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Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching

Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching

I'm a Personal Development Life Coach who specialises in L.I.F.E (Living Into your Fullest Expression). Based in Richards Bay, on the East Coast of South Africa, I live with my long-suffering husband, (his description!), two much-loved dogs and care for my elderly father who has Alzheimer's.

Read more about me here.
Saturday, 14 October 2017 21:34

Say You Will!

If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done.
Rita Mae Brown

The other day, a client and I were talking about procrastination. It’s a topic that often comes up in coaching sessions and in fact, many people come to coaching for the simple reason that they want to do something differently but can’t seem to actually do it. Never mind differently, they can’t do it, full stop!

So how do you get yourself to do something you’re avoiding? Very often, clients who struggle most with procrastination are experts in how to overcome it. They have read loads of books and tried a variety of techniques and apps and are usually able to tell me exactly what they need to do to get moving. And yet, they don’t. Get moving, that is... which pretty much sums up procrastination.

Some people get stuck thinking research is the key. If they could just get all the information they need, they would be able to tackle the task with confidence. Others know very clearly that discipline is the missing link. They are convinced that if they could just be more disciplined, they would be able to get on with it.

In coaching sessions, taking action is not our first step. Lack of discipline, perfectionism, overwhelm and even laziness may all be symptoms of the problem, but they are not necessarily the actual problem. We need to figure out what that problem really is, particularly seeing as it’s a long term solution we are aiming for.

In order to be able to prioritize and do, you need to know your what and your why. In coaching we approach avoidance from the point of view of understanding what is important to you. We are all so very different and what motivates us into taking action is usually a combination of factors. You need to know what your particular, unique combination of factors is. It’s like uncovering your personal recipe for success. If we know what makes you say you will, and then honour that, you’re sorted.

Overcoming procrastination takes both motivation and discipline. The two go together. While motivation might get you going, it comes and goes. Discipline is what keeps you there.

If you have a habit of procrastinating, chances are you have lost faith in yourself. Start there. Make it easy for yourself to succeed. Visualise how you want this issue to pan out. Ask yourself, if it was to go well, how would it go? Once you get your head around it, it becomes easier to take that one tiny step in the right direction.
Tuesday, 03 October 2017 05:08

I See You...

Be kind. Kindness costs nothing. It need not be a grand gesture.
A simple smile while looking someone in the eyes as you pass in the hall.
Saying please and thank you. Acknowledging that the person in front of you exists.
David Ross Patient


Today, I’ve cancelled all appointments and I’m taking a mental health day. The last few months have been an emotional roller-coaster. Apart from the death of Kevin’s uncle in August, at the end of May 2014, my sister and I discovered we had an older brother who had been given up for adoption at birth. On the 22 September 2017, David died. Three years is a very short time to meet, get to know, and lose someone, especially the unique and extraordinary man our brother turned out to be.

At 7pm on Sunday night, Carte Blanche, a local TV programme, aired a tribute to David for the work he had done and the man he was. It was beautiful but watching it churned up so many emotions. David touched the lives of, and brought hope, to so many people and the outpouring of love for him has been incredible to witness.

At 7am the next morning, while walking the dogs, Colt got into a fight with two dogs that were running loose around the neighbourhood. To see our gentle giant turn into a vicious killing machine was horrific. With the help of two men walking past, we separated the dogs and I came home shaken, with Colt bleeding from his eye.

I had one hour before I had to leave for a business meeting in Ballito, an hour and a half drive away. The meeting could not easily be postponed. I needed training, the guys were only in the area for a week and my car was booked at the panel-beaters for the next five days. After taking some deep breaths, I called Kevin who came home to sort Colt out, reminded myself I can do hard things, got into my bashed up car and headed off. By the time I got home last night, after we’d collected Colt from the vet, I was truly and utterly exhausted.

The day after my brother died, a final update he had prepared before he died was posted, on his behalf, on Facebook. The quote from David at the beginning of this post ends with these words, ‘Be present with that person. The Zulu greeting is Sawubona and directly translated that means ‘I SEE YOU!’

Sometimes it’s not only other people we need to be present with. Sometimes we need to take a moment to sit with our own pain and breathe through it. It takes courage to witness heartbreak, whether it’s our own or that of someone else. But it is important, I see you is a very powerful phrase of acknowledgement. Sometimes just having our pain witnessed is all we need to give us the courage to endure it. Farewell, David. It’s been an epic journey.
Thursday, 14 September 2017 11:23

Can Do!

Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.
Stephanie Bennett-Henry

Two days before leaving on a two-thousand kilometre road trip across South Africa, the main road leading in and out of Richards Bay collapsed into a five metre wide sink-hole. I kid you not, the road literally disappeared in an instant. It gets worse. The car was packed and ready, when half an hour before I planned to leave home, I heard an almighty crash from the garage. A heavy item that Kevin had stored in the garage roof rafters months ago fell onto the roof of my car. The impact caused over R12 000 (around $1000) worth of damage and dented the roof, both outside and inside, my car.

Driving such a long distance by myself was already a stretch for me, and although I was so looking forward to the week retreat I was heading to, I have to admit, I was spooked. The road collapsing and sky literally falling in on my head had me rattled. Were these warning signs telling me not to go or merely obstacles to be overcome?

Fear can be a terrible thing. When you are caught in it’s grip, it’s very hard to tell whether the distress you are feeling is for a real or imagined threat. That difference is what it is all about. Usually, it’s that very uncertainty, the not knowing if we are in actual danger or caught in a fearful thought that traps and holds us back.

Anxiety is a default mode for me, and as I sat there struggling to find my balance, a quote I had come across a few days before, came to mind. It said, “Beautiful girl, you can do hard things.” Such simple, yet powerful words.

So many of us pay most attention to thoughts that harm us, thoughts that weaken us mentally, physically and emotionally. We believe our fears. We believe the voice that tells us we are not good enough, that we can’t or that we shouldn’t. We believe that we don’t deserve it, that there is something wrong with us and that we are never going to be happy / successful / or at peace.

To change this pattern we have to stop harming ourselves. It's our very thinking that's flawed and needs to change. We have to make some effort to learn to think in healthier ways, to purposefully cultivate thoughts that strengthen us mentally, physically and emotionally, thoughts that remind us of the resources we have within and around us that will help us do hard things. Life is tough. Remind yourself, so are you.
Friday, 25 August 2017 12:37

LMAO!

A laugh is a smile that bursts.
Mary H. Waltdrip

A few years ago I attended a Personal Growth Course run by a local Counselling Organisation. In one of the exercises, we were required to ask three people to describe, to you, how they see you. In all my wisdom, I decided to ask a psychologist I knew for his impressions of me. A far cry from the graceful and serene I have always aspired to be, he described me as energetic, bordering on boisterous! At the time, I remember thinking, what, boisterous like a big dog?

Anyway, so the other morning, when Colt was super-excitedly bouncing around the bathroom, crying and gently nibbling the backs of my knees, urging me to hurry up and walk him, I have to admit, it reminded me, well, of myself! The boisterous bit at least.

Sense of humour is a funny thing, you either share it or you don’t, but if you do, it’s the most wonderful connection to have with another human being. My sense of humour can be a bit quirky and, oh my word, it appears in the most unlikely, and sometimes inappropriate, places. Laughter Yoga workshop? Nothing, not a single laugh. It was excruciating, I felt so self conscious that I could barely raise a smile.

Silent meditation hall? Yep, I have memories of, more than once, stumbling out a silent hall to roar with laughter over some small thing that tickled me no end. Or sitting in a shopping mall with a friend, doubled over, snorting with laughter at nothing but the simple joy of being alive.

According to Gurinder S. Bains, a Ph.D. candidate at Loma Linda University, who co-authored a study on the effects of laughter, there are many benefits to a good belly laugh. These include lowering blood pressure; reducing stress hormones; giving your abs a workout; boosting your immune system and triggering the release of feel good hormones.

So if anyone is in need of some cheering up today, here are links to a few things that have made me laugh out loud. Peter Kay – Misheard Song Lyrics; James Veitch responding to Internet scams; and Nina Conti at the Apollo.

I am going to leave you with my favourite childhood joke. Go up to someone and say to them, “Ask me if I’m an orange.” When the person says, “Are you an orange?” Say no and look at them funny. After doing it a few times, it’s hilarious. Go on, I dare you!
Monday, 14 August 2017 19:08

Grace Under Pressure

Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world;
first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.
Thomas Adams

On Sunday we attended the memorial of Kevin’s uncle who died after a long battle with cancer. Graham was being cared for in the Frail Care Centre of a local Home for the Aged. From the day he arrived he was bedridden and the last six months of his life was lived out of one bed, in one small room. This is a brutal experience for anyone, but for a sportsman who’d run fifteen Comrades Marathons, and completed thirty-eight Dusi Canoe Races, I cannot imagine what it was like to be paralysed and confined to such a small space.

Nerve and bone pain are amongst the most difficult to manage at the end of life and Graham endured excruciating pain as the nurses struggled to keep him comfortable. At his memorial, we heard stories from people who'd only met Graham during his last six, and most difficult, months. From within this one room, the nurses, physiotherapist, doctor and fellow residents told us of the impact Graham had on their lives. It was extraordinary to hear.

Despite his own pain and suffering, he guided, supported, influenced and motivated a steady stream of visitors who came to sit at his bedside. We heard of his powerful presence, generosity of spirit, positivity and the dogged determination and perseverance that made him the man he was.

I spent much of the last three weeks of Graham’s life with him and witnessed first-hand the grace with which he handled severe pain and physical suffering. It has had a profound effect on me. During the most difficult time of his life, Graham shone in his ‘full and excellent brightness’. It made me wonder where this grace comes from?

Many of us will only know what we are truly capable of in those moment when we are called on to face our worst fears. Will I be one of the people with the strength to endure the most extreme suffering? I don’t know. I hope I never have to find out.

In the meantime, I’m making an effort to endure the small discomforts of my life with more grace. The word 'grace' denotes poise, a type of elegance in facing tough situations with dignity, even when it’s unfair or we are being treated badly... especially when it’s unfair and we are treated badly.

In this way, the small moments of chaos that happen within our day become the training ground for building strength. Instead of running away, we learn to cope with the discomfort we usually try so hard to avoid. As we stop struggling with what we are experiencing, we are able to see it more clearly and, I hope, learn to relax with what is happening.
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 08:25

Falling in Love!

Sometimes you break your heart in the right way, if you know what I mean.
Gregory David Roberts

A few weeks ago, as girls do when you leave them alone together, a very dear friend and I got chatting about love and marriage. The conversation, ...  erm,  deteriorated and the next thing, we were shrieking with laughter figuring that with all the affairs going on in the world, it’s only fair that we at least get an offer or two. Of course, we planned to refuse, it’s just the being wanted we were after!

Affairs truly are no laughing matter. With divorce rates sky high, we can probably all agree that marriage is tough and brings many challenges with it. Fidelity being one. As anyone who has experienced infidelity will know, it’s incredibly painful to be cheated on. And yet it happens. A lot.

For most of us, there is something very enticing about the surge of emotions physical attraction calls forth in us. That ‘something special’ can be very hard to resist, and the urge to dive right in and indulge can be overwhelming.

It reminds me of an article I came across years ago when I worked for Hospice. It's titled, ‘Loving with an Open Hand,’ and is particularly relevant to Hospice and they work they do with death and dying. It’s about learning to love without clinging and holding on to what you love. After years of attempting it, I have to say, it’s no small undertaking.

So how do we do it? Is it even possible to love without holding on? For guidance, let’s turn to Buddhists; experts in understanding the truth of suffering and the way to happiness. Buddhists believe that one of the root causes of suffering is attachment or desire. We see something, we want it and we usually want it now. Pretty much falling in love, in a nutshell! Buddhists suggest we examine whether the things we ‘think’ will make us happy, actually ‘do’. Make us happy, that is.

They are also incredibly optimistic about human nature. Buddhists believe that, fundamentally, at our core, we are inherently good. This means that something that brings us happiness but causes harm to others, may gratify us in the moment, but cannot, and will not, lead to long term happiness.

It’s food for thought and certainly useful in helping us pause for a moment before launching ourselves into the romantic fray. Resisting temptation is difficult. As hard as it may be, there is a lot to be said for learning to love with an open hand. It’s kind of like Gregory David Roberts says above, it’s breaking our heart, in the right way!
Saturday, 15 July 2017 10:04

Losing Ground?

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease. Over the last year and a half, my father has steadily deteriorated as his cognitive abilities decline. As his primary caregiver, every change he experiences has an equal, if not bigger, effect on me. At the start of the year I was struggling to adjust; for every step back my father took, it felt as if Alzheimer's was asking me to give up more ground. The sheer weight of it was suffocating and with a long road ahead of us, it seemed insurmountable.

A few months later, things are going a lot better. What changed? Sadly, not the reality. My father is still deteriorating as the disease progresses. It’s me, I’ve changed. Having someone to bounce ideas off can be a great help. In my case, a simple conversation with Gregg, my own life coach helped me re-frame the situation in a more positive light.

The definition of re-framing is simple: it is to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc.) in a new or different way. That’s it. We see things from a different perspective and that alone changes how we engage with and respond to our experience.

Around the same time, I stumbled across the Navy Seals 40% Rule for cultivating mental toughness. Basically, the rule is that when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done. Marathon runners know this, they hit the wall physically but somehow find the will to push through to complete the race.

We all have this will. According to David Goggins, an ex Navy Seal, ‘The only way you gain mental toughness is to do things you are not happy doing. If you continue doing things you that you are satisfied with and that make you happy, you are not getting stronger’. While I'm certainly no marathon runner, the idea that I have 60% more reserves and resources within me has been profoundly encouraging. It’s a concept well worth remembering in those darker moments when you feel you have reached the end of your capacity.

Earlier this year, I described caring for someone with Alzheimer's like being trapped in Groundhog Day, on repeat. It is frustrating beyond belief to repeat basic things over and over without any possibility of it being remembered. Now, instead of focusing on what Alzheimer’s is taking away from my father and also from my own life, I see what it is giving me.

Infinite opportunities to be kinder and more patient, qualities I have aspired to my entire adult life. It turns out, not only is there room to breathe in this situation that felt so suffocating a few months ago, there is room to grow and blossom! Difficulties are often like that.
Saturday, 01 July 2017 08:50

Insurmountable Odds!

Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear
and no concept of the odds against them.
Robert Jarvik

Every girl should have a least one duel fought over her and my turn finally came the other night. Sadly, I slept through the entire saga and had to hear about it from Kevin the next morning. It was, apparently, an epic David and Goliath battle. Here’s what happened.

In one corner, over six feet tall and weighing in at 90kg’s was Kevin. Then there’s Frikkie. Bless him, but this little guy stands at around 20cm’s (I had to stop typing to go and measure him!) and weighs in at just over 5kg’s.

The battle was fought over who got to cuddle the sleeping me. Frikkie won! Kevin had happily curled himself around me until a very indignant Frikkie found himself with only feet to keep him warm. There was no way this was going to work so he climbed on top of Kevin and started digging. He dug between us until he created a big enough gap to fall into... which he promptly did. And went straight to sleep.

Nothing stops this little fella, he’s a dog with a lot to say and even more to give. And guys, today must be your lucky day because you get to hear 'my take' on lessons we can learn from Frikkie, a pint-sized Dapple Dachshund who’s got the world sorted!

Frikkie’s Happy Life Tips:

1) To be a giant, think like a giant.
2) Never be afraid to express yourself fully. Cry if you need to, run in circles when you’re happy and don’t forget to wiggle when you walk.
3) Be creative. There is always a way. You simply have to find it.
4) Make enough noise at a closed door and it will be opened.
5) Never give up. No matter how unlikely the odds, give it your all.
6) Look for opportunities and when you see a gap, take it. Ooo, and if there’s a car with an open door, jump in. Who knows what adventures await!
7) If there’s no gap, make one. Growl if you must.
8) Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Jewels, (or in Frikkie's case, moles) are often hidden in the muck.  
9) Relax into whatever position you find yourself in. Sometimes a new perspective is all you need.
10) Assume you are loved and you will be!

So there you have it. Frikkie’s guide to getting the most out of life. Live and learn!
Thursday, 15 June 2017 17:30

I Hate You...

When we stop hating ourselves, we will stop hating others.
Marty Rubin

You idiot! What’s wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right? How many of you have used those, or similar words, to berate yourself for a mistake you've made? Maybe you misjudged a situation, or risked vulnerability, and things didn’t work out as you hoped and now, you can’t believe how stupid you were.

One of the homework exercises we do in coaching sessions is when I ask a client to sit quietly and think about something that went wrong, and then write down what they say to themselves. Oh my word, some of the things I’ve heard are enough to make my hair curl!

It’s a valuable exercise to do. This way of thinking is so automatic that we often have no idea what we actually say to ourselves. Writing it down is one thing, but I assure you, reading those words out loud to someone else, is even more eye-opening.

To cut a long story short, basically guys, this negative self talk has got to stop! Not only is it not helping you, it’s harmful.

We’re going to digress for a moment to talk about Navy Seals. We don’t have them in South Africa, but oh my, yes please! What is it about a Navy Seal that fulfils every romantic ideal I’ve ever had of the perfect man. Right, back to business... According to Eric Barker in his book, Barking up the Wrong Tree, an essential skill potential Seals have to develop in BUD (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) is positive self-talk.

Now, all I’m saying, is that if it’s good enough for Navy Seals, it sure is good enough for me! You can read more of the very interesting article here.

One thing we need to be aware of is that negative self-talk is often a symptom of a deeper underlying issue of self hatred. We call it by many names, self-doubt, shame, guilt but until we tackle the very painful issue of self-hatred, it will be hard to free ourselves from this destructive pattern of negative self talk.

Whether negative self talk happens automatically inside you or is triggered by criticism (launched at you from the place of self hatred inside someone else), the antidote remains the same. Cultivate an attitude of warmth and friendliness towards yourself. All of you, the wounded and the wonderful.

Self-awareness, self-acceptance and training to support and encourage ourselves when we face difficulties is the direction to head in. Take heart knowing that it is possible and yes, even you can learn to speak more kindly and gently to your precious self.
Monday, 29 May 2017 14:46

Changing Habits...

There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
Mark Twain

In April, I roped my long-suffering husband (he uses that term a lot!) into doing a 30-day whole-food diet with me. The Whole30 is fairly well known and I have to admit, it’s a mammoth undertaking. Giving up ALL grains, dairy, legumes and sugar is one thing, but making everything from scratch like almond milk, mayonnaise and stock, makes meal preparation a very time consuming task.

Around the mid-point of the 30 days I had an epiphany. Most of you probably know this, so forgive me for being slow on the uptake, but it’s the first time I truly, deeply understood how much food is associated with pleasure for me. If something upset me, the craving for a cup of tea and a biscuit was intense. If something went well, the urge to reward myself with a treat was overpowering, and when I was tired, the feeling that I deserved something nice to eat was irresistible.  

The rules of the Whole30 are clear. According to the founders, the commitment is 30 days; you cheat, you start over. Having such clear parameters was a huge help in convincing myself to deal with emotions without using food as a way to soothe and bolster my flagging spirits. It forced me to sit with uncomfortable feelings and it was incredibly empowering to discover so many other healthier coping mechanisms within myself.

Here are five things completing the Whole30 taught me about changing habits:
1) Planning is everything.
If you want to make a change in any area of your life, creating an environment in which success is possible, is a crucial step. Get rid of what tempts you and surround yourself with wholesome alternatives.
2) Support is vital.
Temptation is everywhere and it’s hard to resist. Having an accountability buddy or just someone to share the ups and downs with is a huge help.
3) Doing something tough is rewarding in itself.
We often underestimate the power of success. The sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing what you start, or honouring a personal commitment, is very sustaining. Savour it.
4) Commit fully.
Changing habits is hard. For my husband, this was one of the hardest things he has ever done. Before you tackle changes get your mind around it. Know your ‘why’.
5) Keep your goal clearly in mind.
Keep reminding yourself of the long term benefit of making this change. Overcoming the urge for instant gratification is possible and it’s the crux of success.
And remember, YOU’VE GOT THIS!
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