Here I am sitting in my favourite chair, heater on and blowing warm air over my feet, while outside another dank autumn day fades towards dusk. It seems like the world is shutting down for the approaching winter; leaves are falling while all around us plants and animals prepare themselves for the coming chill. I have a lot of sympathy for reptiles and other beasts who hibernate through the winter; I'd do that myself if I could! It's at this time of year, when the cold, damp, dark days make me reluctant to venture out, that I often find myself reflecting on life's deepest questions; today is no exception.
This morning I was busy researching and writing notes for a sequel to my latest book, "Living from the Heart." When I wrote that book I was pleased that I had captured all my ideas and experiences from the last few years of working as a Life Coach and Leadership Mentor. I thought I'd done a pretty good job, and the participants in the Masterclasses that I based on it seemed to agree. But then, reading through it again, I realised that it doesn't tell the entire story.
To be more accurate, it probably does tell enough of the story from a Life Coach's perspective. It describes the mindset trajectory through which a Coach will guide their Client, beginning with the Client feeling stuck, overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless and concluding with the Client launching themselves into a completely different way of life in which old, conditioned thoughts and behaviours have been banished and replaced by something new, positive, constructive, ambitious and rational. That, pretty much, is the end of the Coaching process, because at this point the Client is ready, willing and able to take responsibility for their own life and destiny.
In a nutshell, "Living from the Heart" took the Client through five increasingly positive steps in the development of a new mindset. This is called the HEART Mindset Trajectory, because the steps are:
H: Helpless, Hapless, Hopeless. The individual is stuck, overwhelmed, miserable without knowing why and without any understanding that life could be better, and without knowing that they could do something to achieve that better life. Many people live like this until something occurs that forces them to ask, "is this it? But surely, there must be more to life than this? Surely, there must be more to me than this?"
E: Engaged. Enqiring. Exploring. Reaching out for answers. This is where a Coach can step in to act as a guide through the rest of the process. At this point the individual has realised that they are miserable in their current life and that they want something different, something better. They're probably still not convinced that they could actually achieve "better," whatever "better" looks like to them, but they are prepared to explore and consider their options.
A: Accepting that there is, in fact, more to life and that it is achievable. At this point the individual has started to develop self-Awareness and is gaining self-confidence. Their Coach is guiding them to answer Life's Hardest Questions:
Who am I?
What do I want?
How can I get it?
As they transition through this stage, the individual finds their own answers to these three questions and uses them to figure out how they can get from where they are today to where they feel they need to be in their life. They have a plan and they are building the confidence to start implementing it.
R: Responsible. The individual is now ready to accept full responsibility for their own life and destiny. They are out there in the big, wide world, executing their plan and, hopefully, kicking goals and making progress towards achieving their grand vision for their life. At this point their Coach has probably bid them a fond farewell but remains available to provide support if (when!) life happens and the individual has to make some adjustment to their strategy.
T: Transformed. The individual has now achieved a sense of fulfilment in their life. They may or may not have achieved their grand vision, but their mindset is now completely different from what it was at the start. Now their thinking comes from a place of self-knowledge and self-confidence. Now, "there are no problems around here, only solutions." Nothing is too hard. Obstacles are seen as challenges to be tackled and overcome.
The "H" stage is said to be "living by default" because at this point the individual is almost entirely reactive. Their choices and actions are largely governed by old, conditioned, emotional reactions including a strong tendency to FOPO - Fear of Other People's Opinions - that drives them to follow the herd and do whatever they believe they "should" do, rather than what would best serve them.
The "E," "A" and "R" stages are said to be "living by design" because the individual is now starting to take responsibility for their choices and actions. They are no longer governed by old conditioning and are becoming much less likely to be influenced by FOPO and "should." Now they have a plan - they have designed their own strategy - and that is what guides the decisions they make, the actions they take, and the outcomes that they achieve in their life.
The "T" stage is said to be "living from the heart" because at this point the individual is living fully authentically. They no longer play a role or hide behind a mask. What You See Is What You Get. FOPO and "should" have been banished. Life feels good. And it no longer takes effort to maintain this mindset and this way of life - it has become habitual.
So that's the HEART Mindset Trajectory. It's the journey I've guided my Clients through over the years, and it's the journey that I myself have taken.
On reviewing the book, I realised that someone who goes through the five stages of the HEART Mindset Trajectory will inevitably transform not only their life but also their whole attitude to life. They will regain the sense of curiosity and wonder that most people leave behind in childhood. They become increasingly reluctant to accept things at face value or to do things "because that's the way we've always done it." They think, they ask questions, and if the answers don't satisfy them, they keep asking. This is what got Socrates into trouble, though these days very few people are condemned to death simply for being a pain in the proverbial!
I'm not talking about mundane questions like, "what will I have for dinner?" or "I wonder if it'll rain today." Granted, those are things that might once have seemed very important and could have consumed a good deal of mental energy in terms of worry and stress, but someone who has reached the "Transformed" stage of their life, Living from the Heart, is not likely to be worried or stressed about anything, particularly not anything as quotidian as these. I'm talking about much deeper questions than that.
In the process of traversing the HEART Mindset Trajectory we've paid a lot of attention to ensuring that our physical and mental health and wellbeing have been taken care of. By doing that we have set ourselves free from the noise and busyness of the everyday world; we haven't disconnected ourselves from it because when all's said and done we still have to live in it, but it no longer distracts us from what is truly important to us. The problems that we thought we had have been solved and/or discarded as unimportant. Now that we're no longer running around like lunatics chasing the next shiny thing, we can slow down and start to make our mind work for us, instead of the other way around.
Where will our recaptured capacity to think, and our rediscovered sense of curiosity and wonder, lead us?
What sort of questions will we be inspired to ask, and how will we go about seeking answers?
The process of gaining wisdom never ends while we draw breath. No one is ever "wise enough" and no one can ever say "now I know it all." Socrates himself said that the more he learned, the more he understood that he knew nothing. That's a typically Socratic way of looking at it, but when you think about it you can see what he meant. The more I know, the more I know there is to know.
One thing that has become clear to me is that not everyone will want to pursue their own self-development beyond the level at which they feel fulfilled, satisfied and content with their life. Many, perhaps most, will be happy just to get to the point at which they feel confident, valued, and in the driving seat of their life. Some will reach that point and linger there for some time, only to discover a growing feeling that more questions still remain. That niggling feeling can be ignored for a while but eventually it will lead to a deep need for answers, and so the progression to the next step will begin.
Right back at the start of the HEART Mindset Trajectory we found ourselves looking at our life and asking, "is this it? Is this all there is?" The answer to that was, of course, no it isn't: there is a lot more to life than feeling stuck, overwhelmed, miserable, Living by Default. Now that we've reached the end of that journey, we might well ask the same question again. Socrates - the man famous for taking answers as the cue for more questions - would have done so, wouldn't he?
So is the "Transformed" stage our ultimate destination, or is there more to life than this?
Of course there's more, and that's where I want to go next, in the sequel to "Living from the Heart."
Those of you who have journeyed with me thus far know that it's been something of a rollercoaster ride. If you want to come with me on this next stage, hang on to your hat! We've reached dizzying heights already, and now we're poised to plunge into the wildest ride of your life.
You can read more about the HEART Mindset Trajectory in the "Living from the Heart" page on my website.
"Living from the Heart, a hands-on guide to life transformation," is available for purchase as an eBook.
I offer a range of online workshops, masterclasses, pre-recorded online programs and Coaching and Mentoring services. Full details are on my website.