The little Mare taught me a lesson

Tonight a lesson I learned two years ago is still powerfully resonating within me.

wild_horses_running_card-p137309000032994250q6k5_400It happened in a work-group of Equine Assisted Therapist. We were practicing our skills, mentoring each other and exposing ourselves to the beautiful influence the horses had on us. Little did I know what was in store for me.
We were practicing “Join up”, an exercise made popular by Monty Roberts. In this exercise, you had get the horse to trust you by only using non-verbal signals. The technique is to assert your authority by dictating which way and when the horse may run, constantly looking for signs of trust. When the signs are there you turn your back to the horse and allow the horse to approach you and then walk out of the lunge ring with the horse following you.

I did the exercise with a little mare, Indian Magic. I went into the ring and started to assert my authority and Indian Magic bolted. She leaped right over the fence and ran for the fields.

Of course I had to go and fetch her. As I approached her, she came to me. I let the halter unfold to catch her and she ran away. This repeated itself a few times. After a while I gave up and started to walk back to the stables and wouldn’t you know? Indian Magic followed me. I stopped and she stopped. I walked, she followed. In the end we came to the stables, walking at an arm’s length of each other.

There are so many powerful lessons in this experience, but the one I want to share is that on that day, I realized that the pictures in my head, of how the world should look like, limits me.

That I had to open my eyes and start seeing what is really happening. That I must not be a slave to my expectations of how things should be, but be liberated by how things actually are.

Yes, sure. Be clear about what you want (I wanted Indian Magic to trust me) and then go with the flow in pursuing this vision. Don’t hold yourself back, pay attention, and let reality enrich you. Go beyond the picture in your head.
When you stop expecting things to be a certain way, you can appreciate them for what they are. Ultimately you will realize that life’s greatest gifts are rarely wrapped the way you expected.

Still unwrapping reality

2 Lies to Loose

Our mental maps are our servants that are supposed to help us deal with life.

They are the filters through which we interpret the world around us. We all have them and thankfully so. If they were not there, this world would have been to chaotic to be in.

A problem arises when these maps lead us astray. When the map in our mind is that of Venice in Italy, but the street in front of us our small hometown. Obviously we will walk into walls and down ditches that is not in Venice but in our real world they are.

Two of these maps that we have to get rid of is:

  1. Life has to be easy
  2. Someone will save me

The only time life is easy is in a mothers womb. The rest of life is either a struggle or an adventure. Depends on what you interpret the map. So through away the map that says life must be easy. It is a very, very immature belief system. Unborn babies are the only ones that may claim it. The rest of us need to face the music.

Once we get rid of the lie, we have to put in place the truth. The truth I suggest is that life is one big adventure. That a kite can only fly against the wind, That every challenge that come my way is a compliment. A compliment of my ability to deal with life. That my talent will only grow when the challenge increase.

Let the new map dictate that for me to be in Flow (optimal human performance) life’s challenges need to compliment my strengths.

The second lie we need to loose, is the expectation that someone will come and save me. This also comes from childhood were mom or dad will pick me up, or do my chores for me. This lie cripples us.

The truth is, we need to take responsibility of our own life. You are the one that is going to give your life an make-over. Not Oprah or some rich uncle. You.

You have the ability. You have the dream. You have the brain to find a way. You have in you everything you need. Start using it.

So grow up and create that life you always dream of.

Still growing


Time flies when you’re having fun

October is moving into its second half. Then, two months away, 2013 starts.

Often I hear how time flies. People comment on it like the weather, just something to fill that superficial conversation space. Comments like “Where has the time gone too?” often pop up.

Been thinking on it lately.

Our sense of time is a very human invention and always a bit relative.  We tend to thing in a linear framework when we do think about time – past, present, future. We struggle to manage our time (something I think is ridiculous to do) because we have so much to do.

Time cannot be managed.

Essentially, that what we call time is the earth revolving around its own axle. How do you manage that? Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years are only an agreed upon measurements we use to create some sort of order.

Imagine a world without this measurement! How will your life be different?

We would probably be less stressed. There will be more chaos. We would have to learn patience and we would probably appreciate things more. We would do those things that have real importance for us.

And that is just it. We cannot manage time, but we can manage the activities we do in a time frame. The focus then falls on what you do. On what you are busy with.

This reminds me of one of Steve Jobs comments: “I ask myself, if I would die tomorrow, will I still be doing what I do today? And if the answer is ‘no’ too many mornings in a row, I know I need to chance.”

What you do therefore needs to be meaningful. The action needs to carry you forward. Take you closer to your goal, your vision

Focusing on the activity also allows us to move into flow easier. One of the characteristics of flow is a loss of the sense of time. One becomes so engaged in the activity, that all else falls away. Because you are having fun in what you are doing, time just slips away.

So, rather than complaining about how little time you have, be grateful that you have something to do. Just make sure what you are doing is meaningful.

For myself, I came to realize that this year have flown past. So much has happened – good and bad. But I can now confess: I had fun. I did not notice the time as it flowed by. I was busy living my live to the fullest.

May I challenge you? Let’s race to the end of the year and see who has the most fun!



Thinking about Work

It does not seem to be true that work necessarily needs to be unpleasant. It may always have to be hard, or at least harder than doing nothing at all. But there is ample evidence that work can be enjoyable, and that indeed, it is often the most enjoyable part of life.
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990

Inverted U

Performing under pressure has become a much needed skill. A skill that some of us have naturally and others need to learn.

Some of us seem to thrive under pressure. We like the adrenaline rush, the challenge of thinking on our feet and delegating the detail. Only to find ourselves crashing against a wall. Not the wall of the project that creates the pressure – which we are handling. The walls we often crash against are the personal, family, relationship walls.

Sound familiar?

There are a few theories that try to explain this interaction between performance and pressure.

The most common one is the Inverted-U Hypothesis. This theory states that performance increases as pressure or the challenge of a situation increases, up to a point. After that specific point, performance decrease as pressure increase. We fade away.

Another theory, the Catastrophic Theory, is similar to the Inverted –U Hypothesis; it only differs in that it states that some people’s performance does not decline gradually but catastrophically falls. They crash and burn.

A third theory that I think is relevant is the optimal zone theory. This simply states that each individual has a zone in which he/she functions optimally. Why these theories?

Simply to share a tool with which you can enhance your performance. Knowing yourself and the level of pressure under which you can function optimally is one of the keys to achieving flow. Being aware of warning signs will help to managing the pressure.

A myth of the self help, motivational world, is that our potential is unlimited. Because our ego wants to feel all-powerful, it easily grabs on to this myth and pushes us past our zone. Lettings us crash and burn or fade away.

The truth is, our potential is limited, but no one has ever truly reached that limit. It is far beyond the quasi-humble belief systems and mind maps we create to keep us in mediocrity. By acknowledging this and by accepting that we actually develop and grow our potential by creating boundaries for our self, we will be able function in flow much easier. Then we allow pressure to extract the gold in us. Then we use pressure as a servant to our own happiness.

Under pressure


Scary Dreams

If your dreams does not scare you it is not big enough.

I don’t know who said this first but it holds a lovely truth. This truth was brought home in a powerful way by one of my Professors. I was one of those students that always got by on the skin of my pants. Life as a student had to many things that needed to be explored and academics was not very high on the priority list.

One day we complained to Prof Hermi that his test was to difficult and as students who knew all about life, we tried to convince him that he must lower his standards. His response still echo’s in my mind after all these years. He calmly looked us in the eye as said:

“I will not insult your potential by lowering my standards.”

Awesome isn’t it? Today I had to explain to a client that it is a good thing if you have anxious anticipation of the new venture. If the challenge is not big enough we easily slip into boredom. When a challenge matches our potential, it arouses us. the juices of adventure start to flow and we are one step away from optimal functioning.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains that to achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. (See his figure here)

If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high for flow to occur; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.

So next time your dream scares you, have a good look at what is really happening. Are you worried or anxious or aroused? Being aroused is one step away from flow. Focus your attention. Lose yourself in your dream and taste the joy of being your full potential.

If you are worried or anxious, make sure it is not just an old habit of excusing yourself from truly engaging. Remember, nothing happens until you commit to a path. If you see the truth of hiding behind a habit, re-interpret your assessment and move into flow. If it is the truth that your skill level is not synchronized with the challenge. Take a step back en equip yourself with whatever you need to match the challenge.

Making dreams become reality is always hard work. You can enjoy the hardness or you can resent it. Resentment comes from functioning on the lower levels of skill and challenge. enjoyment comes from functioning in flow.

What will it be then? Will you let the fear motivate you or will you hide behind excuses?

With love and flow