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.
Read more about me here.
Monday, 14 August 2017 19:08
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.
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
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
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
Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear
and no concept of the odds against them.
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
When we stop hating ourselves, we will stop hating others.
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
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
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!
Sunday, 14 May 2017 08:48
If a man cannot understand the beauty of life,
it is probably because life never understood the beauty in him.
According to a Facebook quizz, I have a very female brain. I kind of knew that anyway but it’s always good to get confirmation from such a reliable source! Generally speaking, directions work best for me when they include landmarks, particularly shopping related buildings. What doesn’t work at all, is distance. The GPS telling me to turn in 500m has caused more havoc than it’s worth. Honestly, who knew 500m was so far!
On top of that, I am an absolute sucker for happy endings in movies and books. I don’t mind shedding a few tears on the way to the happy ending, it’s just really, really important that it all ends well.
Of course, when it comes to real life, things don’t always pan out quite so neatly. In fact, more often than not, we find ourselves dealing with anything from, ‘not-so-happy endings’, to downright horrible ones. So how can we cultivate a more peaceful acceptance of the harsher realities of life?
One of the first steps in the process of finding peace with the difficulties we face is clearly identifying the problem. We need a good diagnosis to find the right remedy for what ails us. Knowing fully what we are dealing with greatly enhances our ability to problem solve effectively. It’s a critical step that is all too easily overlooked.
For many people, doing something, anything, to fix a problem is easier than being stuck in the awful limbo of no man’s land. To alleviate the discomfort, we tend to jump into taking action. Unfortunately, without clearly understanding the underlying causes and dynamics of a situation, it’s easy to do more harm than good.
The truth is, our initial impression of our experiences are not always accurate or trustworthy. While getting moving may be motivating and reduce the fear of the unknown, it can also strain our financial and emotional resources and waste time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Once we clearly understand a situation we can begin the process of brainstorming options. What can I do now? What is the next step? How else can I approach this? The trick here is to come up with at least four to five options of what you could possibly do.
Now that you have a few ideas to work with, assessing each option for feasibility is a natural progression. Take into account the resources available to you, your emotional and physical strength and any financial implications of each option. Voila! You are now equipped to make a sound decision, one that is much more likely to bring with it a sense of inner peacefulness.
Sunday, 30 April 2017 07:52
There is within the human heart a quality of intelligence which has been known to surpass that attributed to the human mind.
Earlier this year I experienced a chaotic and stressful week. My uncle-in-law was hospitalised after cancer spread to his spine, paralysing him from the waist down. Denial is a tricky mind state. He lives alone and late afternoon the day before he was being discharged from hospital, he finally agreed to the help everyone had been insisting he needed. It didn’t give those of us on the ground much time to manifest the required 24-hour care. We managed, but it took organisational skills I didn’t even know I had!
A few days later my mother-in-law was thanking me for my help and described it beautifully. It had been a very emotional process for his friends and family and she held her hands apart, out in front of her. “There was emotion here,” she said shaking her one hand, “and emotion here,“ she said shaking the other hand, “and in the middle there was chaos.” “You,” she said, “had emotion here and emotion here, but clear thinking in the middle. What a difference!”
It’s a brilliant description of Emotional Intelligence. Emotions, especially intense ones, have a way of overriding our ability to think clearly. When we most need to make good decisions, we simply can’t. What usually happens is this; when things go wrong, our emotions hunker down and throw the biggest panic / pity party ever. If our intelligence joins the mayhem, we add fearful, negative thoughts to the mix and our initial struggle swells to meltdown proportions.
There is another option. If we can use our rational, logical, intelligence to calm and bolster our reeling emotions, we may be able to find that elusive balance that brings out the best in us.
So where does Emotional Intelligence come from? It grows from the ground of self-acceptance and is nourished by the wish to do no harm to ourselves or others. It begins with building trust in yourself; honouring your word; supporting, instead of berating, yourself for errors and misjudgements; and being brave enough to face and express your feelings.
From that space of authenticity, over time, we learn to integrate our emotional reaction with more intelligent thinking. Through this integration we are able to slow down our initial reaction and increase our ability for more mature, reasoned responses. This is how we improve our capacity to be at our best in those critical moments when we need all our resources to deal with what we are facing.
Thursday, 13 April 2017 05:01
Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften.
Open to whatever you experience without fighting.
Open to whatever you experience without fighting.
In order to keep myself in tip top coaching shape, I’m currently taking part in an online coaching course, run by Gregg Sugarman, a fabulous New York based Life Coach I met a few years ago. Our homework for the first week, was to check in with our breathing on the hour, every hour. Well blow me over with a feather, I was horrified to discover how shoddy my breathing skills are. While I can belly breathe along with the best of them when I put my mind to it, while going about my business on a daily basis, it turns out I shallow breathe like a pro.
The benefits of breathing deeply are common knowledge and most of us know that stress and the rushed pressure we live under are not good for our health. If you are like me, what you forget is that the solution is simpler than we realize.
After a week of simply paying attention to my breathing a couple of times throughout the day, there was a noticeable improvement in my well-being. Apart from the calming, steadying effect of deeper breaths, all that extra oxygen circling around was doing wonders for my brain. I was alert, more energetic and having vivid dreams I could remember. I think y’all you should know that one of those dreams was shoe shopping for my four feet!
So why don’t we breathe deeply all the time? It’s interesting. In Week Two of the course, although we were tasked with keeping the breathing exercises going, our focus shifted to a new area. What do you think happened? I fell right off the breathing bandwagon. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. Gregg received a flurry of emails from the group asking him to please keep reminding us to breathe!
Like with any new habit, it takes a concerted effort to change something we are doing. Breathing is no different. We are bombarded with sensory input throughout the day and breathing is not something we actually need to focus on. However, it certainly should be something we WANT to focus on.
Do yourself a favour and make the effort to take ten deep, sustaining breaths as regularly as you can during your day. Feel your belly expand as you draw sparkling oxygen into your body. Imagine every single cell throughout your body coming to life as it is bathed in the life sustaining essence of life.
Don’t make a big thing of it, in fact no one even has to realise you are doing it. But you will. You will feel the benefits immediately and like me, you’ll wonder why on earth you don’t do this all the time!
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 08:34
The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever messed up? And I’m talking about the biggies here, the raw, painful regrets we would happily delete from our inner hard-drive given the chance. I have a suspicion that hidden within pretty much all of us, lurks at least one shameful act, that if offered a do-over, we would grab with both hands... Or is it just me?
Shame is a very powerful emotion, one which Dr. Brené Brown, describes as the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel and the one no one wants to talk about. So let’s buck the trend today and talk about it!
The thing about authenticity is that the moment you start trying to be fully yourself, you hit a wall of shame and vulnerability that has you wondering just what right you think you have to be yourself. It’s a crazy way of thinking, but no less agonising for it’s erroneous conclusions.
Of course, if you have done something you deeply regret, this process can be crippling. Our first instinct with shame is to hide. We go into lock down mode and hide, and not only from others, we bury shame deeply within our psyche so even we don’t have to think about it any more.
This no-go area inside ourselves becomes a mini war zone. Our defences go up and the more painful it is, the more defensive we become. As judge and jury of our actions, our certainty that we are inherently bad traps us even further. Everything becomes about staying safe and protecting this very vulnerable part of ourselves. The easiest way to do that is to isolate ourselves, or at the very least, shut down emotionally.
Life Coaching is about much more than achieving a goal. It’s about negotiating peace in our volatile and potentially dangerous inner world. Before you can go out there and get what you want, you have to know what it is you want. And to know that, you have to know more about who you are. All of you. The good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s here in this rather murky playground, as we learn to love what seems unlovable, that life coaching helps us discover what worthiness is truly about.