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 May 2014 00:00

The Love of Praise!

How about a round of applause, a standing ovation?

Pebbles was our adored Jack Russell who died unexpectly earlier this year. She was an enthusiastic and wholehearted little being who came with a tiny design flaw. A weak bladder. This meant that too much excitement, or being shouted at, led to a small, but unwelcome puddle. For some reason I was thinking about an incident a few years ago when a client returned Pebble's exuberant greeting by picking her up. Suffice it to say, instead of a cuddle, she got a puddle! It took a while to dry the client off and I must say, the whole thing was very awkward.

However over the years, through her love of praise, Pebbles learned that it was okay to chew her toys, the cardboard from an empty toilet roll, and my husband Kevin; but it was not okay to chew her blanket, to empty the toilet roll in order to chew the cardboard, or to chew guests or me. Once she got the hang of it, all was good in the world! 

Hopefully, we all know the delicious feeling of being praised? Well, recently I've been in a rather lovely patch with people saying all sorts of good things about me. In the midst of basking in the glow of this praise, I started wondering what I'm willing to do for the love of praise? It is not quite as simple for me as it was for Pebbles. Praise is slightly addictive and leaves you wanting more and like many things, too much of it, is not necessarily a good thing.

Keeping our motivation clearly in mind in essential. The problem with wanting to be liked arises if you start convincing yourself that doing things you don't want to or don't feel comfortable doing are the way to get your needs met. Unfortunately, it's not clear cut. There are times and situations where flexibility and compromise, or stretching out of your comfort zone is a healthy and mature choice to make. But sometimes this isn't the case and we compromise ourselves at the expense of our values. This is something we each have to examine for ourselves, it's up to us to know if we are crossing the line.

One way to do this, is to check what kind of a heart you have when you do what you do. An angry, frightened or insecure heart can indicate that the choices you are making are not in your best interests. If your heart is loving and open, chances are, it's a healthy choice, so go on, get out there and get that applause!
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 19:54

Have your say!

The best fighter is never angry.

A friend recently posted on Facebook and it led to a lively and somewhat heated discussion. She was questioning whether anger is always negative, or if it is justified in the right circumstances. Is it a harmful emotion that we should eliminate from our lives? Or are there times and places where it is valuable and necessary?  

There are various schools of thought. Some say anger is a natural, healthy emotion that alerts us to circumstances that are unjust, or violating a social norm, and anger is what prods us into taking much needed action. Others believe that suppressing anger is harmful and finding healthy ways of expressing your feelings is important for health and well-being. Buddhism teaches that anger is a destructive emotion that must be eliminated because it brings us confusion and misery, rather than peace, happiness, and fulfilment.

It's an age old debate and just reading these different views may well have triggered an angry response in you. If so, that's a good thing, because there is no better time to start using some of that critical thinking I mentioned in the previous blog post. So what goes on for you when you get angry? These days there are so many things to be angry about and so many ways to express it, but what's really important, is getting to know what happens to you when you get angry. What happens in your body? Where do you feel it? Neck? Stomach? Throat? What do you say? What response do you get? Does it get you the result you want?

Living wholeheartedly is a tricky path to walk. Too much one way and you're lost, too much the other way and you've wandered off again. There is so much advice out there on how to deal with anger, how to express it healthily, let it go, forgive, set boundaries, it's enough to make my head spin. But to really come to terms with anger, we have to get to know it from our own experience. We have to risk being a bit experimental for a while. What happens if I speak up? What happens if I keep quiet? What happens if I act? What happens if I let it go?

This is how we come to know anger with all it's contradictions. Understanding the consequences of our responses, both for ourselves and others, is how we create the opportunity to make informed, healthier choices for our life.
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 13:46

Rethinking Truth!

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Rethinking Truth. It's the name of the textbook when I studied Adult Education at a Postgraduate level. I loved it, so when my first assignment came back with barely a pass, I was really disappointed. I'd worked hard on it and contacted the lecturer to find out what had gone wrong. It turns out I was one of the few who passed. The lecturer explained that assignments at a post graduate level require critical thinking. By definition, this is "the process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” It took a while to get the hang of because it's not how we are used to thinking.

Do you remember learning to drive? The pounding heart, jerky movements and huge mental effort to remember everything that needed to be done? Nowadays, I get in the car and driving happens automatically while I think about other things! This is how many of us go through life, we get into routines, and so it goes until we take a holiday or something major happens to shake things up.

A similar thing takes place at a deeper level inside us. Something happens and we start believing certain things about ourself and after a while we stop questioning whether it's true or not. How often do you hear yourself saying, oh, I'm not good at... maths / art / public speaking? And maybe in one particular instance you weren't, maybe you failed maths, or botched an oral and so you tell yourself, you just aren't good at that.

It is these kinds of beliefs that we question in life coaching. It's as simple as a raised eyebrow asking, really, is that actually true? It's a magical moment when, what feels like an insurmountable brick wall facing you, dissolves into nothing more than an outdated thought. It takes time to change our thinking. Questioning our beliefs takes effort and a willingness to be uncomfortable, but the rewards are worth it.

We have such intelligence, the human mind is a miracle and yet we drink Coca Cola and smoke cigarettes because the ads are brilliant. Coca Cola will still be there when we stop believing we are, as the jingle says, “Opening Happiness”. It is us that will be different. We will able to analyse and evaluate information and reach our own conclusions about what brings happiness to our lives. 
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:00

Self-care or self-indulgence?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.
Mahatma Gandhi

Deciding to go gluten free had some unexpected side effects. It was a clear and simple choice to change my diet for the sake of my health. Nothing confusing or complicated there, or so it seemed until a funny thing started to happen, largely involving Lays Salt & Vinegar chips and chocolate. Like seriously, a lot of Salt & Vinegar chips and chocolate.

Cutting gluten isn't easy and wanting to be gentle with myself, because I am doing it for health reasons, I allowed some gluten free treats. Chips and chocolate? For my health? Whoa! How on earth did this happen? It is one thing to change a behaviour but quite another to get our minds to buy in and cooperate. So where is the line? At what point does caring for ourselves, or someone else for that matter, become indulging our every whim?

We all have different ways of getting our needs met. Some of those ways are good for us and good for others, some don't feel good but are good, like doing paperwork even though we would really rather not. Sometimes however, we do things that feel good but aren't good, like drinking alcohol or in my case, indulging in unhealthy treats. Sadly, if we are not careful, it can go even further and we start doing things that neither feel good nor are good, but we do them anyway.

There is a point where a need becomes a greed and what we are doing to feel better, slides into an addiction that drives us. We lose perspective and our balance and this can happen in any area of our life. Not just shopping or eating, but also in relationships, exercise and our wish for self improvement.

Is there something or someone in your life that used to make you happy but now makes you miserable? Sometimes just being aware of it helps us make healthier choices. If not, ask yourself what need is being met by what you are doing and then get creative. Think up a whole lot of other ways you can honour and fulfil this very important wish for happiness.

Our minds are like naughty children and sometimes the best way to deal with a tantrum is to cleverly distract yourself. So instead of turning to chips and chocolate for comfort, I am off to Google recipes that are healthy, delicious, and satisfying. Yay me!
Monday, 17 March 2014 13:34

Bouncy Bouncy!

The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.
Robert Jordan

My husband and I don't own a TV but recently a friend gave us Season 11 of Hell's Kitchen to watch. I was in seventh heaven, the drama, the food, the tension, the relationships and oh my word, the in-house fighting! There is nothing more addictive for a Life Coach fascinated with human behaviour, than that. While I was watching, it struck me how some people have the capacity to bounce back and perform brilliantly after messing up... publicly... on TV... while being shouted at... in front of everyone! And other people simply don't. It made me curious about what the difference is.

We all have times in our life when it feels like nothing is going right. Awful things can and do happen, divorce, illness, loss of a job, and sometimes more than one thing at a time, which leaves us feeling like flattened fairies. So what can we do to cultivate resilience in our mind? How do we strengthen our capacity to bounce back from adversity?

One of the ways to gain perspective is to flex our long term thinking muscle. What normally happens to you when something goes wrong? People often fall into one of two categories. Either, we can think of nothing else, we don't sleep or we wake early with frantic thoughts racing around our head, or we simply avoid thinking about it by distracting ourselves, usually with unhealthy escape mechanisms. So how will long term thinking help?

Let's head back to Hell's Kitchen for a minute. Instead of panicking and being swamped by emotions, the people who were able to use a more mature, intelligent approach were the ones who succeeded. Interestingly enough, it seems that being able to keep your long term perspective clearly in mind, helps motivate you to focus on the job at hand. In other words, the more clear the vision of your future is, and the more in touch you are with how you want to live, the better you are able to cope with what is happening now.

This is why absolutely everybody can benefit from working with a Life Coach. Life Coaching is all about getting to know yourself and enhancing your capacity to dream up vivid, achievable goals for the life you want. So if this sounds like a good idea to you then why are you waiting? Get in touch and let's get started!
Monday, 03 March 2014 17:46

What's your Story?

By dawn he had surrendered, gratefully, to the old inertia,
the product of always seeing both sides of every question.
Robert Harris    

The other day I was singing along to One Direction's 'Story of my Life' and it got me thinking about the story of my own life. We all have one, that thing we tell ourselves over and over again. Here's what I mean.

I decided to bake gluten-free muffins and found a recipe using coconut flour and grapeseed oil. Sounds simple enough, and it was until I started over-thinking things and inadvertently opened a nutritional Pandora's Box. First up, the Blood Type diet tells me to avoid all things coconut, not great for gluten-free baking as coconut flour is used in many recipes. Almond flour is an alternative which sounds delicious, but unfortunately is a goitrogen and not a good choice for thyroid problems. Nor is soya flour which is added to many gluten-free products and is a definite no-no for Hashimoto's.

I haven't even started on grapeseed oil yet! Canola is the new bad boy of cooking oil while grapeseed is being hailed as the healthy high heat alternative. Or so it seemed until I Googled and discovered grapeseed oil is high in Omega 6 and polyunsaturated fatty acid and should be avoided. By this stage my head was spinning and I felt like a ping pong ball. All I wanted is for someone to just tell me what to do.

And that dear readers, is the story of my life. I tell myself that I don't know what's best for me and that I need someone else to tell me how to live my life. Hoo boy! As anyone who has ever Googled something, or asked more than one person for an opinion knows, for every person who tells you one thing, five people will disagree, usually vehemently.

At the end of the day, each and every one of us has to take responsibility for our own lives. It's the old, 'If it's to be, it's up to me!' Ultimately it is our decision how we respond to what happens. When things go wrong we can choose to collapse in a helpless heap or we can choose a course of action and give it our best shot. There are amazing stories of people overcoming incredible obstacles for all sorts of crazy reasons. It starts by uncovering the story we tell ourselves, the one that is holding us back, making us smaller than we truly are. So what's your story?
Monday, 17 February 2014 10:32

The Art of Allowing!

Does "anal-retentive" have a hyphen?
Alison Bechdel

You know those chilled, slightly chaotic people who just let things happen? Well, I'm not one of them. I am a planner. I think everything through from every possible angle and am always, always prepared. For example, one day, for some obscure reason, someone needed a fork. For what I can’t recall, but they asked if I by any chance had one. And it just so happened I did have one... IN MY HANDBAG! Enough said.

So having ‘allowing’ as one of my three words for the year is a mammoth challenge and it's not going too well. The problem is in my approach, I want to figure out exactly what I have to do to allow things to be. It's hard to resist the urge to Google relaxation, make a list of required tasks and schedule it into my day. And herein lies the problem, because being and doing are entirely different.

While it's true that changing the habits of a lifetime takes time and effort, that is only part of the story and not the most important part. Over the years, I have done many breathing and relaxation exercises while mentally drumming my fingers or making wild plans in my head. Although I am putting time and effort into something, my body is doing one thing while my mind is doing quite another.

Allowing is more about a change in attitude, it's bridging the the gap between body and mind. It starts with acceptance and cultivating the capacity to be still and present without moving towards or away from our experience. To open up to life in all it’s glorious horror takes trust and courage. Sitting with a feeling without doing something, anything to make it less, or more or something else, is contrary to every instinct we have. We tend to want to hold on to the good and make the bad go away, and this deep seated attachment and aversion is the root of our troubles.

There is a magic to feeling our feelings fully, allowing our experience to be what it is, and it's one worth exploring in your own life. Remember it is about self acceptance, not self-improvement! Start small with daily occurrences, be late if you are, eat when you are hungry not because it's lunch time, rest when you are tired, and laugh out loud when you feel like it. Most importantly, just be your lovely self!
Friday, 31 January 2014 08:40

The Hero Inside

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I started down the road of personal growth, I was fully expecting a Fairy Tale. You know, girl meets her fabulous self, falls in love with her brilliant qualities and lives happily ever after. Seriously, I had no idea! The first inkling things weren't going as planned was when I discovered shame, anger and plain laziness ruling the roost. Instead of loving myself, I was finding it awfully hard to even like myself. Of course the only solution was to grit my teeth and strive harder to get rid of all the bad bits or failing that, to deny, deny, deny they were there at all. Anyhoo, to cut a long story short, that didn’t go so well.

Ultimately, I discovered it is very hard to be yourself when most of the time you are trying to be someone else. When things aren't how we like them, we have a tendency to fly off in our heads and try to magic it away through sheer mental effort. When reality isn't moulding itself to our expectations, it's easy to unwittingly create a self-fulfilling prophecy of frustration and disappointment with ourself and our life. We blame and justify, pretend and deny and it's a difficult dynamic to break. The unhappier we are the more we try to change and the tighter and more tense we get. This tension makes it harder to make that call, lose that weight, and generally motivate ourselves to do what we know we need to do.

Sometimes when we mess up so badly, at that point when we can no longer pretend we are holding it together, we start seeing what we are really made of. Neither frog nor prince, we are simply a person doing their best in a world where things don’t always go as hoped. If you take a deep breath and show up in spite of everything, if you hold your seat as your emotions rage, you start getting to know who you are underneath the surface.

This is the work of coaching, it is it about learning who you are and that you are stronger than you think. Knowing this, achieving goals becomes not only possible, but likely. So when everything is falling apart, when our dreams and hopes collapse, we begin to see that all that is left to save us is the hero inside. Remember that hero is you.
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 13:19

Goodness! My Bad…

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Albert Einstein

Recently I’ve experienced an unbroken run of blog posts with typing errors, a letter here, a word there… and let’s not talk about my grammar or eek, punctuation. I am mortified by the whole sorry state of affairs! Why, oh why can I not see my own mistakes? Maybe now is a good time to apologise for my errors and let you know that I am so on to it. Google has some very clever tips for spotting your own mistakes and I’ve also roped my long- suffering husband (his description!) into spell checking for me.

That said, not seeing your own mistakes is actually a very interesting phenomenon. It points to a deeper truth that the way we see the world is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the world we are seeing. Most of us are familiar with visual blind spots when driving (or typing in my case), but we also have psychological blind spots that colour our world and profoundly influence our experience.

Basically there are aspects of our personalities that are obvious to everyone but ourselves. How extraordinary that we can hide parts of our self, from our very own self!  But here is where it starts to get seriously freaky, if we aren’t able to see ourselves clearly, it does not bode well for how clearly we are able to see others, now does it?

If you have a strong reaction to someone, either good or bad, there is a good chance you are attributing things you don’t like or can’t accept about yourself on to someone else. It’s a nifty little move that conveniently deflects the problem away from you in the short term, but holds you back in ways you cannot imagine in the long term. The bottom line is that whether you are madly in love with someone or gnashing your teeth in frustration, chances are, if you are having a strong reaction, it has more to do with you than with them.

So my two cents worth, is get to know yourself, all of you, the good, the bad and the ugly. Get curious. When you are having a strong reaction to someone, wonder why? Why am I so affected by this? What is going on in me? The more we learn to love and accept ourselves the more we are able to love and accept others. Try it, it will change your world!
Monday, 30 December 2013 18:59

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.
 Brad Paisley

This is very ‘uncool’ but I absolutely adore making New Year’s resolutions! There is something about the beginning of a year that fills me with hope, enthusiasm and a dogged determination to do it differently. I get inspired to eat better, lose weight, exercise more and generally upgrade my existence and I’m happy to use any motivation, no matter how short lived, to make it happen.

The speed with which we are bombarded by life makes it hard to stay on track and setting a clear intention is a great help in keeping us going in the direction we want to. It’s easy to be full of good ideas about how fabulous we are going to be in the coming year when we are on holiday, well-rested and feeling the effects of our over indulgence. However, when it comes to implementing these great ideas, many of us fall short.

Years ago I came across a lovely idea of choosing three words to focus on for the year. They serve as a guideline reminding us what is important in the busy chaos of life. If you have plans for 2014, I would love to hear them so please share your resolutions or three words in the comments section below. Many a goal has been achieved through sheer pride or competitiveness and hey, if going public works, why not! Another thing that does wonders is putting a daily reminder on your cell phone. It helps stop the surreptitious slide into bad habits that seems to happen just outside our awareness.

So here it goes, my three words for 2014 are sacredness, allowing and care.
Sacredness is about remembering the preciousness of life. It is taking a moment to notice the trees, the sunlight, the breeze, to enjoy being alive while doing a simple chore like walking the dogs.
Allowing is to stop striving and trying so hard. I want to learn to leave things be and cultivate being at ease with what is happening, whatever that may be.
Care is about taking time, being careful rather than careless with what is important. It is valuing and appreciating things like health and wellness, the environment, connecting with the many dear friends I am slowly losing touch with through simply being too busy.

Make 2014 your best year ever! I hope you have a very Happy New Year and remember to take care.
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