In my last post, I discussed two ways of looking at motivation: processes/conditions and goals/outcomes (motive). Today, we will continue to look at motivation by exploring form and function and the importance of being able to make and recognize the distinction.

When we are asked what we want, most of us will respond with a form or a state of being. We might say we want to live in New York or we might say we want to be happy, to be successful.

When we become attached to that form (living in New York) or state of being (happy/successful), we become rigid in our expectations and we interpret what happens to us along the way as either responding to our desire or getting in the way. Many of us view life as ups and downs, interpreting the ups as good and the downs as bad. Some of us even interpret the ups as telling us we are good and the downs telling us we are bad or doing something wrong.

We chart our progress like a stock graph. If the line is constantly going up, we are doing well. If it dips or crashes, we are off our path or we did something wrong, bad, stupid. We say things like, “I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and one step back.”

interesting image

I wrote a bit about this in the post on momentum. Sometimes, an apparent slowdown or obstacle is all part of the momentum, at a different pace and for an essential reason.

Sometimes, though, a slowdown or reversal in momentum occurs because we have become too rigid in our expectation of form. If we are aware of the function of the form, we can be more open to possibility, options, and perhaps even discover that what we think we want, is not actually what we want and we are chasing a phantom. Chasing a phantom or someone else’s notion of what we should do, be and want can easily contribute to procrastination, because our heart is not in it.

So, what do I mean form and function?

The form is what we call something or an identity: to be a ballet dancer, to have a mansion on horse property in Kentucky.

The function is the why of it, what it gives us, or what we hope it will bring us. For example the form might be happiness or success. The function is what we think happiness or success will provide us.

It’s important to explore the function (why we want what we want) for several reasons.

First, it can reveal to us what is driving the desire. Is it heart, soul, passion driven? Is it for the sake of revenge or to prove something to others, to earn something from them, like their approval and love?

Second it can reveal to us that more than one form will serve the function. That can be a very freeing discovery as we now have options.

Third, the form is often a metaphor. I remember years ago, during the process of going through The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron and making lists of what I wanted. I always included “sculpting” on my list. (I’ve never sculpted, outside of making a clay squirrel in 8th grade art class or throwing a few pots in college.) Yet, I wasn’t moved to pursue sculpting literally.

It was always mysterious to me why “sculpting” appeared on my list until I realized it was a metaphor. It was a metaphor for creating something where nothing had existed before. Giving shape to something that did not previously have that shape.
So, the function may also be found by exploring the form as metaphor.

Here’s an exercise to help you explore the function of something you want, to help you reveal to yourself why you want it and what options might be available.

You will need a piece of paper and something to write with (or your computer). We will follow a line of repetitive questioning.

At the top of a piece of paper, write what you want (the goal, the identity, the state of being, the form).

Then write: Why do I want that?

Write your answer to the question. One sentence or two should do it.

Then write: Why do I want that (referring to the answer to the first question)

Write your answer, again in brief.

Again write: And why do I want that? (referring now, to your second answer)

Continue this series of questions and answers until you stall out. You may hit gold or you may need to persevere through some discomfort, thinking you don’t have an answer when you do. Your gatekeeper, the part of you that is afraid of change, will try to confuse you. Keep digging. You may also need to do several different rounds and look for answers you are hiding from yourself.

What does your final answer reveal to you about the function of the form you desire?

Here are some possibilities based on results my clients have experienced:

(1) Your final answer may reveal a hole in you that wants filling, a feeling you are lacking something that you hope to get from the outer world such as: approval, love, recognition, etc. If this is the case, it will be important for you to realize that no form can guarantee to fill that hole. That is an inside job. You may be in pursuit of something in the wrong place. It may work for a while, but until you address it inwardly and open up to approving of, loving and recognizing yourself, anything you get from an outside form won’t stick.

(2) Your final answer may reveal a need that requires your attention before you can (or at least while you are) exploring the more cherished desires. If you need food, you best take care of getting food, because saving the world, serving others or writing the great American novel is less likely to happen if you are starving. Day jobs are not all that bad if they contribute to your greater dream by helping you with a solid foundation. Just be sure to have it serve your dream and your energy rather than distract from it.

A stressful full-time job that uses up all your energy reserves and barely pays the rent may not be the best solution. You might be able pursue your dream while bringing in the rent by working at a job that does not require all your time and energy. Or you could work long hours at a job you plan to leave in a year or two that allows you to stash a lot of cash to pay future rent while you pursue that passion.

(3) Your final answer may reveal you are on track while opening the gateways for exploration of a number of forms that may serve that function. You then can be more flexible and open to opportunities and possibilities to which you might previously have been oblivious. Being attached to a specific form is like wearing blinders.

Here are some examples:

What do you want?

I want to be a photographer

Why do you want that?

Because I want to take beautiful photos and sell them on the internet.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to do something I love and make money doing it.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to work for myself and don’t want to work for somebody else, being indoors all day, having to commute with traffic.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to be free to make my own decisions about how I spend my time and I want to spend my time doing things I love. I want to be outdoors in nature, exploring beauty and capturing it with my camera.

You can see from this beginning that there is any number of ways one might respond to the question at each step along the way. You can also see that we can probably take this string further. And, if we stop here, what does this string reveal to us about the difference between form and function?

In this example, the form is “to be a photographer (who sells photos on the internet)”

This person’s responses revealed some values: exploring, outdoors, nature, beauty, freedom, and it leaves the inquirer with options for other ways to create income that are in alignment with their values and serve the same function; botanist, gardener/landscaper, painter to name a few.

In this case, discovering and opening up to options might be especially important if the wannabe photographer has not considered that a large percentage of his workday will be hours of sitting at a computer working with Photoshop or learning to market his wares and drive traffic to his website.

When our values are in alignment with our goals and actions; when the function the form is serving speaks to our heart and soul, and is energized by our passion, then our motivation contributes to, rather than steals from our momentum.

Let’s look another example:

What do you want?

I want to be a rock star

Why do you want that?

Because it is totally cool. People admire you and you make tons of money

Why do you want that?

Because I want be free and I want to feel loved and have people around me all the time.

Why do you want that?

Because I feel totally trapped in the mundane and I am always so lonely

This is an example of someone hoping to fill a big hole in their current state of being with a form: Rock Star. What are the odds this form strategy will fulfill the true function beyond a superficial level? They can still pursue becoming a rock star. They can still be a musician. And taking care of their need to feel special, loved, belonging within, through their own personal and spiritual development, will serve them in a way being a rock star never could.

So go ahead, try the question series and see what you want and why you want it. No one is looking over your shoulder. Go for it! Maybe you will discover something that has you realize why you can’t seem to sustain momentum with your career, dreams, relationships or projects.

copyright© October 2015, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~ Rumi

In the previous post, I wrote about momentum. Momentum is about sustaining action (large and small) long enough that our project picks up a speed of its own and carries us along with it. We don’t feel like we have to push so much.

Motivation is about what gets us into (or out of) action in the first place. It speaks to a need or a desire that moves us. It can just as easily move us away from our target as toward it. Motivation can come from fear as well as love. It matters that our motivation be honest and in alignment with our more real self.

If we are motivated by fear, we may seek to avoid something. Even if we are motivated by a need to fill a sense of lack in ourselves (looking for love, recognition, a sense of belonging from an outside source), we may be trying to avoid the pain and emotion of feeling that sense of lack. In that case, we are afraid of our own emotions more than that from which we think we are running.

Feeling deeply our own emotions is one of the  first steps toward recognizing we are the authors of our lives and as such are the ones who create our feeling loved, recognized and belonging.

If we are motivated by love, we may seek to express a passion, to share skills and insights, to create something for ourselves, for others, for the sheer beauty or play of it.

interesting photo

Our motivation contributes to our momentum. It is important to explore our motivations because, to put it bluntly, if our motivation is to prove something to someone else or to get something from them, then our strategy may well backfire. Our energy reserves will be depleted and our momentum will lose steam.

If you are procrastinating around something that makes your heart sing, you are more than likely avoiding vulnerability. It is vulnerable to allow yourself to be seen in your awkward exploration, grand adventure, playful innocence, sheer majesty.

If you are procrastinating around something that you think you should do, but it doesn’t really float your boat, then look deeply into your motivation. Is this your agenda or someone else’s? How in alignment with your values and desires for your life is it really? What do you expect to achieve or get for this? If you say yes to this, to what are you saying no? What are you avoiding by focusing on this instead of what you really want? Do you need to delegate or ask for help?

Let’s play with “motivation” as both a process/conditions question and one of goals/outcomes (motive).

As a process/conditions question, we are addressing how we can move ourselves into action, build and sustain momentum.

Some responses might be to:

• Build a habit or routine
• Plant a seed the night before to facilitate more automatic action the next day
• Make a game of it
• Have an accountability buddy
• Create a ritual around it
• Work with others
• Go on a working retreat
• A clean office
• Setting a timer
• Play music while doing the work

What processes/conditions motivate you? Are you putting them into place?

As a goal/outcome (motive) question, we are addressing why we want to do what we say we want to do. What we hope to get from it. It may also be a question of why we are avoiding what we say we want to do. Again whose agenda is it? Is it a should a have to a must or a desire? Is it for short term gratification or long term satisfaction?

Here’s an exercise to help you tease out whose agenda you are following (or chasing).

What do you want?

Take a moment or two to write down your answer to that question. Write at least 10 things you want and include the thing you are procrastinating around that you think or know you want.

Some of your wants may be simple, like a new washing machine. Some may be more complex like to have a child or change careers. An avoidance want might be, to get out of my marriage or get away from this town. (You aren’t sure what you want, but you know what you don’t want. If you have to start there, then do.)

What do you really want?

Take time to write down the answer(s) to that question, however it shows up for you.

If your first answer was more of a “don’t want” avoidance item, then write what you want instead of that. For example, I want to get away from this town might now become I want to live in the country or I want to live where the weather is more temperate.

For some people, it will be further clarity around their original answer, like a front-loading, red washing machine or a career in which I can telecommute.

For others, the answer(s) may be entirely different. The first wants become replaced by something deeper, more heart-felt, more vulnerable. Perhaps it even feels risky to put it in writing or say it out loud.

Many of my new clients have difficulty with the question, “What do you want?” It is totally understandable. For the most part, we have been shut down over the years with admonishments about what we should and shouldn’t want, can and can’t have, need to accept, plan B’s and compromises.

We’ve also been told it is selfish to want what we want unless it is for someone else or “world peace.” We are subjected to the opinions and judgments of others about our desires and preferences. It is painful to want something we think we can’t have. So, over the years, we’ve learned to stuff it.

We bury our treasures so deep that finding them is a major archeological dig. So, don’t worry if you are having trouble with the question. Stay with it. You were designed to want what you want at a heart and soul level. Our life energy and time is too precious to waste on chasing after someone else’s (including our wounded ego’s) agenda.

Here is another fun and powerful way to open up to your heart’s true desire, which you may also interpret as your calling). I first heard this from my good friend Joette Tizzone. She says she may have adapted it from elsewhere. You’ve probably heard similar approaches. I am fond of this version.

The Bliss Question

Close your eyes.

You have everything you need to create the life of your dreams.

There are absolutely no obstacles.

You have the money you need.

You have the knowledge you need.

You are surrounded by helpers, and anything you don’t know or think you might need is happily supplied to you by others.

Everything is in harmony as you create your beautiful life.

Allow yourself to feel this….

Now, please describe it to me, in the present tense, such as I am ….

Where are you? ( I am …)

What are you doing? (I am …)

What is around you?

Who is with you?

What does it feel like? (I feel …)

Allow yourself to bask in the feeling.

Open your eyes.

If you take the time to do this with reverence for the spiritual human you are, you will have begun to feed energy to a future that motivates you into creative action and comes back to you as a river moving through you.

Do not worry for now about the how. The how is always revealed as needed.

As Joseph Campbell said:

If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure, if it is something appropriate to your deep spiritual need or readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you. If you say, ‘Everyone’s going on this trip this year, and I’m going too,’ the no guides will appear. Your adventure has to be coming right out of your own interior…You must have courage. It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules.*

So, dear reader:  What do you want? What motivates you?

The next post in this series will help you make a distinction between the form and the function of what you want which will help you go further with understanding the why.

If you would like to uncover the buried treasure of your true calling, begin your grand adventure and could use an ally along the way, contact me and we can talk about how coaching might be your best investment in your self.

copyright © October 2015 Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

*Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

Momentum: 1: a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity; broadly a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to a rest when under the action of a constant force or moment 2: strength or force gained by motion or through the development of events. – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

To build and maintain momentum with a project, we need to be willing and able to be with discomfort.

Most of us have experienced (and really like) flow. It is a momentum of ease and effortless focused attention. But, when we hit a snag that disrupts our flow, we can become discouraged or even infuriated and fall prey to an internal dynamic that steals our thunder and stalls our momentum.

We might allow distractions to lead us to further distractions and voila, we soon discover our project is in a dormant state.

Starting an engine takes much more effort than keeping it running, particularly if it has been unused for some time. (Think of the lawn mower after a long cold winter.) And, we are not machines. We can play all kinds of games with ourselves creating our own virtual winters leading to the energy drain of starting our creative action engines over and over again.

copyright(c)Jordonna Dores 2007

Hero’s Journey by Jordonna Dores 2007

Our momentum might be disrupted by circumstances; both honest and illusory.

Honest circumstances are the stuff of life like death, natural disaster, birth of a child, illness, moving.
When our momentum is disrupted by honest circumstances, we need to find our own center of gravity and dance with it, knowing we can and will begin again. We must be willing to be with the discomfort of starting the engine again. The least we might do is nurture our love for our project in some small way every day to keep the spark alive, keep the engine warm.

Illusory circumstances are excuses we use to avoid our project and pretend we are not at choice in order to avoid discomfort. These might be things like blaming other people for taking up our time, doing things for everyone else except ourselves, busying ourselves with many small but low priority tasks, trying to do everything ourselves.
Some reasons we reach for excuses and blame are that we get stuck on some aspect of our project, we arrive at a complex point and need to spend time working through it and we run into something we don’t know how to do.

Remember the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Simply put, this means we need to learn to stay with the discomfort. Don’t run from it.

I know, when I hit a snag in my creative work, I become like a Mexican jumping bean. I become wired with anxiety and can hardly sit still. I walk into the kitchen looking for something to eat multiple times. Well, I call it anxiety, but maybe it is just the extra fire I need to push through something. Creativity requires resistance.

Sometimes a walk is good if we stay focused on the question, carry the inquiry. Sometimes we need to gently redirect ourselves back to the chair and stay put. Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Showers, walking, and gardening are all flow activities: ones where you can engage your body while your mind is free to muse and problem solve creatively. Sometimes sleeping on it helps. My father, an engineer and systems designer, used to doze in front of the TV and would suddenly pop up and say “I’ve got it!” meaning he’d solved a problem he’d been working on in his half-awake state.

Most importantly, when you hit a bump in the momentum road, don’t let it derail you. Stop, get grounded and be with what is. Don’t fight it. Be like water. Work with, through and around it.

Hitting a plateau can feel like a disruption of momentum, but it is really a different form of momentum. It is a time when it feels like we’ve completely stalled out for weeks at a time after a period when we’d been making steady progress. This is most obvious when we are engaged in projects with a learning curve, like learning to play an instrument, learning a language, spiritual growth and practices and it is also true of some instances of writer’s block.

During a plateau, we think nothing is happening and we’ve lost momentum. Actually, it is an essential part of our process which is integration and assimilation. This is the time that is needed for us to embody a new skill, a new habit, a new way of being. We don’t just think ourselves into something. We build a field which becomes us and align all aspects of ourselves in the embodiment of that field. This is where the magic happens. It looks like nothing is happening, but once it is over, the new skill, the new way of being is established and we can rely upon it in a way we could not before.

Momentum takes time to take hold and build speed. Whether experienced incrementally or exponentially, the more momentum you have with something the easier it feels to sustain. Some like to think of momentum as a wheel that goes around in a cycle. I prefer to think of it as a spiral, because we never really return to the same place where we started. Spirals represent duality: increasing-decreasing, rising-falling, growing-decaying. It depends on the direction of the spiral. Is it expanding outwardly or contracting inwardly? Is it rising in resonance or falling?

So, we can see that we can have momentum that contributes to our desired outcome and momentum that does not. For example, the momentum of a daily writing habit vs the momentum of daily procrastination around that habit; getting to it – putting it off. The longer we procrastinate, the more speed and familiarity (potentially inevitability) the procrastination momentum gains.

At the top of this post, I wrote that we have to be willing to be with discomfort to build momentum. Consider the irony that we also need to be with discomfort to procrastinate; the discomfort of not making any progress toward our dreams and desires and the discomfort of changing our momentum direction.

We’ve got to stop, become present, make a powerful and often uncomfortable choice (or two or three), turn ourselves around, get some traction in your new direction and stick with it until we have new expanding momentum. We can do this by becoming still and stepping into the center of the spiral as an observer of our world, our direction, our life. From there, we can find our center of gravity and empower ourselves to make the shift.

Having completed something before helps build momentum, because now you know we can do it. So, if you are making things, make lots of them. If you are writing poetry or songs, write lots of them. Be willing to make bad things on the way to what you saw in your mind’s eye. This is difficult for visionaries who see things whole and perfect but must now fumble through the imperfection of manifestation in physical form. Each step prepares you for the next.

Be willing to be with the mystery of what you don’t yet know and challenge yourself. You will bring forward what you have already assimilated and what is next will be revealed to you or even created by you. If you wait to know how to do the entire thing, you will blow your momentum.

When I used to play tennis, I remember being told to play with someone more skilled than me. That way, I could be challenged to rise to the next level whether I felt ready for it or not, even if I fumbled and flailed. Be willing to fumble and flail when you stall out, when you are blocked. Don’t wait for the perfect feeling or time. Stay and keep going. Don’t judge. Get curious.

Something else to remember about momentum is that it is a force that is not necessarily entirely created by your muscle and effort. Your commitment, your daily meeting with the muse, your self-trust, the project itself and even the future participate in momentum.

When we birth something, it takes on a life of its own, which is to say a momentum of its own. Know that you can tap into that like a surfer rides a wave.

When we seed the future with the vision of something we are creating, that future, that vision, reaches back and pulls us toward it, if we allow it. It sends us opportunities and signs. We need only pay attention and lean into it with our commitment and awareness. This means we need to be willing to be with discomfort of mystery, because we do not necessarily know the outcome. It is being created as we go. We need to release control. It’s not all about our ego.

We also may face having to be willing to be with the discomfort of being seen and standing out as a tall poppy. We are revealed by what we create. It is vulnerable to stand out in the world and make a big noise, a big splash. Momentum might be destroyed by too much worrying about these things along the creative path or too much sensitivity to the opinions of others along the way.

Next, I will write about motivation, form and function and their impact on our momentum, willingness and capacity to getting things done.

Ready to stop procrastinating and get some momentum going toward the life you really want? Consider hiring me as your coach. I’ve helped many people get off the train to nowhere and fall in love with life again. I invite you to contact me for an exploratory consultation to see if coaching is right for you.

Copyright © October 2015,Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved
Photograph of original art copyright © 2007 Jordonna Dores, Used with permission.

In my last post, I discussed how we can rebuild our self-trust by making commitments to our goals and them chunking them down into bite-sized doable bits. In this post, I am going to address how our inner dialog and dynamic stirs emotions that impact our self-trust and discipline.

It takes discipline to meet your daily commitments to yourself, regardless of your emotions, regardless of circumstances. Do you notice that you have an adverse reaction to the word discipline? I know I used to. When I was growing up being disciplined was code for being punished.

So here is a little something that helped me reclaim that word in a powerful way. Consider being disciplined as being a “disciple of” something. If you are disciplined about getting into your artist studio every day, you are being a disciple of your art, your curiosity, your wonder, your integrity. When you think of it that way, does it help?

interesting image

Some of us, by nature and/or nurture, are more impacted by our emotions than others. Some people are able to “just do it,” as the Nike phrase goes. I tend to be emotionally based and have procrastinated more than once with “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m just not inspired right now.” If you operate from an emotional base, it can be challenging to get good traction with a new discipline or habit you want to build.

Your energy level might be low, perhaps you are physically depleted, both of which can contribute to your emotional state. In any case, it’s important to work with what you have. Start where you are.

Also, if you recognize that your current emotional state is due to low energy reserves or physical illness, be gentle with yourself and get curious about what your body needs from you and how you can nurture yourself to a better physical and energetic state. If you are in a state of grief over loss, experiencing trauma, terror or other deep emotional pain, again, please nurture yourself and get whatever help you need.

If you are in fairly stable energetic and physical states, and you are stalling out on your commitment to yourself, then look to the emotions conjured by your own internal dialog. These are more illusion than reality. They are driven by thoughts about the past or the future and they are the result of some way we are talking to ourselves.

Think of your emotions as an alchemy of thoughts and physical sensations. For example, I might feel my heart racing right before I go on stage and at the same time I am having a flurry of thoughts. If my thoughts are fear based, I am likely to experience my heart racing as stage fright. If my thoughts are thrill and adventure based, I am likely to experience my heart racing as excitement. In each case, the circumstances are the same, but how I interpret them is different.

Become the observer of your inner dialog.

As you state intentions, meet commitments and get into action, your fear and excitement buttons will get pressed. Your saboteur is suspicious of change and prefers status quo. A couple of ways it may show up as you embark on your new adventure are as a slave driver/bully or (on the other side of the coin) a complete enabler of all things slothful and indulgent.

Both set off a dynamic that can keep you entertained until the day you die, never having accomplished much of anything. Both of them erode your self-trust because you are in a battle with yourself. Let’s take a look at each.

Inner Slave Driver/bully: this is a critical and demanding voice. You are never doing enough, never working hard enough and what you produce is not good enough. Even when you have committed to something and met that commitment regularly, the slave driver will be on your case. There is more to do and do better, more to study and you do not have time for a break. Fun and recreation are not part of this picture. Play has no place and when you are working it has to feel hard and you have to feel miserable in order to get your merit badge for showing up. This is not love.

Inner Indulgent Enabler: this is the pendulum swing opposite of the slave driver that says things like: You’ve worked so hard you deserve a break or one more cookie won’t hurt anything, you’ve been so good anyway. This is not love.

Both voices run a volume continuum from whisper (which is hardly noticeable and so very sneaky) to an echoing scream. They are like drug pushers, if you believe a little of what they say to you, it is only a few more steps down a slippery slope to a lifetime of procrastination. They work you individually and as a team.

If you are prone to ongoing internal dialog with the slave driver, you are likely locked into a bully vs rebel dynamic. The slave driver bullies you, berates you and criticizes you. It can lead to a response like (my most familiar one) a rebel who says “screw you I will do what I want!” (in the name of freedom). It can also lead you to respond like a victim who curls up into a fetal ball, depressed and weary awaiting rescue.

If you are prone to listen to the inner enabler, you are likely to procrastinate by way of saying “mañana.” I need a break today, I don’t have enough energy right now, I lost my inspiration and it feels too hard to get it back. You will then go on and do something easy, like watch TV, go on Facebook, play video games, or do some other more menial task. This last one is clever as it is an indulgent response to the slave driver. “Heck, at least I am doing something on my list.”

Neither of these voices is helpful. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their true intention is not to get the work done, but to avoid it.

Sometimes they are mirrored by those around you; a spouse, parent, even a coach. You can project your bully or indulgent voice on them. It is a way to blame others for your own internal battle.

Your best bet is to become familiar with these voices and realize that you are not the voices and you are not the emotional response you have to those voices.

Step away from the inner dialog and listen with your observer. What is the dynamic you see at play? Is it more slave driver and rebel? Is it slave driver and victim? Or is it more indulgent and enabling?

Can you see where they double-team you? An example would be: you are on the couch playing a game on your iPad. It started as a quick well-deserved break and has turned into a two hour marathon sponsored by your inner enabler. Now the indulgent voice gives way to your slave driver who berates you for being a couch potato, time waster, video game addict. You are being shamed and criticized. By whom? Yourself. You are not the couch potato and you are not a victim.

You are the author of these dramas, not the characters. As the author, you can direct and re-direct the script, but first you have to be aware that you are the author and it will be very helpful if you have an awareness of the kinds of things each of your characters says. What are their favorite strategies?

This is an assignment I give most of my clients who are beginning a coaching journey. What is your self-talk? How much of it do you even notice and how much do you just embody without question?

There is another voice that you will want to cultivate. It is a nurturing voice; one that has your best interest at heart and tells you the honest truth, never shames, but lovingly redirects. You might imagine a higher self, soul or grounded parent. This is love.

Many of us have difficulty finding this voice at first. We tend to equate it with the indulgent enabler.

I am reminded of something I saw years ago at the SD Wild Animal Park. A young Asian mother with her toddler who appeared to be a few months new to walking were ambling along the entry path. She let the toddler wander and be curious under her watchful eye. Whenever the toddler was headed toward potential trouble (off the path, in front of an oncoming crowd of people) she would gently redirect the child with her hand. No words were said, there was no grabbing, forcing, yelling, admonishing.

This is what it feels like to be guided by our nurturing voice. Every moment we can redirect ourselves, not with shame, shouting, guilt, force, but with a loving light touch that does not allow for self-pity, indulgence, waiting games. It is also a helpful voice for emotions and avoidance that arise when we get confused or don’t yet know how to do something. This voice can lovingly guide us to ask for help from someone who does know how.

In conclusion, what I will say is, most of our emotional responses to our commitments that lead to procrastination, inertia and depletion of our self-trust are actually responses to this internal dialog and drama to which we’ve allowed ourselves to become captive. While we may feel we are at the mercy of this dynamic, we are not. We are actually the creators and so, we can re-create.

What about these dynamics is familiar to you?

How will you gently re-direct yourself and re-create your life today?

If you would like some help with identifying your dynamic and getting off the emotionally run procrastination train, I invite you to consider coaching with me.

Next in this series, I will write about momentum.

Photos and words: Copyright©2015 Kathy J Loh

“Every time you break a promise, you are loading your karmic backpack with the pebbles of broken agreements.” Patrick Ryan

Are you trustworthy? Do you keep promises you make to others? What about promises you make to yourself?

First, a story:*

Let’s say you are having a conversation with a friend and you mention that you are going to start running every morning.

Your friend says “Hey! That sounds great. I’d love to run too. Mind if I join you?”

“That will be great,” you respond. “Meet me at the bench by the lake at 7 am.”

“You’re on,” your friend agrees.

The next morning you suit up and head to the lake. You are there five minutes early. You wait for your friend. 7:00 comes and goes. By 7:15, having heard nothing from your friend, you decide to go for your run so you can get on with your day.

Later that day, you run into your friend at the coffee house.You ask them, “What happened?

“Oh, I overslept, but I really want to go. I’ll meet you tomorrow morning. Same place and time?”

“Sure!“ you respond.

The next morning you suit up and head back to the lake, eager to run. You are there before 7:00 and you wait for 15 minutes, but your friend does not show up and there are no texts on your cell. Disappointed and a bit miffed, you go for your run.

Later that day, you call your friend and say “Hey, where were you this morning?”

Your friend responds, “Oh, I forgot. I’m so sorry. I will be there tomorrow for sure.”

Tomorrow comes, you are at the bench by the lake waiting for your friend who is a no-show a.g.a.i.n. You go for your run and as you pass the gas station, you see your friend there filling up his car. All you get is a wave and a smile, like nothing happened.

You run up to them and jogging, in place, you say “You said you would meet me at 7:00 three mornings in a row now and you have been a no-show all three mornings. What is your excuse today?”

Your friend says “Don’t get on my case. I just didn’t feel like it today.”

You can guess how the rest of this story goes.

Is this friend trustworthy? Are you likely to believe him the next time he promises anything to you?

Every time you make an agreement with yourself and then don’t follow through, you are being that kind of friend to yourself. You are completely untrustworthy. You are abandoning yourself.

interesting image

What is the one thing (maybe more than one) that you have been saying you want to do that you never seem to get to. The thing that you’ve toyed with but abandoned, not for lack of interest, but for some other reason: circumstances, not sure how to proceed, money, time, etc.

Do you want to write or pursue some creative endeavor?
Do you want to lose weight, get fit, run a marathon?
Do you want to learn a new language or how to play piano?
Do you want to curtail your Facebook addiction?
Do you want to build a new business?

Commit to a plan to accomplish it and be your best, most trustworthy friend, by following through on your commitment.

When you erode your self trust, it has a far-reaching impact. It gives your inner critic free license and opportunities to berate you for being so unreliable and weak. The sting of “failure,” day after day, as the promise is made and broken over and over again erodes your self-esteem, your hope, your sense of worthiness and sends your dreams farther out on the horizon.

Before long, you begin to lose faith in yourself and your passions. Your trickster hisses things in your inner ear that have you believe you were never meant to do these things anyway. It’s all a pack of lies to which you have fallen prey, by your own hand.

To rebuild trust in yourself, if it feels too overwhelming to take on a large project like lose 25 lbs or write a book, chunk it down into bite sized agreements. Make a commitment you know you can and will meet. Because the point is rebuilding trust and confidence in yourself, you want a string of consistent wins.

Start with something easy and simple, like I will not look at Facebook for the next hour or I will not hunt through the kitchen cabinets for snacks for one hour, or between now and dinner.

Then you can re-commit to the next hour, the next small goal.

Another advantage to a bite-sized commitment is if you fail to meet it, it is short term and you can re-commit immediately. A caveat! This is not a free pass to indulgence as in: Commit, indulge, recommit. That would only erode your trust in yourself and send you down the spiral of self-abandonment.

If it is helpful for you, invite someone to be an accountability buddy; someone who wants to do the same and check in with a phone call, text or email (but don’t read other emails) when you begin and end your commitment. A simple text: going for my run now to start and end with: I’ve completed my run. with some celebration emoji.If your accountability buddy lets you off the hook too often, find another one.

Bite sized agreements also allow you to be realistic about your commitments. They give you time to observe what truly works for you and what doesn’t, as well as the ways you talk to yourself and how your emotions impact your discipline. Too often we make huge commitments and then find it difficult to hold to them in the face of changing circumstances. It’s not that it can’t be done and it is more challenging.

Whatever it is you want to create for yourself, make a plan, chunk it down, and make many tiny commitments to rebuild your self-trust. Put on your “running shoes” and meet your self at the “the bench by the lake.” It will also do wonders for your self-esteem and confidence and you will see your dreams moving in closer and closer to shore.

In upcoming posts, I will cover momentum and emotional aspects of commitments to yourself.

Copyright©September 2015, Kathy J Loh all rights reserved

*This is a paraphrase of a story I heard Patrick Ryan tell in one of his Awakened Wisdom workshops. The opening quote is from his book, Awakened Wisdom.

If you feel the services of a coach will help you get and stay on track, I invite you to consider hiring me as your coach.

Fire Drill

Last Saturday was my birthday. I’ve been treated to a couple of dinners, gifts, a mailbox full of cards, phone calls and a long string of celebrations from Facebook friends. Say what you will about the latter, it certainly lifted my resonance. Thanks to everyone who made my day that much brighter!

photo of Cody - copyright (c)2015KJLoh

I enjoy celebrating my birthday and Summer Solstice with collage or a Tarot reading and this year, the reading was my choice. So, after taking Cody for a long morning romp along the irrigation ditch where he loves to play in the water, I settled on the deck to do a Tarot spread. (I use Tarot of the Spirit)

After grounding myself and doing a little soul searching, I asked my question, drew the cards for the Magna Diamond spread and began taking notes in my journal. Gradually, I became aware that the usual quiet of my neighborhood was being disrupted by planes overhead. I am used to the sound of helicopters in the summer because I live near the river. People get reckless and need to be airlifted due to injuries from broken legs to broken backs. I did hear a helicopter, but I also heard the distinct sound of fire retardant tankers and that meant only one thing, wild fire. They were headed north east as they flew directly overhead.

I checked Yubanet online, our local resource for breaking news, and discovered the fire was 20 min by car from my home; close enough to create concern but far enough to take a wait and see attitude for the moment.

I continued to take notes, discovering that the entire spread indicated I was at the end of a long run of trials and that to move forward, I need to release things, patterns, structures, and identities. I need to be willing to walk in the Mystery unable to see the future., holding to faith by following my heart and inner guidance, one step at a time.

I am aware that I can get very excited about the idea of downsizing and releasing things, but when it comes to action, I tend to go into a stupor, and manipulate myself into an incapacitating spin over HOW to get rid of things: sell, donate, give away, trash. Let’s just say, I am both good and bad at this. I have already downsized several times; halving my possessions in a divorce and moving four times since. Yet, I could easily halve my belongings again. Currently any dream of a tiny house or living in an RV is, shall we say, ludicrous.

Anyway, pumped up on iced-coffee, I was feeling anxious and I decided to check the fire report on Yubanet again. Only six minutes had passed, and only ¾ acre was involved thus far, but these words alarmed me:

“very difficult access, but potential for a major incident.”

Now, I was getting distracted. How long should I wait?  Surrounded by tall trees as I am, there is no vista in any direction. So, I couldn’t see anything.I could barely smell smoke. I continued to take notes and was struck by card in position 9 representing the immediate future: Father Fire. One word in the interpretive text stood out: wildfire.

Every 5 minutes or so, I checked the update. The fire was burning slowly through the retardant and ground crews were having trouble getting to it. An access gate was locked and crews were redirected. I heard sirens and horns as fire trucks took the road near my house to get to the fire. Planes continued to fly overhead.

At some point I decided it made sense to stop taking notes and assess what I will take if I have to evacuate. Nature was giving me a fire drill in letting go of my stuff. I love magic and synchronicity, but couldn’t we do this without making the hair on the back of my neck stand up?

fire photo copyright(c)2011 K J Loh

I’ve taken pictures of my things before, but not recently, so I grabbed my camera and took pictures of everything, even opening the cupboards. The least it would do is prove I had these things and jog my own memory should I be reporting to insurance.

I then got some boxes from the garage. The first decision was that I would take the camper van and leave the RAV4. I threw my journals, that have not yet been taken to storage (which is where I keep journals and photos in case of fire), into a box. I then lined up bubble pack and a box for my crystals and altar items, packed my laptop and iPad, pulled out mom’s and grandmother’s silver. My data from my desktop is stored on the cloud; a step I took after three different backup hard drives crashed on me. So, no need to try to save it.

As I walked through the house assessing what would come with me and what would not, I found it easy to have clarity as to what mattered to me and what could be replaced or forgotten. Truly, I did not have to think much about anything. Of course, it still felt like a drill, albeit with high potential, and not yet a reality.

Some things, like clothes and toiletries (as if traveling) are priority just because you need them every day. If the airlines has ever lost your luggage, you know the misery of wearing the same clothes for a week and the hassle of having to buy every little personal care item.

Other things have sentimental value to me, like dad’s photo of a snow-covered Chicago street scene by lamplight from 1949 that hangs on my wall, or the silk painting of me as a toddler painted in Japan in 1954. They mean something to me and are irreplaceable. They bring me joy, yes (as Marie Kondo advises in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), but more importantly, they touch me deeply. Joy is momentary, love is everlasting.

I was also stressing about my friends’ cat, Ashley. They are on vacation. Ashley is alone during the days.. She is a reclusive cat and when I go to keep her company, she is hard enough just to find, not to mention coax to come out and get a few head rubs. How the heck was I going to get her to come out and put her in a carry case? Certainly, I needed to allot a chunk of time for that. I also wondered what else they would want me to grab for them. The giant crystal, for sure, if I can carry it.

If the fire were closer and we were being evacuated, there would not be enough time for all of these questions. I would just toss things in the car and go. This became very clear as I saw how long it actually takes to locate items, pack them in boxes and carry them to the car. I had only been staging so far, staging and planning. I wanted to be ready. I kept one ear open for a reverse call from the Emergency Services advising evacuation.

I checked Yubanet again. They reported that ground resources were staging at Cooper and Lightning Tree roads. Cooper? That’s the road across from mine. I continued saying goodbye to things, by way of deciding they would go in the fire as I continued preparations. Mind you, my goodbyes were perfunctory, as in “you are replaceable” or “I’ll be fine without you.”

Then, just as gradually as I’d become aware of air traffic in the first place, I noticed the quiet. No more tankers. I checked Yubanet.

“Air attack has released the tankers, the forward progress of the fire has been stopped.”


The fire drill was over. The fire awareness remains. Tomorrow, I will move journals and other essentials to storage. We are in a severe drought and fire is an ever present danger in these mountains.

I laughed out loud as I asked my guides, “did you really need to go to that length to show me what matters and how much I can do without?”

That evening, I confess, I noticed some relief creep in, in the form of “Thank goodness, I get to keep all my stuff!” OK, maybe I even experienced a little giddiness. Isn’t that just human nature, the gatekeeper at the threshold of change keeping me detained in the land of comfort…..for now.

FIRE DRILL suggestions – design your own:

When we talk about releasing things, we are not just talking about stuff. We are also talking about structures (the way we do things), self-images, identities and roles we play, thought patterns, beliefs, grudges, fears. You know the drill, right?

When you think of what you want and how you want your life to be:

What are the structures, thoughts, beliefs, roles, self-images and identities, people (yes people) that are obstacles?

What are all the things in your environment that have found a home with you and get to stay, mostly because they fly under the radar of your awareness, not because they are an important part of your desired life?

Take a few moments to assess:

If there were a fire approaching and you had 20 minutes to get out of your house, what would you take? (think fast, see what pops up right away)

If a wildfire of a mystical source were coming and was going to burn everything about your beliefs, thoughts and self-image, what 10 beliefs or thoughts would you keep? What would you want to take forward of your self-image and what would you leave behind? If your answer is you’d completely rebuild, then what would your new self-image be? What would it take for you to build it?

I invite you to entertain these fire drills and spin them out over a week in daily journal entries. See what arises.

If you want help making it real without the drama of a real fire, get in touch with me and we will chat about how my way of coaching may be of service to you and your dreams.

copyright © June 2015, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

As I trouble over following my mother’s health directive to administer more pain medications to relieve her of the ongoing suffering bone cancer inflicts, I worry about whether or not she has said goodbye. Not so much to each of us, as we have all been saying goodbye for some time now. I wonder if she will have another chance to really take in the trees outside her window, and the blue sky. Will she ever hear bird-song again and does she need a spin in the wheelchair to enjoy that. I don’t need to ask myself if it matters to her. She is the one who first tutored me in its treasures. Perhaps she has been saying good bye for some time and we are just unaware of that. After all, she is already traveling in both worlds, here and beyond.

I realize some of this is a projection of my own needs and what I want. There is a post going around on Facebook of a forest ranger who was in hospice care and wanted to be in her beloved Nature again.  It never fails to move me. I know that deep call of nature and its healing resonance. If I were ill and could not go outside, I would want the sounds in my room, birdsong, ocean waves, breeze in the trees, whale calls.

Today, Earth Day, I am also thinking of another mother and, in both cases, what it means to say goodbye and how goodbye lives in relationship with hello.

Our earth, Pachamama, Gaia, is our mother and we are her children.

photo of dogwood copyright (c) KJLoh

Thinking how important it is to me to say goodbye, to her, I ask myself, “Have I said hello to Pachamama today? Have I honored her and thanked her, offered my respect?”

As I walked the woods pondering this, offering my gratitude to the trees in particular, I was greeted by more birdsong than I have heard since the approach of winter. I soaked it up, let it re-organize my cells. I regularly say “hello” out loud to the flowers, mushrooms, trees and many creatures I see on my walks and hikes. I wonder, having said hello so often, will it be easier or harder to, someday, say goodbye?

When I consider my own passing, I imagine having said hello more often, having received, really received the beauty and gift of this Earth, will make my goodbye more rich, and sad, yes, but very sweet. I wonder too, how often do I protect myself from a painful goodbye by withholding my hello? Do I imagine keeping my love and appreciation contained will somehow save me from deeper heartache?

If I have not said hello enough will I care enough to preserve the Earth and her creatures. Will I really know what it means to recycle, to conserve, to celebrate the biodiversity, to appreciate the bounty?

One of my teachers, Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, encourages us to honor Pachamama with song, ritual, dance, drumming. Yes, this is a profound and sacred way of saying hello.

And, please know, that if you are not inclined to perform ceremony or join a beach cleanup, your simple hello by way of true observation, connection and reception is more powerful and more healing than you might imagine.

You matter and you may be the only person to ever see that particular blossom, that dandelion seed in flight.

I invite you to join me, to celebrate our beautiful Earth mother, by taking a moment to say “hello” to her. Commune with a tree, take in the beauty of a wildflower, sit by a body of water in reflection. Listen to the birds singing. Stop, pause, if only for a minute, and say “Hello.”

Like beginnings and endings, hello and goodbye exist in the same moment, in a unity. We need to be aware of what we are unconsciously throwing away (and the many more painful goodbyes it may create) when we forget to say hello.

Pachamama, our beloved mother Earth, gives and gives. Your hello says “I see you and I appreciate you.” Say hello, not just today, but every day.

Copyright © April 22, 2015 Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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