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, 29 October 2015 17:20

Know Thyself!

No man is the worse for knowing the worst of himself.
Thomas Fuller

My husband and I recently stayed overnight with my sister in Johannesburg. We were leaving at the crack of dawn the following morning and needed to refrigerate some groceries we had bought while visiting the shopping mecca of SA. Now, while Kevin excels at many things, waking up is ... well, just not his thing. I, on the other hand, wake up instantly chipper with a thousand thoughts flying around my head, albeit none of them particularly practical. Bottom line, the chances of us remembering the groceries were pretty slim.
As we packed our purchases into the fridge, we raised our eyebrows at each other and without saying a word, Kevin placed the car keys on top of the fridge. It was a foolproof reminder to our early morning selves that worked like a charm.

The beauty of knowing yourself, both strengths and weaknesses, is that in those places where you are not particularly strong, you can make life easier for yourself. Here's a question, when you mess up or do something embarrassing, do you try to help yourself? Or do you turn on yourself and berate or shame those tender parts that most need your support?

Coming to know ourselves must be approached with warmth and affection; a gentle, friendly curiosity about who we are. Self-acceptance is about welcoming all of you into your life, the crappy and the happy! It's about being as kind to the forgetful, insensitive or just plain nasty parts of yourself as you are to an unhappy child. When we see a mom struggling to deal with a child having a tantrum, we don't take it personally. Our hearts go out to both of them, we know how hard it is to be a parent and we empathise with the the heartbroken child. 

But do we do the same within ourselves? There are times we have to step up and be the parent in our own life, to take responsibility and say no firmly, without compromise. Maybe we have to delay gratification now for a longer term benefit later or make hard decisions in which we will have to live with the consequence.

So what kind of a parent are you to yourself? An angry one that shames and blames? Or a wise and kind source of guidance? Do you comfort yourself when you are upset, even when you are being unreasonable? Especially when you are being unreasonable? If not, now is a good time to start. You can change. You can do it differently. It is possible.
Saturday, 17 October 2015 17:17

Flawed Me!

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.
Leonardo da Vinci
It's not a typo and I'm not referring to something someone else did that 'floored' me. I am  talking about the 'flawed' me, those parts I wish weren't, but nonetheless, are me. The other day, I really, really felt like a cup of coffee and a rose rusk; the worst possible snack for someone trying to be gluten free and lose weight. I tried to resist but ended up folding like a pack of cards. It was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed the treat, although my immune-system didn't.

We do it all the time, overindulge in food, drink, work, shopping... the opportunities are endless. Yet even knowing how much we are going to regret our action later is not enough to help us resist the urge in the moment. It's the marshmallow test in action. When young children were offered the option of eating one marshmallow immediately or waiting 15 minutes and being rewarded with two marshmallows, two out of three kids couldn't resist and ate the one marshmallow.

This experiment uncovered one of the most powerful indicators of success; our capacity to delay gratification. Self discipline or self-control, is defined as our ability to resist short term temptation and follow plans that are beneficial for the future. Hard to do but worth the effort.

So how do we cultivate this more mature way of thinking? We start by identifying what areas we lack self control in. This awareness is the first step. If we know where we are vulnerable, we can plan to avoid temptation and refrain from harmful action. We can leave our computer at home on weekends away, or at work when we go home. We can rid our house of cigarettes and junk food or have our gym bag in the car and go straight there from the office.

Self mastery is challenging and it helps to make a realistic commitment to change with either yourself or someone else. A few years ago, I made a public commitment to clean up my speech during a 100-day challenge. It actually took 300 days to start controlling my temper and speak more gently when I was irritated or irritable and it's something I'm still working on.

One of the benefits of working with a life coach is being accountable to someone else to stay on track. Pride can be a great motivator! So if you have an area of your life you want to work on, get in touch, you know where I am!
Friday, 02 October 2015 05:50

What Change Isn't!

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor E. Frankel

A client and I were chatting about life balance the other day. He told me about his holiday home where he and his family would go for weekends with the idea of getting away to relax and spend quality time together. Instead, what would happen is that he would be working on his computer, his wife would be cooking in the kitchen while his son was off doing his own thing. Basically they might as well have stayed at home!

At the end of the day, change is not about replacing one thing for another. Replacing a bad environment or habit with a different one, like replacing cakes and cookies for gluten free cakes and cookies, doesn't get to grips with what change is asking of us. Change is most definitely not about blaming and justifying why it's not our fault, why we can't possible do things differently. It's not even about changing jobs, cities, wives or husbands. At the end of the day, a change of scenery is not the same as a change of heart.

The core of life coaching is about taking responsibility for your life and yet it's a topic we cover some months into the coaching process, right towards the end. Why is that? Surely such a core issue should be addressed up front? Not necessarily. Taking personal and complete responsibility for your life is, as Viktor Frankel points out, about changing yourself. There is no greater challenge than that and it takes courage and a willingness to grow to get to that point.

Changing ourselves doesn't mean we don't ask for help when we need it. Whether it's employing someone to do a job we just can't get to, seeing a specialist or joining a weight-loss group, sometimes the very acknowledgement that we need assistance is the first step in taking responsibility. In it's essence, taking responsibility comes down to having the creativity, tenacity and strength of character to keep trying until we succeed.

Sometimes we have to completely revamp our thinking, we have to stretch ourselves to breaking point and endure all sorts of difficulties. At other times we  just have to keep on going, one painstaking step at a time.

The thing about taking completely responsibility is that we stop blaming our parents, our children, our spouse or boss for holding us back. We do whatever it takes. We never give up on making our dreams a reality. WE change.
Wednesday, 16 September 2015 05:18

Almost Isn't ...Or Is It?

It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.
Winston S. Churchill

A little while ago, my husband and I were having an domestic discussion about how laundry 'almost' in the laundry basket actually 'isn't'! And while on the topic, it was also noted that dishes in the sink are NOT QUITE in the dishwasher. My brilliant, (IMHO), last words on the topic were, “Almost isn't, is it?” It was a fabulous ending which to my delight, also happened to make the perfect title for a blog post! So here we are at what should have been the end of the story, but turned out to be the start of something!

Having everything exactly right begins by being oh-so-satisfying and then life happens. Unfortunately life is pretty messy most of the time and before we know it those wonderful, perfect things that brought us such happiness become the very source of our suffering. Instead of cultivating more satisfaction we get caught up in the drive to avoid dissatisfaction. The moment that happens we stumble down the slippery slope of perfectionism.

The other day a client and I were discussing the difference between standards and expectations. It's easy to confuse the two, however, we are well-advised to be aware of the difference. What is this difference? One is fact and one mere fiction.

In a Huffington Post article, Daniel Scott describes it like this: A standard is a level of quality, something that is accepted as a norm and generally used as a basis for judgement. An expectation is a strong belief that something is going to happen in the future, or a feeling that someone or something is going to achieve something.

Sadly, if it doesn't meet an expectation, our best is never good enough. The trouble is that expectations are bred in the unstable, somewhat unrealistic recesses of our minds; our imagination! As make-believe as they may be, expectations are the breeding ground of what makes us unhappy. Our logical mind may be well-aware that the chances of things working out exactly as we wish are almost non-existent, but in our heart-of-hearts, it's what we hope for.

The solution? Give up the unhelpful habit of dissatisfaction and cultivate the habit of being happy. The more we focus on what is wrong, the less we see what is 'right' here in front of us. So make the effort to see more of what is happening when it is happening. You may be surprised to discover that it is enough. Remember, ultimately satisfaction, not perfection, is what makes us happy.
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 00:00

Trained or Trapped?

Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.
Tennessee Williams

I try to be a good person. Unfortunately chronic impatience and a sharp tongue get the better of me more often than I would like. A few years ago I decided to tackle the problem and began training myself to be... well, nicer. I made an effort to choose my words with care and think through the consequences of speaking; dipping my tongue into my brain before I spoke, as my father would say! It was a concerted effort to improve myself and it worked. Outwardly, I became 'nicer'.

Have you ever worked really hard to change something only to discover at the end that you really rather wish you hadn't? That dear reader, is the difference between training yourself to behave differently and trapping yourself into behaving differently. I made the mistake of trapping myself into being a better person.

It's a fear-based dynamic in which, in order to avoid conflict and rejection, I start taking responsibility for the behaviour of others. They behave badly, I fix it and protect them from the consequences of their own action. I keep quiet, pretend I don't mind and excuse bad behaviour. Basically, you tie yourself in knots trying to understand why they do it and start to compromise your integrity to keep the peace and maintain the relationship.

Training yourself to respond with authenticity and maturity is a much messier process. It takes tremendous courage to allow people to be who they are, particularly when you don't like what they are doing. By learning to accept conflict, we welcome the richness of difference into our lives. You disagree, argue even, but you don't insist everyone is like you.

When necessary, you say no clearly and firmly, understanding that it may be hard for the other person to hear but you still speak up. You stand your ground and hold your seat in the face of strong emotions, yours or others and create the space for you to be who you are and others to be who they are.

It's here, at the edge of chaos, that we evolve and begin to understand what it truly means to honour individuality. Feeling that we know best how someone else should be, robs them of their right to take responsibility for their life, their choices and their way of being. The alternative is a profound respect that allows everyone the dignity to live as they wish, whether you agree with it or not.
Thursday, 13 August 2015 07:19

...Because I said so!

Those who think they know it all are very annoying to those of us who do.
Robert K. Muller

Recently a client loaned a copy of Tom Shadyac's documentary, 'I Am', to me. I LOVED it! It explores the questions of what's wrong with the world and what can we do about it. Best summed up in GK Chesterton's essay on the topic; What's wrong with the world? 'Dear Sirs,' he wrote, 'I am.'

The world currently seems overcome with greed and war but the movie describes how, in reality, our essential nature is one of love and connection, not just to each other but to all forms of life. It was a beautiful and inspiring movie and I was bouncing around with a warm, joyful feeling that I desperately wanted to share with Kevin.

He, however, didn't want to watch so I begged, pleaded, cajoled and negotiated with him. He simply wasn't interested. Talk about crashing back down to earth with a rather unsightly thud! I mean seriously, a message of love and connection so important to me and he just wasn't interested? That can't possibly be right...

Lets back up a step. Have you ever had an impassioned vegan try to convince you to give up all things animal? Or someone argue with your religious beliefs? The more force, shame or ridicule they use to get you to agree with them, the less chance they have of convincing you to do what they want. The spirit of the movie I Am is about raising consciousness and although I started out with good intentions, at some point I crossed over into wanting to impose my wishes on someone else. At that moment I started becoming what's wrong with the world.

When I take my ideas, no matter how beautiful or right they might be and try to force them on to someone else, I am what's wrong with the world. Disappointment leads to anger and within seconds respect is lost. By believing I know best what is right for someone else, I become a war-monger entitled to impose my will and take what I want. Righteousness is a very dangerous emotion.

It's easy to love when everything is happy and good, but when things don't go our way, or someone disapproves or disagrees with us, we feel outraged and indignant. This is where the real work needs to happen. Can we love and stay connected right there in the midst of anger and disagreement? Can we remember our essential nature of love and connection in that moment? Can you?
Thursday, 30 July 2015 11:04

As Within...

As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.
Hermes Trismegistus

You may have noticed I recently updated my online profile photos. The universe gave me a nudge when three clients in a row commented that I looked nothing like the photo and suggested I re do it. It intrigued me to realise that the photo I had carefully chosen to paste all over the internet, looked nothing like me. How fascinating!

It's a sign we need to talk about self-image. Self-image is defined as the idea one has of one's abilities, appearance, and personality. Dr Dan Ariely, a Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics coined the phrase the 'fudge factor' in his documentary (Dis)Honesty - The Truth about Lies. According to Dr Ariely, human beings are torn between honesty and self protection. The fudge factor is the amount we can lie and still think of ourselves as being good, honest, virtuous people.

Generally speaking we lie, a lot, in tiny ways, but lying to ourselves is an interesting concept. Think about the nitty-gritty of it. You have to wonder, is it even possible? You know that feeling when you know you have done something 'bad', but if you don't acknowledge it, you can pretend it hasn't happened? In my own life, I've notice I avoid facing certain things, simple things like standing on the bathroom scale after a weekend of delicious food.

Confronting the truth about ourselves can feel devastating and is hard to do. The problem dates back to childhood. If our natural need for attention and appreciation was continuously frustrated, it triggers a self protection mechanism within us. We bury our anger and feelings of not being lovable or of being unworthy of love. While these feelings may be hidden, they are not forgotten and they drive our relationships and how we engage with the world.  We get trapped in this dynamic and it can be a painful and lonely experience that is hard to escape.

So how can we match our insides to our outsides? We start at the beginning. If it's possible to lie to ourselves, then it must also be possible to comfort ourselves. The lack of love and attention we experienced as a child, which caused this dynamic, is where we start. Give yourself the love and attention you need. Get curious about why you lie and question if there is another, healthier way to meet your need for love and attention. Basically, get out there and love yourself back to life!
Thursday, 16 July 2015 19:57

Losing the Plot!

Nor am I the captain of my soul; I am only its noisiest passenger.
Aldous Huxley

As I mentioned a while ago, ten years after the event, my husband and I discovered House MD the series and loved it... for the first few seasons. Then there was a writers strike around Season 4 and the show derailed. What started out as an intelligent and insightful look at the foibles of human nature deteriorated into a vulgar and often ridiculous parody. Not only did the story lines become increasingly outrageous, the dialogue was inappropriate and downright offensive at times.

What fascinated my husband and I was that no one on set seemed to notice. None of the actors, writers, producers, crew or even the director stepped up to halt the degradation. It's intriguing to a Life Coach! How did this happen? Why did no one speak up? Did they even notice? Or do we slide into ignominy without realising?

The sad truth is most of us don't fall into disgrace, we slither. A joke in poor taste here, an overindulgence there and slowly we lose the plot. We don't gain 15 kilograms overnight, we pick up an extra kg here and then another and gradually it builds.

Sometimes we see someone we love starting to slide down a slippery slope and feel it is up to us to speak up. The problem is that when we do, we risk making them angry or defensive. When someone points out a fault of yours, what is your first reaction? “How dare they? Or, “Who do they think they are?' It's easy to feel so indignant that we never hear what the person is actually trying to say.

Thank goodness, there's an alternative. We need to become our own noisiest passenger! We must pay attention to the way we move through the world. How do we feel about ourselves, inside ourselves as well as the response we get from other people? If we notice we are going off the rails, we speak up, kindly and firmly, but we speak up and nudge ourselves back in the right direction.

No one is better equipped to keep you in line than you are. No one knows you better than you know yourself, your hidden aspirations, your secret dreams; you may be the only person who truly knows what's in your heart. You know how you want to live and who you want to be, so it's time to step up and take responsibility for your life. Trust yourself, you can do this!
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 09:02

Opposites Attract?

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
John Steinbeck

A few weekends ago my husband and I were happily admiring our new toys that had arrived in the post. Mine was a bunch of gorgeous artificial tulips while Kevin's was an apparently very clever new battery charger. I kid you not, he was enthralled with it! It has an electronic thing-majigy and can charge different size batteries, amongst other things that my mind simply cannot retain to repeat.

You may well wonder how on earth we've survived 20 years together? In spite of our differences we have some things in common and together we make a great team. When the basil we originally planted in the red-polka-dot-tea-cup in the kitchen looked increasingly sickly, I got the brilliant idea that tulips it should be. Kevin hunted them down on eBay and in the process discovered his dream battery charger. When they arrived we were both as happy as Larry.

The thing about differences in relationships is that when it works, the sum truly can be greater than the parts. Left to my own devices, I would never have looked for tulips on eBay. Without me, Kevin would still be charging batteries one size at a time and would never have had the joy of a 'tulip-filled-red-polka-dot-tea-cup-planter' in his life!

However, getting to the point where your rough edges work for, not against you can take time and effort. Differences of opinion often has us scratching either our heads, or each others eyes out, until we learn to love the things that drive us mad. In the early days of our relationship, Numerology helped me see our differences in a new light. It not only helped me understand myself, it also gave me an inkling of how Kevin experiences his world.

Getting a glimpse of the inner workings of your core nature doesn't require Numerology to happen. All it really needs is curiosity, the curiosity to wonder why. Why do we do what we do? Why do other people do the things they do?

Taking my own advice, I just went to peer hopefully at the battery charger and I have to be honest, it does absolutely nothing for me. But somehow, looking at it and remembering Kevin's enthusiastic description of all it's clever parts, warms my heart. And that is all it takes. A moment to open your heart to what you don't understand and will probably never get. A moment of openness to ourselves, to others and to this beautiful world we live in.
Sunday, 14 June 2015 17:20

False Positive

"Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
"Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”  
A.A. Milne    

We all do it. Pretend. When asked how we are, even if we really aren't, we smile and say, 'Fine thanks'. It's just how things are done these days. Admitting you're not coping or that your life is a mess is just not on. We do it in other ways too. Someone shares some really awful news with us and we say things like, 'Don't worry, it will be fine” even when we don't know and unfortunately, maybe it won't.  
We could debate the merit, or lack thereof, of pretending to be happy when we are not but instead, what if we were to explore the dynamic of pretending? Simply put, do we know we are pretending? If we know, chances are we have good reason for it, it's when we don't know, when shame or denial are ruling the roost that we enter murky waters.
So why do YOU pretend? I have countless reasons. Sometimes it's my job. A few weeks ago, I received some bad news shortly before a new client arrived. I parked my feelings, pasted a welcoming smile on my face, focused on the client and got on with coaching. At other times, I just don't want to talk about what is going on and there's nothing wrong with choosing when, how and to whom we disclose our true feelings.  It's when we are pretending to avoid or escape the truth that we get ourselves into trouble.

Showing up emotionally is one of the bravest and most difficult acts of honesty. There is something about admitting pain and disappointment, even to ourselves, that is incredibly difficult to do. If we are sad, frustrated or disappointed and know it, we can deal with it in an appropriate manner. However, if we are feeling frustrated because we are avoiding sadness or disappointment, things can quickly spiral out of control. Emotions are complex and often frightening to ourselves and to others and the trick is to start reading the signs of our emotional language.

Authenticity is not about putting it out there all the time, it's about being genuine; being as we are, when we are. The key is to know how that is. Sometimes having the curiosity to simply ask yourself, 'What is really going on here?” can change the situation dramatically. At other times, pretending you are okay can help you discover you actually are okay. So why not give it a try? Let's pretend and see what happens!
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