The more you understand that your mind and what you perceive is not always the same as what’s actually happening around you, the more freely you can choose in situations where you once felt like you had no control.

Martha Beck, Wayfinder Life Coach Training

picture of Kristi to go with blog post on how to do The Work
Busy trying to look like I’m struggling with something…

The theme of a recent newsletter was “When what we want is beyond our reach.” It was well-received, so I turned it into a blog post. And I suppose that this post is its sequel. Again, I shared it in my newsletter before deciding to repurpose it here.

Side note: If you like this post and would like to receive this kind of content via email, you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

In that email, I shared how I so badly yearned for a miracle so that I could apply for my mentor’s Master Life Coach Training Program. And because I assumed that no miracle would be forthcoming, I mentioned how I’d be using Wayfinding tools to work through my disappointment and curiosity to guide me towards other opportunities.

Well, I received some semblance of a miracle – a miracle just large enough to make this program possible if I am also the recipient of a scholarship. Now, I don’t expect to receive one – there are only a few available and I don’t represent a marginalized community – but you never know. I’m at peace whether or not I receive any aid.

Anyway, I’ve begun the application (update: I’ve submitted the application). And a section of the application requires us to coach ourselves through our greatest fear about the training using Byron Katie’s process called “The Work”*.

The Work is simple, but it’s not easy.

We begin The Work by framing a thought that causes us suffering – something non-layered and basic, with emotion removed. 

Once we have our framed thought, we ask ourselves whether we believe that it’s true. There are only two options: yes or no. If we choose “no”, we skip to the next step. If we choose “yes”, we ask ourselves if we can absolutely know without a shred of doubt that it would remain true under every single circumstance known to man. If our answer remains “yes”, we aren’t looking hard enough. Once we get to “no”, we continue.

The next step is to move into feeling the suffering that believing this thought causes and exploring how we treat ourselves and others as a result. This can be exhausting and challenging, but we don’t stay here long.

Then, we move on to experience the shift that comes in absence of the thought. A shift in how we feel and how we treat ourselves and others. This part of The Work feels liberating!

Next, we explore turnarounds, which are basically reworkings of the thought’s original meaning. Then, we find examples of where the turnarounds are at least as true as the original thought. We create at least three turnarounds and at least three examples for each turnaround.

The final step is to evaluate the turnarounds. Which offers the most insight or awareness? Are there any takeaways that can be applied to the current situation?

So, that’s what The Work entails. At least, that’s how I understand and use it.

Here’s my experience doing The Work.

First, I framed my thought, without emotion: I’ll fail to create a sustainable coaching practice.

Feeling into this thought, I felt fear. Like, what if I’m not awarded a scholarship and I end up putting the balance on a credit card? Doing this actually feels more in integrity with my true nature than not taking the training. But it’s still super scary to think about, as many – including my partner – would find this irresponsible and irrational.

And then what if I fail to create a sustainable coaching practice by the end of the training? In other words, what if I dig myself deeper into debt…and STAY THERE?! How do I feel? Anxious AF. How do I treat myself? With disdain for having made poor choices in the past that limit what I can do now. How do I treat others? I withdraw.

These are highly truncated responses, but let me just say that this part of The Work left me feeling agitated and edgy and wanting to scream. It freaking sucked.

But when I explored not having the thought, things shifted. I felt free. I felt at peace. I treated myself with honor and compassion and grace…and without any shame. I set boundaries around my partner, which kept me from withdrawing.

It was freaking glorious.

And then I moved into the turnarounds:

  1. I’ll create a sustainable coaching practice.
  2. My thinking will fail to create a sustainable coaching practice.
  3. I’m willing to fail in my attempt to create a sustainable coaching practice.

I came up with three examples of how each turnaround was at least as true as my original thought: I’ll fail to create a sustainable coaching practice. I’m not going to share them all here, but some were more challenging to come up with than others.

The turnaround that offered me the greatest insight and takeaways was #3.

Being willing to fail felt the most freeing. I’m not saying I’ll jump if I don’t receive a scholarship, but I’m also no longer feeling anxious about the prospect of failing.

What’s most important to me is mastering my craft, serving others, and working towards my own liberation in the process.

Just a note that it was also eye-opening to discover that the bulk of my fears had to do with how others (like my partner) would perceive me than the fact that I’d actually be creating new debt. Damn! Perhaps this is another area for me to do The Work on. Anyway…

Let me end this post by saying that The Work is a meditative practice and can take a good hour (or more) to work through. I offer this to clients (through ongoing and one-off sessions), so if you’re interested in either, please check out my Wayfinding coaching page.

If you’d like to learn more about The Work, Katie walks you through the process here [non-affiliate link].