Ever achieved a goal only to realise it doesn't make you as happy as you originally thought it would?
Challenging the impossible
As a professional who coaches around impossibility, I am most passionate about understanding peoples’ beliefs. Their ultimate truths, how they see the world, coded into their minds. Part of what I love about coaching is challenging these very perspectives (with permission), especially when it feels impossible and even a little risky emotionally. In a recent session with a fellow coach, he shared how his very motivation for becoming a coach, which had brought him so much happiness and success by his definition, was no longer seemingly enough. For him, coaching had been a way out of a corporate career and subsequently led to becoming location-free which allowed him to change country and create the lifestyle he had always dreamed about.
While life was good, his ambitions grew, mainly financial ambitions, which meant earning a higher salary each month. He disappointingly explained how he noticed that as he chased higher paying clients, he faced increasing rejection. As he started saving more money each month, the more he limited his lifestyle. The more he spoke with his partner about their finances, the more frustrated they became with “living below their means”.
The 1 thing money is good for? To buy things.
He became obsessed about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but never realised that the rainbow kept moving further from where he was standing. His very goal was causing his self-proclaimed failure. I began at the surface, “It seems that the life you chose to create suited you at first. What changed?” I asked. “What would having this extra income mean to you? How would you benefit?” As he answered, you could see the exhaustion in his downward stare and hunched over position, “Why is money important in this life, in this world?” I proceeded, beginning to uncover his beliefs.
“If you stopped earning money today, what would happen to you? What would you do?” I asked, “Well, I’ve done well over the years and have made several solid investments. I would never go hungry nor would I ever find myself on the streets.” “So you would be able to survive and with the skills you’ve developed over the years, you’d most likely to always be employed, at the very least, would you agree?” “Yes.” “So you are always going to be ok financially, agreed. Close your eyes for a second. How would it feel if money was no longer in the equation? Imagine you have everything you need. Imagine you could simply enjoy your life and do all the things that make you happy. How does that feel?” (Client with his eyes closed, pauses before answering). “I’m getting butterflies and goosebumps all at the same time. It feels scary. I almost feel guilty....I feel I should be working and doing more.” “Remember, you don’t need to, financially. How does it feel to not worry about money?” “It’s liberating but again, I feel bad, as if I’m not supposed to not work.” “What makes you feel bad?” “….I can see my parents, shaking their heads, disappointed.” He began to share the lessons his parents (who had been immigrants), taught him as a young boy; to never settle and constantly do more, in preparation for the day that the money stops coming in, as it ultimately would do in a lifetime. “What did your parents have to go through to learn that lesson do you think?” I questioned. Many of our mental frames are installed in us by our parents from a young age. They try to protect us from the negative experiences they had through their teachings, which often affect us adversely and stay with us our entire lives.
“Can you tell your parents that it’s all ok. Show them that you have created a life, a job, where you will never go hungry, where you’ll always have employment, never lack shelter nor want for anything they missed out on. Say it aloud and let them hear you.” This really took a lot of courage. This kind of deep work can only have an impact when the client is ready to be vulnerable, ready to confront their inner emotions and experiences. “What are they saying to you?” I ask softly. Teary-eyed, he replied, “They are smiling and nodding. It’s ok.” “Open your eyes and take a deep breath. How does that feel?” This was quite a powerful breakthrough. His money mindset had been uncovered and confronted. He realised that he had been punishing himself all these years unnecessarily, forcing himself to work long hours, long weeks, sacrificing his happiness. “I feel lighter. It feels like my chest is exploding and my mind is pacing. I really don’t have to keep chasing more money. What I have right now, what I am right now, is already enough… I just need to respect it.”
Our mental models can be springboards to energise and drive us towards what we believe we want or need but they can also cause us pain. Working less to enjoy life more, without feeling guilty about, was impossible. It appeared now suddenly possible. It had always been possible, it had just taken another set of eyes to see it. What mental model is impacting you right now and how can you challenge it?