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Little, Mighty, Coach-y Shifts of Perspective

Patience v. presence

Patience is considered a virtue, but I think we can do better than that. I prefer to cultivate presence instead.

Patience comes from the Latin root pati, which means to suffer or endure.

Presence, on the other hand, comes from the Latin prae + esse, which means to be before a person or thing, as in, to be at hand.

Think of a situation or person that you have tried to be patient with. What difference would it make to your experience of the same situation or person if you were present instead?

A feeling is not an emergency.

Even if you have never articulated that thought, you probably have experienced it before.

It feels like, “I don’t like this feeling, and I need to make it go away now!” It is at the root of all kinds of acting out: yelling, snapping, shoving, as well as overeating, over-drinking, over-buying, etc.

What difference would it make if, rather than trying to stop it or solve it, you were just present for it? If you allowed yourself simply to feel it, breathe with it, and watch it fade away?

Balance v. flow

Like patience, balance is another concept we’re encouraged to aspire to in our lives; as in, “work-life balance.” But do you know where we get the word? We take it from the scale that you used in science labs in school, the one that uses two plates that you have to make precisely equal. One gram off, and it’s wrong.

Is that kind of fragility really how you want to conceptualize having lots of things in your life?

No! It’s good to have lots of things in your life. That’s living!

I propose we replace “balance” with “flow,” as in, “work-life flow.” Flow is associated with all things water, so it includes the concepts of flooding (when things are very full) and buoyancy (work without effort). It is organic, rather than mechanical, so change –the expansion and contraction of tides and waves – is inherent to it. And even though water is very powerful, you can also put structures in your life to help control it and channel it.

I’d rather “go with the flow” than “balance” any day!

How is this perfect?

This is a great question to ask when something unwelcome comes your way.

Start small, like when you’re stuck in traffic, can’t fall asleep, or something that is supposed to be easy isn’t. How is this perfect?

Work up to bigger things, like when you’re waiting for something important like a job offer or lab results, or when someone has disappointed you. How is this perfect?

The more you do this, the more your confidence in this perspective shift will grow. Eventually you will trust it enough to ask this question about the Big Things, like divorce, diagnosis, and death. How is this – even this – perfect?

It may sound like an absurd question in some situations, but is it really? Will fighting against this reality, no matter how unwelcome, change it? Is accepting it grudgingly truly the best you can do? Asking how something is perfect leap frogs over all the exhausting forms of “No!” and into the lap of creative possibility.

Your turn! Do you have any pocket-sized philosophies that have changed your life? Please share!

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