The Supercoaches, Part Two (#657)

A quick note from Michael:

To coincide with the publication of Supercoach, I’ve decided to feature the work of some of the coaches I talk about in the book. In each case, I’ll share what I consider to be some of the most transformative elements of their work. I will also do my best to make clear what is their material and what is my interpretation and experience of that material. Any misrepresentation is mine and mine alone…

If you missed part one on the work of supercoach Steve Chandler, you can read it here!

Sometimes I am asked if there was a turning point in my life or career – a time that I can look back to as the moment that everything changed for the better. While there are actually half a dozen or so of those transformative moments I can point to in my life over the past 20 years, the one that stands out when it comes to my career as a writer and coach happened back in 2003 while working with supercoaches Gay and Katie Hendricks.

Let me put some context around the story by sharing a few of the key distinctions I took away from my time working with them…

1. The Upper Limit Problem

One of the core tenets of the Hendricks’ work is the idea that we each carry an unconscious “thermostat” inside us set for exactly how much joy, happiness and positive experience we can stand. Once that upper limit is reached, we will find a way to bring ourselves back down to a more “comfortable” level of happiness and success.

Here’s how Gay writes about it in his wonderful new book The Big Leap:

[The Upper Limit Problem] shows up when we’re feeling good (or making extra money or feeling a deeper loving connection in a relationship). When we’re feeling good, we may come up against the hidden barrier of an old belief such as “I must not feel good, because fundamentally flawed people like me don’t deserve it.” The churning froth of these two powerful forces clashing with each other is the chief constituent of the irritating, itchy, slow-drizzle feeling of guilt.

When the old belief clashes with the positive feelings you’re enjoying, one of them has to win. If the old belief wins, you turn down the volume on the positive feeling (or lose some money or start an intimacy-destroying argument with your partner). If the good feeling wins, congratulations!

Your practice in expanding your capacity for positive energy is paying off. Your capacity expands in small increments each time you consciously let yourself enjoy the money you have, the love you feel, and the creativity you are expressing in the world. As that capacity for enjoyment expands, so does your financial abundance, the love you feel, and the creativity you express.

What’s surprising to most people that I’ve shared this idea with is that they recognize they have a very distinct answer to the question “How good can you stand it?” – and that answer is almost never “As good as it gets!”

The prescription for breaking through the Upper Limit Problem (or ULP, for short!) is simple:

1. Ask yourself “Am I willing to feel good and have my life go well all the time?”

2. Notice anywhere your answer is anything other than an emphatic “Yes!” and clean it up.

2. Discovering your Commitments

Before my work with the Hendricks, I didn’t consider myself to be a terribly committed person. During our work together, they pointed out that the problem isn’t that we lack commitment in our lives – it’s that we are unconsciously committed to all sorts of things that simply don’t work.

The way you uncover your unconscious commitments is simply to notice whatever you do consistently and recognize that if you aren’t willing to change it in this moment, you must be committed to doing it.

Amongst the things I discovered I was unconsciously committed to at that time (in the sense that I couldn’t or wouldn’t stop doing them) were:

  • Overeating
  • Disorganization
  • Being out of shape
  • Being “too busy”

Whilst I initially resisted saying things like “I am committed to continuing to eat past the point when I am full” and “I am committed to not making time to work out”, I quickly realized that claiming my unconscious commitments allowed me to change them. Soon I was able to say (and mean) things like “I commit to stopping eating as soon as I even think I might be full” and “I commit to working out each morning before my day begins”.

Better still, I was then able to honor those new, conscious commitments by acting on them until they became habitualized – that is, easier to do than not do.

My breakthrough came when Katie pointed out in one of our sessions that given how much people seemed to appreciate my work, it was curious to her that it hadn’t become more widely known.

She gently suggested I might have an unconscious commitment to not being seen. When I first tried on the phrase “I am committed to flying under the radar and not being seen”, I fought it like hell. After all, I sent out tips each week to a couple of thousand people – I even had my own website!

But within a few minutes of repeating the phrase out loud and to myself, I realized that it was true – I was terrified of what might happen if people really began to notice me and look a little closer at the person behind the work.

With Gay and Katie’s gentle but persistent coaching, I tried on a new commitment:

I commit to flying in plain sight.

While this shift was accompanied by an emotional release (that’s a guy way of saying I cried my eyes out), the real shock was what happened next. Over the next week, I was offered over $100,000 in training opportunities around the world and given the chance to work on a book that became an international bestseller.

And as much as I tried to make that into a coincidence, I am grateful to this day to the coaches who catalyzed that coincidence into life!

Here’s an experiment you can do to play with this distinction for yourself…

Today’s Experiment:

1. Make a list of any unwanted conditions in your life and/or any habitual behaviors you would like to change.

Examples:

  • Being unhappy
  • Arguing with your spouse or children
  • Being unemployed or in an unfulfilling job

2. Assume that in order to maintain this condition or behavior in your life, you must at some level be committed to it. Give voice to this unconscious commitment with this sentence starter.

I am committed to…

Examples:

  • I am committed to being unhappy
  • I am committed to arguing with my spouse
  • I am committed to being in an unfulfilling job

3. As best you can, just be in your body as you repeat this “commitment statement” again and again both out loud and in your head. If you find yourself arguing with it, resisting it, distracting yourself, or “deciding not to do it” within the first three minutes, smile at your ego’s wonderful self-protection mechanism and keep repeating the statement.

4. At some point, you will experience a feeling shift in your body – what the Hendricks’ sometimes call a “whole body knowing”. This lets you know that you’ve taken ownership of your old, unconscious commitment and are now ready to change.

5. Now, consider what you’d like to commit to instead. Use this sentence starter to give voice to this new commitment:

I commit to…

Examples:

  • I commit to my own happiness and well-being
  • I commit to letting go of my expectations and judgments of my partner
  • I commit to finding work that I love and want to do

6. Continue speaking your new commitment out loud and in your head until you once again experience a feeling shift that lets you know that it is your true intention going forward.

7. Choose one action you can take to begin grounding your new commitment within the next 24 hours.

Examples:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Make a list of all my judgments of my partner and ask myself “Could I let go of wanting to change that?” as I go through each item on the list.
  • Take ½ an hour to begin brainstorming everything I’ve ever enjoyed doing in the past and what it was about that thing that I particularly enjoyed.

Have fun, learn heaps, and if you’re unconsciously committed to anything other than love, happiness and a wonderful life, consider bringing a new conscious commitment to life!

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