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Steve's Life And Business Coaching Notes

January 2013


The Winter Sun.


1) It's A New Year. Should You Plan, Set Big Goals Or Just Let Things Unfold? - Here we explore whether all your planning is getting you what you want, talk about the mind's tendency to get stuck in "doing/striving" mode and discuss a few strategies to help you get what you really want this year.

2) Some Useful Resources For Everyone - Here is a short video sharing Alan Watts' talk on one of life's big hoaxes, plus a lovely video on deep listening with Thich Nhat Hahn and an interesting article on some of the behaviours that can really hurt your relationships.

3) Just Because You Want to Help Others Doesn't Mean You Have To Starve - For the coaches in the crowd who want to learn how to make a good living WHILE helping others, the 2013 edition of THE 6 FIGURE PRACTICE MENTOR PROGRAM for coaches is about to start.

“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires,
feeling satisfied with what you have, is vital.”

-The Dalai Lama

1) It's A New Year. Should You Plan, Set Big Goals Or Let Things Unfold?

It's a brand new year. It's a natural time for many of us to think about our living and any changes we might like to make in the months ahead.

If you have specific goals and are quite sure that achieving those goals will deliver the results (happiness, success, contentment, etc.) you seek, then I suggest you not read the rest of this piece and rather go here to see an earlier article I wrote on the best science to support you making the important changes you want.

However, if you have been on the goal-setting/striving treadmill for many years and are beginning to wonder if any set of achievements will deliver lasting satisfaction, then I invite you to read on. Just know, that what I share may challenge a few widely held assumptions.

Every year, by the millions, we gird our loins for a new year of accomplishment. What's it going to be this year? Make more money? Drop a few pounds? Get in great shape? Go on the dream vacation? Get that promotion? Find the perfect job or mate or just generally just keep keeping on?

But wait. Before you automatically head into yet another year of going after something, how sure are you that this next round of accomplishment will actually bring the happiness/fulfillment/success you seek? Have all your previous goals delivered what they promised?

It is not my aim to get all metaphysical on you. Rather I am just wanting you to check in and make sure whatever you are planning is truly going to deliver the results you seek and perhaps share a little science that might save you a lot of grief.

Neuroscience is still in its infancy. Yet hardly a week goes by without some new insight about what makes us tick. Case in point, the brain's seeking and reward circuitry is getting better understood all the time.

Specifically, we now know that the 'get-out-of-bed-go-learn/accomplish/gain-something drive' is deeply wired into us. It is a key part of what has helped us survive through the millennia. If our ancestors didn't have this "seeking" circuitry, they might have sat by their firesides and starved.

We also know that the seeking part of the brain, thought to be the grand-daddy of all brain systems, is located in the lateral hypothalamus. We know that the process of seeking actually releases dopamine, the very powerful get excited and focused neurotransmitter, which produces a similar effect to cocaine.

This all means it feels good just to seek, to strive, to be on the hunt so to speak. The problem is the seeking system can go haywire. It does not have a built-in off switch. Unlike the brain's pleasure system which when it reaches fulfillment in say eating or sex, can turn itself off via a flood of opiods and return us to some measure of contentment.

Also, since the seeking system is far more easily stimulated than the pleasure system, we can easily get into seeking, and simply get stuck there. In fact we can spend days and months at a time seeking, which triggers yet more seeking, which carries on to exhaustion. (Literally, rat labs whose seeking systems were stimulated by an electrode would get so compulsive they would eventually forsake food and keep shocking their lateral hypothamus to get the next hit of dopamine, until they collapsed.)

Our seeking activity can take many forms: a constant need to learn, a felt sense of ill-ease if we are not doing, acquiring, progressing, being active, being entertained, etc. And the more recent manifestations can include constantly being plugged into your electronic devices; texting, Facebooking, online shopping, researching, etc. (How much time are you spending on your smartphone, laptop, ipad or Google lately?) It can lead us to a state of a constant, low-grade irritation in which we are never really happy with whatever is here now.

By way of explanation, our brain's seeking systems evolved in environments where there were not anywhere near as many distractions as there are today. Stone age life, living and hunting in small groups, had its exciting moments but vast amounts of a typical day were spent close to nature in fairly predictable patterns. In contrast, these days we have virtually unlimited amounts of information that can easily overwhelm us. Our brains are adapting but it may take another millenia to fully adjust. After all, for 99.99% of our time as a species, we haven't had to deal with this flood of stimuli. Evolution does not happen overnight.

So, coming back to the main point, our unbridled seeking can lead to addictive behaviour, including a constant drive to accomplish, that will never actually lead to the fulfillment we are seeking. Much like a treadmill. We keep going but get nowhere.

What to do?

"In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way "

- Lao Tzu

If you intuit that it may be time to challenge your conventional approach to achieving more success and happiness this year, here are a few ideas for you:

Detox - Your brain is taking too much stuff in. Most of us cannot and would not choose to leave our lives and go join a monastery somewhere. However, understanding the tendency of our brain to crave new stimulation, you can decide to start getting it off its junk. Start turning stuff off. Maybe you don't need the radio on while you drive to work. Maybe you don't need the TV on for 4 hours a day. Maybe you do not need to check your email, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc, multiple times a day. Maybe you can design in some regular downtime (go for a walk, watch the sunset, etc.) that will slowly wean the brain off its need for another dopamine hit. However, just like any junky, be prepared for the ten thousand ways your brain will resist this. Expect to have anxious thoughts and feelings that urge you to forget about this stupid exercise and go back to your old ways.

Practice Radical Acceptance - It is the nature of the seeking mind to subtly reject what is here now and strive towards some imagined future state that promised to be better, until we get there and want something else. Sometimes planning and working towards a better future is an entirely sane and useful act. However, as a lifestyle or a constant mindset it can lead to perpetual resistance, desire, striving and unhappiness. Rather than always judging the present to be lacking and the future to be more worthy/fun/exciting, practice saying a big "yes" to fully accepting what is here now. If here really isn't too bad, look for ways to better enjoy and be grateful for it. And if where you are now is really not a healthy/sustainable/good fit for you, look around "here" to find what you can build on. They call it the "present" for a reason. If you really do accept where you are, (even for a moment) become more present and look around, you will find a valuable gift.

Simplify - A busy mind is a mind that is very hard to change. Our minds are not designed to be at peace amidst as many objects/distraction/changes/threats as they now experience in the average day. So start simplifying your life. Do the important things you love and need but try to do a little less each day. Try designing in more down time, more space between events, etc.

Batching - Experiment grouping similar necessary tasks into batches. The goal here is to minimize the stress producing and energy consuming activity of multitasking, which creates a lot of noise in the brain. So if you are reading, read. If you are cooking, cook. Don't pause every few minutes to go do something else.

Stress Management - Anything you can do to lower your stress is a good thing. Frequent readers of this newsletter know this is a constant theme. A stressed mind is a noisy mind. A noisy mind is more likely to be a reactive/compulsive/unhappy mind. A noisy mind tends to gravitate towards self-focus and a more closed off heart. This is not where you want to live. Good research has shown that if you take as little as 10 minutes twice a day to do anything (meditate, contemplate, pray, gratitude journal, dance, socialize, practice yoga, mild exercise, get out in nature, etc.) that brings you back into the moment and slows down the thinking mind, it can significantly improve your wellbeing.

Let Things Unfold More - The anxious over-stimulated brain likes to imagine it can control life. And as so much of life is essentially uncontrollable, this can lead to a lot of anxious, compulsive "lab-rat" behaviour. Einstein once said the most important decision you will ever make is whether you live in a friendly or hostile universe.

This year, today, choose to join the ranks of the many great sages, saints, teachers and wise ones of all time who have urged us to trust life. After all can you really take credit for every good thing that ever happened to you? Are you really so powerful and intelligent that you can anticipate and optimize every set of circumstances to deliver what is the best for you?

This year, rather than imagining life to be a sequence of unrelated, independent, fairly random events that we need to be vigilant to guard against and gain power over, picture life as a river with a purpose. It is taking you where you need to go.

Yes, there will be days of bumpy rapids. There might be the odd waterfall that completely disorients you for a while. However you, I, and everyone else is in the river together and it is taking us where we need to go. You can decide to swim to this bank, or that one, if you choose. But forget trying to rush everything or worse swim against the current. Resistance is futile. Stay afloat and try to enjoy the ride a little more in 2013. You are in very good company.

"What you can plan, is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly, will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep."

- David Whyte

2) Some Useful Resources For Everyone

Here are a few other resources that may be of use:

Animated Alan Watts' Video - Here is a cute little animation of an Alan Watts' talk on a few key misconceptions about life.

Deep Listening - Here is a short video of Oprah talking with Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn about deep or compassionate listening.

3) Just Because You Want to Help Others Doesn't Mean You Have To Starve: The 2013 Edition Of The 6 FIGURE PRACTICE MENTOR PROGRAM is about to begin.

Just because you love to help people, are called to coach and make a difference, doesn't mean you can't earn a decent living.

If you are one of the many coaches that is not getting the results you want in your practice, I invite you to check out THE 6-FIGURE PRACTICE MENTORING PROGRAM.

This program runs only twice a year and it's 100% focused on coaches. We work together to help you find a great niche of ideal clients where you feel called to work and are sure you can make a good living. Then we move on to work through branding, positioning, choosing of marketing channels that suit your strengths, and setting up or revamping your website and other systems to attract a steady stream of clients.

It is pay as you go, and comes with a full satisfaction guarantee. So if it is not a great fit or of tremendous value, you can leave at any time. Feel free to read the course description and testimonials of the happy participants over the years.

If you are interested, you can email me at scmitten@shaw.ca to secure a spot.  

Mentor Program Testimonials

"I really love the way you gently helped me move through all my doubts and find a way to market my practice that felt authentic to me. This has been so worth it."

"After 2 years of struggling alone, I took your program and am now profitable, paying all my bills, and I have 4 people to get back to today."

"Thank you, I deeply appreciate working together,
I am getting more value than I ever expected or could hope for."

"This is deeply important. Our conversations truly move me and inspire me to develop a similar depth of compassion and depth of knowledge for my clients."

"Working with Steve literally transformed my coaching practice and took my life to a whole new level."

Visit Steve at Life and Business Coach Steve Mitten.

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