week I want to tell you about a concept I learned from a wonderful book The Magician’s Way: What It Really Takes to Find Your Treasure by William Whitecloud.

The Story in a Nutshell

In this book, which is the story of a man who was very much “in the box,” Whitecloud offers a unique way of thinking about his version of this concept. I won’t tell you the whole story, but it starts off with a golf lesson, of all things.

Mark, the main character, wants to be a good golfer but despite many lessons and much practice has not achieved his goal. In fact he has pretty much given up on lessons. What gets him taking one more lesson is that his friend says not only will it will improve his golf… this lesson will improve his whole life. Well who wouldn’t in on an invitation like that!

On the way to the lesson, in true “in the box fashion,” Mark mentally reviewed all the lessons he had taken and how useless they have been. In fact, he promised himself he wouldn’t tolerate another session of correcting his grip, his stance and focusing on all his mistakes… It was just too frustrating and humiliating to even think about.

Much to his surprise, Steve, the coach, is a very easy going and friendly guy and just asks him to hit a few balls, nice and easy. Mark steps up to the ball, checks his stance, his grip, thinks about all the things you are supposed to do and hits the ball. Not good. After a few more shots, all with the same results, the coach asks Mark,

“What were you aiming at?”

Mark said, “Nothing – I was concentrating on hitting a good shot.”

“Well there you go. That’s why you don’t play good golf,” says Steve.

What Mark eventually discovers is when he is focusing on hitting the ball well, he doesn’t!  It’s like he is standing inside “a circle,” which contains all the things golfers believe they have to do right in order to have a good shot. The truth is you’ll never make a good shot standing inside this circle, focusing on all the things you need to do. The key is to focus on the target—the goal—and then let your natural ability flow. Needless to say it takes a bit of convincing for Mark to believe this, but by the end of the lesson he is hitting beautiful shots, even blindfolded.

Putting It Into Practice

So let’s map this over to everyday life. How often have you been in “the circle,” trying to do something really well, only to have the results turn out poorly or less than your best? I can think of lots of situations, even very ordinary ones like baking a cake for a special occasion. I could have made the recipe many times, but suddenly I am really focusing, in order to have it be terrific, and what happens? It’s not. I’m caught in the circle, or in the box, trying and putting in extra effort, which ends up being counter-productive. We can’t access the flow when we are in the “the circle.”

The other piece of wisdom I want to share from the book is what to do when you are outside of the circle, and also find yourself on the outside of your comfort zone. This could include lots of situations like being in a different culture, being with a roomful of strangers, having to give a speech, or perform in front of an audience, just to name a few.

After Mark’s amazing golf/life lesson he is on fire and wants to learn more. He meets with another teacher who puts him to several situations where he’s not comfortable. What emerges is his pattern of resolving stress: running away, or getting mad and starting to blame. Pretty familiar patterns, don’t you think?

As soon as Mark feels out of place he wants to leave the situation, or find a way to “disappear.” Alcohol is one of the ways Mark tries to ease his discomfort, but what he learns is that none of his “coping” strategies really work. They don’t help him address his fears, just avoid them.

Think of the situations you find uncomfortable. What if those were the situations that held the key for you gaining more confidence and power? What if those situations were pure “gold” in terms of what they could bring you? When we reduce stress by avoiding the situation we return to our comfort zone or place of equilibrium. This doesn’t help us at all. We will never get stronger or feel more confident, and the list of situations we don’t “like” will keep growing.

This next week why not pay attention to situations that “make you feel uncomfortable,” and instead of doing your usual pattern of avoidance, stay in your discomfort and take a deep breath. Keep focusing on your breathing until you can connect with your heart. Ask yourself: “Are my thoughts are from my heart? Are my actions coming from my heart? Is the outcome coming from my heart?” As soon as you connect authentically with your heart, things will change, you will be out of the “circle” or “the box,” and options will open up.

In Whitecloud’s book, Mark learns The 7 Secrets of Magic. Do you want to know what they are? You’ll have to read the book to find out…

magicianswaybookHave a great week exploring how much you can gain from any situation you find uncomfortable. Next week, I’ll be talking about “Upper Limits” which is perfect next topic as you’ll be ready to push through the limits in the things you explore this week.