Once upon a time, when I had just finished Phase Two of my training to become a Certified Life Coach, my husband and I went on a hiking trip with some friends of ours. As we were planning our evening activities, I asked our fellow campers if they would be willing to be guinea pigs and let me use them to try out a coaching exercise. Happily they said yes, and so one evening we all gathered on the floor of our hotel room and I began my presentation.
That was around the time when The Secret was making such a big splash, and my little exercise was kind of along those same “woo woo” lines. As I recall, it was called something like, “The Be-Do-Have” exercise, and it was intended to reverse the thought system that proclaimed that if we could just Do Enough, and then figure out how to get all the things we wanted to Have, then we would Be happy. Instead, my happy-go-lucky little exercised proclaimed that if we would figure out how we wanted to feel (“Be”), say, creative, for example, then we would be inspired to perform all the kinds of actions that a creative person would “Do”, and then aligning with those two things would enable us to attract (“Have”) all the things we’ve been wanting. (I’m assuming here that you are all picking up on my current, chronic-pain induced cynicism. But that is a story for another post.)
Now, I need to stop here and tell you that the group I was asking to perform this little New Thought Dance was composed entirely of 3 engineers and 1 lawyer-not a “woo woo” soul among them. I believe this demonstrates that, despite my obvious ignorance of the concept of finding the Right People for your particular offering, some part of me, somewhere, was fully aware of the potential there for tremendous humor.
So cheerfully, if somewhat naively, I began taking them through the steps of the exercise, deeply convinced in my heart of hearts that I was expanding not only their minds, but their souls as well. Because that was my spiritual calling as an almost-certified Missionary Of Personal Growth.
Things started off pretty well, with the first part of the exercise being to write down all the different things that you would like to have. But then it started to get a little rocky with Step Two, which was to write down everything you could think of that you would like to do.
“Anything you want!” I proclaimed. “Infinite Possibilities!” “No limits!”
This was where the immovable object of left-brained thinkers met the irrisitible force of my right-brained evangelism.
“Um, that’s impossible,” interjected one of the engineers. “You can’t actually do anything you want. There are limits to what is possible to do in this world.”
“No, I don’t think so.” I replied, unconcerned. I knew that in the end I could get them to see the Universe as I did. “For example, one day I would like to be able to fly.”
This caused everyone to look up from their papers and have a silent, yet urgent, consultation with their eyes.
“Uh, you know you can fly, right?” they asked, starting to worry that all of this goodness and light had somehow caused me to sustain some kind of serious brain injury.
“No, I mean FLY. Like, all by myself, up in the air. Just like Superman!”
Looking back on this now, I’m pretty sure that this was The Beginning Of The End.
Realizing that there was no arguing with me at that point, we all continued on to Step Three: Listing All The Different Ways That You Would Like To Feel.”
Now throughout all of this, one of the engineers had continued to become more and more frustrated. His way of working in the world was to sit down with a set of specific conditions related to a problem or situation, and then continue to push back against them until he finally figured out the solution. But because of my whole Unlimited Possibilities view of the Universe, I refused to give him any, hoping to gently begin to free him from his silly need for limits and constrictions.
But when we finally go to the “How do you want to be?” phase of the exercise, he just couldn’t take it anymore. As I was the only thing he had to push back against, he kept poking and pushing and prodding, but I refused to give him what he was looking for.
Finally he agreed to just write something down on his piece of paper, which relieved all of to no end.
But, determined not to allow me the final word, he searched his mind desperately for a parting shot.
“Fine!” he exclaimed, the light of victory gleaming in his eyes. “I’ll answer the question. But…I AM USING A GERUND!”