1. The Black Dot
When I was invited to write a series of articles for THE GLOSS, my immediate response was WOW, YES. Within moments the joy had dissipated and my old familiar trolls and gremlins came out from under the bridge to pay me a visit. A whole day was spent in a mild state of low grade panic: Can I write? Will people read? Will they be interested? How much do I reveal of my true self? Do I know enough?
Yes, even as a qualified, experienced coach, working and helping others, even with my training, my understanding, my recognition of triggers, my ability to step outside of myself and (as we say) ‘make subject object’. Even with all this, I still need do the work. Daily. It is part of the human condition. If we are not growing, we are shrinking.
If you have ever worked with a coach you may have noticed our use of parables and poetry, metaphors, imagery, and symbolism. The way in which we use language can be distinctive and compelling as we pose thought-provoking questions that edge your mind toward unfamiliar territory where, together, we “surface the invisibles”.
This style is not accidental; throughout our lives most of us rely heavily on left-brain activity. Our formal education emphasises it and this continues into many work environments – the logical, operational, organised, structured functions of the brain are overused, while the right side of the brain remains unstimulated. To counter that, the use of more descriptive phases and allegoric images spark right-brain activity, the creative side, that needs to be activated for innovative thinking and solution-focused problem-solving.
We humans are also creatures of habit; our brains love the familiar and they constantly seek it out and thus we create habits of behaviour and habits of mind. We burrow deep paths into our minds with familiar thoughts making them immutable. The use of different language, approaches and imagery interrupts these patterns and allows the coach to introduce new concepts, new ways of thinking, different perspectives.
Over the coming weeks I would like to hold this space with you and invite you on a journey to know and understand yourself better. We will seek to first understand and then overcome fear. We will look at habits of the mind, states of being, patterns of behaviour, values, beliefs, rules. AND THEN – how to break free. We will dive into how to build lasting resilience, how to thrive rather than just survive, how to develop strong self-confidence and self-esteem. We will discover what it means to live a purposeful life rather than an accidental life and the importance of self-care, generosity to ourselves and others, love, abundance and joy.
To start, I would like to share a simple story:
One day a psychology professor gave his students a surprise test. They all waited anxiously at their desks for the exam to begin. The professor handed out the exams with the text facing down, as usual. Once he had handed them all out, he told them to turn over the papers. To everyone’s surprise there were no questions – just a black dot in the centre of the sheet of paper. The professor gave them the simple instruction: “I want you to write about what you see.”
At the end of the class, the professor collected all the papers and read each one of them out loud, in front of all the students. All of them, without exception, defined the black dot, describing its size, its colour, its position in the centre of the sheet. After he had read out all the answers he put the papers down on his desk and looked out at the room of silent students and said, “I’m not going to grade you on this, I just wanted to give you something to think about. Not one of you wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot. We do the same thing in our daily lives. We have a beautiful, full piece of white crisp paper to observe and enjoy, but we focus on the dark spot. Our life is a gift, for each and every one of us. There will always be darkness, but there will also always be reasons to celebrate, to be grateful; our families, our health, the blue sky, the rain making the grass green, nature renewing itself daily, friends around us. However, we insist on focusing only on the dark spot – the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationships with others, or the disappointment with a friend. The dark spots are exceedingly small when compared to everything we have in our lives, but they are the ones that pollute our minds. Take your eyes away from the black dots in your life. Enjoy each one of your blessings and each moment that life gives you. Be happy and live a full life.”
This week I challenge you, in these unprecedented times – a global pandemic, a deluge of political unrest and economic challenge – I challenge you every day this week to take out that piece of paper, place all the darkness into the one spot in the middle of the page and then fill the rest of the page with all the bright colour in your life. Fill the page with all the things you are grateful for, everything you have been lucky enough to have in your life. Use colour, images, words. Make a mess because life is a glorious mess. Illuminate the page with the sparkle and lustre of your life. Remind yourself. This is who you are. This is your life. Make it big, shiny and bright.
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