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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.
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 09:47

What Time Is It?

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What a year it has been so far. At the beginning of June, my father-in-law was rushed into hospital. Sadly, he did not survive the surgery and never woke up from the anaesthetic. At his funeral last week, the Pastor based his sermon on the very beautiful and well known verse from Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. At the end, he asked each of us to think about what time it was for us?

For my mother-in-law, who has lost her husband of fifty-two years, it's a time to grieve, to re-adjust to a world without the man who has been by her side all these long years. As I sat in the chapel, looking out at the magnificent trees in the garden, sunlight streaming through the stained glass window, I thought about the year of endings 2016 has been for me.

Endings come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them are as final as the ending that comes with death. However, one thing most ending have in common, is that they usually herald some sort of change. It's these changes that cause us such difficulty. I got to this part of the blog and screeched to a halt. For about two days, I had absolutely no idea which direction to take it in.

Not having much choice in the matter, I simply, stayed with the feelings of endings and change that were swirling around both my body and mind. It was uncomfortable. I wanted to 'do' something with with them, make them go away, anything to feel better. You know, press that universal undo button and load a new programme?

And yet, as I sat and breathed, the feelings started to settle. I stopped being so scared of the pain facing them might bring. So two days later, I can now answer the question. What time is it? It's a time of acceptance for me. The most difficult part of change is accepting it. Yes, this has happened. Yes, this hurts. For now, that is enough.

When we put a full-stop here, we stand a chance of glimpsing, that whatever powerful emotion we are experiencing, are not all there is to us or to our life We are still here, battered and bruised, as we may be, but here we are. This moment of hardship is not the end of our story.

Is there something you need to face and accept in your own life? What time is it for you?
Monday, 30 May 2016 19:26

Yes, But...

Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give some people.
Tom Masson

While growing up, I often remember hearing my father say, “Don't BUT me!” It would usually come after a long drawn out, “But Daaaaaaad!” from either my sister or me. We were both born with opinions on just about everything...and please note the gentle wording of that statement!

The other day I was listening to an excellent Webinar about getting things done and making the most out of 15 minutes. Towards the end, the hosts raised the very important topic of being kind to yourself. It was one of those, 'Yes, but...' moments for me. They were talking about how we have so much on our plate at the moment that we're going to mess up, it happens, we all do it, it's okay.

There's currently a worldwide trend on cultivating self compassion and being kinder to ourselves, but we need to look carefully at the context within which we do this. Kindness can become a dangerous tool when left unattended in the hands of an insatiable ego! Yes, we need to be kind and gentle with ourselves and others, but we really, really need to do it with some wisdom.

When we drop the ball because we have too much on our plate and are then kind and gentle to ourselves, we are in effect self-medicating. We are easing the symptoms without addressing the underlying 'busyness' problem. When I speak kindly to myself about having so many opinions, I miss the opportunity to face and deal with the effect being opinionated can have on people around me. Sure, I keep comfortable and safe, but is that really how I want to live my life?

We are filled with wants and desires that most of us spend our entire life working incredibly hard to fulfil. We feel exhausted because we ARE exhausted and working harder, smarter,  faster and committing more, is not necessarily the answer. When we give ourselves a break after messing up, we're feeding our addiction to doing more; resting up so we can do better next time.  

If, however, we look at our busyness as an addiction, we have a very different context to view our lives in. We discover that saying no to our desires every now and then is not self-abuse. Learning to endure the suffering of an unfulfilled desire or denying ourselves pleasures that harm us, are healthy choices.

In this topsy turvy world, we need to keep our wits about us. What is your go-to addiction? Are you ready to Put it Down?
Monday, 16 May 2016 07:04

The Loss of A Love...

It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.
John Steinbeck

If you follow Soul Sense Coaching on Facebook, you will have heard the sad news. A light went out in our lives when our very precious Jack Russell, Pebbles, died suddenly in May. One minute she was bouncing around, her usual exuberant self, and within an hour she had died from a heart aneurysm. We are heartbroken and still adjusting to a house that feels so empty without her.

Pebbles was a joy. She loved pretty much everybody, from us, to a delivery man whose lap I found her sitting on after I had gone to get a pen! She was an utterly wholeheartedly little being who took advantage of the potential for play in every possible moment. She taught us about both love and now, loss, and we miss her terribly.

Loss and grief come in many forms and from many different causes, not just death. The end of a romantic relationship, the breaking of a trusted friendship, the loss of faith after being let down, or a change in circumstances, a job or illness, are all experiences that cause grief in varying degrees.

During my involvement with Hospice, I learned there is no right or wrong when it comes to grief. Grief just is. It has to be endured. There's no way around grief, the only way past it, is through it. If we put off and avoid or try to numb the pain, it lurks in the shadows but  doesn't go away.  As much as grief hurts and we don't like it, the very process of grieving, of feeling the shattering pain, is how we heal.

Hold a gentle space while you re-align your world. Life is fragile, loss and impermanence are hard to get our heads around. It takes time. Everyone has a unique way of processing and adjusting to loss. In our house, we had a range of reactions, from tears, to illness and keeping busy. Grief is painfully personal, some people need to talk, others can't, some withdraw and shut down while others move faster. No matter how we process grief, we cannot escape the pain it brings.

There's a mindfulness teaching that encourages us to receive everything on the same terms. It's harder to put into practice than it sounds, to feel what you are feeling, without judgement, pretence, preference or comparison; to receive grief on the same terms as you would, for example, receive happiness.

There is some love that is worth having, even if only for a short time and when it's passing is going to hurt. Life is full of joys and sorrows, can we receive them all on the same terms?
Thursday, 28 April 2016 19:43

Outlaws In!

My feeling about in-laws was that they were outlaws.
Malcolm X

Over the last few months I've had conversations with various lovely, independent, dynamic women, who all struggle with mother-in-laws troubles. Interestingly enough, all these women are in stable, happy marriages, yet have mother-in-laws who dislike them for who they are. A quick Google search shows how common this problem is and, as anyone who has lived with the subtle put-downs and snubs of a family member will know, it's hurtful and destructive.

Talking to these women reminded me of a fabulous article I read, by Wayne Elsey, called, This is Why I Appreciate You... You matter! While in high school, the author was told by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. The article is about the lasting impact and hurt that comment caused him. The gist of the story is that words matter and what we say, can and does, impact the people around us. It's a lovely article, you can read it here.

Many of the coping mechanisms we use to deal with criticism and put-downs are directed at minimizing the impact of the hurtful words that have been said. Unfortunately, when we try to talk ourselves out of how we are feeling, we inadvertently tell ourselves that our feelings are unimportant, that we don't matter. This is where we go wrong, our feelings are important, and they do matter. We matter.

In Wayne Elsey's article, another teacher heard what had been said. She sat down with him and said, 'You matter to me and you can do anything you set your mind to.' Powerful words that struck home and changed the course of his life. Chances are, an unkind mother-in-law is not going to magically transform into a benevolent fairy god-mother who adores you, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do!

Freedom doesn't come from getting rid of either the difficult family member or our own feelings. It comes from staying who we are, despite what life throws at us. We cannot change other people. We cannot make people who truly dislike us, like us. In fact, it's not our job to.

Our job is take responsibility for our own actions and reactions. We CAN choose how to respond. It's within our power, to speak gently to ourselves when we are hurt. Words do matter, how we speak to ourselves as much as how we speak to others. It's good to remember, you are important and you do matter!
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 18:55

I'll Help You!

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
Audrey Hepburn

Long before I studied Life Coaching, I had a brilliant Pilates instructor, Darren. He was so good that he gave me a rather nifty waistline where nature had previously failed... just saying! Amongst his many talents, he was also a superbly fit and supple professional dancer. One day, during class, he instructed us to do a Pilates Rollover. It's the one where you lie on your back and lift your legs up and over your head to touch the floor behind you.

The ensuing conversation went something like this... Me: I can't. Him: Yes, you can. Me: Noooo, I can't. Him: I'll help you! When you are floundering, the power of the words, 'I'll help you,' can be quite magical. We instantly feel less alone which gives us courage; we feel more willing to risk trying.

However, before offering help to others, it's wise to tread carefully. Receiving unsolicited advice has got to be the most universally unwelcome experience in existence! As anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a serious illness will know, the wealth of tips, dietary advice and things you simply must do, that get thrown at you, can be overwhelming. As well meaning as people are, the bombardment of other people's, often irrelevant ideas, is exhausting.

Before launching yourself into the advice giving fray, pause for a moment. Do you really know what you are talking about? It happens continuously on Facebook, we see a post about a missing child or pet and immediately share it with the best of intentions. And yet, a quick click through to the source of the link often shows the missing person found and happily back at home, sometimes months ago. Not always, but that's my point, hasty help is often not all that helpful.

In it's purest form, the essence of help is 'helping where help is needed'. Sometimes a simple question will suffice. How can I help? Is there anything I can do? Humans typically approach helping from the other direction, we assume we know what someone else needs / should do / must try, and inform them as such.

Instead, aspire to be more like the divine Darren. He stood alongside me when I was upside down, he steadied my legs and supported some of their weight until I felt stronger, but mostly, he believed in me. He believed I could do it even when I didn't believe it myself. At the end of the day, when we offer help, it should come from this place, I believe in you, I'll help you believe in yourself.
Wednesday, 30 March 2016 07:57

Poke the Bear!

If you want truly to understand something, try to change it.
Kurt Lewin

I recently did a fabulously good deed... or so I thought. Unfortunately, it turned out to be  more like poking a Bear and awakening the monster. One minute I was congratulating myself on my problem solving genius and the next I was down a rabbit hole, in the midst of a family feud of mammoth proportions, wondering how on earth I got here.

My first instinct is to loudly proclaim my innocence. I am hell-bent on proving this is SOOO not my fault. I did absolutely nothing wrong. I am completely blameless… you get the idea!

It's human nature. We often invest huge amounts of time and energy into blaming or justifying why we did, or didn't do, what we did, or didn't, do. And yet, it's this very dynamic that keeps us trapped and unhappy. When we're stuck in the blame and justification cycle,whether blaming ourselves or someone else, we remain stuck. We give away our personal power to circumstances outside our control.

Think about a situation where you blamed or justified. What was the consequence of that? Do you know someone who is currently playing the blame game? Is it working for them?

So how do we take responsibility, and what is personal responsibility all about? There are a couple of truths to keep in mind. Firstly, life doesn't always go according to plan. People don't always respond with gratitude to our best efforts to assist and sometimes we have acted hastily without clearly understanding the problem.

Secondly, our motivation is all important. What motive did we have for getting involved? Were we helping where help was needed? Or were we interfering and overstepping a line? If, on reflection, our intention was not as pure as we would like, it's up to us to take responsibility and do what's necessary to repair the damage.

If, however, our intention was good and the result was unexpected or unforeseeable, we can still take responsibility. We can decide, for ourselves, how we wish to handle the situation. What can I do right now to take responsibility in this situation? What result would I like to get?

Often the best guide for our action, is clearly knowing what result we want. Do we need to apologize? Do we need to let go? Some relationships thrive after an air-clearing blow up, others, sadly, end. However, the choice as to what we decide to do, always remains our responsibility. You have more power than you think. Use it wisely!
Monday, 14 March 2016 14:37

Epic Fail...

The phoenix must burn to emerge.
Janet Fitch

As those of you following Soul Sense Coaching on Facebook will know, in February I attempted to hike the Otter Trail. I made it to lunchtime on Day Three before taking Escape Route 5 out. As magnificently beautiful as it was, I reached a point where I simply didn't have the physical strength to continue. Months of preparation, many expectations and an 'excellent' rating on Discovery's Fitness Assessment meant little, and for all accounts and purposes, it was an epic, rather public, fail.

Or not! Although it was very disappointing that something I'd worked hard for didn't go as planned, some unexpected benefits appeared from within the ashes. One of the effects of living with an auto-immune condition is a loss of trust in my body's strength. During the hike, described as gruelling in the literature, I was amazed at how much stronger I was, than I believed. I hauled myself up and over some things I honestly didn't think it was possible to climb!

The other bonus came from respecting that I had reached my limit on Day 3. Instead of pushing through, I chose to stop and as someone who always finishes what they start, it was surprisingly empowering to do it differently.

When disappointment visits, it has a way if colouring everything with a hue of shame. Our failure shames us into self -hatred. We turn on ourselves and make an already painful situation worse. However, if we are able to meet our shame gently with kindness, instead of shutting down or hiding, it opens up into a completely different experience.

Hidden within our deepest, darkest moments of shame and disappointment, we often discover a nugget of wisdom. For this gem to be uncovered, we first have to fully feel what we are feeling. If we dodge or avoid our experience, we inadvertently feed the shame and entrench ourselves deeper in despair.

It takes courage to face disappointment and feel it as it is. I am disappointed, I failed; these are hard phrases to acknowledge. It's even more difficult to welcome them with open arms, to offer comfort and support to ourselves BECAUSE we are hurting, because we messed up.

If we can, we may discover we are more than just the painful feelings we are experiencing. We can endure the heartache. It is not the end of the story but the beginning of something new. This is the healing power of unconditional friendliness, and it's this kindness and love that makes us greater than we think we are.
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 09:17

Do or Don't?

Love is a circular emotion that surrounds you, like a hug. Or a noose.
Jarod Kintz

Shortly before Pebbles, our much loved Jack Russel, died, I read a short article stating that dogs don't like hugs. I was curious and wandered off to find her to check it out. After a brief search, I discovered her fast asleep, flat on her back, legs in the air, nestled under Kevin's arm.

The article wasn't a particularly good one, but what struck me while reading it, was the black and white thinking with which it was written. We all do it, we think in terms of definites. There is something about the human mind that just loves certainty. It's probably  the mysterious actuality of life that has us secretly wanting to know and decided as much as we can.

We work with this a lot in coaching, those statements we present as facts, I'm like this, so-and-so is like that, my job, my boss is like this etc. We've got it figured and the moment we know, or think we know, our clever, extremely competent brain fills in the dots and switches into overdrive. This is the moment that we clutch out. In the same way that driving becomes automatic with practice, beliefs and expectations dis-engage us from the present moment. We are here... just not really.

When we decide how someone or something should be, we stop relating to what is actually happening. If I believe dogs don't like being hugged, I stop being curious and engaged. When I decide my husband doesn't understand me or that I am too stupid to learn something, I stop trying. This is what we have to watch out for, the mistaken thinking that decides for us and assumes correctness.

In coaching we start to question our automatic patterns of thinking. We get curious, we experiment and explore and we stop clutching out of our life by living on automatic. Nothing is as you think and the very newness of experience is what brings us back to life.

The truth of the matter is that some dogs genuinely don’t like hugs, nor do some people. Some dogs sometimes like hugs, at the right time, and only if they are in the mood. Other dogs, like Pebbles, are happiest when leaning against the body part of another being, anyone, she's honestly not fussy.

Our job is to figure it out, in this moment, with the gorgeous being right in front of us. We are the experts in our life, but only when we stop living on automatic and get back in the driving seat. What are you waiting for? Give me a call and let's get started!
Monday, 15 February 2016 00:00

Bored?

Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.   
                        Lisa M. Hayes                            

Somewhere in the dark recess of every families, there lurks one. That elderly aunt or uncle, annoying in-law, or crazy cousin who start speaking and drones on so long we want to weep with boredom. There's no escape, they're family, so we man up to grin and bear it.

With life being what it is most of us have, at some stage or another, been annoyed by some tiny little thing that doesn't go our way. A disagreement here, a delay there, the opportunities for frustration are endless, but have you ever listened to your inner voice when you are upset about something?

Seriously, it does not shut up! Worse than the worst elderly aunt, on and on it goes, relentlessly 'what if-ing' and 'should-ing', keeping us awake at night, waking us up in the early hours of the morning. It's relentless. And heaven forbid we've been treated unfairly... then the gloves really come off and it can get ugly. Basically, we either turn on the person who upset us or we turn on ourself. Both options are as harmful as each other; we wind ourselves up and it's exhausting. Hoo boy!

The interesting thing about being as mad as hell about something, is noticing how easily it passes. Think about it. Sometimes all it takes is a supportive comment from a friend, a song on the radio or two words, I'm sorry, and and the whole hula hoop of agitation dissolves. Or, if the issue is not a particularly big one, after a few days we simply stop thinking about it and a few months later, we don't even remember what actually happened.

I'd like to suggest an alternative. What if we purposely give it up? What would our life be like if we decided to stop whipping ourselves into a frenzy with our own thoughts? In the same way as we are stuck with that one irritating family member, we are stuck with ourselves, in this case, 24/7. There really is no escape. So what if next time you are huffing and puffing over something that can't be changed, you give up the huffing and puffing?

Self-mastery starts here, with mastering our thoughts and how we speak to ourselves. I once heard it explained beautifully. Treat your negative emotions like an unwelcome guest,  invite them in for tea, but don't invite them to live with you. It's a liberating thought. Be the gatekeeper. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Friday, 29 January 2016 10:05

Too Kind!

If you aren’t being treated with love and respect, check your price tag.
Maybe you’ve marked yourself down. It’s YOU who tells people what you’re worth.
Get off of the clearance rack and get behind the glass where they keep the valuables.
Unknown

Eish, it's hard being a Life Coach! I am starting to suspect I suffer from Intern's Syndrome. You know that frequently reported condition where medical students perceive themselves to be experiencing symptoms of the disease they are studying? How it pans out in coaching, is that as clients uncover the deeper issues that are holding them back, I get a slightly startled, 'deer caught in the headlights' feeling that, oh boy, this is exactly what I do.

The other day a client and I were talking about the danger of being too good-hearted in business. It's when you have a strong wish to help make the world a better place and find yourself negotiating your price down before YOU HAVE BEEN ASKED TO! I cringed. I had done exactly that earlier the same week.

So when is kind, too kind? Think about it. Never mind other people, we can even be too kind to ourselves. There is a call we need to make, or an event we need to attend that scares or challenges us in some way and we tell ourselves we don't have to put ourselves through that. We deserve a treat, or an extra glass of wine because it's been such a rough day. Although we might start our with the very best of intentions, it can easily spiral out of control.

Life Coaching is about uncovering what is holding you back and it boils down to self worth. Every yes or no we say is rooted in how we feel about ourselves. It's a minefield. If we feel we have nothing to offer, we automatically lower our value. We say yes when we should say no and we discount what's important to us, often to please others. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

So how do we claw our way off the bargain rail and back into the lock-up cabinet for valuables? Firstly we have to stop comparing ourselves to others or wondering what they will think. It's a conundrum, there's no answer to that riddle and we have to stop asking the question. Then it's time to silence the inner voice of doubt and criticism. Silence it. Not negotiate, not discuss, not hear and evaluate, silence. Only then will we be able to hear the quiet whisper of what we truly want. It's hard to say no, or risk ridicule by standing your ground. Hard... but worth it!
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