Be Great, Lessons from Life
My version of a Self-Improvement Album in song.
Each Song is a Lesson that life has thought me.
Available on iTunes, Napster, Amazon, Spotify etc
Here are some thoughts to go with the songs…………
The Good Stuff:
Life’s Lesson: Open your heart and mind, the good stuff will flood in.
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 believed that you had to fight tooth and nail for everything in life. That was how I had survived for fifty years, 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 help me believe that I could relax a bit and go with the flow.
And it was amazing to note how often the right thing came along at the right time, even if I was sceptical at first. I would need a piece of business and the phone would ring. I would look after someone and someone else would look after me. Strange coincidences had this weird habit of happening just when I needed them.
Yes “The Good Stuff” kept flooding on in and still does. My “trust” muscle seems to be growing in strength, sit back and let yours do its work.
A Present Called Today
Life’s Lesson: Live your life today, focus on now, stay in the present.
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. Little problems became huge problems as I tossed and turned at night.
Even in supposed fun things, like sport, I found it hard to stay in the moment, I worried about what was going to happen. The ball was already on its way into the lake. (By the way for non-golfers, a ball in a lake is not good!)
But gradually I began to learn how to be truly present. How to totally be in a moment, how to ignore the internal voices that were stealing the present moment from under my feet. I found myself walking along, smiling; enjoying the moment.
So give yourself a present. A present called the present. That moment walking in the hills. The taste of that cup of coffee. That precious time with your loved ones. Be fully there, actually there, not “half there” whilst the other half of your brain wonders have you left the gas on at home.
The experience is, wonderful, freeing and enlightening. Grab these “one time moments” eagerly, are you grabbing one now? Today.
Joy in Your Life
Life’s Lesson: Our purpose in life is surely not just to find joy (happiness), it must be to spread that joy around as you go.
A friend of mine used to say that we could make ourselves happy or unhappy in almost any situation. I think that is a bit simplistic, but there is a grain of truth in there too. We all know people who are never happy and seem to seek out misery, and others who are always positive, even when the chips are down.
Deep down I believe that we can find joy in the simplest of things; we have all seen children playing with the box the expensive toy came in. For me a walk in the Wicklow Hills is a bucket full of free therapy and good for the soul. Joy can be found in the wagging tail of a puppy or just having a really good laugh.
I also believe that if you seek out joy you may well find it and if you go out looking for trouble, well, you may get that too. Over the years I have found myself steering away from people who do not seek out joy, those who rejoice in misery.
Spreading positivity is the easiest way to have a pleasant day, and it’s fun! You try spending a day spreading whatever joy you can, you might even surprise yourself.
Life’s Lesson: We can all be great in our own way. In fact we already are!
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 that oft-mentioned 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 mine right now, feck, it’s just beyond my comfort zone.
Finding Your Own North Star
Life’s Lesson: You must head towards your destiny, your own unique destiny.
One of the books we read when training as coaches 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!
I believe that one of the main theories in Martha Beck’s brilliant book is that we know deep down where our true path lies; we have an unerring sense of what is right for us, even if it is uncomfortable. When we are heading the right direction we know it, even if everyone else thinks we have lost the plot.
Of course no one says that the journey towards your “North Star” is likely to be an easy one. As Neale Donald Walsch puts it: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
To reach your “North Star” you will have to overcome fears and “failures”. Things will go wrong. To keep going you will have to believe in yourself.
A friend of mine recently “came out”, admitted that she was gay, not that that is any big deal nowadays. But the interesting thing is the affect this revelation has had on her; she is now a completely different person, relaxed, happy, at peace. I guess she is heading in the right direction in her personal life.
So where is your “North Star”? Are you heading towards it? You know you want to.
The Way to Heal
Life’s Lesson: We heal and the human spirit prevails
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 at times, 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!!
I think you will find your way to heal your pain; that is what we humans do best.
You’ve Got It
Life’s Lesson: You have everything you need to be great and happy.
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 approval. I chase things that I think will 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!)
So stop beating yourself up. You have everything you need. You are great.
What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?
Life’s Lesson: Well, what would YOU do?
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 fail than to go out on a limb.
I attended a seminar where many such questions 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 if you weren’t afraid?” Well, you are reading it. Mind you I did take a wee while to get me going, but here it is, so there, and right back at you….”What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid????????????”
The Coach’s Song (It’s Not About Me)
Life’s Lesson: If you really listen to someone, with total focus and without judgement they will feel valued and you (the listener) will gain so much too!
I started training as a coach because I liked to help people and believed that I could be inspirational at times; ok, I admit it! After all I had been a football coach, trained sales people and so on.
The first day of my training changed that perspective completely and opened me up to a whole new world, the world of listening.
Most of the time we don’t listen at all. We simply nod our heads and wait for that moment to come in with our better and funnier story. Or we leap in with our answers to our friend’s problem, which may be an attempt to help but there is a big drawback; because we are formulating our solution in our heads as they are talking, we stop really listening.
So my training taught me to listen, not just to the words but to the tone, to watch the body language, to hear the emotion in the story. To ask questions relevant to that story, to seek to understand.
If you really listen the speaker will feel valued and understood. They will amaze you and themselves. They will solve problems, have insights and be creative in their thinking. They will feel great and you will realise that they are exactly that; great.
You may find an unexpected bonus if you listen at this level. Because to do so you need to be totally present in the moment. You cannot be listening to the nagging little voices in your own head (you know the ones I mean).
And if you can turn off those voices while listening to a friend maybe you can turn them off at other times too. Perhaps you will learn to get out of your own way just like you are getting out of the way of your friend who needs to talk?
So listening for me is the ultimate win/win. Try it out for an hour with your significant other, they might be even more wonderful than you think.
Making a Difference
Life’s Lesson: We can all make a positive impact on those around us if we choose to. Sometimes in the simple, yet significant ways.
Over the course of my life I have been very lucky to meet some amazing people who have had a major positive influence on me. My English teacher at school who encouraged me to write, my grandmother who had the knack of making everybody think that they were her favourite and several other family members/friends/colleagues.
I also find it interesting that someone relatively minor in your life can have quite a big impact, sometimes a word of encouragement from a stranger can mean an awful lot. The funny thing is that to be the one who spreads the good word is not difficult at all.
Many of the people who have impressed me most have had ordinary lives, on the face of it. I know someone who has battled with illness/disability for thirty years with a quiet dignity and sense of humour. I know someone else who very privately helps those battling drug addiction without any expectation or need of recognition.
I think these individuals are the real heroes. To live a life where you make a positive impact on those around you is to live a life of purpose. So I try in my own small way to bring sunshine rather than doom and gloom with me as I go. It’s not always easy but you feel so much better when you have lent a helping hand or spoken a word of encouragement, or even just said “thank you” with a smile.
Making a difference is another win/win because in doing so you also make a difference in your own heart.
This Is What I Do
Life’s Message: Accept yourself as you are. You know deep down what that is.
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 and his family and friends piled fears and worries 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, the question might really 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 the blooming song!
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.
Be Gentle (A Meditation)
Life’s Lesson: Just sit back, take a few minutes to really relax. Listen and let go.
My significant other on hearing this song promptly said, “You need to listen to those words yourself,” which was a compliment of sorts, I think.
We all get caught up with worries and fears. Sleepless nights, sweaty palms, illogical thoughts all seem to be part of the human condition.
So, every once in a while, we (or should I say “I” if “you know who” is to be believed) need to stop. We need to have a time out. A time out of our minds.
I am sure anyone reading this who meditates on a regular basis will tell of the benefits. Just to shut down your rational, thinking mind for a half an hour is so energizing, so freeing.
For those who don’t meditate I wouldn’t get too fixated on the word “meditation.” I am not even sure if this little piece of music qualifies under the meditation rules, whatever they are??
But I do know one thing for certain, modern life can be very stressful. We have schedules, money worries, families to care for, traffic to sit in and so on.
So this little song at the end of my album is my modest attempt to give you some peace and some space. I hope you enjoy it.
I hope you end up feeling GREAT. Thanks for listening, reading, just being there.
Copyright Donal O’Sullivan February 2016
Heart-felt thanks to:
- Adrian Mitchell and Marian Byrne, my wonderful tutors at the ILI.
- My fellow students in Finnstown House
- The clients I had the honour of coaching
- My family for all the support and for listening to me.
- Chris O’Sullivan for album Illustrations and design.
Recommended Reading (influences)
- The Four Agreements: Dom Miguel Ruiz
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Stephen Covey
- Finding Your Own North Star: Martha Beck
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: Deepak Chopra
- The Power of Now: Eckhart Tolle
- Maximum Achievement: Brian Tracy