

When I’m working with a couple, I will ask them to each embody and speak as if they were the Relationship itself.  Often the Relationship has a new perspective on what is going on.  It can often see the whole better than the individuals, while also seeing both sides.

The technique is pretty simple.  One of you moves to a different place in the room, and speaks as if you actually were the ‘voice of the relationship‘.  The only caveats are to speak in the first person, and let go of your perspective while you are speaking as the Relationship.

This is a useful and fascinating tool for all sorts of exploring.  Of course is seems like—and is—a natural for ‘couples work’, and in that arena it works even if only one member of the couple isthere.  They can be both their own voice, and the voice of the Relationship—and just to play a bit further they can also personify the voice of the other partner!

But wait, there’s more! (Not to sound too much like a bad late-night TV commercial.)  There are many other places where you can use this process.  A really obvious one in with your  relationship with Money.  What would Money say if it could talk?  And what would the Relationship between Money and you say if it could talk?

Think of it as a bit of role play, and let your imagination fly with all sorts of options.  It’s not only a playful thing, but a very simple way to give ourselves permission to explore other options and possibilities.

And just for fun, you might want to explore the idea of even bigger groups and systems having a unique Relationship voice or energy.  For example, what about:

  • Your family?
  • Your neighborhood?
  • You and your pet(s)?
  • The company you work for?
  • Your country?
  • Your church?

They all have their own unique personalities, don’t they?  For me, somehow knowing and understanding that there is an overall unique Relationship ‘entity’ makes dealing with all the ups and downs easier!  It makes it all less personal and more a “systems” thing, especially with those bigger entities.  Happy exploring and role playing to you, your partners, and your Relationships!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear about what you discovered it talking with your relationships. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Whoa the Worry!

We all do it.  We worry, fret, agonize, brood, and get into a dither.  It’s a human thing to do.  The question is: When is it actually effective?  And when isn’t it?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most of is all that nattering in our heads.  That critic voice saying “you should — you must — why haven’t you…” over and over again, in every way possible.  And we get trapped in this land of defending, feeling ‘wrong‘, beating ourselves up, second guessing — you get the picture, right?

It’s hardwired in for us.  It’s very, very old, and has to do with safety and security.  There is a part of us that is obsessed with keeping us safe.  It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?  And it would be, except that Inner Critic in our heads has a very narrow and somewhat odd perspective about what is safe!

It defines safe as where you are in this moment.  Frankly it doesn’t care about a bunch of things that make our lives challenging.  Things like piles of debt,  toxic relationships, being stuck in jobs we hate, etc.  It’s fundamental criteria is that you are not currently in imminent danger — like literally on FIRE!  Seems fairly safe to say our Inner Critic has some paranoia going on!

This critic voice in our heads is not a new thing.  It’s been around as long as humans have.  Monkey Mind, Gremlin, Sabatour… all sorts of names.  And we coaches are all too familiar with it.  It’s a big part of what keeps clients stuck.  See, whenever we try something new or different there is a chance we will mess something up.  Frankly, messing things up can be a very good thing because it leads to new ideas, possibilities, and results.  And trying something new just freaks our Inner Critic out.  It gets very activated and wants to reign you in, keep you safe, keep you right where you are in this moment!

It has a very simple and effective technique to get you off track: It distracts you.  There are many ways it does that.  A couple of classic ways are:

  • It gets you into a ginormous discussion in your head.
  • It lectures you on how bad, wrong, or stupid you are.
  • It berates, belittles, and ‘bad dogs’ you.

It’s really effective.  All this fretting on your part, fueled by the critic voice in your head, serves to distract you from any ‘new‘ idea and keep you right where you have always been!

Our Inner Critics are crafty. They know us really well.  They know the tender spots.  They will do anything to keep you safe—and again, they define safe as where you are right now.

There’s the real rub in this.  You cannot change, improve, grow, or attain new goals without doing something different.  T’aint possible.  All that time you spend nattering in your head with your Inner Critic is just distracting and sidelining you.  It’s not helpful, at all!

The most effective method I have found to stop the critic — and just in case you haven’t noticed, I think stopping it is a crucial thing to do — is to hold and think about it entirely differently.  Instead of engaging with it at all, think of it as a signal that you are doing something new and different.  Don’t try to calm the fear — instead rejoice and applaud that you are trying something new!  In a bizarre way, your job is to rattle your critic, isn’t it?  If you are just “drawing inside the lines” and “holding the status quo” nothing is going to change… NOTHING!  So instead of joining your Inner Critic in its lecture, judgement, and finger wagging, how about you celebrate that you are doing something different?  Revel in it a bit.  Know that you can change and make choices.  Thank the Inner Critic for the signal, while not falling into its distraction trap!

A good technique to distinguish between Inner Critic and something important for you to know or pay attention to is to ask yourself:

  • Is this ‘conversation‘ in my head distracting me from what I’m trying to do, or to focus on?
  • Is there a ‘tone‘ attached to the message I’m getting, like fear or shame?  Your Inner Critic always has a tone.  Your Inner Wisdom never has a tone.

See if you can’t say “Whoa there!” to all that worry, be kinder to yourself, and get more traction on your dreams!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Need some help with this? Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

Playing with Virtual Money

It’s summer!  Time to be a bit more playful.  Personally I’ve been doing more playing and less blogging.  How about  a way for you to ‘play’ with your money this summer that is fun, whimsical, and doesn’t actually spend any of it … because it’s virtual?

It’s my twist of the Prosperity Game, which has been around for years—so long that there are apps and even printed checks you can buy to play the game.  None of that is actually needed to play the game.  All you need is some place to track what’s happening , like a journal.

It’s a game you play with yourself by spending virtual money everyday.  You start with $100 and double it each day ($100, $200, $400, $800, etc).  One of the rules is that you have to spend all the money each day.  Sometimes people want to save up for something, but that’s not necessary.  Since it doubles every day you will be close to spending a million a day in just two weeks ($819,200)  Another rule is that  you have to spend it on yourself.  You can take people with you on trips, or the like, but you must spend the money on yourself.  The point is to explore and clarify your relationship and thoughts about money—not just give it away. While playing the game you will shop, make lists, spend imaginary money on imaginary things.  I suggest you don’t get tied up in the fiddly bits of things like sales tax.  Rounding off is fine.  It’s not about record keeping!  No actual money is used.

It’s a very interesting game.  Over the years, I’ve encouraged many of my clients to play this game.  It does several intriguing things.  One thing it does is pretty effectively show you where your “money ceiling” is.  Your “money ceiling” is the amount of money you just can’t understand—the amount that is beyond your personal limit.  It’s a good thing to know.  If you approach your money ceiling without knowing where it is, it can suddenly open up and sweep you away.

The game also helps you reframe your ideas of:

  • What is expensive
  • What is cheap
  • The value of things
  • What you really want
  • How much stuff you can handle

All very intriguing concepts to play with and understand.

Okay, now that you know the basics of how the game works, let’s look at the part of the game that I’m most intrigued with. Your brain actually thinks it is real money.  Your head doesn’t know the difference between your spending the money virtually or in reality.  I know this by personal experience.

When I played first this game, I lived in a house where the washing machine drained into a deep sink.  It was a very old, very heavy sink with a small drain.  I had a furry spaniel dog, Decaf, who contributed lots of hair to the laundry, and frequently that hair would come out of the washer hose in a way that would plug the sink, and cause it to overflow on to the floor.  Not a fun thing to clean up.

Naturally, early in playing the money game I decided to “pay” some of my virtual money to get that sink fixed.  Yipee!  Problem solved.  About a week later I did some laundry, and the sink overflowed.  There I was, standing in water, with my hands on my hips saying “Damn it!  I paid to get that sink fixed and it’s overflowing!” and then it struck me.  I had paid to get the sink fixed with virtual money!  It wasn’t really fixed.

Other people I know have had similar experiences with this game.  One person offered to loan a friend $25,000 until it occurred to her that it was virtual money she was offering.

I learned a bunch of other things playing the game.  Some of my ideas of what was ‘expensive’ and what was ‘cheap’ shifted.  And then there was the place where I just felt overwhelmed.  The place where I had hit my money ceiling.  A very good thing to know.  I suggest that you play at least one day past that place, because just beyond that point often lurks some really amazing dreams.

The real point is that your thoughts about money are fluid and can change.  That’s good news.  You can change your money thinking.  You can provide some different experiences of money for your brain, even virtual ones, and your brain will accept them as real even when they aren’t.  That’s good news.  It’s also odd news.  It would seem  to be telling us that it’s important that you pay attention to the messages that you send your brain about money, wouldn’t it?

How about playing this money game to explore what’s going on in your head around money, and learn about some new possibilities.  At the very least it’s a bit of a fun summer lark!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear how the game worked for you. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

Making Room to Move Forward

So long ago that I don’t remember when—or frankly where—I got this idea, I heard about a process to help us get some traction on moving forward from big wadded up messes.  I’ve been suggesting this idea to several clients lately, so I decided it was time for a blog!

We all get stuck in ‘loops’ regarding traumatic issues.  It can seem like we just keep circling, and circling, and then circling yet again.  Going over and over the old stuff.  It’s not just that it’s exhausting — it’s ineffective, and it keeps us from moving forward.

Yes, some things are just really hard to deal with.  They just keep haunting us.  Those things that stand in our way have a story behind them—a tale of what happened, all the circumstances, who said what to whom, what the weather was… it goes on and on.  Additionally, a lot of this kind of situation is really old stuff.  It includes things from childhood, relationships, money, etc.

The solution for how to stop stirring the pot and get moving to some new thoughts and choices lies in neural science.  Here’s the fundamental problem: When you start thinking about the issue, you ‘activate’ the neural pathway that all the details and circumstances are parked in.  As you think of one bit of the problem, all sorts of other things come to mind.  Soon you get totally swamped, just like “when you are up to your ass in alligators, you forget that the purpose was to drain the swamp!

The solution is to put all the alligators… um, circumstances, issues, details, etc… around the issue in a container.  Yes, imagine some kind of container.  It could be a safe with a big heavy door, an old chest with a lock, a file cabinet, whatever you want.  The point is to put all the details somewhere.

The next step is to have a name for the container.  Be thoughtful about this name.  It’s a tool to help you refer to ALL the stuff in the container without having to reopen and look at it.  Don’t pick a name that’s going to cause you to go into all the details again.  Also be careful to not pick a name that’s going to create unnecessary angst in a different direction.  It’s the difference between “the time the car broke down” and “the time the car broke down on the way to grandma’s house” — you really, don’t want to reactivate it your head every time you go to her house!

Now that you have the mess nicely contained—and aren’t looking at the gators—you can do the important thinking to move forward.  You can get strategic, you can make plans, you can come up with new and maybe even different ideas—all without being sucked in by the details and circumstances because they are tucked nicely away in your container.  Later you can always go reopen the container and revisit what happen if you want to.

Meanwhile, You can have a clear head without distraction to focus on moving forward.  Whew!  What a relief that will be.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in making room to change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

What You Say About Money Matters

Remember that now-old, computer adage: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)?  It’s even more crucial when we apply it to our thoughts.  Our brains put like thoughts together in neural pathways.  All our thoughts about any particular thing get connected together.

It’s really quite fascinating.  For example it’s kind of like a bunch of cupboards.  When you open the door to the cupboard there are all the goodies in there.  Until you open the door you don’t actually think about what’s in there.  For example, most of us have a cupboard we could call “Friends from childhood” — we don’t open in very often, but when we do we can see a bunch of people in it.  Just think of the name of one kid you knew. Got ’em?  Okay, now as you remember them the cupboard door opens wider and you can see more kids in there.

It’s a pretty cool system, and I think there is no coincidence that in many ways computers are structured in a similar fashion.  Even though we may not have had all the brain science worked out when computers were invented, the style and method of our thinking influenced the design.

Okay, so what on earth does that have to do with money and what you say about it?  The short answer is EVERYTHING!

What you focus on is what you create.  You gather more and more fodder to support your position, and all that fodder makes the ‘cupboard’ bigger and bigger.

What exactly do you say about money? We know that the odds are your parents said things like:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • You’ll have to work really hard to make any
  • There’s never enough of it

The irony is that because they believed that, they proved it — with one small but important caveat.  See the use of the ‘enough’ word?  Our brain pays no attention to the ‘never’ in that sentence.  What it does do is focus on creating the enough word.  The problem is enough is a ‘scarcity’ word.  Think about it.  One way or another there was always ‘enough’ — just enough.

The quantity of scarcity thoughts in the “money cupboard” in most of our heads is huge.  That neural pathway is jam-packed with examples, reinforcement, fodder.  Conversely, the money thought cupboard around the idea of plenty, or lots, is a tiny little cupboard from perhaps a doll house.

The result being that when it comes to money, just like when it comes to other thoughts and ideas, we reinforce what we have always reinforced.  We are at the very least in the habit of thinking that way.

Changing that thinking, and thus the results you create, is both hard and easy.  It’s as easy as being conscious of what you say and think about money, and changing from an ‘enough/scarcity’ to a ‘plenty/lots’ conversation.   And that is also hard to do, mostly because it’s a very ingrained habit.

My suggestion is to institute a counter-balancing method.  Start by being easy with yourself.  Don’t give yourself a hard time when you use that scarcity word.  And when you use it, and notice it, then immediately replace it with a more abundant word.  At the very least balance it with a counter-balance statement.  For example: “I never make enough money, except when I do!”  It can actually be an amusing thing to do.

The reason that all this is so important is that you can’t actually create the abundance or security you want to get past ‘scarcity’ or ‘enough-ness’ until you can believe it’s possible.  And you cannot be in ‘plenty land’ as long as you keep reinforcing the neural pathway that is a massive cupboard filled with scarcity thinking.

Here’s an example that might help.  Did you take a foreign language in school?  I took French.  Most classes focused on you speaking the foreign language, right? We didn’t try to learn French by speaking English.  That just wouldn’t work.  And I found when I went to France on a trip, the longer I was there, the easier it was for me to understand the language.  I had even started to think in French by the end of the trip.  What was happening is that the French ‘cupboard’ was getting filled. 

It’s the same with your money thinking and beliefs.  You can change it, and it’s a simple and as hard as learning to do anything different.  Remember, when it comes to money, what you say about it does matter!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in changing what you say about money give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Money Self-Talk

Did you happen to see this quote on Facebook?  Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.  What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.’

You probably won’t be surprised that my brain went right to:  ‘…and when it comes to money, it’s an even more taboo topic!’  Mostly we don’t even talk about that we don’t talk about it, and the aforementioned ‘lack of understanding’ around money is monumental.  I truly do think it’s the MOST taboo topic on the planet.

And the person we talk to the least about money is actually ourself.  Sure we have money conversations in our head.  Most often they are rants about what we are doing wrong — judgements of our short comings.  These aren’t actual conversations where we listen — really listen — to what we are saying about money.  This is unexplored money self-talk.

The important thing here, is that what we say is what we believe.  Our internal dialog rules our brain.  If the primary belief we have is that money is this awful, scary stuff that we can’t actually get a handle on and don’t understand, we will make that the truth and act accordingly.

A large part of my job is to really hear what people are saying, both out loud and in their heads.  I try to clue in on when I hear someone using internal and external language-based judgement, criticism, and just not feeling good about ourselves.  Some of the words that we use around money that tip me off to this are: enough, earned, value, deserve, frugal, broke, wasteful.  Other words that strike even deeper show how we judge what we are doing —  how we  ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, and ‘got to’.  It’s often pretty subtle stuff.  And I’m pretty much all over my clients, encouraging them to thinking in terms of ‘wanting’ or ‘choosing’ to do things instead of all those other options.

The real reason for that is that coming from that more self-directed positive place is just plain more effective.  All that negative nattering distracts us from the task at hand, and that limits our abilities.

How about you find a way to have a couple of heart-to-heart money conversations with yourself?  I know it sounds a bit ‘out there’ but why not?  Tune in and notice when you say a negative thing about yourself, about you and money, even about your expectations of what is possible in your life.  Why not start by making a simple list of your self-talk phrases and then noting if they are positive, negative, or even neutral.

What’s going on there in your head?  You can absolutely shift it.  You can learn new words and hold new ideas.  You even can learn to ‘correct’ yourself when you say something like, “I’ll never make it!”  You can choose to follow it with “…unless, of course, I do!

There is a bit of sneaky science behind this idea.  It’s all about neural pathways.  The ones that get more use get stronger, the ones with little use diminish.  You get to choose.  What are you reinforcing?  See what you can learn about what you really say about money.  And how, with just a bit of noticing and language focus, you can change your money thinking — really, you can!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in hearing your internal messages and making these change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Self-Cleaning Oven

Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves — to be a self-cleaning oven.  For me, this last month has been one of those times that irritatingly remind me of that.  In many ways being a ‘Self-Cleaning Oven’ is the counterpoint of my last blog: What If It’s Not Actually About You?‘  Were you able to read that one?  Magically the same cut and paste of the link to that blog—which I used for Facebook and notifying list-serves—didn’t work for the larger mass of folks on my ‘list’.  Razzlefrats!

I will not burden you with all the things that have been challenging for me this month, but suffice it to say that I finally wrote down a list.  It’s now over a dozen.  Maybe I could lay some of it at the doorstep of planetary influences (Mercury in retrograde)?  Certainly, having this ‘cold’ I’ve been fussing with for over a month didn’t help.  The challenges have been wide-reaching, involving clients, friends, technology, isolation — oh, and even money!

I don’t bring all this up to start a ‘poor me’ conversation.  I do bring it up to acknowledge that  we all have times like these, and we need methods to cope with such times.

What I notice is that inevitably it finally comes down to each of us being a self-cleaning oven.  What I really mean by that is, no matter how much support you have from friends, family, and outside resources, it is always up to you to find your own way.  It’s up to you to explore options, find resources, change—or keep—your thinking, make choices, and solve the problem.

To hearken back to the ‘It’s Not Actually About You’ blog, the stuff others try to project on you isn’t about you… AND it follows that what you feel about others isn’t about them, it’s all about you, TO YOU!  The trick is what you do with that.

Remember that old idea that ‘no one can actually make us angry’?  Yes, we do get angry, sad, frustrated — all sorts of emotions!  And these emotions are real and valid.  They are also our projection of our values, morals, history, dreams…

Many, many times we get caught trying to change others in the hope of creating a different result.  The problem is we can’t change others.  We can only change ourselves and our choices.  I did a presentation last week on ‘Managing VS Meeting Client Expectations’ a favorite topic of mine.  One woman raised her hand and asked about several ‘difficult clients’ she just couldn’t please.  Those of you that know me well won’t be surprised that I told her about the difficulty in trying to teach a pig to sing. (That is, it wastes your time and irritates the pig.)  The point is not to keep trying to make people who are difficult happy — it is about finding clients that appreciate you and your work.

No matter how many resources you have, there is always that point where it’s you and you alone who makes the choice of how to react and respond.  Thus the self-cleaning oven analogy.  How can you move more quickly from the frustration with others to the place where you really look at why this bothers you.  How can you be introspective in those moments?  That’s what the self-cleaning oven is all about.  Yes, it may burn and feel harsh sometimes, and in the end it is yourself you need to honor and care for.  You have dreams, values, and ideals that need to be honored and respected… and you are the one to do that for yourself.

And just in case you were wondering: you don’t actually have to declare this position to others.  You don’t have to tell them you are going to take care of yourself.  You just need to do it.  Primarily because taking care of you—being your own self-cleaning oven—is ALL about you, not them.

How about the next time something or someone gets under your skin, you take a moment to see what part of what you feel is about your sense of what’s fair, your values, your dreams — you — and then take some time to be a self-cleaning oven.  What would be the value of that for you?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore some specific ways to be a Self-Cleaning Oven give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

What If It’s Not Actually About You?

It’s a really interesting question to ponder, because MOST of the time, it really isn’t about us —even when it feels like it is!  We all process every thought and idea through our own filters.  What we notice about others always is a reflection of what we care about or are interested in — our personal opinions, our values.  It’s just how it is.

I know you have had the experience of, for example, getting a new car and all of a sudden you notice all the other cars of the same model on the road with you.  It almost feels like everyone ran out and got the same car because you did, doesn’t it?  Part of this feeling comes from that really valuable, hard-won human survival trait of Pattern Making — we make patterns  like crazy all the time.  It allows us to not clutter our brains by spending a bunch of time analyzing things.

We respond and react to the thing we are used to, focused on, care about.  And we find it bizarre when others don’t notice or care the same way we do!  For example, I do have several friends that not only don’t have pets, but actually don’t care about animals at all.  I can hardly grok that.  I’m likely, in any circumstance, to pay more attention to the critter than their human!

One of the exercises that is often suggested by counselors and coaches is to ask your friends what they think of you.  It’s often a very positive and illuminating thing to do.  After all, our friends like us!  And it’s also illuminating about the friends, because the things they notice about you reflect what they care about.  If they remark on your kindness and caring for others, it’s because that’s important to them.  If they notice your shoes it’s because they are into shoes.

Here’s an ‘on-point’ example:  Back in the 80’s I dated this really wonderful man, Bill.  Bill was a car guy, big time.  He had a gorgeous ‘Vette‘ that he babied and adored.  At some point we noticed this really interesting thing.  It was about the way we gave directions to folks about how to find some particular place.  He gave directions with reference points of Gas Stations and Car Dealerships.  I’m sure that those of you that know me will not be surprised to hear that my directions had to do with Grocery Stores and Restaurants.  We each noticed and ‘honored’ what was important to us, what we loved and valued.

The point is that when someone makes a comment about you, judges you, criticizes you, it is alway much less about you and more about them.  Something in their experience has been triggered.  Something they have strong opinions about… something about them!

And here’s how and why this is useful to know.  If, before any kind of challenging conversation or interaction, you can repeat to yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not” you will be much more effective and calm in the exchange.  Afterall, it’s actually not about you!  It’s about their projection around you, or what you represent to them, or how they want you to be… but not actually about you.  And that is true even when they say it is about you!  

Huh?  How can that be?  I’m not saying you aren’t responsible for your actions. You are.  But how others respond to them is their stuff not yours.  This is good news/bad news.  It’s less about us than we think.  The real value here is that if you can hold the idea the this “isn’t about me” you can truly be more present, and effective in the conversation.

I believe that a really effective sweet spot is to be “100% committed and unattached, at the same time” because when we get “attached” we get muddled.  And a great way to not get attached is to remember: “It’s not about me!

Easier said than done, but well worth striving for and practicing, yes?  How might your interactions with others be different with you knowingit’s really not about me?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

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