As we move into 2023, I’m doing the same thing a lot of you are doing: Looking back and looking forward. Looking back, 2022 brought more than a handful of belief-changing experiences. What is a “belief-changing experience” anyway? I’m going to start with clouds. Yes, clouds.
I’ve been taking flying lessons in 2022. It’s not my first rodeo – I took flying lessons in the mid-80’s. However, flying out of a mountain airport such as Asheville has heightened my awareness of weather and emergency landing sites in a way that learning to fly in Texas never did. Frequently, my lessons have been cancelled thanks to the clouds. My training at this stage only covers VFR (Visual Flight Rules). I need blue sky or at least a lot of separation from the clouds in order to fly. So more than once, I’ve sat at the airport watching other planes shoot through the clouds while I sit on the ground. Why can they go, and I can’t? Those planes are equipped with the instruments to fly in clouds and flown by pilots who have the skills and knowledge to trust those instruments. As a result, their passengers get access to something those of us on the ground don’t get to see on cloudy days: the sun.
Every time I’m on a commercial plane as it breaks through the clouds to the blue, sunny sky above, I marvel that the darkness of the clouds is only because of my perspective. The sun is always up there, even when we can’t see it.
Beliefs are like clouds. They keep us from seeing the shining spark of who we are, always there, always shining if we just had a way to pierce through the mist of our self-created perspective that hides us from our truth.
My belief-changing experiences this year have been a matter of a shift in perspective. One happened in November, when I went to Warwick Schiller’s Journey On Podcast Summit. (You might remember that I had him in my podcast in May 2020, and then I was a guest on his podcast in September 2021. I had his wife Robyn on my podcast June 2022.) The event was held at the Drury hotel in San Antonio. Days before the event, they sent out the schedule. There would be a welcome gathering the night before we started, 22 presenters over 3 days, with panel discussions interspersed throughout and a Q&A at the end. As I read the schedule, I flashed back to a lifetime of hotel conferences, and my heart sank. My mind automatically went into a sort of self-preservation mode, imagining all the boredom and planning thinking how I would pick and choose what to see and when I would go check email or take calls.
The first hint that I needed to update my belief system about THIS event happened at the welcome gathering. Usually, at these events, people are checking each other out in a way that once seemed so normal to me, I couldn’t even see it until it wasn’t there. In my old reality, the careful conversations stuck to the safe, surface level “what do you do?”, status-seeking small talk. (Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike small talk?) Not so at this event. These conversations were more like the kind you have with old friends, after you’ve seen each other at your worst and dropped all pretenses that either one of you are perfect. I went to bed refreshed instead of drained. (I was also excited because I had shipped my first copies of Dancing the Tightrope to the hotel and I was giddy to finally have it in my hands.)
The first presenter knocked it out of the park, and I thought “Dang, I would hate to have to follow that.” The next one and the one after was just as riveting. By mid-morning, my old views were getting shaken up a bit. People were showing up. They cared more about showing who they were than what they did. Everyone was shining their personal beams of sunlight without the filter of the clouds. I distinctly remember thinking that day “It’s like everyone dropped their armor.” The whole three-day experience was unlike any I’ve ever attended. It was full of real conversations that energized me. Every single presenter was captivating. Not once did I feel the need to hide in email and busy-ness.
I’m not the only one who felt this. Warwick has done a couple of podcasts reviewing the event with several of the presenters. You can find those here. And if you are super curious, the event was live-streamed and it’s available to purchase here.
I went into the event clouded by my past. My beliefs about what a hotel conference should be almost caused me to miss the even actually happening in front of me. My belief changing experiences this year have had that flavor. First, my old beliefs clouded my vision for what is happening in front of me. Then, something happened to help me pierce through the clouds and I shifted my perspective. With that shift, I can examine my assumptions, and toss them out like stale bread.
One of the main principles I learned in the journey I shared in Dancing the Tightrope was “Be the Conduit: Let the horse (or situation) tell you what to do, when to do, how to do.” The month after the Podcast Summit, I got to test myself in applying this principle. I flew to California for the Equus Film and Arts Fest. Bruce Anderson (whose work I share in the book) and I were scheduled to do demonstrations each day. I had to remind myself that THIS event (the film festival) was not THAT (the podcast summit), even though some of the same people were there.
When I arrived in California, a cold, steady rain had set in. The hotel was a couple of blocks from the arena where we would be working. While I had a car, it seemed silly to me to drive it that short distance to avoid the rain. No worries. There’s no such thing as bad weather; just wrong clothes. Except when I looked at the “hotel conference” wardrobe that I had brought, it was nothing but wrong clothes. A better use of my car was to get to a shopping center. Once I had the right clothes, I walked everywhere in the rain.
However, my clothes were not the only thing I needed to shift. Once I got the feel for the event, I realized that a part of me was expecting something similar to what I had experienced the month before. Yet this event was nothing like the podcast summit, or any other event I had experienced before. This event called on me to literally move from moment to moment, without expectations but instead with an open heart. In other words, this event gave me a chance to Be the Conduit.
During the film festival, I heard some rumblings from a few that this event was not what they expected either. In their presence, the voice of my old belief system rumbled in the back of my mind, threatening to erupt into one of my “just a damn minute” moments. With awareness, I had a choice about which thought to follow. The first thought, fed to me from my past, or the second thought, the one happening in front of me in the moment. Could I trust myself to trust the process? It was just another reminder that the Tools I shared in Dancing the Tightrope have no limits. It’s not a one-time thing and then I get a gold star. Once I’m aware of the clouds of my old belief system, I can change it. It’s like upgrading software. As a result, the film festival was filled with real conversations and amazing connections, just as the podcast summit had been before.
Looking forward to 2023, that’s going to be my focus: Continuing to upgrade my belief system.
What would your life be like if you learned to trust yourself? What if the voice in your head was your best coach instead of your worst critic? How would you be different if the inner sensations that feel like “anxiety” became a tuning fork to help you hone into your next move in the moment?
I’m not asking these as rhetorical questions. My intention for The Coaching Digest is to provide support for my subscribers to navigate the sticky situations you encounter every day. I’m looking to provide the support I wished I had myself. (And by the way, how well is it working? What would you like more of? Less of?)
To kick of 2023, I’m again offering the 8-week series I offered last year. These are the same practices and exercises I use for myself and my clients regularly because they work. This year, I’m going to make the whole 8-week series is available from the beginning. Why? Because Week 8 is in incredible way to upgrade a belief system. I highly suggest you take yourself through the process. The possibilities are limitless! And if you get stuck, reach out and let me know. I guarantee The Clarity Journaling Exercise will reveal your hidden beliefs – and sometimes it helps to have another set of eyes show you what’s hiding in plain sight.