By Kathleen Kolze
At 35,000 feet over Lake Michigan, the clouds resemble the whipped non-fat foam that topped the vente, Komoto Dragon blend Starbucks I had just finished before boarding. This analogy isn’t one I’d easily make up if I weren’t looking out the plane window on my way to Westchester County. However, I do make stuff up. Like “These jeans make me look like a barn” or “Those Smiths down the street have it all together” or “I couldn’t possibly __________, I’m too _______ (fill in the blanks).” You get the idea. This line of thinking, this making it up, is both conscious and unconscious.
Most of us make up negative beliefs that go against our desires. These made-up thoughts turn into invented realities. And guess what? We end up believing our own crap!
Test this out on yourself. Notice where or how you make up stuff in your life. Right now, consider the attitudes, judgments, and decisions you make based on nothing other than your own self talk. For an example, years ago I made up that I could never change careers because my degree was in Computer Science and I led a global technology team. I figured I was stuck in the field, destined to work crazy hours, and be away from my husband, kids, and dogs. This was my lot in life. I made up that a decision at 18 years old was the only course of action I could take for my career. My made-up brain conversations told me technology leadership was the only option I had to support my family, maintain health benefits, advance in my career … you get the point.
Now, it was a good decision for me as a college freshman to major in Computer Science. Granted, I had a successful career, but I could change, I didn’t have to be stuck. This epiphany to search broader than my initial degree struck me after my son, age 6, took the bus home with his friends in first grade instead of staying at after school care. He was greeted by a locked door and an empty house. Guilt? Yes indeed.
Most of us are experts in making up stuff that works against us. The challenge is to notice. Once you start to notice your behavior and thoughts you can, in fact, make a choice to change them.
You can make stuff up for your benefit. Dreaming up ways to reach your goals works wonders. You don’t have to be right or smart or use reality to make stuff up. You simply just imagine. Earlier this year I was coaching a talented executive, “Catrina”, who felt trapped. Her problem was too big, too hard, too stressful. And of course, Catrina was too busy and didn’t have enough hours in the day to think. This conundrum resonates with many of us. As her coach, I have full permission to speak my mind and give a different perspective. Also as her coach, I know I don’t have her answers — she does. To prompt her toward a solution to her heavy, horrid problem, I simply asked, “What if you made it up?”
There was a deafening silence on the phone. This fine over-achiever, who planned, measured and calculated every step of her life with precision was introduced to a new possibility, unchartered waters. The seconds of silence clicked by slowly as we sat in our offices, miles apart and completely connected over the phone. I waited, willing myself patient. It was me now, holding my breath, starting with my own negative self-talk about what a lousy coach I am. Then, Catrina broke the quiet. “Well, if I made it up,” she said, her energy bursting through the headset, “I’d simplify our project approach, change the deliverable dates in our plan, delegate the finance piece, cancel that damn trip to Hong Kong, and institute a bi-weekly cross functional meeting.”
Resisting the urge to say is that all? I held myself quiet. Then Catrina laughed. This wonderful, driven woman, laughed. “You know, Kathleen, I don’t actually have to make it up at all. I can do all those things.”
Making it up can break down self-imposed barriers. Whatever “it” is for you. When you release yourself from the pressure of needing to have all the answers, to be right, the perfect experiences, enough money – the list goes on– you have permission to imagine possibilities. These possibilities uncover options. Options give you choice on what you can opt to do, or not do, in your life.
The challenge? Next time you’re faced with a dilemma, experiment with making up a solution. It just might work!
LB: Kathleen Kolze, who lives in Lake Zurich, IL, published her novel, What If You Made It Up? in March. It’s an eclectic story about how we all make stuff up for good… or not so good, set in the wilds of Wyoming. The heroine, Eva, a life coach, finds herself immersed in the complexities of a small town filled with mystery, romance and the option for adventure! Find it in paperback and ebook on Amazon, BN, or order through your favorite indie book store. Visit her website www.kathleenkolze.com. When not writing, coaching, working in talent management or ballroom dancing, Kathleen experiments with cooking and the joys of using too much garlic and olive oil!