“Okay, so we’re kind of in the pattern aren’t we? You’re up against something, you’re afraid you’re going to create disappointment, or let down, in your life or the lives of the people you love, and so what’s predictable is that you will pull away from this. Maybe hem and haw about this a whole bunch, delaying making that decision, but eventually making it anyway, because it’s safer. After all, it’s easier for you to live with your own ongoing low-grade disappointment, than it is to be with that of others. Do I have all of that right, Mark?”
Mark sat for a long while. With Jonathan, they’d laid out the entire pattern of how he dealt with decisions that really mattered to him. Looking at it with such stark illumination left him feeling a little tender. Mark decided to share as much.
“Man, this feels tender Jonathan. Like, you’re absolutely right, that’s exactly how it goes…”
Jonathan broke in, just briefly, to clarify something.
“Well, I just want to be clear Mark, I’m just reflecting what you’ve distinguished. There’s not really anything for me to be right about here — you get to say if we’re on the right track.”
Mark nodded. “Thanks, yah, well, you’re definitely right about that.” He grinned at Jonathan and they laughed together for a time.
“Okay, so yes, that’s basically the pattern. After the last time we talked, I could already feel myself starting to find reasons why not, and justify the decision.”
“Sure, that makes sense. I mean, this pattern is here for a reason right? It’s served you to stay in this. It’s just that I get you want something different. You want a life different from the one this pattern allows for — is that correct?”
Mark nodded assuredly. “Yes! Totally. I’m tired of how this goes. And I really want something different.”
“Great, I get that about you Mark. Here’s the thing: I have an assertion about all of this. My assertion is that all of this… contraption, is designed to avoid the risk of failing — to avoid the risk of disappointing other people. So you’ve basically built a life where you continually feel disappointed, but at least other people /kind of/ don’t. I say kind of, because, as you can tell, even though you’re trying to avoid that problem, it’s still showing up. You know the saying: what we resist, persists. I suspect that looking at this pattern, you can see the truth of that statement.”
Mark nodded but otherwise stayed silent, so Jonathan continued.
“So, here’s the bad news — the breakthroughs you want are on the other side of that disappointment. It’s kind of like the difference between playing a game to win, vs playing a game to /not lose/. Even though they seem like the same thing, they’re miles apart. The team that plays to win is willing to face the bitter taste of defeat again and again, because they are committed to something greater than avoiding that feeling. Am I making sense?”
Mark sat thoughtfully and then responded. “Yes, I think so. So basically, I’ve been playing a game to avoid disappointment — that’s my version of playing to not lose. Instead of playing a game to win — to go for what I really want in life, and risk disappointment in doing so. Is that it?”
“That is /exactly/ it Mark. You’ve nailed it. So, can you see that to create any of this, you’re going to need to make a heroic step — a step into your breakthrough?”
“Yes, I can see that.”
“Great, so that’s basically where we are. This doesn’t have to be the place to do that, and it might not even be the time. Now that you can see this, maybe you still choose out, and that’s okay — at least this time you’ll be choosing out with full consciousness and awareness of the choice you’re making. And then you can watch this unfold in real time.”
Jonathan paused before continuing.
“Or, maybe now is the time. Maybe you’re ready to start breaking up this pattern and have it go differently. What do you say?”
Jonathan settled back in his chair. The less he said now the better. In fact, anything he said after this point was really about himself and his agenda that Mark work with him. Mark had everything he needed, and all he really needed was the space to sit with all of this.
Jonathan didn’t have to wait too long.
“Jonathan, I want to do this. I’m super clear on this. This conversation has actually solidified this and made it so clear to me. Like, you’ve sat with me through all of this, and just helped me see the pattern without shoving me down any particular path. This is what’s next for me. I want to do this. I’m not going to let disappointment stop me this time.”
“Great, I love that Mark. So there’s a couple of things for us to look at before we finish up. First, what is there for you to do next to actually step into this? And second, I want to look at what is predictable from here. So first, what actions do you see there are to take to make this happen now?”
“First, I need to talk to my partners at work. I think that we should be covering a significant portion of this, as it relates to my leadership. So I’m going to do that. I also want to talk to my wife about this. It’s a big chunk of money, and I’m imagining that we’ll be footing half of the bill, assuming my partners are on board to pay the other half. I might need to convince her.”
“Okay, great. I have something with you, regarding your wife, but let me check with you first — is there any support you need in conversation with your partners?”
“No, I think I’ve got that one. Let me give it a go, and then, could I let you know how it goes and maybe have some support if I get stuck?”
“Of course! In fact, you ask me for support with any of this, at any point Mark. I’m a yes to you. Whatever you need to get yourself over what’s in the way, I’m here for you.”
Mark smiled. “That is so cool. Okay, so you said you had something for me regarding my wife?”
Jonathan closed his eyes and brought himself back to what Mark had mentioned earlier. “Ah yes! So, what I heard you say is that you might need to convince her, correct?”
“Okay, great. So, I honour where you’re looking, which is basically that you want to make sure she’s on board, rather than just making a decision without her input. What I want to do is offer you a different context for how you approach that conversation. When we’re convincing someone, we’re basically trying to get them to agree with us. To come over to our side. We end up less interested in what they have to say, and they can feel our pull. And Mark, when you feel someone pulling you in a direction, and trying to convince you of something, what do you do?”
Mark thought for a second. “Well, I usually put my defences up and dig my heels in a bit.”
“Exactly! That’s human nature. Notice that in this conversation I haven’t tried to convince you at all, and the difference that has made for you. So, I’d love to give you a different place to come from, with your wife.”
“Okay! What is it?”
“I’d suggest you share honestly and openly about everything we’ve uncovered here. Don’t try to convince her. Just share your truth. Tell her what you can see about your pattern, tell her everything you saw was possible through our work together, and also share your fears about saying YES to this, and why you want to do it anyway.”
“And then what?”
“And then see where that leaves her. Does she have any concerns she wants to share with you? Any questions? Anything she needs to know? Basically share your truth with her, and then let her share her truth with you.”
“Okay, but what if she’s a No?”
“Then we can support you with that. For now though, let’s have you be in the practice of sharing your truth and letting her’s be heard. I think you’ll discover that that in itself can open a lot more doors that you might realize.”
Mark nodded slowly. He wanted some kind of strategy that was a little more bulletproof, but he was willing to trust Jonathan here.
“Got it — and then you said there was a second thing?”
“Well, first, are there any other actions to take on this, aside from those two? Like, you said you might need to figure out where or how to amass the money?”
Mark sat silent.
“No, I don’t really think so. Once those two are handled, pulling the money together won’t be that hard. I’ll need to take a look and do some logistical stuff, but I know we can make it work, and if I have Yes’s from my wife and partners, then I know I will be reliable for that part.”
“Great! So, the second thing is looking at what is predictable from here. So a reminder that we’re not looking at what will awesomely happen now that you’ve had this conversation. We’re looking at what will predictably happen. Like if your old pattern reasserts itself, which is basically the ego’s job, what will happen next, and how will this all get sabotaged?”
Mark sat with this for a while longer.
“Hmmmm. Well, I’ll probably have a lot of earnest intention, and keep finding reasons why I can’t yet have the conversation with my partners and my wife. Maybe I won’t create an appointment for it, or I’ll keep putting it off. Work will get busy, etc. And then, as I keep doing that, I’ll also start to look at reasons why this isn’t really that necessary, and my life currently isn’t that bad, and you know what, maybe now just isn’t the time, and so on.”
“That’s perfect Mark — really great awareness. So, what do we need to put in place to overcome that? How will we set you up to have things go differently?”
“Well, I think I need to make an appointment with my partners and my wife right now. Ooh! That just got a little scary. I’m a bit nervous about those conversations Jonathan.”
Jonathan nodded — he could feel that too. “I totally get that Mark. Remember that it’s always optional — you don’t have to do any of this. And, if you’re ready to take that step, we can expect fear to show up. That’s the very reason why this hasn’t just happened on its own: fear keeps blocking us. So, what do you say?”
“Jonathan, I’m already writing an e-mail to them right now. Let me do this now while you’re on the phone with me.”
Jonathan waited as he heard Mark typing in the background.
“Okay, I’ve done it. Fuck! I’m scared, but I’m also excited! What happens next Jonathan?”
“Well, if we were together, we’d do a leaping high-five, but since we’re not, I’ll just say /awesome work/ Mark! You’re stepping into your possibility, right here, right now. The fear is our compass — it’s how we know we’re on a path that opens us up to more possibility. So, from here, I’m thinking it might be helpful for us to schedule a follow-up call and check in with each other. Would you agree?”
“Yes, definitely. I’m not sure when I’ll hear back from my partners — I’ll plan to talk to my wife this week.”
“Okay, well, what are you willing to commit to? You’ve sent the e-mail, by when will you /commit/ to having had the conversation with your wife and your partner?”
Mark thought. “Mmmm, well, I don’t know what this week holds, but I would say I’d be willing to commit to having had those conversations within the next two weeks.”
Jonathan looked at his calendar. “Great, I’ve got space two weeks from now at this same time. Would you like to talk then?”
“Yes, let’s do it.”
“Awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes Mark. And, remember, you don’t need to do this alone. I’m here on your side and in your corner. If at any point you find yourself scared, stuck, caught, unsure of how to move forward, my invitation is to relate to me like your coach. Reach out to me, get supported. Create and be in the experience of us already working together as you take these steps. Sound good?”
“Yes, sounds awesome.”
“Perfect. I’d like to finish up by acknowledging you Mark — would that be alright?”
“Thanks. So Mark, I want to acknowledge you first for your wit and play. I love your turns of phrases and how much I find myself laughing in conversations with you. You’re a delight to be with, and I imagine you must be an incredible gift to your partners and your wife. Thanks for giving the world a reminder that it doesn’t all have to be hard, regardless of what we’re creating. Second, I really want to acknowledge you for your impact in the world. And I get that that isn’t always what you’re present to, but I’m clear that you are a man creating impact everywhere you go, and the fact that you have a fear about disappointing people makes /complete sense/ to me. Given the impact you have simply showing up in a room, it’s innate that you would worry about disappointing people. They see you come in the room, think “Holy cow, what is this!?” And then that puts you at risk of disappointing them. I want you to know that that fear, to me, is more evidence of the impact you are.”
Jonathan paused before finishing up.
“Finally, I acknowledge you for your commitment and courage. People tend to think that courage looks like being fearless and riding into hordes of orcs and goblins. Is that what they think it looks like? Maybe I’m making that up. Whatever, you get the idea, and this is my acknowledgment, so I say that’s what people think it looks like. But my experience is that the most courageous people are often the ones willing to experience the most fear — and to not let that stop them from leading the life they desire. Thanks for your courage and commitment to create something beyond a life that is pretty good, Mark.”
Mark sat quietly for a bit, and then responded.
“Wow. Thank you. That really landed with me. Thanks for all the time today Jonathan. I’m excited for what’s next!”
Jonathan smiled. “Me too Mark. I’ll look forward to when we next talk.”