Earlier this week I sent an email to many of my current and past coaching clients, just to reach out. My intent was to nudge folks into an optimistic mood in these unusual circumstances. For some, optimism is simply impossible right now. For others, it can be a life raft.
There’s a story of two little girls who found themselves at their grandfather’s farm. Grandpa gave them both a shovel and asked that they remove a huge pile of manure from the horse barn. The one sister pinched her nose and stormed off while the other dove in with exuberance claiming, “There must be a pony in here somewhere!”
There are myriad versions of that tale, but it simply shows how one reality (the pile of manure) can be perceived in two completely different ways (smelly disgust vs. joyful enthusiasm).
I strongly believe our minds can create a great deal of what we perceive as reality. A great deal of my time I am a slave to my brain (my knower-/judger-response-prone life), when Mary Lore (https://managingthought.com/) would prefer that I see my brain as a tool to help me get what I want. And developing the ability to choose our responses contributes a great deal to that end.
In one of my coaching sessions I teach a concept I call “Eckhart Tolle’s three responses.” Simply stated, there is a small array of responses one can choose to any event (and choosing indicates I’ve interrupted my normal, programmed K/J response long enough to do something different), that can lead to less stress and a more positive outcome.
At minimum I can “accept” what has happened. This response is probably a far cry from obscenity-laced “woe is me” rants I was known for in my distant past.
But I can go even farther. I could actually find a reason to “enjoy” what happened. Maybe look for the lesson contained therein. Or possibly have a good laugh at myself.
And the zenith of this exercise is to engage the occurrence head-on and with enthusiasm. “There must be a pony in there somewhere!”
Acceptance. We all have things in our lives that we’d rather not deal with: traffic jams, snowstorms, tedious chores, difficult people. But we have a choice. What is, is. We can bitch and moan and complain and carry on either mentally or even physically, but that just disperses and wastes our precious energy. Accept what is. Do what you can (as quickly as possible is just fine) and move on. Don’t waste your precious resources and energies by mentally and emotionally fighting reality. When you fight against reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.
“Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation,
this moment, requires of me to do, and so I do it willingly.”
(A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle, p. 296)
Enjoyment. When you can actually enjoy what you are doing, you bring a sense of aliveness to yourself and to the world. Be present with what you do. Life and living is not in the end result or designated at a future time, but life and living is in the journey. Now.
The counsel of Zen reminds us to be one with what we do. When we sweep the floor, we need to be sweeping the floor, moving the broom, and gathering the dust and not getting caught up in next week’s challenges or turmoil from 10 years ago. Now is the only time you can live your life. Be one with Now.
“When you make the present moment, instead of past and future,
the focal point of your life, your ability to enjoy what you do—
and with it the quality of your life—increases dramatically.”
(A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle, p. 297)
Enthusiasm. When you add an inspired vision or goal in with the excitement, your creativity soars. There is deep enjoyment and an enormous intensity and energy behind what you do. Enthusiasm takes over and you resonate with the creative power of the Universe.
“Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy,
and all you have to do is ‘ride the wave.’”
(A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle, p. 302)
I have found many ponies in this unusual exercise thrust upon us. My wife and I walk four to five miles every day. We’ve cooked more meals in succession than probably any time in the past 10 years and discovered we love it. I’ve slowed down. I sleep better. I’ve discovered a penchant for wine with each evening meal (I was and guess I still am a Scotch guy). I get weeks and weeks on every gas fill-up. I’ve completely re-engineered my office upstairs to accommodate Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, etc. And de-cluttering (from 36 years of cluttering!) is well underway.
So are you pinching your nose? Shoveling faster because you know there’s a pony in there? Or somewhere in between? Let me know. I’d love to hear what you find.