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.
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 13:37
The truth is that judgement and fear never stop, but they don't actually do anything.
There is a wonderful Zen story of two monks who are travelling together. They come to a river with strong currents and as they prepare to cross, they see a beautiful young woman who asks for help getting across. The monks have a vow not to touch women but, without a word, the older monk picks up the young woman, carries her across, places her gently on the other side and carries on his journey.
The younger monk is outraged and stews silently for hours until he finally blurts out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?” The older monk looks at him and replies, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
2016 is the end of a nine year cycle in Numerology, and in honour of that, my theme for the year has been, “Put it Down!” A big ask for someone with the knack of winding herself up into a mental frenzy. It has gone failry well, so here are some of the things I have done to help 'put down' what I needed to let go of.
Firstly, it helps to understand that thinking endless about things we cannot change, especially at 3am in the morning, weakens us physically, mentally and emotionally. This is a critical issue, we have to deeply 'get' that going over and over painful situations in our mind is harmful. It hurts you. You have to stop. It's that simple.
A quote I heard recently sums it up beautifully. “The goal of meditation isn't to control your thoughts, it's to stop letting them control you.” Mindfulness is how we do that. By paying attention to our thoughts, we give ourselves the space to choose whether this train of thinking is one we actually want to ride, or not.
We are all so unique that we need a personal tool-kit, a box of tricks, if you like, to nudge our minds in a new direction and change the course of our thinking. Some of what works for me is music, writing, gratitude and appreciation, rescue remedy for when the going is really tough, talking to a friend, movies, reciting mantras and, of course, reminding myself to PUT IT DOWN!
Thursday, 31 December 2015 00:00
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
Happy 2016 Peeps! I absolutely love the happy, sparkly energy of a brand new year. There is something about the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start that is invigorating. Although the start of a year is no quick fix, and many of the hoped for changes don't materialise, I still love riding the wave of inspiration as long as possible.
From a Numerology point of view, 2016 is a nine year which means the nine year cycle that began in 2007 is drawing to a close. 2016 is all about endings and depending on your personal year calculation, this effect will be magnified or minimized for you. In general, though, it's a useful time to re-evaluate what's working and what isn't working in your life. It's a year to let go and leave things be; a challenging task for many of us.
Holding on too tightly, whether it's to belongings we no longer need, people we no longer want, or have, in our lives, or even outdated beliefs we have about ourselves, is where the root of the problem lies. We often expend tremendous energy trying to force ourselves to let go without understanding that the problem is not so much what we are holding on to, but the habit we have of holding on. It's our grip we need to loosen.
Accepting that all things have a natural impermanence is a starting point. We already do this on a daily basis. The day starts and ends, summer, winter, the school year, weekends, holidays all have beginnings and endings. Even enjoying a good meal is part of that natural cycle of life, The confusion comes in those places where how we have decided things SHOULD BE, doesn't match how things ACTUALLY ARE.
Anger, guilt, frustration and depression all brew in this discrepancy between our expectations of a situation and the reality of it. In the process of letting go of these fairytale ideals, we stand the chance of discovering something surprisingly beautiful. The truth. In the midst of the heartache and helplessness of how things aren't, the truth shines out in it's magnificence. That's what endings and beginnings are truly about.
So make use of the powerful opportunity in 2016 to de-clutter your thoughts. Let go of what is making you unhappy and cultivate being happy with what is. As Byron Katie so eloquently put it, 'If you fight with reality, you will lose.' Happy New Year!
Monday, 14 December 2015 20:30
The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Christmas is officially around the corner and what a year it has been! While November had it's moment, the first week in December would have been enough to fell a mightier being than me. For the second time this year, both my father and brother were in hospital at the same time for surgery. A few days later our much loved elderly Staffie x Labrador, Lalley, died of natural causes. For someone like me with an hereditary capacity for worry, there was plenty of fodder to feed the fires of unhappiness. And worry I did!
In the midst of the drama, I noticed something interesting. My dad and brother were fine, in fact there was good news for both of them but in the sadness of Lalley's illness and death, I was unable to appreciate anything good. Worry became the blanket feeling underlying everything I was experiencing.
The truth is, worry has a rather dubious relationship with reality. It can and does feel like a productive problem solving exercise, but it often turns out to be a surreptitious avoidance of uncertainty. Ultimately worry is fear-based and indulging in it leaves little room for more helpful ways of approaching the difficulties we face. So I decided to do it differently. Instead of looping around endlessly circling, worried thoughts, I made a concerted effort to practise appreciation.
Worry is a tricky adversary and for my purposes, appreciation has a slightly different flavour to gratitude. Appreciation is 'of' something while gratitude is 'for' or “to'. The moment I feel grateful for something, worry has the potential to cloud it by creating doubt about the future continuation of whatever I am grateful for. Appreciation, however, is more present moment focused. It reminds me of the goodness here and now, of the little things that matter.
Appreciation is how we acknowledge and value our experiences. Whether it's an act of kindness, a moment of awareness or an expression of a heartfelt emotion, appreciation has the power fill your spirit with joy and strengthen your resolve to keep on going.
On that note, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you all for the support you have given me during 2015. Thank you for reading my blog posts, for taking the time to comment and connect with me by email and for those who did, thank you for signing up for Life Coaching and Numerology.
I wish you all a festive season filled with love, laughter and happiness. Please follow the link to Soul Sense Coaching's Facebook page and join me in 100 days of Appreciation. https://www.facebook.com/Soul-Sense-Coaching-454330547971778
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 00:00
You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.
My birthday this year fell on a Saturday and I made it a day of self-indulgence. I did absolutely nothing of 'value'; I lazed about, relaxed, ate exactly what I wanted and didn't feel guilty about a single thing I did, or didn't do, the entire day. It was fabulous but what struck me was the contrast to a regular day in the life of Tania Potter! Oh my word, when did I slide into a cycle of feeling bad about feeling good?
Guilt is an emotion that rules our world, often without us even realising. As children we learn that to get our strong need for love and approval met, we need to do things that others approve of. We start to think of guilt as being good; our conscience that stops us losing control, something that keeps the lid on those pesky uncontrolled urges that are most definitely not allowed.
Sadly, as any one who has ever dieted will know, the opposite is generally the case. Guilt is not a good motivator and feeling guilty does not necessarily have a positive impact on our behaviour. In fact, more often than not, guilt creates an inner environment of anxiety and depression that makes change even harder. If not halted, this dynamic can become a closed circuit in which no matter what you do, you feel guilty.
There are a couple of ways to approach this catch-22. We can begin by reassessing our attitude towards guilt. We need to recognize that guilt is not our friend, it's a false friend that does not bring out the best in us. Instead it makes us feel bad about who we are and how we live and drains the pleasure from our life.
We can also question whose moral code or standards we are trying to live by? We often have an internal moral code, whether it's about what we say no to, our sexual orientation or our weight, that differs from socially accepted codes of conduct. It leaves us with a terrible choice, do we honour our true self, or do we bow to the pressure of externally imposed labels?
So to really tackle guilt head on, we have to understand it for the self-worth issue it fundamentally is. Can we find the acceptance and approval we crave within ourselves? Freeing ourselves from the tyranny of guilt is a lesson in unconditional love. It's about loving the disappointing side of ourselves as much as we love the pleasant.
Thursday, 12 November 2015 12:24
Self-sacrifice which denies common sense is not a virtue. It's a spiritual dissipation.
We've all heard the safety instructions on an aeroplane where we are advised, in an emergency, to fit our own oxygen mask first before assisting other passengers. As a client and I were discussing the other day, it's a pretty useful tip for life.
We were talking about the many faces of self-sacrifice. People often approach solving problems with the unconscious belief that causing pain to themselves or others is somehow the way to fix what's broken. Seriously? Like yelling at someone or ridiculing them is going to make them like me and do what I want? Hmm, I don't think so.
We try to shame ourselves and others into good behaviour even though most of us know that approach doesn't bring out the best in anyone. We exhaust ourselves trying to help, we take on more than we can cope with because we don't want to let anyone down and worst of all, we feel bad about what we can't do. You getting the idea? Dear ones, we are going about this all wrong!
So what is the deeper wisdom of putting our own oxygen mask on first? Unless we have learnt to swim, we can't jump into the water to save someone who is drowning. Unless we have navigated our own emotional turmoil, we are not equipped to guide others and yet we do it. We give advice, we criticise and we judge.
We decide how something or ourselves should be and we do our best to live up to that ideal. Basically, we put a fabrication, a fantasy we've made-up in our heads, before the reality in front of us. We want to be a good person, we want to help and we do care, but we forget to include ourselves in that picture. We too need air to breathe, we need rest and wholesome food, kindness and care.
Causing pain to ourselves or others is not the way to make the world a better place. Sometimes, pain is unavoidable but the way in which we go about our lives is so very important. We have a responsibility towards our own well-being but that responsibility does not have to be at the expense of ourselves or others.
If it is, take a good, hard look at what you are trying to achieve. There is a whole other way of being that is not 'me against you', but 'us together'. Expand yourself outwards to include more. It's the healthier, more sustainable option!
Thursday, 29 October 2015 17:20
No man is the worse for knowing the worst of himself.
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
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
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
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 ...um... 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
Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.
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.