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Blog # 1: June 2015

"Writing a Self-Improvement Album!"

So, the songs on BGreat were written whilst I trained as a Life Coach (with the Irish Lifecoach Institute, see www.ili.ie), read heaps of inspirational books, mingled with my fellow trainees and began to coach real-life clients. That period of my life changed everything for me, from the inside out.

The following thoughts give some background to each of the songs and are either a companion to BGreat, for those who downloaded it, (in the old days it would have been a little booklet inside the CD cover) or just my reflections on my journey down life's winding road.

I am, of course, still very much a work-in-progress and don't dare to suggest that I have all the answers, but every day I learn a bit more, every day I strive to Be Great.

Comments/Contributions etc. most welcome, email Sullivan@live.ie here is iTunes link to Be Great http://itunes.apple.com/album/id965448738

  • The Good Stuff (Written September 2014)

 

Looking back I reckon I spent a lot of my life trying to control things, trying to control “Life, The Universe and Everything”, in fact. And it’s pretty tiring, not to mention fruitless. After all The Universe is pretty big and kind of has a mind of its own.

So on the course we read Deepak Chopra, Martha Beck and many others and nearly all these writers seemed to agree about the importance of trust, of going with the flow. Slowly I began to let things happen. I started to let the world in.

Of course just letting things happen was not easy for me, I had always been taught, and had come to believe, that you had to fight tooth and nail for everything in life, that was how I survived.

But living like that has its limitations, you survive alright, but you do not fly. I think you are weighed down, too heavy to take off, no matter how long the runway is!

My own wonderful coach, Marian, suggested I keep a “trust” diary to make sure I noticed how often good things happened. It was amazing to note how often the right thing came along at the right time, how seemingly unconnected bits of "good luck" seemed to happen, if I let them.

Even if I was sceptical at first I had to admit “The Good Stuff” kept flooding on in and still does. My “trust” muscle seems to be growing in strength.

 

  • A Present Called Today (Written December 2013)

 

When I read Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” I wondered had he been following me around all my life, had he private access to the inside of my worried head.

Because, despite my cheerful facade, (and boy did I have good camouflage) I did have a worried old head. I spent vast portions of my life fretting about things that could happen in the future, and weirdly, these things were rarely good.

In the world of my imagination I would go bankrupt, lose my home; fail in whatever it was I was doing. Even in supposed fun things, like sport, I found it hard to stay in the moment, I worried about what was going to happen next. The ball was already on its way into the lake. (By the way for non-golfers, a ball in the lake is not good!)

When training as coaches we spent a lot of time role playing, being "guinea pig" clients for one another as each tried to be “the coach”. These sessions meant being truly present and really listening to one another, totally focussing on the other person, putting your own thoughts, feelings and judgements aside. Listening not just to the words but noticing the tone of voice, paying attention to the body language.

For the “clients” it was a wonderful, and liberating experience to realise you were really being listened to, really being understood. But for the “coach” there was also a great reward.

This act of being totally present, of listening at a deep level was a gateway to another universe. Because if I totally concentrate on someone else I cannot be listening to those voices in my head, I cannot be wondering about what is going to happen at some point in the future. And if I can ignore those voices and fears when listening to you I can do it at other times too, I can be truly present in other moments of my life. All I need to do is to concentrate on the time I am living in.

So I gave myself a present. A present called the present. That moment walking in the hills. The taste of that cup of coffee. That precious time with my loved ones. I am there, actually there, not “half there” whilst the other half of my brain wonders have I left the gas on at home.

The experience was, and is, wonderful, freeing and enlightening. I grab these “one time moments” eagerly, I am grabbing one now. Today.

 

  • You Got It (Written April 2015)

I always wanted to be a little bit taller, I don’t know why. I am 5’11’’ which is tall enough, no one ever called me “shorty”. At times I have wanted loads of other things too; money (still do, ha, ha) fame (I admit it!) and, of course, approval. I chased things that I thought would make me happy.

Of course none of these things are enough. Even if you do get them the feeling of satisfaction in fleeting. Before the dust has settled you are of chasing the next big thing.

But somewhere deep down I began to realise that I actually am ok. The words of Miguel Dom Riuz in the “Four Agreements” ring so true to me. I let go of judgement of myself, stopped beating myself up, or at least I do it way less. I “Stop Taking Things Personally” as the book says.

Years of searching and it all came back to a simple fact, actually we have what we need. It’s not out there somewhere, it is inside. It’s right in the palm of your hand. (Bah, ba, ba, baa!)



  • This Is What I Do (Written Jan 2015)

Ok, you wouldn’t need a troop of mystics to understand this one; business suit gets set on fire as wild guitar man finally gets set free; well, almost.

But isn’t it amazing how we fall into a path in life? How we make (or even don’t make) random decisions at 18 or 19 years of age and set our course for life? How hard it is to change that course once set.

I recently coached a client who was struggling with a career change, leaving steady job after 20 plus years because he had come to hate it, going in to work in the morning filled him with dread.

His family and friends piled fears on top of his natural nervousness. Some well-meaning colleague even came up with the quote “why jump out of a ship that’s not sinking?” The poor client, who told me that he completely hated his job, was stuck. He hated what he was doing but was afraid to change.

Well, another question might be; “What if your ship is going in the wrong direction?” Or; “What if the ship is headed for a tornado, a tornado inside your head?”

If you really know deep down where your true path lies I believe you have to follow that path. If you know what your “North Star” is (Martha Beck again) you have got to find it.

Oh, and by the way, I am scared too. Reading the words of “This is What I Do” terrifies me, and I wrote it!

But in the end….. “A Man’s Got To Do What a Man’s Got To Do.” You can’t beat toffee commercials for the really good quotes.

 

  • Finding Your Own North Star (Written February 2014)

 

So fourteen of us enter a hotel room in West Dublin for a Life Coaching Course. We start as complete strangers, each coming from a totally different background. But, as happens sometimes, the group gels, we learn, we laugh, we cry, we laugh some more (Jean usually the culprit)…together.

I had come on the course (which was recommended to me on a golf course!), because I liked helping people, had coached football etc and thought I could be pretty motivational. Day one changed everything, my life in fact, because I realised that it (coaching) was “NOT ABOUT ME”. It was about the person I was coaching, or just listening to. Whether I was a motivational guru or not did not matter, my job was to be there for the other person.

So we did the exercises, read the books and had plenty of role play. We spent the best part of a year listening to one another, really listening, learning how remarkable each one of us was in our own way. Real friendships grew.

Of course one of the books we read was “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. To say the book had a major impact on me would be a massive understatement. It is the reason I am typing this piece now. Read it now, that is an order!

So this little song is my take on our shared experience, which was, for me, life changing. When Adrian of the ILI (see ili.ie) asked me to sing the song at our graduation it was a tremendous honour. The reception the song got will stay with me always. Maybe there was a bit of a clue in there about my own “North Star”??

 

  • Everybody’s Heart (Written January 2014)

So, as M. Scott Peck says in “The Road Less Travelled”, life is difficult. We all know that. We see friends becoming ill, we bury our parents, relationships end, we fret about our children’s happiness. I believe that deep down most of us feel alone, out there in a desert.

But everything I have seen in life brings me to one conclusion, the human spirit prevails. People overcome terrible pain and suffering. Even the most outwardly fearful person is brave. And if you fall in the street many hands will come to your aid, unless it is 3am and you have had fifteen vodkas. When the “you-know-what” hits the fan people around you are amazing.

So “Call me a Cock-Eyed Optimist” (you can’t beat Rogers and Hammerstein for deep and meaningful) but I think mostly we get there in the end. We find our way, even if at times the night seems endless.

As a friend once said to me, “Your darkest hour is only sixty minutes long!” I still don’t know what that means, but it sounds good!!

 

  • What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? (Written January 2015) 

This is a real “Coachy” type question and was posed at one of our post-course get togethers (by Ger, I think, or was it Francesca?). The idea of the question is to push back the boundary a little, get you thinking beyond what you would normally do.

Overcoming fear seems to be one of the great challenges we all face. Fear limits our expectation, our performance and even our activity. It is easier not to try than to go out on a limb and risk "failure", whatever that is!

I attended a seminar hosted by James Sweetman in January (visit: www.jamessweetman.com) where many questions like the one above were posed and at times I was more afraid of my answers than the questions, there were so far beyond my comfort zone. Fear can be engrained in us so deeply we don’t even know it’s there.

But maybe this fear factor is not as powerful as we think. After all, we create it in our own heads, so we can also destroy or ignore it, after all it is just a feeling. It is not real.

So, go on, ask me, I know you want to; “So, Smarty Pants, what would you do Donal, if you weren’t afraid?” Well..........you are reading it....this. Mind you I did take a wee while to get me going, but here it is, so there.

 

  • Be Great  (Written January 2015)

 

So, in the end, this is what we are after. And I don’t mean great as in you paint the Sistine Chapel or spilt the atom, great is just being the best version of you possible, and most importantly, feeling great!

For some reason I can’t fathom I have always believed that everyone has the ability to be great, in fact many of us already are and we just don’t know it.

The only problem with greatness is that it seems to lie beyond our comfort zone. If you are happy where you are just now, brilliant, but if not I think you may have to jump out of that comfortable little place you find yourself in. And is it that comfortable at all? Probably not.

Somewhere deep within I think we all know our perfect path, our special thing that makes us unique. Not to give expression to that part of you can eat you up, I know it, it’s like your true self is nudging you…”Do more, go for it, go on…” Your true self wants only the best for you, only greatness.

So, be great, be who you are, you were born to shine your light. I am reaching for my light right now.... feck....it’s just beyond my comfort zone.

 

Donal O’Sullivan June 2015

                                                                                                     

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