Tag: writing


Good day, team,

I have a confession to make. I’ve rewritten this week’s challenge numerous times and still don’t feel satisfied with the quality of what I’m writing. So rather than send out a piece that is not particularly good, I’m now exploring my real challenge: following through on the commitment I made six years ago, to publish one every week, even when I’m not inspired to write.

Years ago I took a writing workshop with the poet and writer David Whyte. I remember him saying, “If you commit to being a writer, then you need to discipline yourself to write. Each morning, I return to my desk and writing pad. Sometimes I sit for an hour or so with nothing written on the page. Other times, I can’t write the words down fast enough. But what’s important is that I return each morning to write.”

His advice surprised me. How could that daily discipline exist in the same mind as the incredibly powerful images his poetry evoked?

I had thought of artists and poets as people who went though their lives waiting for a moment of inspiration to overtake them. Then they went into a frenzy in some cold, cramped, solitary space, drinking gallons of coffee and working feverishly late into the night with no regard for food or sleep so that their masterpiece could emerge before their inspiration was gone. It never occurred to me that they could apply the discipline of showing up each day to create with the same energy others would use to show up at a regular job.

Recently, I heard this same message while sitting in a large conference room surrounded by hundreds of bank employees. We were listening to a speaker who was the first woman at the bank to achieve the high position of executive vice president. She talked about what she had done over the years to succeed. What she said struck me powerfully:

“At the end of the day, the most important thing I’ve done in my 26 years with this organization is to keep showing up. When I worked as a teller, a supervisor, a manager, a vice president, a senior vice president and now as an executive vice president, each day, I just show up, sometimes without the slightest idea of what I’m doing or how I’ll get through the day.”

Although it came from two completely different sources, the advice is the same. And so each week I sit at my computer, and sometimes the words come so quickly that my fingers can barely move fast enough to keep up with them. Other times, I sit and gaze out my office window at the lovely wisteria that frames the windows, or the brilliant coral leaf maple trees that show off their seasonal colors of brilliant greens in spring and summer, deep ochres and reds in autumn, and the delicate, woody, bare boughs of winter, waiting, waiting for the words to come.

Your challenge this week is the same as mine: to have the discipline to continue to show up in whatever work you do so that if the inspiration comes, you’re there to experience it.

Upon winning one of her many Wimbledon titles, the great tennis star Steffi Graf was asked, “What’s the most important thing you do to be such an excellent player?” Graf replied, “I practice. For as long as I can remember, I go out each morning and I practice. Some days I play reasonably well, and some days I can barely make the right shot. And then, on rare occasions, I just throw the ball up to serve, and something else takes over. I’m no longer in charge. Some energy takes over, and I watch myself, as if in slow motion, move in exactly the right way to hit the ball in the sweet spot, with the perfect swing. Then I watch the ball sail through the air and land in the perfect spot. In that moment, I know that every hour of practice has made that magical moment possible.”

My challenge is to keep practicing, to keep writing in the hope that, one day, magic will take over and the perfect words will write themselves onto the page. I know I can’t make it happen, and I know I can’t hold onto it if and when it does. But I also know that if I don’t show up every day, I’ll miss it.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.


This past week Cloud Four (my website gurus) transformed my website yet again and enabled the blog feature. We did this in response to a number of requests from subscribers who wanted to connect and converse with the community of people who read these weekly challenges. So I finally acquiesced and decided to begin blogging. I have resisted blogging for quite awhile for a few reasons. One, because I don’t like it when people start a blog and and then don’t keep it up. Two, I don’t like being criticized (invariably, someone writes in and says, “you’re an idiot and what you write about is dumb”), and three, my ego got in the way.

So, let’s talk about number three, because I can see in writing this that number two and number three are part of the same resistance. When I say my ego got in the way, I am referring to a voice in me that always has a comment about my writing. It says all kinds of things like, “who’s really interested in what you have to say?” and “gee, that’s pretty good for someone who’s not really a writer” and so on. It’s the kind of ego that grows out of self-pity and self-judgment. It took me awhile to understand this. I always thought that ego was like vanity, i.e., the part of us that thinks we’re special or better than someone else (I’m afraid I have some of those thoughts as well!). But I soon came to understand that ego and vanity are exactly the same. When you tell yourself you’re not special and that you’re not as good as someone else, it still singles you out and makes you the center of the universe. It’s still all about ‘me’. It’s just reflects a negative rather than a positive self image. When I’m in that negative space I’m not thinking about anyone else. I notice that even when I do think about others, it’s often in the context of what they might think about me, or what they’ve done to me, or how they’ve affected me. So, there it is again, me, me, me.

As a coach, most of my days are involved with listening and speaking with others about themselves. There’s no end to the difficulties we all encounter. A big part of why I love coaching is that I never seem to tire of the stories people tell me. I’m fascinated by what motivates people and how they work to enrich their lives. But, I also see that our minds construct a set of ideas and an image of who we think we are. And when events don’t align with those images and ideas, we feel anxiety and struggle to find meaning.

In a way, I’ve grown to see that it’s my ego that often tries to define me. If I’m not careful, I take that definition to be all that I am. In truth, I know that I am actually not anything that my ego defines. My true nature isn’t an actual thing, thank goodness, but rather …. well, if I could define it, it would be a thing, right?

Your challenge this week is to see what’s not your ego. See when you act from that ego personality and when you don’t. Perhaps you experience something of such beauty that it takes your breath away and, in that moment, there is no definition or thought, just an experience of beauty. Maybe you say a prayer and, afterwards, you have that warm, spacious feeling in your heart – no need for dramatization or definition. Often when I’m walking, I find that my mind isn’t telling me anything about myself or my surroundings. There’s something in the rhythm of just walking that can quiet my ego.

I have a friend who loves to snow ski because he says, “when I’m skiing I’m just skiing, nothing else. It’s such a joy to do something that doesn’t require any thought or commentary. Of course, the minute I fall down I look around to make sure no one has seen me. My ego takes over and comments on my skiing ability. Right then, that moment of peace is gone.”

When we give to others in unconditional ways, we are likely to find that the mind and heart are at peace. Find what works for you this week. Find something that allows you to experience a moment when the ego is not in charge. You may find that by observing your ego at work, you might just get a glimpse into what it is not, what is beneath it.

Years ago at a retreat, I heard someone ask the teacher, “How can I get rid of my ego?” The teacher replied, “Ego just is. And if you try to make it go away you’ll see that it’s your ego that is determined to be successful at making it go away and will be monitoring your progress and commenting about it.” One of my favorite phrases comes from Papaji, and Indian teacher who advised us to allow the ego to become the handmaiden to the self, rather than the other way around.

Papaji’s teacher, Ramana Maharshi also said, “Take no notice of the ego and its activities but see only the light behind it.”

Have a good week!

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.