An early mentor in my life, deceased for many years, was fond of saying, “We accept people right where they are, just the way they are.” Guess what? The hardest person to accept is often our self. And yet self-affirmation • daily self-soothing • is a critical habit for success that we too often neglect.
Longtime subscribers to LifeTrek Provisions may remember the issue last year in which I shared my experience at the millennial Boston marathon. You can still read this issue in the Provision archive (Click). It was a challenging day, to say the least. I did not run comfortably and my finish time was not what I wanted. As the race went on and this eventuality became clear, I tried to shift the focus away from my performance and toward the sights and sounds of a truly historic and great event. My self-coaching proved to be only partially successful.
This became clear several weeks later, after I had published that issue of LifeTrek Provisions, when the proofs of the official race pictures arrived in the mail. Usually I am quite excited to review the proofs and to order an 8×10 print for my marathon photo album. But this time I looked at the photos with disappointment. “Why honor a lousy run with a picture,” I told myself, “get one the next time you run Boston • and do the job right.” So I threw the proofs away.
Talk about a poor attitude for a coach, or anyone else who wants to be successful in life! That explosion of pride ranks high on my list of embarrassing moments. To reduce any experience to a single number • 3:46:31 — is to miss the experience altogether and to court with continued failure. It is not a winning approach to life. I tried to coach myself through these feelings at the time, but I failed to act accordingly. The deadline for ordering the picture came and went, leaving me with nothing more than my pride.
Since that time, three things have happened. I have gotten older, slower, and wiser. Maybe some of those things have happened to you as well. Time has a way of humbling the proud. A 3:46 Boston marathon now sounds pretty good to me and my photo album seems conspicuously incomplete.
A few weeks ago, longing to correct the situation, I called up the photography company to see if they could recover the picture without a proof • more than a year after the deadline for ordering had passed. To my surprise and delight, the company was happy and able to oblige. When the picture finally arrived, it brought me great satisfaction to open the envelope and remember the moment. What once looked so bad now looks so very good indeed. Imagine that.
Have you ever had experiences like this? Times when you got so focused on a particular project or goal that nothing less than your idea of success would prove acceptable? When things don’t go your way, as they often don’t, have you ever treated yourself with contempt, thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your behavior, and your place in the world?
Somehow I got into this downward spiral in the days, weeks, and months following the Boston marathon. It ruined my enjoyment of the race and of the deserving afterglow that usually accompanies a race. It even shook my confidence as a runner. In some ways I’m still trying to recover. This Provision • an honest baring of the soul • is part of that process.
Successful people don’t do this to themselves. They don’t second guess and berate themselves for their efforts, regardless of the results. Instead, they accept themselves for what they are: perfect creations of One Spirit, rising and falling like an ocean wave. Does the ocean get upset because some waves are smaller than others? Hardly. They are all perfect, just the way they are. Nothing has to be added or taken away. The great waves and the smallest ripples combine to make a scene of exquisite beauty. The ocean would not be what it is, perfect, were it not for them all.
So let this be your habit for success this week. Affirm yourself. Think good thoughts and speak the words. In your best and worst moments, your brilliance and blunders, your triumph and tragedy, your successes and failures, your victories and defeats • affirm the One Spirit that comes through you. Let go of your idea of success. It doesn’t have to be that way in order to be perfect. Whatever happens, no matter how disappointing, receive it as a gift that can enhance your experience of life. But only if you recognize it as such.
The following quote was shared as a Zen saying during one of the sessions I attended at the ICF meeting: “Knowledge is learning something new every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.” The presenter used this idea to get us thinking about a problem or situation in our life right now. “Maybe you don’t have to learn something new in order to solve that problem or handle that situation,” the teacher observed. “Maybe you need to let go of something.”
That has been so true in my experience not only at the Boston marathon but in life. There are things we need to let go of in order to attract success. We may need to let go of our pride or our plans. The world will not end if we let them go! We may need to let go of our negative thinking and self-talk. They only make us upset and unattractive.
My wish for you this week is simply this: accept yourself just the way you are, right where you are. Let go of how things ought to be and start paying attention to how things are. From that position, the world will beat a path to your door.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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