Finding Your Way In A Wild New World is the most recent of several bestsellers that Martha Beck has penned to help millions bridge the gap from a life that doesn’t feel right to one that nurtures their true selves.
Be Inkandescent had the privilege of interviewing the renowned life coach for the April 2012 issue of the magazine. Our discussion continues below.
Be Inkandescent: Once we have mastered Oneness, as well as the magic of Wordlessness, which you talked about earlier, you explain that the next step is Imagination, followed by the idea of Forming our reality. How can we open a line to this skill that children naturally excel at, and that you say will help us “achieve a level of problem-solving that feels like pure fun and looks like pure genius?”
Martha Beck: Most of our biggest problems come from the misuse of our imagination. We imagine a situation or event someone told us we should want, or we imagine a repetition of our past and so create nothing new.
Real imagination isn’t a product of past experience, but a connection of previously unconnected factors that create something unprecedented, a bit like the genes of two people connecting to create a baby who’s utterly unique. If we become very still inwardly (Wordlessness) and very present with everything around us (Oneness), our nonverbal minds begin to make imaginative leaps into the unknown, creating innovative ideas and solutions.
The best way to learn real imagination is to practice “feeling into” the future. Picture yourself feeling your way through an unfamiliar room in the dark. You may be able to see vague shapes, but generally you’ll learn that something is there, and begin figuring out what it is, by feel. You’ve done something close to this if you’ve ever groped for a name you’ve temporarily forgotten. You can feel “what wants to happen” as a nudging sensation. Relaxing and allowing your mind to wander will actually help you correctly intuit your next steps.
Be Inkandescent: From your 2008 book, Steering by Starlight. how can readers use the ideas to fulfill their professional destiny?
Martha Beck: We live in a world totally unlike the professional landscape I encountered when I set out to create my own career. The Internet and other technological innovations now allow individuals and small groups to do what once took a whole government, or a large company. I call this the “wild new world,” and I believe we can only navigate it by dropping the rigid ideas of “productivity” that are based on factory models, and re-learning skills our ancestors used to navigate the land and sea before human society became such a dominant force.
In other words, today not only can your wildest, least conformist, most genuine self make a living, it may be the only part of you that knows how to thrive. This book is designed to help readers reawaken their innate knowledge about how to thrive in a wild state. Using their innate knowledge is both immensely liberating to their true selves, and their best mindset for succeeding professionally. In addition, it will lead to a professional life that in some way serves other people and the world.
Be Inkandescent: How can readers become stargazers? Can they do it from their own home—even it’s a room in an apartment building or a house in the suburbs?
Martha Beck: We are actually, literally, made of stardust. Every atom in your body was formed in the belly of a star, then sent out into the cosmos when that star exploded. That’s how elements other than hydrogen come into existence. You can never escape starlight—it is your own life, the field of energy animating the stardust that comprises your body. All it takes to steer by starlight is inner quiet, and attentiveness to your own feelings of tension or relaxation, stress or delight. Your whole being is steering you; only your mind can imagine otherwise. Quiet the mind and you’ll always find yourself guided by starlight.
Be Inkandescent: What are the three stages of steering by starlight?
Martha Beck: First, you blast out of your mental limitations by dissolving your fear-based, ego-driven thoughts. Then you map out your future by telling new, more interesting stories. Then you make a map by freeing your imagination. Then you move forward by doing just enough work to solve the problems you encounter. It’s all very exciting.
Be Inkandescent: Your 2002 book, Finding Your Own North Star, begins with one of my favorite opening paragraphs: “Right in the middle of my life, I realized that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. It was like I’d wandered off the right path into a very, very bad neighborhood. I don’t even want to remember how scary that space was—makes me feel like I’m gonna die or something. I’m only telling you about it because a lot of good came of it in the long run. I don’t even know how I ended up so far off course. I felt like I was sleepwalking.”
What’s surprising is that the person who wrote that paragraph, “Dan, age 41,” is actually Dante Alighieri, and this loose rendition of the first 12 lines of The Divine Comedy was written around 700 years ago but still speaks to us. What’s wonderful is that it makes 40somethings—and those older and younger—realize that they aren’t the only ones who find themselves off course in midlife. What steps from this book can help our readers?
Martha Beck: For starters, right now make a list of “to do’s” for today, read over each one, and notice how your body reacts. Relaxation means your essential self likes the activity, tension means it doesn’t. Start choosing to do a little more of what makes you relax, and a little less of what causes tension.
Next, notice where you think you “can’t” do things you like, or you “have to” do things you hate. Question those beliefs: they are almost certainly wrong.
Third, name the invisible people who make you think you “have to” do things you hate (your parents, peer group, paparazzi, or whoever) and get them out of your mind using therapy, coaching, horse tranquilizers, explosives, or whatever else you can manage without doing too much harm. Repeat until life is perfect.
Be Inkandescent: The book has a lot of great explanations and tools, and the one I’d love for you to talk more about is the “emotional compass,” which you describe in Chapter 8. Specifically, you talk about the four magic questions. Can you describe those, and explain how they help people assess what they are feeling? How can understanding our emotions be helpful to us at work?
Martha Beck: Here are the four magic questions:
1. What am I feeling? When you answer this, start with physical sensations and move on to emotions. Concepts like “I should be nice” or “Bob is an idiot” aren’t feelings; they don’t count. Guilt and frustration are feelings associated with these concepts: they should be your focus.
2. Why am I feeling this way? This may lead your attention to something that needs to change in your environment, or to a story you’re telling yourself about a past or present situation. This is what emotion is for: to lead your conceptual mind into awareness of a situation and how it’s affecting you.
3. What will it take to make me happy? Make sure you talk about general conditions, not specific things you want specific other people to do. “Bob must love me” is a no-win proposition; “I must have love” is a foundation for positive action.
4. What’s the most effective way to get what I want? This is where you can use the creativity exercises in the latest book to great advantage. Also, it’s where you can benefit most from advice from a friend, therapist, or (best of all!) a coach. If you can ask and answer these questions as you move through every day, you’ll quickly move into the best possible life situation for you—which may be nothing like the best situations for me. Your emotional compass is set to serve you and you alone!
Be Inkandescent: Last, but not least, you have a strong and growing coaching program. Please tell us about how that works, who can apply, how many Martha Beck-certified coaches there are currently—and how it feels to have so many members of your “team” helping people achieve the lives they desire.
Martha Beck: By some process I don’t understand, the most amazing people on earth have joined our tribe of coaches. These people become INCREDIBLY amazing as they clean out their own lives and minds during their training (we operate under the premise that we must “live it to give it,” so coaches get good and clear). Anyone who really wants to can join us; just check it out at marthabeck.com and see if resonates with your essential self. We teach simple but extremely powerful tools to help people get out of their own way and create lives that are a perfect fit to each person’s sense of destiny.
Right now we have about 350 coaches (if you think that’s a lot, consider that it’s only about one coach for every million Americans, not to mention to rest of the world). I am literally reduced to tears of gratitude every time I really think about this tribe of clear, bright, powerful, loving people.
If you want to hang onto your interior clutter—your addictions, your fears, your general denial—you’re not going to like it and you shouldn’t sign up. But if you’re ready to follow your own North Star and the coach-training program feels enticing, jump right in! The water is AWESOME!
Be Inkandescent: We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to be our Entrepreneur of the Month. We wish you the very best in all of your endeavors, and look forward to reading your monthly columns in O magazine.
Martha Beck: Thank you so much!
For for information about Martha Beck’s books, insights, and coaching program, visit www.marthabeck.com.