UPFRONT Learning to fly

The great thing about trapezes is that you can’t hold two at the same time – you have to let one go and in between you’re not holding onto anything. That’s when you discover who you are, says Gail Blanke.
The New York based executive coach, motivational speaker and author was talking about her latest book Between Trapezes: Flying into New Life with the Greatest of Ease to audiences in four New Zealand centres simultaneously courtesy of NZIM’s “women in management” speaker series and live video link. She undoubtedly left swag of budding New Year’s resolutions in her wake.
Her big question: “How good could you make it, this life of yours?”
Discovering that takes courage – not commodity likely to just turn up some day in courier package, adds Blanke. You have to step forward, then it will be there for you. Those who can do that are the ones who will cope with today’s rapidly changing world.
“The future belongs to those who step into chaos with all flags flying – not those who sit back weighing up the pros and cons.”
She outlines six steps needed to make positive change.
First is to “access the incredible power of vision”. “Nothing big, bold or beautiful ever happens in company or life without vision propelling it forward.”
One trap in the “information age” is to defer action in favour of gathering more of it. But as Blanke pointed out to receptive, largely female audience, the millions of books people read on dieting and fitness (basically ‘eat less, move more’) hasn’t resulted in whole bunch of slimmer, fitter people.
Walt Disney’s advice when building theme parks was to “build the castle first, because that’s where the magic is”, said Blanke. And it’s the power of the vision or magic that drives the work needed to turn it into reality.
For example it’s her vision of herself as an active, participating grandma that gets her out of bed at 6.15am come rain or snow to run around Central Park to ensure she’s there, healthy and fit when her grandkids eventually turn up.
The next part is the “letting go” bit. Trapeze artists, said Blanke, have this saying that “fat don’t fly” which isn’t to do with physical weight but mental weight – the self-imposed limitations (“I’m not the type”, “I’m not good/clever/tall enough”), regrets, anger and fear of failure (or success). While that sounds bit like revamp of the “feel the fear and do it anyway” spiel, Blanke’s advise to clients is to start by getting rid of physical clutter in their lives.
“I say go home and throw out 50 things.”
She then went on to tell of client who proved bit reluctant to share this list at the next session but eventually admitted that… actually, she threw out just one thing – the man in her life. Did she still have to find another 49?
Another gem from the trapeze artist lexicon – “the best fliers are also the best fallers”. So don’t confuse falling with failing, says Blanke.
Number three is “taking the ground you’ve already travelled” – honouring your best accomplishments, and identifying defining moments from your own life.
“Wrap your arms around them, own them because they give you the strength to find your own vision.”
In that context, her least favourite phrase is “get real”.
Fourth thing – “the power to distinguish between fact and interpretation in your life”. Someone says fact, people slip an interpretation on it and the two get mashed together, said Blanke.
“We live in sea of interpretations – elections are won or lost over them, wars are started on their basis. Look back into your own life. When something happened, what did you make it mean?”
For instance, the fact might be you didn’t get the promotion you wanted – the interpretation could be “I’m not good enough”. Thing is, said Blanke, you get to choose the interpretation – you get to decide what it’s about.
“Life is full of possibilities – you step forward into that great unknown and make it your own. Your life is your own invention – you make it up, so make it up good.”
The final two steps, covered in her book though not in the presentation are using the support of teams: “I know I have to do it myself, but I don’t have to do it alone” and “embracing flexibility”.
Plans have detours, stay ready to improvise, to accept, to adapt, and to embrace the “new”, she advises.
More information from www.betweentrapezes.com

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