Medical personnel were in a bustle all around me, the cardiologist in the ER explained to me that I needed an operation that couldn’t be performed at this hospital to which the ambulance had delivered me and that I must be transferred to their main hospital in downtown Charlotte, immediately. Amidst this orchestrated chaos of transition, the special transport nurse explained to me that we were going to travel “loud and proud” or some such jargon, meaning lights and sirens were needed.
As they were moving me from the exam room bed and into the ambulance stretcher, I apparently had a pensive look on my face because the nurse looked at me and asked, “Are you scared?” And in that amazingly bizarre way our minds take only 2 seconds to think about 10 million things, I looked at her – somewhat bewildered and somewhat surprisingly said, “No, I’m not scared at all.”
While I was lying on the stretcher in the ambulance, and in between answering questions about pain ratings – I wondered, why wasn’t I scared? After all, I had just been told that this ambulance was delivering me directly into the operating room to save my life. They said there was no time to waste – and I didn’t get the impression they were going for dramatic effect.
As I lay there imagining whether my chest pain was rattlesnake-bite bad or scorpion-bite bad, I continued to wonder, was I afraid and just in denial or was I truly unafraid? I knew from previous experiences and from my faith, that I wasn’t afraid of death – but was I scared of the dying process? It would be natural, after all, if I were.
I decided the pain was now a firm 9 from the previous 8.5 and communicated as such to riding mate and then it hit me, I wasn’t scared because I didn’t have any letters I needed to write!
I know that sounds very odd, but you see – when I begin to work with a new client, I have them complete a series of questionnaires that I’ve designed to give a “jump start” to get to the bottom of a lot of issues and one of these questions a new client must contemplate on their questionnaires is, “On a lifeboat and unsure of your survival, you are given the opportunity to write a letter to be read if you should die. To whom would you feel you would need to write and what would it say?” And then, if given the time to whom would you write a second letter and why?
My design of these surveys is to give me baselines of emotions, insights and more to find, as quickly as possible, the hurdles that have limited or continue to limit their successes, in business, sport or life.
It’s a very significant part to discovery coaching, because much of what we as humans do and therefore much of what we don’t do is because of the impact of the lingering and usually unconscious impact of, what I call, deficit emotions. When we leave negative sentiments unrecovered and in the past, they have dramatic impact on the levels of success and achievements in our lives. There’s a whole bunch behind the reasons this is the case (and more than you’d want to read here) but it’s a huge impact on our lives.
By their answer to this question and a couple others and without exception each client unknowingly communicates to me an insight into how they feel, how they love, how they communicate and much more – sometimes even revealing some long-standing regret, guilt or remorse. With other tools and similar methods, I very quickly am able to determine the starting points to get them to discover their own self-imposed limitations in many areas.
Discovering these elements is paramount in the process for a person reaching their greatest heights in sport, business and life, having eliminated unconscious hurdles or at least the impact from them. This process not only helps resolve guilt, remorse, shame and other deficit emotions but also allows a person to begin true relationships, have the courage to succeed or fail or lead – without fear.
It also impacts our readiness to leave this world behind.
Each client will answer the question differently but each will absolutely communicate something they want to emphasize – it’s not always a regret or forgiveness they seek from a loved one they “wronged”. Just as often, it’s their wanting to emphasize their love previously un-communicated – at least to their desired level. Wanting to be sure their parent knew how much they were appreciated, wanting their spouse to know this or sister to know that.
A husband telling his wife that he is afraid can be one of the most intimate moments in their life together, a wife admitting to her husband that she might be bossy can be so powerful and an executive admitting to him/herself can be the trigger that begins to propel their career.
The idea is that if we allow ourselves the ability to confront and conquer our emotional fears, the impact is life-altering. We no longer resist openness and intimacy; we don’t self-sabotage our career or sales presentations and we no longer make ourselves miss 3 foot putts. Once aware of these fears they no longer control us. The “macho” man can stop hiding from his unconscious inability to confront intimacy, the aging athlete can realize he still has value and the parent can finally embrace that love includes discipline as well as affection.
We hide from others that which we are truly attempting to hide from ourselves. We hide our weaknesses from others, which is very consistent with all of the animal kingdom – but what we perceive as emotional weaknesses within ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, usually are directly connected with deficit emotions and our perceptions are seldom correct. This is the main reason that so much goes unsaid between people in business or life.
Back to the letters – while lying in that ambulance and awaiting my fate I realized; everyone who I love knows I love them and how much; everyone important to me knows it; everyone I’ve wronged has gotten sincere apologies or repentance. But I realized, I could die and no one would have to wonder how important they were to me. I tell my best friend I love him all the time, I know it makes him uncomfortable – and I love it. I text my neighbor that I’m glad I know him, it drives him nuts – and I love it. My sisters get random texts. You get the idea.
I had no letters I needed to write – and I hope the same for you; it was such a powerful realization.
So please do me a favor and you, make sure you are true to yourself, don’t hold back your feelings – let them know, so you have no regrets on that last breath and that they aren’t left wondering. And if you harbor ill will toward someone – it is okay, it’s normal, just make sure your ill will is truly commensurate with their offense.
Just don’t need to write a letter to anyone when you are on your lifeboat. Tell them all now. If you love them, let them know and let them know how much – the strength you gain by being able to shed the fear of sharing is amazing. If they can’t understand or accept it, oh well – that’s on them. If you screwed up, fix it or apologize – and mean it. The power behind admitting flaws is amazing and powerful. I used to never make a statement unless I knew I was right – because I was so very afraid of being wrong; all because of deficit emotions. It is powerful to accept the flaws within yourself.
And remember – live so that when you are passing on, you are not just a passer-by.
Life is the reward we get to enjoy when we seek to serve others; it is also the consequence we must endure when we don’t.