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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, 02 December 2017 09:39

Chicken Licken!

Being brave isn’t the absence of fear.
Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.
Bear Grylls

I recently gave a talk at the local Business Woman Association (BWA). For some obscure reason the perfect introduction to the talk that popped into my head was the story of Chicken Licken! Of course, I googled it to refresh my memory. Shortly afterwards, my Facebook Newsfeed was inundated with sponsored links to a Chicken Licken advert. It’s a crazy ad that’s got nothing to do with the folktale and everything to do with a local fast food outlet. Lol, now, if I can just convince Facebook they are targeting the wrong person!

Anyway, the gist of the BWA talk was that, rather like Chicken Licken with his mistaken belief that disaster was imminent, many of us are in the habit of running ourselves ragged with an erroneous conclusion as the driving force. Negative beliefs do exactly that. We mess something up once and decide we are useless at it for evermore. Instead of speaking up in a meeting we convince ourselves that we don’t know what we are talking about, that we have too poor an education or will botch it if we try, etc. etc. We decide there’s no point asking Aunt Madge to stop telling us we’re fat because she won’t stop. And so we don’t even try.

In the folktale, Chicken Licken was convinced the sky was falling in. In reality, all that happened was an acorn fell on his head. How often are you like Chicken Licken? How often do you let a mistaken belief derail the course of your life? In coaching we use a simple model to show how a belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A negative belief creates a negative expectation which leads to self-defeating behaviour. The result? A poor outcome.

What if, instead, you could cultivate more positive beliefs? Using the same model as above, a positive belief leads to positive expectations, self-motivating behaviour and an excellent outcome? This is not about telling yourself everything will be okay when clearly it isn’t! Lying or trying to trick ourselves is not the solution. However, cultivating a sense of resourcefulness, both within and outside of yourself, is.

Knowing how to calm yourself when you are overexcited or fearful, encourage yourself when you are disheartened, or face and endure difficulties as they arise, comes from understanding that we have many resources to call on to find our way through hardship.

Reminding yourself that you’ve got this, that you can do hard things, and that life is tough but so are you, is incredibly strengthening. Do more of that.
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 06:58

Taming of the Shrew!

The energy of the mind is the essence of life.
Aristotle

One of the down sides of having a very vivid imagination, is the underlying active mind that seems to come with the territory. A bit like Frikkie, my mind also has a lot to say! The thing about having an opinion on everything, is that I pretty much have an opinion on, well, everything. Everything. Seriously, the mental chatter is a nightmare to live with.

A little while ago, I spoke about negative self talk and the impact it can have on our well-being. Whether it’s positive or negative, constant mental chatter can also be exhausting, especially when you struggle to turn it off. After spending many years searching for the elusive off button, I have come to the conclusion, there isn’t one. It seems to be more of a dimmer switch. Meditation teaches us that while it is not possible, nor necessary, to stop our minds from thinking, we certainly can quieten and settle our minds. And we can do that by choosing what we focus on.

There is a lovely folk-tale of two travellers and a farmer. A traveller came upon an old farmer and asked him what sort of people lived in the next town. The farmer replied by asking the stranger what the people were like where he had come from. The traveller said  they were a bad lot, lazy, selfish troublemakers,that could not be trusted. The farmer replied that sadly, he would find the same sort in the next town.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and asked what sort of people lived in the next town. Once again the farmer asked what the people were like where he came from. The traveller replied that they were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. "Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."

The state of our mind reflects the state of our world. If we constantly notice what’s wrong with ourselves, we’ll get more of that. There will always be things wrong. Reality seldom meets our expectations but if we make an effort to look for what is right, to search for the goodness in ourselves and others, we start to see the world more peacefully.

With practice we can learn to tune out the background noise and focus our attention more clearly on what we choose to think about. How empowering is that? I like to think of it as a kind of taming of the shrew. So yay us! Let’s be more like the second traveller and make the world a better place, from the inside out.
Thursday, 02 November 2017 17:45

Well Done You!

It is a great mistake for men to give up paying compliments,
for when they give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming.
Oscar Wilde

After a nightmarish two months at the start of the year, two lovely things happened. I received positive feedback from two experts in their respective fields. The very skilled shoulder surgeon who operated on my father, thanked me for the role I played in the shoulder healing after surgery. You have no idea! It was a mammoth undertaking keeping my father’s arm in a sling for six long weeks when, courtesy of Alzheimer’s, within days of the operation he had no recollection AT ALL of having undergone surgery.

The second acknowledgement came from a Hospice Nursing sister. She visited my father at home to assess our situation and offer assistance. Her reassurance that I was doing a good job and that my father was fortunate to be so well cared for bolstered my flagging spirits. In fact, their words had a lasting effect on me. I felt re-energized and inspired to keep going.

We are often quick to criticize ourselves and others. Fault finding is almost like a default setting in our minds and we spend an awful lot of time talking and thinking about what’s wrong, instead of what’s right.

When did you last say well done, you’ve done an excellent job, to someone? When did you last say it to yourself? Can you even remember the last time you rejoiced in how hard you tried, whether you ‘succeeded’ or not? How gracious are you in accepting compliments form others? Do you value them or dismiss it as untrue?

Like with anything, it takes effort to start noticing the good, both around and inside us. We have to make an effort, but it’s an effort well worth making. The more we notice what’s right with us and the world, the better we get at seeing the goodness, the joy, and the positive connections around us.

If you are alone and feeling unloved or unlovable at the moment, that’s okay. Maybe you’ve recently messed up big time, maybe you’ve been let down or disappointed by someone else, maybe someone has treated you appallingly and you’re reeling from the shock. Things don’t have to be perfect. You just have to start.

Start noticing one good thing that happened in your day today. In the midst of all that went wrong, pay attention to the smallest thing you did right, and nurture that fragile seed. Tiny flowers on rocky ground are just as beautiful as any flower. Notice and appreciate them. Now, go and say well done to someone who needs to hear it!
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.
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