Inviting Intuition

What Is It to Really Want What You Really Need?

Recently, I saw a wonderful cartoon in The New Yorker magazine (May 26, 2014) that immediately caught my professional eye as a life coach.  In it a beautiful, long-legged butterfly is standing on a tiny chair in a small office on the branch of a tree.  On a couple of twigs behind it are miniature framed diplomas, no doubt attesting to the butterfly’s professional excellence.  In front of the butterfly is a small caterpillar stretched out on a couch, head up, listening raptly to the butterfly expounding as it waves its forelegs.

What is the punchline, what is the butterfly saying?  “The thing is, you have to really want to change.”      

So here we have two realities.  First, it’s absolutely true that to benefit from coaching and be able to make powerful changes you must want to make those changes.  It’s unlikely that you will be find yourself making a rewarding career or other change in your life if you don’t have a strong desire, a clear vision, and the pro-activity to go forward and do so.

On the other hand, does a caterpillar “want” to change into a butterfly?  Isn’t it just a drive, a need, a blind instinct, that begins its cocooning process and that transforms it, finally, into a winged creature of beauty and light?

What is our drive, as human beings, to create transformative changes in our lives, in ourselves?  As with caterpillars, there is an inward thrust as well as an outer one in making powerful changes.  While we are more likely to change our conditions rather than our forms, there is still a deep need within that almost everyone feels at some point in their lives that comes forward as a deep desire to change something in our lives or in ourselves.  

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I mention how most clients come for coaching because they want to make changes that matter in how they work and the overall quality of their lives.  Because, in our work together, we go deeply into their true desires, they are free to go more deeply into themselves, into the cocoon where they connect with the need of their spirit-- and then move forward towards their dream from this inner awareness:

What I often notice in the first place with coaching clients wanting to make career or other life changes, is a natural wish to make a quick leap as soon as possible from an unsatisfying place to the start of a new job, a new relationship, a new plan for the future.  Once we begin exploring what they’re really wanting from their lives, however, they begin to notice that their initial goals seem limited-- a way of getting from here to there without noticing the context of their whole lives....

To find this wholeness requires giving yourself to the process of feeling the inner heat of transformation in the alchemists’ sealed vessel.  William Bridges, author of the seminal book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, calls this taking time from your daily life to empty out and go into what is calling you from within....

This is what Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), calls “transformative change” or “change that occurs at the level of identity or being.”  When you go through the inner experience of transitioning from an outgrown way of working, relating, or creating, to one that opens your possibilities and your heart, you begin to understand the meaning and power of “transformation.”  

What is it, then, to really want what you really need?  Perhaps it is what performance artist Kim Rosen writes about our very human alchemical power to meld need and desire:

in impossible darkness
the sheer
of wings.

  (from “In Impossible Darkness”)

Risking Change-- Facing the Fear of Not-Knowing

One of the biggest obstacles people confront in making an important change in their lives is facing their own fear of not knowing what will happen when they take this step.  Will they drop into the void-- or make the leap from the cliff’s edge to the other side?  If they get to the other side, what will they have left behind and will they find their heart’s desire?

You may remember the moment when you absolutely knew you had to make a change in your job or the way you live.  You may have had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), or other signs, such as burnout or lack of interest at work, shouting that your existing life patterns no longer feel meaningful.  What made you begin to pay attention to these subliminal messages?  When did you feel that the way you were working or living was too cramped, that you had to push your way out of the shell surrounding you into a bigger life?

As you know, resistance to an upwelling clamor for change within yourself can come at a high cost.  One woman I worked with in a software firm was struggling, after a difficult family crisis, to maintain the energy she’d formerly had for her job.  She had to take several sick leaves and had occasional difficulty completing projects for which she was responsible.

She was terrified of being fired, though she also longed to be, and the emotional stress was overwhelming.  As we explored her situation, I asked her what it was she feared the most.  “Not knowing what I want to be doing instead,” she responded.

Initially, she’d enjoyed her position, but now felt she was developing into a different kind of person.  Other interests of hers were wanting expression with a completely different way of working-- and a new partner for life.  However, she hesitated to leap out of her current career when she wasn’t clear about the direction she wanted to take next.

So I suggested that she take walks at her lunch break to exercise her body (which was also a goal of hers) and free her mind.  Her journaling after some of her walks reflected new openings into what was truly important to her-- collaborative work with others in some field involving personal growth and lifelong learning.  In the quote below, notice her attunement to her own call through the energy of nature, with the metaphors of the “path” and “the two egrets flying together” reflecting her desires for professional and personal change:

Later in the walk, I turned a corner and saw the road stretching out
ahead of me.  I am on the path to my future, I thought.  I wonder what
it will bring?  At that moment, I saw two egrets flying together far up ahead.

This was her first step on a journey of much inner reflection that stirred the waters of her desire into a path towards a more personally fulfilling way of working and living.  And yes, she succeeded, as you can read in my forthcoming book (information below).

It’s understandable that we cling to the known for its predictability, comforts, and societal approval.  However, when the emotional pain of this clinging becomes too great, we have the opportunity-- with the right kind of support-- to choose to move past fear of not knowing into our potential for living and working authentically and well.

For more depth in exploring the topic of facing the unknown in risking change, I invite you to read my forthcoming ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance!, due out in January.  If you’re on my email list, you’ll be receiving information about how to order it.  If you’re interested in being on my email list, please contact me at