The Parable of the Two New Toys.

I’ve got two new toys parked outside.  Yes, I suspect that if you know me you’ll assume that they have two wheels, and … OK, you’re right. I bet they’re not quite what you expect though.

“One upon a time a man had two new toys.  One was huge and brand spanking new. It had lots of posh gadgets, was sprayed a smart silver, went very fast and cost £20,000. The other had no gadgets at all, was a bit ‘used’, went very slow and cost £320. Oh, and it was yellow.

But the big, expensive toy didn’t belong to the man.  It was loaned to him for the night by a local motorcycle dealer, and the man would only be able to play with it for a few hours, then back it would go.

The other toy, the little gadget-less one, the one that cost so little and went slow? It wasn’t on loan.  It belonged.  The man had paid his own money for it. He had already had it for a week and used it lots of times.  It knew that it would serve an important purpose and had nothing to fear from the big posh expensive toy. Had not the man already lavished time and love on Saturday morning cleaning the grime and old oil of it’s chain?  Had he not already made his bottom sore riding it up hill and down dale?  Had he not taken his car to Wiltshire to find it, rescue it from the dark and crowded garage of his nephew, fold it up neatly, bring it home, and give it new life? And had he not spent hours on the internet to find the very best saddle? Had the man not already, even today, ridden it down to Waitrose and back to collect a slice of salmon for lunch? 

Tonight it sat folded up contentedly in the shed, listening to the rain outside, knowing that already it was treasured – and would be able to reward the man for many years to come. Today it had rewarded the man with aching limbs, and the important knowledge that he wasn’t as fit as he pretended. Perhaps in a few months time the man would look back with deep affection and gratitude, with the knowledge that he was now fit and healthy, and that his bum no longer noticed every bump in the road.

Brompton enjoying its first trip to Chichester.

The big posh brand-new 1600 BMW motorcycle listened to the rain too – and felt it bouncing on its bodywork.  It was too big for the shed and would never ever fold up and go in the boot of the car. And it had a drink problem the other little Brompton would never suffer from. It liked petrol. Lots of it. And tomorrow it would be stuck once more in the showroom with a “For Sale” sign attached, waiting to belong.

As the man prepared for bed that evening, he remenisced, thinking about the two bikes. It was ironic that the bike he desired most was not the posh big one. It’s size and complicated electronics were no longer his desire, however fast it went with its fly-by-wire throttle, and clever engine management system. He loved the little Brompton with its rusty pedal and worn pannier bag. He knew it had already snuggled into a place in his heart – regardless of its ‘bracing’ demands on his energies, its unpretentious presence on the road, its honest revealing of his lack of fitness, and his tender…,  er… yes, that too. But the new saddle will soon wear in, and his fitness improve.

The truth was, and is, that the Brompton was his. It was adaptable, convenient, and demanded nothing but his energy and a little care. It could accompany him all over the world if he so wished. Folded neatly it would fit in a car boot, on a train rack, and on a plane without complaint or protest – even from the check-in staff.

And it would teach him that time can be used in different ways, that beauty can be expressed in simplicity, that there are different ways to travel in life.”

(And that riding a push-bike is fun.)

The Kind Stranger Chapter 4: A trip to the pottery.

Good morning!”

I’m getting used to the Kind Stranger sneaking up on me and surprising me.  Behind his smiling face is a playful sense of humour. Here I was getting on with my life, preparing breakfast in the kitchen. In he came, looking for me. KS is always welcome in our home.

“We’re going on a short trip today,” he said. “I’ve something to show you.”

By now I have learnt that he hears the deeper thoughts I have and responds to them without me needing to verbalising anything. I suspected this was another similar moment. It was.

But of course we didn’t need to get the car out and disappear down the road.  No, the Kind Stranger invited me to sit quietly with him, rest my mind, and wait. A few minutes later, I knew we were on the move, and soon we arrived at a village square.  You’ll probably have been there yourself.  It had an array of houses gathered around a village green.

“We’re going just over there”, he pointed to an old building with a light burning inside. We wandered over, he lifted the latch and we stepped inside.

We were in a workshoppy room, with pots everywhere, in various stages of completion. This, I realised was the village potter’s house, and I was unnerved to find that the old potter, working away at her wheel in the corner was oblivious to us.  I tried to talk to the old woman, but she didn’t hear me.  It was as if I was invisible to her. I slowly realised that I was.

I turned to the Kind Stranger to ask what all this was about when he put his finger to his lips to quieten me. He smiled. “Just watch,” he whispered.

I moved over to a workbench, pulled myself up onto it so I could sit more comfortably, and watched as instructed.

The Kind Stranger came and stood by me, and put his hand on my arm.  He often did this to reassure me and help me to relax. I felt myself take in deep breath and exhale slowly, feeling my shoulders drop and my breathing slow.

The Potter got up, moved past us, and unseeing, made her way to a bin of clay. Lifting the lid, she removed a lump of pure soft clay. Cutting a small amount from the lump the potter took it over to her wheel and began to carefully press it, mould it, and shape it. She took such care, and I was intrigued to watch her skills in action. Several times she stopped the wheel, and looked contemplatively at her amazing creation. It was absolutely beautiful. She had used her lifetime of skill to form a fine elegant pot that would undoubtedly be very valuable when it was finished.

Turning it slowly, she looked at each facet, checking it on the inside, on the outside, and smiled – a bit like the Kind Stranger did. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped. She had noticed a tiny flaw, a little impurity in the clay, hidden imperceptibly on the inside of the vessel. I expected her to pass over it, or take some spare clay and fix it somehow, but she didn’t. No, she gently put her hands around it and with the wheel spinning, crushed the entire pot back into a single lump of clay, and she began to make it again, a different vessel.

It hurt me to watch. I felt sad that such a nice pot would never be used by anyone or admired. Even though it was flawed it was still beautiful, still useful, still worth something. The mark was on the inside, not really visible, what was the big deal?  But I could see that to the potter it mattered. This was about her making the very most of the clay.

Something was happening inside me as I realised that the potter was not going to settle for second best. Of course, she knew that, in her hands, there was no need for any concern at all. She knew just what to do. This was clay of the highest quality and my guess is that she had paid a high price for that raw material. She had no desire to leave the clay flawed by an impurity and had no intention of moving on until that vessel was…

Exactly. The Kind Stranger  looked over at me and winked. We made our way out of the potter’s workshop, and soon we were back in my kitchen. I knew what this was about, and he knew I knew. It was about me, the value of my ‘clay’ and what I really needed right now. If I would allow myself to be …

I caught his eye. He smiled approvingly. Great. He had heard my unspoken decision.

The Kind Stranger. Chapter 2: The Second Encounter

Read the previous chapter? Then enjoy the second chapter of this amazing story…

It was the day after I met him that I first noticed a change. Now, as I think back, it is hardly surprising that it would affect my future life.  I had experienced something very special, and through the night I tossed and turned and wondered about it all. Was this really just a remote chance encounter, or was I missing something?   The Kind Stranger had singled me out for his attention. This was new to me – it had never happened before – well, not like this anyway. I didn’t know how significant it would be.

I felt both weakened and strengthened at the same time by that first encounter. It was the weakness that felt strangely good. My carefully constructed defences had softened. I had softened. I could sense myself more flexible, more open, and much more relaxed. For the first time in years I felt safer, stronger, in fact much stronger inside.

I decided to make a drink and sit down quietly. And that’s when I heard his voice again.

It felt so close, and it was not just in my head. It felt as if he was in the room with me, not physically, if you know what I mean, but definitely here. I put my drink down, and just sat, relaxed, attentive, waiting.

I know this sounds weird for a rational human adult, but to me it was as real as the chair, the drink, me sitting here, and I felt a wave of warm emotion as I heard the Kind Stranger’s voice again, as real as yesterday.

He was smiling still. You can tell when someone is smiling, can’t you. And this time his voice was quieter, more personal, almost intimate, but with that wholesome respect and trustworthiness I’d begun to associate with him. It wasn’t a whisper, just reassuringly quiet. Perhaps he knew I needed to hear him that way today.

“I said I’d come.” I heard him smile. “You can trust what I say.” How did he know that my trust in people was at a low ebb these days? “I’m here to remind you of the truth,” he said gently, “the truth about you.”

I wriggled a bit in my chair (I won’t admit to squirming!) and took a moment to settle myself. He waited. I took a deep breath, and as I relaxed he gently continued.

“From the moment you arrived on this earth as a human life until the moment you depart from it – and that includes now of course” (he smiled again) – “you have been, are, and forever will be of indescribable worth. The word I’d like to use is ‘priceless’. No amount of gold, diamonds, or any number of banknotes in any currency would compare with your worth.”

The Kind Stranger stopped for a moment to let his words sink in. They needed to. I had long doubted that I was worth anything much. Yet in his voice was a wonderful reliable confidence. He knew he was right, and in the deepest caverns of my soul I heard myself receive his words as truth for me. For the first time since I was a tiny child, I realised how valuable I really was. Priceless.

Overwhelmed, I felt my emotions well up. A single sigh, suppressed for so long within those deep echoey caverns, rose within me, and as I breathed it out, the doubt was gone. I knew the truth.

“I’ll be back soon.”  I think I may have felt his touch on my arm again as he left, though I could have imagined that.

I sat awhile, comfortably alone and at peace, consciously and unconsciously surrendering each part of my life to what he had told me. It would change everything.

Watch the video of Chapter 2 .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i9AjJCXI_Q

A Purpose-inspired Life. Part 2.

Read Part 1 first.  It will help you.

Mushrooms or Oak Trees

Living only for today and tomorrow and not considering your life as a whole is like growing mushrooms. They will be tasty today, but thrown away tomorrow. Growing mushrooms is an urgent business that needs high levels of control, hour by hour monitoring and fast delivery.we look out at "our" oak tree everyday. It was here before we were born and will be here after we die. Growing a forest of oaks is completely different. Oaks are grown for use by those in future generations. There is a delayed but much greater reward for growing them. Oak endures for literally centuries ahead. It gives lasting pleasure.
How do you want the legacy of your life to affect the people in future decades and generations?

What would it be like to give them the best example of how to live?

Who is watching you?

Primary and Secondary Purposes

Pretty much anything that has been designed and crafted has a “primary” purpose. It may also have a spectrum of secondary purposes – sometimes quite different from that for which it was originally made. A beer mat’s primary purpose is as a marketing tool. Its secondary purposes may include acting as a beer mat, as a ‘table toy’ (something to fiddle with) and as a table-leg extension – we put them under the table leg to prevent wobbling.
Although you may be able to quickly identify other purposes for your life, identifying your primary purpose brings greater inner strength, boldness and confidence. It can be very liberating as we decide “This is what I believe I was born for!”

The Power of Purpose

We sometimes identify behaviour as being done “on purpose’. By that we mean there was a clear agenda to that action, that the person (ourselves perhaps) was responding to an inner conceived plan. When you have a clear purpose that you know is ethical, unselfish and will always benefit those around you, you can live every day ‘on purpose’ with your thoughts and actions positively set to achieve that purpose. In so doing you experience the deep satisfaction of living a purposeful life.

Such a life is amazingly powerful, and because you have made sure that any action towards the fulfilment of your purpose will only benefit and not harm the world around you – your friends, work colleagues, family, etc.– you need have no fear of messing up.

NO fear of messing up?

Well, no.  Here’s why. The only sense of purpose worth its salt is one that is indestructible. Unless it is (at least for me) I don’t want it.  what is the point of living with a purpose that flops about in the breeze or gets blown away in the next gale? Your purpose needs to be like a flawless compass in the toughest storm, a purpose that is immune to the buffeting it is sure to get through the dark nights of life.

Such indestructible compasses do not come cheap. Nor can they possibly be material – either human material (a person, for example) nor non-human (mbecause material purposes are vulnerable.

Compelling

I want something that will guide my behaviour even when I’m not looking, a ‘automatic’ compass that I can rely on to take me along the path towards (not necessarily to arrive at) my destination, even though I may be ill or very tired, walking through a tough time or distracted in some way. A purpose that will inspire me needs to be too big for me to have completed in my lifetime and inspiring enough for others to be caught up by it, in fact my purpose involves living out my ‘brand’ to the day I die. I want that to be compelling for me, and up to now it has been. (And I’ve written about it in my Mission Statement blog somewhere else on this site!)

If you want me, or one of our Powerchange coach team to be alongside you in these coming months as you figure out and create your Purpose, get in touch. We’re here to support you when you know you are ready to…

Go for it!

A Purpose-inspired Life, Part 1.

The evidence is well researched and clear. If you want a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in your life, live with a clear sense of ‘life-time purpose’. Whilst it is often a person’s decision to live life on a minute by minute, day by day basis, thinking only of how they can stave off the boredom and frustrations of everyday life and provide for daily needs, many more down the centuries have found something richer. A purpose inspired life. And you don’t have to be a saint to do it.

External or Internal?

The concept of being guided by a sense of internal or external purpose appears to be unique to human beings. We love to have meaning for what we do, and to know our function – our “job description.”
On the basis that a craftsman will take raw materials and invest time and energy into developing them for a given purpose, some people give added special meaning to their lives as they believe an EXTERNAL influence – ‘someone’ or ‘something’, a spiritual influence, Creator or divine Being perhaps – has ‘arranged’ for them to exist in this time and place, and may believe “we are put on this earth for a purpose.” We call this having a sense of ‘given’ purpose.

Others people may have the belief that it is entirely up to us, that the existence of human beings and what they choose to do and have is a matter of chance and personal choice, in INTERNAL decision, in which case any sense of purpose for them is a ‘chosen’ purpose.

Whether you believe that any sense of purpose you have is external or internal, there is plenty of evidence that giving significant attention to how you are going to live your life, having a clear sense of direction is highly satisfying. Alongside that sense of direction can go a set of guiding principles on how you are going to fulfil that purpose – your moral code.

Identify your current belief:

Do you think that your purpose is primarily influenced by yourself or someone/something beyond you?

Purpose is determined by … SELF 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 BEYOND (Circle a number)

Beyond Yourself

With a little practice it is possible to take what is called a ‘meta’ view of yourself and your life, seeing yourself from outside. The word meta means ‘above and beyond’ and we use it in psychology to help provide some sort of objective view – in as far as it is possible to do so.
By varying the distance that separates that ‘you’ over there from this ‘you’ holding and reading this paper, we can create a sense of ‘dissociation’. You’ll perceive yourself differently. The further away you set that other ‘you’ the less you are emotionally caught up with them, their emotions, behaviour and thoughts. The ideal distance is usually one that means you know what they are thinking and feeling, and see what they are doing, but feel part of those thoughts and actions. It’s like watching yourself on video – you recognise it is you but you are separate from it.

Try it:

Imagine you are sitting several metres away, ‘over there’, but as you are now, reading this. Look at that ‘you over there’. What are you wearing? What is that person thinking? How happy is ‘you over there’?
You can now reverse it. Imagine you are over there looking back at the person here, where you are now.

The Purpose Question

The following Purpose Question gives you an opportunity to identify your own thoughts as to what you may think or believe would be a motivating and inspiring long-term primary purpose for your life, and integrates both the external (given) and internal (chosen) approaches mentioned above:
“Imagine that someone beyond yourself (someone who loves you unconditionally, wants the best for you and knows all about you, knows your deepest thoughts, character, strengths, weaknesses and longings, and accepts you just as you are) has chosen an inspiring, motivating and satisfying purpose for the whole of the rest of your life, a purpose that you can fulfil every day. What did they decide?”

Write down your answer.  What might be their reason(s) for choosing this purpose as most suitable for you?

Check it out

1. Sit down one-to-one with two or three people who know you well and will be truly honest with you and ask them what they think about the ethicality, and appropriateness of your ‘draft’ Purpose. Choose people who you think live purposefully and are themselves people of integrity.  They may be older than you and wiser, though not always. Young people can be very astute and very honest!
2. Listen receptively to what they say and consider whether they may be right or not.
Don’t defend yourself. You need to know what they think and defending yourself will close them down.
3. Listen carefully and note down their comments.
4. If you have a trained personal coach or mentor, such a person may be ideal. Be flexible enough to adjust, modify and refine what you’re identifying as your personal Purpose, based on their comments. Every sense of purpose needs to be strong enough to stand the test of time. A life-purpose lasts a lifetime. Don’t rush creating it.

Needless to say, I’d love to help you – or one of our Powerchange team will. just contact us via powerchange.com.

Who will I be?

Late in 1990 I experienced ‘burn out’, and made some decisions about being free from the tyranny of living my life to fulfil other people’s expectations.  (Some of them were really nice ‘other people’ too.) Here goes…

Who will I be?

The quiet and submissive heart
That, pressed by peers, will play the part
Selected for him by the common vote
Of those who stand, observe
And solemnly take note
Then gently urge him to conform
To fit the role
For which he’s not
been born?

Who will I be?

The one who scorns the social mould
And flirts with glorious liberty,
Whose heart, determined, wild and warm,
Laughs in the face of those
Who quietly continue to perform
And turning from the narrow stage
At last possesses that
For which he knows he’s born.

That’s who I’ll be.

I’ve now had nearly 20 years of freedom from ‘the narrow stage’ – though sometimes I’m tempted onto it for a while, allowing my life to become a bit of a performance. Not to be recommended.


Success Part 3: Better.

Google says there are 51,100,000 references to ‘motivation’ on the web. So what motivates the writing of so many words by so many ‘experts’? Here is my ‘expert’ opinion: people are crying out for a clear sense of personal purpose, their song. Max, song writer.I started to live a much better life when I allowed that song to be created inside me and find its tune. I finally put it into readable words in the five years between 1997 and 2002.

Since then I’ve not been one of the ‘mass of men who live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them’ as Henry David Thoreau put it.  I’ve written my song, the song I love to sing, the song that generously satisfies my desire for meaning. It is a song with verses about the deepest parts of my life, about my relationship with the Creator and his creation, about my relationship with my family, about my relationship with my friends, and in a rather bizarre way, with you and your friends too.

It is a song that I sing on happy days and on sad days, on muddy days when it is tough and on bright days when the cloudless sky invites me to play in the sunshine, a song for when I cry in private and when I laugh in public. It is a song that gets me out of bed in the morning, a song uniquely mine, yet a song that links me to many millions who may be singing similar words to a completely different tune, or no tune at all.

Of the millions of pages on motivation comparatively few of them get personal about the writer’s own motivation. They tell you how to be motivated, and how to motivate others:  “The Six Rules of Motivation” (rules!), “Motivation 123”, “100 Ways to Motivate Yourself” (a hundred!), “Seven Secrets of Motivation.”  Can you believe it, but there are even books on how many lies have been told about motivation!  “Words, words, words,” announced Eliza Dolittle, “I’m sick of words. Show me!”

Thankfully there are some people who lay their personal cards on the table, and in just a few moments I’m going to be one of them. Until then here is my three-word solution to those struggling with motivation today:

WRITE YOUR SONG.

And for the record, here’s mine.

Work-Life Balance?

I’ve a confession to make: I don’t spend much time thinking about ‘balance’. To start with, I don’t like the implied superiority of assuming we have a ‘balanced’ opinion, or the implication that ‘we need to keep a balance here’. Even when I’m riding my motorbike, I only have to consider balance when the bike is going oh-so-slowly or is stopped. The moment the wheels turn and we’re moving forward, balance happens by itself, quite naturally. In fact the only times the bike has become unbalanced and fallen over has been when it was stopped.

Now there’s a thought.

She looked so out of place.
She looked so out of place.

Let’s go one step further. The most powerful moments in the histories of both the world in general and my life in particular have been those times when something has happened (good or bad) to profoundly upset the balance, to over-write the status-quo, to destabilise daily life.

Those are the times when our lives take on new learning, we develop at a faster rate, find out about our strengths and weaknesses and grow as individuals. We learn that stability is not a human right or even a human need.

Progress is.

Progress is the process of moving beyond where I am now to a better place, and a better one after that. Of course I’ll only do that when I know where I want to go and am not afraid to go there.

This is regularly reflected in the lives of many of my clients who want me to coach them. It isn’t that they’re troubled by a lack of balance; it is that they feel stuck, trapped by fears. Their lives have become stable, so they  deliberately invite in someone beyond themselves to invade their life and thinking, upset the balance and overcome the fears, so that progress is restored again.

So what of the ‘work-life balance’ debate? Is ‘balance’ an enemy or a friend?  Personally I think it is much more a distraction. It is also an indicator of a lack of personal vision, an absence of a sense of purpose, a presence of fear.

Focused, passionate people are not distracted by concerns about balance. They know that balance mitigates against progress.

If you are concerned about ‘work-life balance’ at the moment, step back and ask questions like these instead: What is my purpose on this earth?  What progress am I making in the fulfilment that purpose? What needs to happen to take my progress in the fulfilment of that purpose into another league, two, three, (eight?) levels higher. (Big steps are often much more satisfying than little ones.)

Of course you could always email me and we’ll find out together.  It’s funny, isn’t it, how September is the natural month to think again about your sense of purpose.  I’m enjoying it.