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.
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!
Sunday, 14 May 2017 08:48

Happy Ending... Not!

If a man cannot understand the beauty of life,
it is probably because life never understood the beauty in him.
Criss Jami

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

Emotional Thinking

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

A Day in the Life...

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.
Jack Kornfield

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

Shame on You!

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.
Carl Jung

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.
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 10:30

Fear of Missing Out!

When you fear missing out, you are missing the moment.
Styling the Inside

This year I've been on a mission to say YES to unexpected opportunities. It was going well until yesterday's FOMO (fear of missing out) experience! Some friends who live across country were visiting the St Lucia Wetlands. It’s less than an hour away from us and we arranged to meet at Monzi Golf Course. Although I’m no golfer, I decided to go along. There’s a fabulous Craft & Coffee Shop at the golf course and it sounded like a nice outing for the day.

We were in the car about to leave, when a message arrived confirming arrangements I’d made for that very same morning. My bad! I’d completely forgotten that a Horse Whisperer was coming to Richard’s Bay to work with a friend’s horse.

Here’s the low down, golf is soooo not my thing, too hot, too long, too boring, but horses, ... ah now that’s the stuff my dreams and happy memories are made of. And a Horse Whisperer in Richards Bay? That’s a small miracle in itself. Never mind FOMO, this was COMO; Certainty of Missing Out! I had to make an instant decision and with a heartfelt sigh, I chose golf.

Life is full of moments like this. We are asked to choose one course of action over another and it can be hard to know what to do. Once we’ve chosen, we still have to deal with the emotional backlash from our decision, be it regret, disappointment or having to let go of a hoped for ideal.

 Life Coaching offers some useful tips for grappling with these kinds of choices:
1) Flex your gratitude muscle. Remind yourself how fortunate you are to have choices. A burst of positivity may be just what you need to regain perspective.
2) Bring creative problem-solving to the table. Is there a way to make this work for everyone involved? If not, see option four.
3) Take a longer term perspective. Which option will bring the most peace of mind over the long term?
4) Breathe. Sometimes we have a hard choice to make and simply have to breathe through the emotions. We are being asked to accept reality as it is, not as we would like it to be. The best we can do is hold our seat and ride out the storm remembering that this too shall pass.
5) Make a decision and don’t look back. No ‘what if’ing’, no self doubt, decision made. Full stop.

Have you had a FOMO moment? Please share your experiences!
Monday, 27 February 2017 00:00

Loves me not?

An act of love that fails is just as much a part of the divine life as an act of love that succeeds,
for love is measured by fullness, not by reception.
Harold Lokes

A client and I were talking about unrequited love during a coaching session. Loving someone who doesn’t love you back, or stops loving you, is incredibly painful. It’s one thing to experience in your youth, but later in life, when it involves divorce, children, and splitting shared assets, it becomes much more complicated.

For most of us, rejection is the most painful experience to go through and the fear of rejection can be crippling. In one of those startling, ‘coaching-sessions-mimics-real-life scenarios’, two days before this discussion, I had experienced a vivid reminder of just how painful rejection can be.

Having recently reconnected, on Facebook, with a few people I had lost touch with more than twenty years ago, I was happily mulling over the rich tapestry of life. I was thinking how although people come and go, their impact remains a part of the very fabric of who we are.

In this frame of mind, I thought nothing of sending a friend request to a long lost ex-boyfriend. He had re-appeared quite out the blue as a friend of a friend when we both commented on a post. You can meet him here: Mr Gorgeous! If the truth be told, I thought nothing of sending it ... until  the moment I hit the the send button.

One minute I was smiling at wonderful memories, the next I was felled by a twenty-five year old wave of insecurity and shame. Time means nothing to fear. Fearful emotions can be experiencing as intensely, in the present moment, as they were felt in the past when the original painful or scary event happened.  In an instant I was thrown back to how I felt as a young woman facing her first heartbreak.

It’s at times like this that that we need to remember we are more than just emotional beings. We have to dig deep and call on our intelligence to bring balance. I’m here to remind you we can! With practice, we CAN channel our thoughts in a more helpful direction.

Reality checking is a good place to start, especially when fear is raging. Am I in danger? Has something actually happened? Breathing deeply with awareness calms our nervous systems and gives us a chance to pause and re-adjust. Sometime all we need to remember is that this feeling too shall pass and I will still be here when it does.

Love is about connection, it’s what drives human behaviour and what makes the experience of rejection so unbearable. Having a compassionate connection to ourselves in times of panic or rejection helps us keep our balance.

We do not have to abandon nor turn on ourselves just because someone else may have. Whether we are loved back or not, we CAN love, because it’s who we are. How empowering is that!
Thursday, 16 February 2017 06:58

The Web of Life

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
Anais Nin

In October last year, my husband’s uncle woke up one morning to legs that simply no longer worked. The prostate cancer he has been dealing with for 10 years spread to his spine. It hit the lumbar area first, leaving him paralysed but with enough mobility to get himself in and out of a wheelchair. By December, and after radiation treatment, he was able to stand and take some steps with the support of a walking aid. It was a devastating blow to wake up one morning, in January, unable to move his legs again. The cancer has spread further up his spine leaving him bedridden and not able to so much as turn over in bed.

In amongst this, something extraordinary has been taking place. A network of support spontaneously manifested around this one person. From the constant stream of friends who have appeared non-stop over the last few months, flying in, driving hours for a short visit, to the family who hosted him at a B&B that was the most wheelchair friendly option available, the support has been astounding. Family members stepped up in such a variety of ways to help and three amazing caregivers arrived and stayed as long as they were needed.

What struck me most was how each person contributing in their own way became part of a powerful network of care. This is the web of life Fritjof Capra talks about in his fascinating book of the same name. Each person simply being themselves, offering what comes easily to them, created a space in which what needed to happen somehow happened. From transport, to nutritional supplements, a tablet with an internet connection for entertainment, and a gorgeous little dog for company, strangers, friends, family, medical professionals and paid employees showed up to make the best of a bad situation. Together, we are so much more.

Relationships are extraordinary, the connection between, not just us, but between humans, animals and our environment is at the heart of life. It is the very fabric of our existence. We have an impact, our small mundane everyday choices matter. They change the world around us and they are enough. We don’t have to make grand gestures and huge statements, we don’t even have to know exactly what we are doing. but we do need to care. By caring about others and about the world around us, we begin to experience the interconnection of everything. It’s an extraordinary world to enter.
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 07:29

Work Life Balance

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

Towards the end of last year, the local Business Women Association invited me to run a morning workshop on Work Life Balance. The turnout for the event was the best attendance for the year. It’s an indication of how many of us are struggling to fit everything we need to into our day.

Busyness is often seen as something that happens TO us; it’s not our fault and it’s something that is outside of our control. After all, there are only so many hours in the day, right? The truth is, BECAUSE there are only so many hours in the day, it really has to be our decision as to how we spend the precious hours that we have.

During the Work Life Balance Workshop we looked into the decision making process we use to allocate our time and energy. Most of us have an ‘on demand’ prioritising mechanism. We tackle what is yelling most loudly for our attention and repeat until exhaustion sets it!

Changing this behaviour comes down to changing the decisions that we make, and while this sounds simple, it often isn’t. Guilt, poor time management and an inability to say no, all impact our lives and choices. So what can we do if we are struggling to prioritise?

A helpful tip I came across recently is to look at situations demanding our attention in terms of the expected return on investment. We often approach financial decisions from this longer term point of view but we don’t apply the same principles to daily life decisions. Where can I invest my hard-earned money to get the best return on investment? Rephrase that question to: Where  can I put my valuable time and energy to get the best return on investment over the long term?

Health is often a much overlooked area to give attention to. Are we eating life-sustaining food or grabbing a pie and coke when we’re starving? Are we relaxing and getting enough sleep? Do our families get the best of us, or the exhausted worst of us? Most importantly, are we happy with our choices and behaviour?

Sometimes we have to take a short term hit to get a long term benefit. Rest is like that. We stop now but gain the benefit over time when we come back refreshed and recharged. At the start of 2017, now is the time to look forward, keeping a longer term perspective in mind. Busyness is an addiction, where are you choosing to invest your time and energy?
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