‘I just want to win the lottery.’
I’ve heard that crie de Coeur from clients many times before when I’ve posed the question ‘What would it take to make you happy?‘ It generally comes in response to working on the coaching wheel of life in the area relating to money.
The wheel I use divides life into eight significant areas; work, money, health, partner, family, friends, learning and environment. It’s a very useful and a very visual way of assessing if your physical and emotional needs are being met from your current lifestyle and a useful indicator too of what it would take for you to live your best life.
‘I just want to win the lottery’ is, of course, an answer that needs unpicking and begs the more specific and appropriate enquiry:
‘If you had all the money, all the resources, all the energy and all the time, and failure was simply not a possibility, what is the life you would be living that would make you happy?’
Think about that question for a while, or better still, close your eyes and imagine if you could live your best life. Allow yourself to dream.
As children, were in our imagination much of the time. Magical thinking made anything a possibility.
Who hasn’t jumped from the sofa, arms spread wide and fully expected to fly?
Or waited for the clock to strike 13, or climbed into an old-fashioned wardrobe looking for the secret panel that would reveal a world beyond, or hunted the garden for fairies and elves?
No? …..Just me then.
What were your childhood dreams and when did you stop dreaming them? Did you want to be a singer, a ballerina, and airline pilot or a spaceman?
When did you box up those dreams and put them on a shelf somewhere to simply gather dust? When did you disconnect with the sense that absolutely anything was possible…. and who persuaded you to do that?
Tales of the past can convey much wisdom and insight for the future. The old story of Nasrudin and the strange bird says a lot about social conditioning, conformity, stereotyping and prejudice. It is a tale with a significant sub text:
Nasrudin found a weary falcon sitting one day on his window-sill.
He had never seen a bird like this before.
“You poor thing”, he said, “how ever were you to allowed to get into this state?”
He clipped the falcon’s talons and cut its beak straight, and trimmed its feathers.
“Now you look more like a bird”, said Nasrudin.
There’s something unsettling about the well-intentioned but dangerous actions of Nasrudin which convey a much larger message for our society where those who find themselves in positions of power often lack wisdom and insight. Sadly, it is possible to look without actually seeing.
With a heady combination of arrogance and ignorance, Nasrudin endangers the very bird he thinks he is trying to help. Without its talons, the bird cannot catch its prey. With its straightened beak, it cannot eat.
With its feathers trimmed so it looks, more like his idea of what a bird should look like…the bird cannot now even fly.
Disabled and confined by imposed conformity, the formerly powerful bird must now remain dependant upon Nasrudin….. or die. It has lost its autonomy.
Our wings are clipped
American psychologist, Carl Rogers observed, ‘the newborn baby does not enter this world estranged from itself. The socialising process ensures that happens along the way.’
When I was eight years old, the teacher asked our class what they wanted to be when they grew up.
My hands shot up straightaway.
‘Yes Frances,’ said the teacher, ‘What do you want to be?’
‘A princess.‘ I replied, much to the obvious amusement of the teacher.
Viewing the small, knobbly kneed, be-speckled child in the oversized, hand knitted jumper, I can now understand her response. Understand it, yes, but not accept that it was not the right response.
For, in that moment, my wings were clipped. I received a clear, if unspoken, message that, for me, wanting to be a princess was unacceptable.
What my teacher might more helpfully have asked me was what is it about being a princess that appealed to me.
The eight-year-old would probably have replied, ‘living in a castle, marrying a handsome prince and being able to do anything I want to do.’
Now, viewed through older, wiser eyes, I would make the observation that the eight-year-old’s innate guidance system was driving her to imagine her very best life with a lifestyle that would meet her needs for security, attention, fun, family, friends, emotional intimacy, status, privacy, achievement, control and engagement with life.
As a child, I was raised on a diet of traditional fairy tales. My favourites were stories where beautiful princesses overcame enormous dangers and difficulties to meet their handsome prince and live happily ever after.
Today that pattern continues to be a key driver for what I do and it’s probably no coincidence that the Fusion strap line is;
Feel your best. Be your best. Live your best life.
So, did I overcome dangers and difficulties to meet my handsome prince and live happily ever after?
You’ll have to ask my husband….
*Shah, Idries (1985) The exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin
& The subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin. London: Octagon Press