“Washing the dishes to wash the dishes”
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Do you live your life perfection backwards or do you live your life gratitude forwards? It’s quite an interesting question, well I certainly think so. What I’ve noticed lately on the various courses that I’ve run and they range from presentation skills through to NLP Master Coach and the various coach education programmes in-between, even the coaching work that I do, what I have discovered is that so so many people are living their lives looking for perfection and then being disappointed that they don’t have it now. We seem to be all wrapped up in this idea of living our life perfection backwards rather than necessarily gratitude forwards.
So, what does this mean for us, how might we experience the world right now? I’m sure that everybody has an image in their own head of what a perfect life might look like for them. This is probably a very rich and vivid picture that people place around themselves, that they’ve got this concept of themselves maybe in a way that is thinner, taller and maybe they got this idea that they could look different, be able to perform differently or achieve different things; maybe they have got some understanding or some idea of what it is that they would like life to be. And of course, having hopes, dreams and aspirations they can always be powerful things for us, truly powerful things, enabling us and the people in our lives to be able to connect with us in different ways. At times these things can be absolutely amazing and really wonderfully powerful motivators for us. The problem comes when we’re not those things, I feel as though it is really easy for us to get confused by concepts and ideas about whether we should or shouldn’t be those things, the hopes and dreams, then it’s quite easy for us to get disillusioned when we are not quite what we expect ourselves to be.
So maybe we become a little more disillusioned or dissatisfied with how we are now right now, maybe who or what we are being right now isn’t enough for us or what we’ve achieved in life right now doesn’t fully meet our utopian ideal that we have on our minds eye as perfection. Perhaps our initial version of perfect and the idea of a perfect life the one that we first connect with, the one that holds the story of us, where we could be thinner or taller or richer or just something else is to far in the future to be useful to us right now. This initial aspirational idea that we could change and achieve these things is a great motivator for so many people that we all know and at times even ourselves. This powerful motivational force can often catapult us forward to initiate change in our lives. The reality of this is that we often get it wrong and we end up living in a space, where we are not truly happy with ourselves or our progress, where we end up living in tomorrow, we end up living in the never-never. Our point of focus very quickly becomes not what we could be and the potential that we all have inside us, but the dissatisfaction that we are not there yet. So, this idea of ours that we can be perfect starts off “pretty cool” but very quickly for most people ends up becoming something that is really disheartening. It ends up becoming something that is just not as useful as it was originally set out to be. But this doesn’t have to be the case, there is another way.
Let’s just imagine for a moment how amazing you would need to feel about yourself in order to be able to be totally gentle and to be incredibly kind to yourself. We have to remember that at times that we probably wouldn’t stand in a space and listen to someone else saying the things that we perhaps at times say to ourselves. How many people do you know are constantly pointing out their imperfection and comparing ourselves with what is their perfect ideal of who they think they should be. This can sometime encompass the sort of life that we think we should be living. This may not always be as empowering for us as we perhaps would like it to be. That initial gust of motivation that comes from the world, that comes from the initial push away from what we have or who we are now quickly fades and very quickly ends up with a level of disappointment with what we have right now. The really cool thing is that there is another way of considering the world that were part of. My Mum used to say to me that you should always count your blessings, this always used to make me smile and I don’t think really, until right now, that I truly ever understood what she meant by counting your blessings. I now count mine every day.
It always seemed to me as though this idea implied in counting your blessings was that I was at the whim of something that perhaps was beyond my control. If you say you are the whim something it always seemed ever so slightly bizarre, for me, rather than being able to actually take charge of my own life. However, there was perhaps actually something in what she talked about; counting your blessings, which I believe I know what she meant and I now take to mean as simply being truly grateful for the things that are in my life, being truly grateful for the interactions I have and the person I am. When we stop to take a moment and just recognise that we can be truly grateful for some of the amazing people in our lives and some of the amazing things that actually occur, taking the time to acknowledge that we are who we are in these moments and that in this one moment you can’t be anyone other than who you are right now. When I think about how this applies to me in the next two or three heartbeats I can’t necessarily be any healthier that I am right now, I can’t be any richer, I can’t be any taller and I can’t be any slimmer that I am right now, I can only ever be as I am right now. Since it is this person, the me that I am right now is the only version of me that I can be and can carry forward into the next moment and the next moment in the next moment and if I want those moments to be really truly powerfully beautiful moments then maybe all that I need to do is cherish the moment I’m in, right now. So maybe all I sometimes actually need to do is listen to what my mum told me and count my blessings. As my blessings are just the thought and feelings of gratitude and I can simply take a moment to consider how I could be and would like to be grateful for the things around me. Giving myself time to notice how the world starts to become a little bit different, a little bit clearer, as I count my blessings and I start to become a little bit different in the world. Dissatisfaction with what I haven’t achieved will not inspire me to achieve the things I desire, but recognising and being grateful for who and what I am will be a fabulous platform to move forward.
I work in the world of performance coaching and in the world of performance coaching there is a phrase that we use all the time ‘Perception is projection’, ‘perception is projection’ is a phrase that explains how part of our mind works. This function of our mind that we experience around this concept is a function of our brain known as our reticular activating system. We have all experienced its operation and the impact of perception is projection. How this works for is that when you buy new car, you suddenly notice that they’re everywhere. You consider engaging in a particular sport or a particular activity and suddenly you see signs and evidence of it all around you. What this means in reality is that what we start to focus on, we start to notice in the world around us.
So, perceiving and focusing on certain things can lead us to readily find these things in the world around us potentially skewing our perception of reality in that moment, totally drawn by our point of focus. This can obviously work very well for us or it could prove disastrous if, depending on what we focus on or believe to be true. For perception to truly work well for us it means that we need to cherish being in this moment right, now we must consider ourselves to be perfect in this moment and that will be our point of focus. You may well say I can’t necessarily do that because I don’t feel as though I am as perfect as I could be right now in this one particular moment. So, you end up being dissatisfied, this has some interesting consequences and so if you’re dissatisfied with the fact that you are not necessarily achieving the perfection that you were looking at this time. Whether the perfection your seeking is about the way you look or about the size of your income or you’ve not got the career that you’re looking for; as soon as you notice the dissatisfaction then that typically becomes your point of focus. Our point of focus to our way of being starts to become dissatisfied with ourselves. It then becomes really easy to then continually see our world and to continually see the world around us as a place of dissatisfaction. The consequences of this have the potential to be very significant for us, especially over time leaving us in a very dissatisfied place with ourselves and our life. Alternatively, if we were to focus on being grateful for what we have got in our life and sometimes that gratitude starts from a simple perspective “well I’m alive and breathing” and for others it’s just way way bigger than that, it is that we actually do have people in our life that cherish and love us. Being grateful for all that they have, so gratitude forwards is always going to be one of those things that puts us in a really great place, because I bet if you were to take a moment right now as you finish reading this piece, to be able to go to make a shortlist of what you are truly grateful for your life then that would be a very powerful list. Whether it’s the fact that your outside or inside or that your breathing or whether your connected with some amazing people in your life that care about you and love you. I am going to ask you to simply notice how it changes your mind, changes your frame of reference and how it changes how we feel about the world. This means that we can powerfully start to use this sense of connection and gratitude as a source of strength and courage. We can experience the world in a different way in order to be able to take huge strides to make the changes we want and stand a fighting chance of achieving the perfection we look for. All we have to do is count our blessings!!! Do what we do because we enjoy who we are and we will be able to achieve the things that we desire so much quicker.