While I was attending Robert Holden’s 5-day Happiness Coaching Certification in New York in November 2011, (http://www.happiness.co.uk/) I had an experience that shifted my life. Robert would frequently draw names from a hat (literally – he had a metal top hat with the names of all the attendees in it) to participate in an exercise that the rest of us would witness.
On the fourth day as he was drawing a name, the paper with the name on it fell on the floor. I was sitting close to the front of the room, and I had the thought “that’s my name.” It was confirmed when a member of Robert’s team, picked the paper up and as she handed it to Robert I could read her lips saying “She has the same name as my daughter.” She and I had talked earlier in the week about this.
I was excited and terrified at the same time. I had been wanting, hoping, to be called all week, and now was my time. I had huge performance anxiety to be doing something – I didn’t know what yet – in front of these hundred people. What if I got it wrong? What if my mind went blank?
I gave myself permission to just do and say whatever came for me, and not to force it or worry about if it was right or not. I also used another attendee as a model. Just the day before she had been part of an exercise, and as Robert asked her a question, she stood silently for quite a long time before responding. Her courage in not allowing herself to be pressured and to wait for the answer gave me permission, and my own courage, to do the same.
Robert had laid ten pieces of paper on the floor, each with a percentage written on them from 10% to 100%. He asked me to step on the piece of paper that represented how authentic I am in my life, generally. In my head I heard the number 70, so I chose 70%. So far so good, trusting my inner voice and this was pretty easy!
Robert asked why I chose 70%, and I said “Because that’s what the voice in my head said.” Fair enough. He asked me to move to the space between 70% and 80%, which represented 75% and asked me what would be different if I was 75% authentic. I don’t remember what I said, much of the experience is something of a blur and all runs together. He then asked me if I would commit to be 75% authentic.
I said that I could commit to try, and he asked me why I couldn’t commit to doing. I didn’t know how it was related, but what popped into my head was that everything can always be improved. If there is a survey that gives a choice of rating something on a scale of 1 to 5, I will always choose 4, even if there is nothing obvious that needs to be better. Robert told me that he had the same issue, and his team could attest to that.
I realized that my criticality and judgment of others as not quite good enough, was really a judgment of myself that I projected outwards. As we were having this conversation, I remembered that the Smile card (Smile cards were passed out each morning, and contained a word that we could use as our focus that day) I had drawn that morning was “Wholeness.” Everything fell into place in an instant. I saw that I was whole, that I was already perfect, and if there were areas in my life where I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be that said nothing about my wholeness.
I realized that as I rested in my authenticity, in my perfection as a soul, that all was well. I truly felt this in my heart for the first time. Something fundamental shifted in me that I can only explain as moving from holding and believing the concept of wholeness in my head, to experiencing and embodying wholeness in my heart.
Robert went on to talk about his own feeling of not being good enough, and shared that he sometimes wondered why he couldn’t have been Deepak Chopra, whom he admires greatly. Just the night before I was thinking about why I couldn’t be Robert Holden! In that moment I realized the gift of who each of us is uniquely, and that we each have our own path, none of which is more valuable than another. I felt calm and centered knowing that I didn’t need to compare myself to anyone else.
As I moved to the next higher percentage paper, Robert asked how my being more authentic would affect those around me. I felt a surge of emotion as I realized that my internal perfectionism – my lack of acceptance of my wholeness – had impacted my son in ways I had never intended.
I had been very conscious of not being a critical mother. I tried very hard to be supportive of my son. I now saw that by being critical of myself, and of others even though this may not have been spoken, I had created an atmosphere of judgment and comparison. I felt terrible that I had actually created the environment I had tried so hard to avoid. For the first time I saw how my internal state could affect those around me, and in ways that were the opposite of what I wanted.
I had struggled with perfectionism my entire life, and wanted nothing more than for my son to not have that same struggle. However, I had seen that from an early age this was an issue for him, too. I now felt responsibility for creating that. Robert comforted and consoled me with the perspective that my son is part of my “soul class.” That we are here to learn lessons with one another and his perfectionism is one of his own life lessons.
This idea helped me to see that by being more authentic going forward I can be a model for my son. He may choose to see that and avoid some of the struggles I have had, or he may not. That his own path for this life.
I cannot tell you how much this exercise – that lasted perhaps thirty minutes – affected my entire life. Everything has changed for me, in every aspect of my life. When I am struggling, I remember having that experience of knowing my own wholeness and perfection and I can be there again.
It has shifted my world view of others, and clarified my life purpose. I know that others are whole, too, and my interactions with them are now based on this perspective. In the past I had identified my life purpose as sharing my knowledge and wisdom with others for the benefit of their growth, while continuing to learn and grow myself. Now I see this applied to a more specific life purpose of helping people to be happier through living a more authentic life (myself included).