'I think you need to find a way to let go Karen, let go of control and learn to just be,' Kelly my coach gently suggested.
This is not what I was expecting from this session and it certainly was not what I wanted to hear. Coaching sessions are about goal setting, surely. And this is the part of me I like, I thought, the best of part of me, the part that dreams big, the part that makes things happen. Why on earth would I want to let go of that?
Although at the back of my mind, I knew this is also the part of me that causes the stress: high expectations of myself, wanting everything done now and other lovely "˜Type A' traits.
And I am a good student, so I forced myself to stay open-minded, to understand what letting go would actually mean – before I dismissed it as hippy nonsense.
'It's about not being attached to the outcome,' Kelly continued. 'It's about being present and being happy whether you achieve your goals or not.' My radar registered the word goals; I felt myself relax.
We wrapped up the session and off I went with my homework of letting go! Kelly had suggested watching The Peaceful Warrior as a starting point. At only £6 and 120 minutes, I decided I didn't have much to lose. But I wasn't expecting to gain much either. I love the world of personal development "“ I read loads of this stuff, as if this was going to throw up anything new (I know "“ the arrogance).
The Peaceful Warrior
I got myself comfy, looking forward to ticking done on my homework list. The film "“ based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior "“ is about a young, arrogant, talented gymnast, who gets good grades, all the hot girls and is training for the Olympics. But whilst on the outside Dan seems to have it all, inside this is not the case. He meets a mysterious stranger "“ who he refers to as Socrates "“ who ends up becoming his mentor, showing him a different way to live. This becomes even more challenging when Dan has a serious motor bike accident which threatens his whole way of life. But with the help of "˜Socrates' he learns to let go of the person he thought he was and start living in a completely different way.
I got to the end of the film and wasn't even sure if I'd got the key messages, surely they would be bigger I thought, surrounded by flashing comic book style lights or something, more obviously life changing.
Off I went thinking I'd enjoyed the afternoon and I would try to live in the moment a little more. Yada. Yada. Yada!
Oh how naive I was. I can't believe how different life feels after what appears such a small and subtle change.
Living in the moment
I am making a conscious effort to live more in the moment, be present, enjoy the journey and not just focus on the destination, or whatever other personal development clichÃ© you would like to throw into the mix.
And just like Dan continues to train as an Olympic athlete, I continue to work towards my goals: the relief, I haven't turned into a lazy slob!
But I am definitely calmer and less stressed. If I feel worried about something in the future and I feel my mind starting to spiral, processing what ifs, running scenarios at an alarming pace, I bring myself back to the present moment; and I am more focused on enjoying the activity that I am doing, not just thinking about the result.
I have had some health challenges and been on a bumpy recovery journey in the last seven years (I am recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome); I am a 'professional' tester of therapies and techniques – physical, psychological and emotional. And I am always intrigued to see what works and what doesn't. I'll try anything (I even bought some crystals recently"¦) and sometimes it is the unexpected that has a huge impact. And I strongly believe that staying open to new ideas has been a fundamental part of my recovery.
Sometimes simple changes can have a huge impact
And as the wellness light shines brightly, beckoning me to leave the tunnel; as I continue to get stronger and enjoy the delicious feeling of being healthy, I am surprised something as simple as becoming – or at least moving towards being – a "˜Peaceful Warrior' is one of the last pieces in my recovery jigsaw.
The biggest challenge for me is not being attached to the outcome of being 100% well, but rather to celebrate how far I have come and enjoy my life as it is now; it's like the dieter who believes they will only be happy when they lose that last seven pounds. This isn't about giving up the goals but about loving life anyway whether or not I achieve my goals.
I know it sounds simple writing it down and as with anything it takes work and practice. But if I as a self-confessed stress head can make headway on this, I am confident that anyone reading can.
So I leave you with this, my fellow personal development junkies: next time it is tempting to roll your eyes at a clichÃ©d suggestion, take a step back and truly ask yourself whether there is anything there for you. When we are open, try something new, we just never know"¦and if that one isn't for you maybe the next one is.
My coaching sessions are with Kelly Oldershaw at Get Your Life Back from M.E.