Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Busting Myths: 'Talent', 'Mastery', 'Gurus', 'Ideal Partner/Soul Mate'...

I’m in a myth-busting mood, so here are my thoughts about a few of them…

The ‘Talent’ Myth

We tend to think that some people are naturally more talented than others, but (as I teach in my Writing Mastery course) talent is a very misunderstood word!

‘Talent’ belongs to a category of words known as a ‘nominalisation’, meaning ‘existing in name only’. It’s actually a disguised verb. Another example is ‘relationship’. We think of ‘relationship’ as a noun, as something that we ‘have’, but it’s actually a disguised verb; we can’t ‘have’ a relationship because we ‘do’ it – we ‘relate’. Likewise with ‘talent’; we don’t have it, we do it. And every ‘talent’ breaks down to a set of actions and attitudes. People who demonstrate talent are applying those actions and attitudes; it’s as simple as that.

Studies into the phenomenon of ‘talent’ have found that great ability is the result of a greater engagement in the activity, rather than it being a mysterious gift of the gods. The people who demonstrate ‘talent’ apply themselves to ‘deliberate practice’, a term that researcher Anders Ericsson coined to describe what he was observing, longer and more intently than others. When studying musicians of high ability he found there were no ‘naturals’ (people who just effortlessly rise to the top) and no ‘grinds’  (people who work hard and never achieve). Rather, results were always linked to ‘effort’/commitment. 

But what about Mozart, who was writing music when he was still a child? The fact is that by age six, Mozart had already completed some 3,500 hours of music practice and training, so he was already well on his way to the 10,000 hours required to be considered an ‘expert’. And the experts reckon that the first piece of music he composed that is today considered to be a work of genius was not written until he was 21 years old, by which time he would well and truly have knocked over those 10,000 hours. So much for ‘talent’.

Or perhaps you’re still wondering about those other child prodigies and the possibility that they are reincarnated geniuses? Makes sense to me too, but what really interests me is not using an apparent ‘lack of talent’ as an excuse for not busting through limitations. If you love it and commit to it enough, anything is possible.

The ‘Mastery’ Myth

If you’ve been following my journey you know that I’ve been grappling with the idea of mastery from the outset. My youthful concept of mastery was rather immature – it was kind of Mary Poppins-ish: snap your fingers and things obey… Well, maybe not quite that simplistic, but I was imagining a life where everything always flowed easily. (See the guru myth below…) Over time I’ve realised that mastery is the ability to centre oneself in the face of challenges and difficulties.

Have you seen the film, Wimbledon? I was struck by a comment one character made that tennis pros have to struggle with their undisciplined minds – with negative thoughts while playing, with distractions such as the sight of a pretty girl in the crowd, etc. There I was, thinking that these people were extraordinarily focused and clear and masterful when actually they were engaged in the process of learning how to be focused and clear, and fighting their demons en route… Mastery is a verb, a process, and not a thing we ‘have’ – it’s another nominalisation.

And since we tend to teach what we need to learn, we can guess at a person’s core lessons from their competencies and apparent successes. Dr Demartini refers to this as ‘voids and values’: our ‘voids’, or what appears to be missing in our lives, determine our ‘values’, or what we are most motivated or inspired to achieve/acquire.

The ‘Guru’ Myth

The ‘guru’ myth carries the idea on. You’ve probably heard the expression, ‘If you’re still on earth you’ve got something to learn/master/grow through’. It’s equally true for gurus. It might be something at a much higher level than the rest of us, but it’s still something! Perhaps gurus are developing the ability to manage large-scale admiration – even adoration – and/or criticism without becoming egotistical or corrupt?

Or perhaps the person isn’t a spiritual guru but a very skilful coach, counsellor or teacher of yours whose life should be wonderful on every level because they are so switched on and brilliant, but they’re overweight or they smoke, or you become aware that they appear unable to sustain a long-term relationship of their own or they’ve been flirting with you despite the fact that either you or they are married; or perhaps they have a troubled child or you find that they are impatient/negative/bad-tempered when you get to know them privately vs when they are showing their public face… There will be something that indicates that life is not all rosy for them, and it’s worth looking for that element so that we have a balanced perception of our teachers and leaders. No-one is ‘all good’; we all have a shadow side, and recognising that allows us to put people in our hearts as equals rather than up on pedestals.

The 'Hollywood Romance/Ideal Partner/Soul Mate' Myth

The Hollywood/Disneyland Myth of the ‘Happy ever after’ is one that most people are awake to, much as we might persist in bathing in the dream while watching chick-flicks. We know that a normal, healthy relationship will go through ups and downs; sometimes we’ll argue or even lose interest in each other, but if we keep the lines of communication and caring open, we can work through [almost] any challenge.

But the Myth of the Ideal Partner is more persistent. I used to yearn for that perfect-match-someone until I realised that the person most perfect for me was the one who would cause me to grow the most, rather than the one who would tick most of my boxes (tall, handsome, rich…).  I realised that this person would present me with as many challenges as support; he would be like me in some critical areas and very unlike me in others. That insight has made a huge difference to my sense of fulfilment, completion and gratitude for the relationship I currently have.

While we’re speaking of ideas and ideals, if the Ideal Partner is important to us, we even more deeply love the idea of a Soul Mate, of meeting ‘the One’ – our other half. We love stories about instant recognition of ‘that’ person, of tingling at first touch, of never fighting/always being close, of feeling complete, at ‘home’, of a special psychic connection; perhaps we have heard of the ‘Twin Flame’, that being who is our literal other half from the moment of Creation…

If you’re in a relationship like that, I’d love to hear from you! I’ve heard intriguing stories about these kinds of relationships, including the possibility that one’s soul mate might be a child when we are an adult and yet the pair still experiences that extraordinary connection, but for myself, I’ve settled on the understanding that even if I did meet my divinely appointed Soul Mate/Twin Flame, he still wouldn’t be ‘perfect’ in the only-nice sense, and if all that really mattered was how much I grew in that relationship, then whether he was ‘technically’ my soul mate or not really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’m with someone who loves me, who I love, and who is open to growing with me. And I’m grateful that I’ve got one of those.

Self-Coaching - Listening to our Inner Coach

Have you ever put other people on a pedestal, discounting your own intuition and following their advice rather than your own feelings?

Have you ever assumed that others know more than you about your own business, family, health, life? It’s easily done, isn’t it? Especially when they come with white coats and clipboards and awards and letters after their names and big numbers in their bank accounts.

But perhaps we place excessive amounts of faith in these people. Increasingly I’ve been having my plethora of ‘they-know-better-than-me’ balloons punctured. I blow them up with thoughts like, ‘what do I know?’ and ‘they’ll be able to help me!’ and then find the air leaking out of the balloon when I discover that they don’t exactly know either. They are always doing their best but no-one knows with certainty what is going to work for someone else. At best, others are offering educated guesses.

Billions of dollars are spent in the personal development industry every year, and a big chunk of it goes to coaches. I have no desire to criticise this industry because coaches provide a very valuable service – especially if they are skilled listeners, skilled at strategising, good sounding boards/providers of accountability – but I do want to offer an important check: I want to share with you a reminder I’ve been giving myself to not put others above me; to listen to my own judgement and intuitions and feelings rather than assuming others know better and consequently disconnecting my own inner voice.

My last blog post was about ‘shoulding’ on ourselves. I was giving the poor old ‘should’ a little acknowledgement, a little honouring, because I think we often don’t listen deeply enough to its message. I’ve finally taken action on a long-time should (tidy up my office) and the energy it is freeing up is significant. Granted, the statement feels better as a ‘could’ than a ‘should’ but just paying attention to ‘should’ and responding/taking action immediately transforms the feeling.

I reckon that our Inner Coach is pretty clued in and wise, and if we listen to her/his voice, we might not need to spend quite as much money and time chasing our tails and being confused by others’ perspectives on our business or our health or our relationships. Because ultimately we know best. We know our bodies, we know our values, we know our abilities, we know what sparks us up and what drains us. We actually do have all the answers within, if we would just listen, tune in, pay attention.

This is quite important to me because as a child I put my mother on a pretty high pedestal. She was into meditation and healing and I thought she knew everything. I literally thought that if she was on a plane, that plane wouldn’t crash. When she meditated, she had a sign on the door saying, ‘Please respect my appointment with God’, and I kind of thought that she was in there having a one-on-one with God.

Naturally I figured that any advice she had to offer would be absolutely correct and wise, and so I disconnected my own inner voice and went to her for answers. It was a late, slow and painful process to disconnect from her advice and reconnect to my intuition when, in my twenties, I finally woke up to what I had been doing.

Ever since then, I’ve been on a journey to trust myself. I teach it in my Writing Mastery course – self-trust is one of the key principles behind Overcoming Writer’s Block – and I practised this self-trust when I birthed my twin daughters at home. And now I’m learning to apply it in my business.

I’ve been around the mulberry bush several times with different coaches over the last few years. They are all well-meaning and offer great insights, perspectives and feedback, but I’ve had so many experiences now where I’ve ‘wasted time’ pursuing an angle that wasn’t aligned or productive that I’m beginning to hear the pennies dropping.

Our inner dialogue and feelings can actually be reliable. I remember attending one meeting that resulted in me signing up for a several thousand-dollar membership and feeling so sick right after I had done so, that I literally thought I was going to throw up. I decided to trust my body and withdrew my membership, and instantly felt better. What I later learnt from those who did go ahead with the membership confirmed my decision and confirmed the wisdom of my bodily response.

Other times it’s been my little ‘yes but’ voice that has provided the warning I need. When I was a young struggling mum, I would occasionally share how I felt with a trusted ‘other’ that I felt as if I was failing as a mother, and I’d always be reassured that I was doing a great job and it wasn’t easy, and that was all very nice and encouraging but I was effectively being encouraged to deny my inner voice. That inner voice was expressing doubts about what I was doing and often I really needed to listen to those doubts and change my behaviour. What I actually needed, back then, was for someone to really deeply listen and acknowledge how I was actually feeling so that I could hear the message I was trying to give myself and take appropriate action.

Likewise in business. Over the years I’ve had a stream of coaches and advisors side-stepping my nasty little confessions about myself as if they were smelly turds and rushing to remind me of principles I already knew, when actually what we ‘should’ have been doing was stopping to thoroughly investigate the ‘negative thoughts’ and delve more deeply into their messages for me.

NLP teaches that there are three ‘legs’ for success:

1) Know Your Outcome
2) Have Sensory Acuity (i.e. notice what’s going on around you and within you)
3) Have Behavioural Flexibility (i.e. if what you’re doing isn’t working, change).

It’s possible that these three steps are all we really need on the coaching journey. In the past coaches have taken me off my track because I assumed they knew better than me and I followed blindly, or because we allowed me to fritter the session away on related but not primary issues.

Perhaps all that is needed is to get very clear on our outcome, on what we want to achieve, and then to develop the skills to keep ourselves on track. A coach can certainly help with that, but we do have all the answers we need within ourselves. After all, it’s our pot of gold and our journey.

A year or so ago a prominent speaker made the throwaway comment, ‘You have everything already. Why are you here?’ He went on to persuasively sell his wares but I had been stopped in my tracks. Why was I there? Why was I, yet again, putting someone else’s advice above mine when, as the mystics have told us for aeons, the answers lie within?

I honestly have no intention of discounting coaches. I think they offer a very valuable service and several people are fulfilling this important role in my life right now. I just want to remind myself and you (if the cap fits) to trust yourself, listen within, honour your own feelings and guidance. The truth always lies at the point of balance: a combination of self and other. But use your inner knowing as the final arbiter.

I'm Cured!

Rosemary McCallumMeet Dr Rosemary McCallum, metaphysician, author, speaker, and wise woman. I’ve just enjoyed a few months in her consulting room talking about one of my 'dark little secrets’, and the red-lips-kiss on her cheek is the imprint of my kiss of thanks! (via my blurry photographic unskills…)

Here’s the ‘backstory’:

Over the last few years I’ve achieved quite a lot. I can literally say that I am living my dreams because it was always a dream of mine to have a close-knit, loving family and be a published author, especially one who is popularising universal laws. Tick, tick, tick! 

But I’ve often felt frustrated because it seemed to me that many of my goals were taking forever to be realised. Being a ‘mastery’ author, I often felt embarrassed about this, as if I was somehow failing. I’d compare myself with others and find myself wanting.

As I applied myself to understanding this dynamic, I came to understand that I was resoundingly successful in the areas of my highest values and still in process in the other areas, and that was theoretically okay (though not really because I wanted to be on top of all of it!). I came to understand that we are never ‘off track’ in our lives because every experience is part of the tapestry of our unfolding, and that was theoretically acceptable (though not really because I wanted to be on my preferred track all of the time!).

So when people made comments like, ‘Why don’t you use ‘The Mastery Club’ stuff to achieve your goals?’ I felt offended. What do you think I’m doing? I’d think indignantly. (And secretly I felt embarrassed or ashamed because they were ‘right’; I was clearly failing…)

However when I gave my presentation on the Be Who You Wanna Be Youth Summit on Thursday, I noticed that I was saying all the theory and really believing it!!! And when someone asked me, on Friday, ‘Do you ever wonder why things are taking so long to happen?’ I answered with 100% honesty, ‘I used to but now I know that everything is 100% perfectly on track and unfolding in perfect order and timing, and it always has been.'

I realised that I’m on a long time-frame because I’m birthing a big project. Things haven’t happened as fast as I thought they ‘should’ but, if I’m completely honest, I wouldn’t have been ready for big things before now anyway. I was prioritising being an available mother – now my kids are out in the world doing their own thing and I’m literally free to take off. Previously I knew my books were good and I had lots of offer but I still wasn’t massively confident. I was allowing the fact that it hadn’t all happened yet to undermine me. Now, as my work is being validated over and over again by all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, I’m feeling way more confident and the larger time-frame and perspective is enabling me to see that it was all always on track, I just wasn’t seeing enough of the picture.

I’m relaxing and recognising that I’ve just been in process and that was where I was and this is where I am now and it’s all perfect.

So what does all of this have to do with a kiss for Rosemary? Because, sweetheart that she is, she has ‘held the space’ for me over the last few months as I talked through the places where I felt stuck until I was able to bring ‘all of me’ to this place of recognition of perfection, rather than just my intellect. Hence my (tongue in cheek) declaration when I arrived in her consulting room yesterday: ‘I’m cured!'

And really, there are lots more kisses to award – for Bruce Conrad-Williams, for Tanya Bewicke, for Tim Marlowe, for Dr Demartini, for Rowan Burn – all the people over the last few years who have tried to get me to see that it’s all perfect just as it is. Thanks, guys!

And thanks to me, for hanging in there and teaching what I most needed to learn over and over and over until the penny dropped and I learnt it.

Harnessing 'Should'

- Extract the gold from your pesky inner voices!

You’ve probably had the ‘should’ thought plenty of times – 'I should be more positive/ call my mum/ eat more vegies/ be more patient/ get more exercise/ be nicer to so-and-so', etc. If you’ve been playing in the personal development arena, you know that ‘should’ is a dirty word. You might even have been told, ‘Don’t should on yourself’. Great advice.

But do you sometimes think, ‘Yes, but that ‘should’ voice is right! It’s telling me things that I know I should do, that I actually want to do, if I could just get myself to do them…’?

Dr John Demartini has created a model that links our internal voices with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and with different layers of the brain. He correlated the lowest survival levels in Maslow’s model with the most primitive parts of our brain and with language like ‘have to’ and ‘must’, and the highest levels of self-actualisation with the most evolved parts of our brain and language like ‘would love to’ – a thought-provoking set of correlations.

He also claims that ‘should’ indicates an external voice that we’ve internalised such that it is now imposing its values on us, eg. the voice of a parent or other authority figure. In my view, it’s neither here nor there whether the values were originally your parent’s or yours, the point is that if you own them now, they are yours. The more important question is, Why are my values expressing through that pesky, critical ‘should’ tone of voice?

Here’s my theory: I reckon that ignoring one of our values causes it to be ‘pushed down’ – down that hierarchy to the lower, more primitive levels of consciousness. So it’s still one of our values but has become a nagging voice that is tiredly trying to remind us to do the thing we claim we want to do.

The remedy, therefore, is to reconnect with that particular value and reinstate it higher up the priority list. Let me give you an example. My office has been a disastrous mess for longer than I care to confess. At one stage I displayed Einstein’s quote to comfort myself: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?’ but even that message got lost in the piles…It was time to do something about my desk months ago – actually, years ago. So the voice grew weary and naggy, and I became rather expert at reframing my messy desk and shoving that voice deeper and deeper into the dark, shadowy depths of my unconsciousness.

Until I read a wonderful book by David Allen called Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, in which he so clearly respects and understands the vast abundance of competing demands on our lives today that something inside me relaxed. I felt heard. I felt that he understood how much of a mess I was in and he wasn’t judging me for it. He really understood, and furthermore, he had helped other people get through this overwhelming place and create order out of chaos.

I was so encouraged and inspired that I have begun to apply his system and now my desk presents a neat collection of labelled trays rather than the disaster area of notes and papers and brochures etc. that it was before. I’m not even nearly finished implementing my new system but the whole issue feels so much more manageable now that I know it’s possible. I’m confident that I will achieve it if I just keep plugging away.

This long-overdue tidying was possible when I stopped burying that 'orderly office' value and started valuing it again; started raising it in my system of values from something I should-do-but-can’t-seem-to-get-around-to, to something I really wanted to do and am now (wow!) even loving doing.

I’m working on another of my ‘shoulds’ at the moment. I’ll share how that one is going down the track… More power to you with yours!

Divine Order in Philomena - Spoiler Alert!!!

If you haven't yet seen the movie, Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, you might not want to read this blog, but if you have, and you found your heart strings tugged by the young mother's pain in having her toddler ripped away from her and adopted out against her will, then you might find this blog useful.

I went to see the movie a few days ago with my mother, and we were both deeply moved by it. As films go, it's well constructed, brilliantly acted, and beautiful to watch. As a true story, it's all the more poignant. A teenage girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the 50s is shunned by her family and sent to an abbey to give birth, after which her child is raised by the nuns – the young mothers are only given one hour a day with their children – and soon adopted out. Philomena loves her child fiercely but has no say in any of this because she has 'sinned'. Near the end of the movie she – spoiler alert! – expresses her forgiveness to the 'evil nun' who orchestrated the arrangement.

As we drove home from the cinema, my mother and I discussed the movie and how we felt about it. I explained that the concept of  forgiveness that inspires me is not so much the 'superior' position where we forgive someone who has wronged us, but the appreciative position where we can genuinely say, 'thank you for giving me this experience' – because we recognise the divine order at work. 

That's my philosophy but I felt a bit wobbly declaring that because my own heart strings/attachment to my children etc. had been pretty vigorously affected. As I reflected on the film in the hours afterward, my emotions settled down and I saw the core principle at work.

Firstly we have to remember that 'divine order' isn't equal to 'human order'; it's not about 'happiness' or human concepts of fairness, it's about evolution.

The principle at work in Philomena is that dictators arise where people are disempowered. We can say that this isn't nice but the point is for the people to empower themselves and subsequently unseat the dictator.

In this case the dictators were the nuns and society's narrow-minded thinking, and young Philomena played her part – she gave her power away to her parents, society's voices, and the nuns. Granted, this was because she was ignorant – she literally didn't know better, but this is the whole point of evolution: we begin with a certain set of limitations and we grow beyond them.

The order is here: Philomena's pain, which she felt every day for over 50 years, slowly erodes her blind faith in the church and society's rules, empowering her to make her own decisions. We see this crack in her belief system when she reveals her conundrum – she believes she has been rightfully punished for her carnal sin in having pre-marital sex, but gradually she realises she is also sinning by lying about what happened. This internal conflict comes to a head when she walks out of a confessional without speaking and doesn't make the sign of the cross as she leaves the church. She is taking her power back from the church but it has taken her 50 years to grow into being able to do so. 

This growth is the divine order at work because her soul needed to grow in this way more than it needed to keep the baby… who had a much richer life with the adoptive parents – i.e. more opportunity – than with a stigmatised, single mother in the 40s who had no means of supporting them. There's no guarantee he would have been happier with his biological mother even though, watching the movie, we might all nostalgically think so because she clearly loves him so much. My own mother has rejected one of her daughters in adulthood – there's no telling what might have occurred in Philomena's relationship with her son as their lives together unfolded.

Another form of growth for Philomena in this story was her character growth. She didn't indulge in bitterness or revenge, and she developed quite an extraordinary degree of poise and self-control. I recently watched a TED talk featuring a lesbian woman who daily receives a flood of hate mail. Her poise and centeredness and self-acceptance in the face of all this hatred is incredibly inspiring, and herein lies the divine order: our challenging experiences offer us profound opportunities to grow.

NB. It's worth recognising, however, that while the son avoids being brought up by a stigmatised mother, he then recreates this dynamic in his own life because – spoiler alert! – he becomes a homosexual who eventually dies young of AIDS.

Also emerging out of this prejudiced 50s scenario was social welfare and more enlightened attitudes. Where people are disempowered dictators arise to frustrate the people into reclaiming their power:

"In any area of your life that you don't empower, you will attract people who will overpower you. You are not a victim of their over-empowerment. You are just attracting over-empowerment by your very nature, to get you to raise the value of that area and empower it. The so-called victimisation is actually giving you the opportunity to realise where you are not empowered, to frustrate you enough to get you empowered." - Dr John Demartini, The Values Factor pp 383-4. [My bold.]

I arrived at this realisation spontaneously some ten years ago when I realised that my partner's depression and lack of involvement in our family were valuable agents provoking me into valuing myself more and taking action on what was important to me.

Another example is that we perceive slavery to be cruel and horrible but slaves have inevitably devalued themselves and given their power away, so they are co-creators of their situation; as they reclaimed their power in the USA, they have risen to the point where their (previously) prejudiced country elected a black president.

Healing is never complete until cause and effect are united; until we see our role in creating the problem and respond responsibly. 

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