By Heart Blog
In every complaint, there is the seed of a wish
Keep your focus on what you would wish to have happen
When things are looking a bit dire, whether from a practical stand-point or in your emotional landscape, there is a temptation to contract, play small, inside ourselves and in how we act.
Would it surprise you to hear that the words 'anxiety, angst, anguish, anger and angina' all share the same word-stem, 'angh-' (Proto-Indo-Eupopean in origin)?

This word snippet 'angh-', from which all the words I have listed are built, means, in essence, 'tight, painfully constricted' (see*angh- ).

When we're experiencing 'painfully constricted' events or goings on around us, it's easy/natural/familiar to respond by mimicking this on the inside. We contract, make ourselves small, in an effort to keep safe, to weather the storm. And there are times when this is absolutely the appropriate course of action. Yet there are also times when this conserving impulse plays against us.
I can think of two recent examples when clients were drifting towards feeling low, and I invited them to counteract this drift by expanding, however counter-intuitive this might feel initially.
Lorna (name changed) had hired me to coach her through a break-up of a relationship she was determined to end, even while she was fearful that she would find it difficult to thrive on her own in the aftermath. At one point, she told me she was planning to keep a calendar over the next 30 days, to mark out her success in avoiding contact with her ex. I was concerned that this would keep front-of-mind the very person she was trying to fade out of her life, so I suggested that instead she keep a 30-day calendar of a different kind.

Let me give you the gist of what I suggested for Lorna:
The You-treats calendar
Treat yourself well - upfront, without waiting to 'deserve' or need it
Step 1
Brainstorm and gather together ideas for treats

More specifically, these need to be treats that are custom-tailored for you. Beyond ubiquitous 'scented baths' and such like, what would delight you? What treats have you kept telling yourself you will grant yourself one day, but not yet? What would feel deliciously indulgent, thrilling, luxurious beyond reason? This list needs to be you-specific, it will bear your unique signature.

By the way, if the very idea of writing such a list feels 'sinful' - GREAT! You already have your first item: it would feel excitingly dangerous to grant myself time to commit to paper the wishes and longings you've been keeping secret even from yourself.

I want to emphasise that there is value in simply writing out this list, even if you have no intention of acting on any of it. Go on, it's a very cheap treat, if nothing else! You could hang out with your imagination, granting yourself all your heart's desires.

Beyond that, having loosened the self-denial controls, you might find that, among your large-scale wishes lurk some very simple ones. An example from my list was item number 12 (or thereabouts), which envisaged me making time to play with my collection of scarves, long stashed in well-ordered boxes under the bed. It was only once I was in flow listing out my glorious luxurious life that this particular wish made itself known. Once it was in front of me on paper, however, it was easy to see that there were no barriers in my present to its fulfilment, and I have been enjoying the occasional indulgence of draping my colourful swaths of silk this way and that ever since. This is often a way to unwind at the end of the day, and settle down, quiet and contented.

Once more, what moments, grand and small, would belong in Your Magnificent Life?
Step 2
The second step is to schedule into your calendar one treat a day (at least) for the next 30 days (or one week at a time, or whatever patters best suits you).

Pick the treats from your list that feels the easiest to reach. The idea is that every day, when you wake up, there is something to look forward to, a highlight in your day. We are more familiar with this strategy as a pick-me-up, the cake some people treat themselves to when they're feeling low. I am urging you to convert it into a prophylactic that lifts your day before it can drooped. Let it become part of your new 'normal', and let it open up new horizons for you, beyond a quick sugar hit.
I also recommended this strategy to another client, whom I'll call Al. Al was feeling low after a difficult break-up, and was struggling to keep his poise. He embraced the 'Al-treats' Challenge, and we checked in on how this was going during our weekly coaching conversations. Al was sounding more upbeat, and was enjoying describing for me the outings and experiences he had created for himself. Then, three or four weeks after Al had began this new 'regime', he sounded a bit embarrassed as he said, "I think I've got used to my treats, they no longer feel so exciting, and I'm a bit sad about that."

I had to apologise to Al for laughing, explaining that this was a FANTASTIC development! It meant that having a treat a day had been incorporated into his idea of how he lived, so that it now felt normal.

He still sounded perplexed - what to do now? Now, came my reply, is the time to up the ante. What are the treats that would feel exciting from this new position? What are the things that would push the boat out some more? Now that he had got accustomed / habituated to a certain level of enjoyment, it was time to increase the dosage, so-to-speak.

Al's reply might sound familiar to you - his voice resonated with fear. He had thought of picking up going out dancing again (something he used to enjoy while studying at University), but had found the prospect a bit daunting. You, too, might have items on your list that you would dearly love to experience, yet which feel a bit much to reach out for.

Happily for Al, after we worked through what his concerns and reservations were around going dancing, he committing to give it a whirl. No prizes for guessing how excited he sounded at our next session, because not only had he dared himself to go there, he had had a good time!

In conclusion, we are going through times that offer restrictions that most of us have not experienced in a lifetime. Some of the things that have sustained you in good health and strong spirits might not be available, or you might be coping with additional challenges. You may well have to install limits on some resources, yet I urge you to also seek out ways to expand, in acknowledgements that there is more to you, more of you, and more to your life, if you choose it.
There is more to you, there is more of you and there is more to your life, if you choose it so!

For more on teasing out What You Want
I've written about this topic before - check out
Show more
If you give any of these steps a go, I'd love to hear how it goes for you.
If you like the sound of using your imagination to tap into your greater potental, I'd be happy to help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margarita Steinberg

I am a Leadership Coach with a specialism in Psychosynthesis psychology. I am the founder of ByHeart Coaching, and this blog grows out of my coaching work. I am also a qualified and experienced teacher, and draw on training in counselling skills.

I work with individuals and couples, as private clients; I also work with organisations through running leadership coaching programmes and group workshops.

A chapter on my innovative learning format using embodied learning appears in the book 'Disrupting traditional pedagogy: Active Learning in Practice' published by University of Sussex Press in June 2019.

In preparation: my first book 'One step at a time: how to thrive in a dynamic world'

Find out more about my work
ByHeart blog
I write about my clients' stories, about coaching and psychology, current events and the human condition
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ByHeart Blog
I write about my clients' stories, about coaching and psychology, current events and the human condition
Subscribe to our mailing list to receive alerts about upcoming blog posts, offers and events
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