Relieving the Pressure by Living in the Present: Cath Duncan Interview

I met Cath Duncan through her Ask The Coach posts over on the Location Independent blog (which I’m totally excited about being a part of). I love Cath’s very practical an answerings and how she encourages people to use the knowledge and the skills they already have to move forward and achieve their dreams. I wanted to see where this coaching perspective came from, so of course I just had to ask Cath for a Someday Interview – and wow, was the response a great one! Check it out for yourself…

Cath DuncanWho: Cath Duncan of Mine Your Resources and Bottom Line Bookclub
Cath is an Agile Living Strategiest who helps people to take action, learn and change more easily so they can create the life they want and thrive in these high-change times.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
Right after completing high school, I knew I wanted to study further but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I decided to spend the year exploring lots of different avenues that interested me, taking lots of short courses, working part-time and doing some job-shadowing.

It could have been a seriously fun and full year, but I placed huge pressure on myself to make “the right” decision, to develop a clear and specific 5-year plan like so many people say you should, and to find my one “thing” I was born to do, and I ended up lost, depressed, stuck, creatively blocked and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life and felt like I was getting left behind.

Looking back now, I realise I had a bunch of stories about work and vocation that got me stuck – none of which are true, but they’re pretty common stories in our society. I now know that I didn’t need to get into such analysis paralysis about it all. There was no wrong decision because everything is an opportunity to gain experience and I can be happy doing lots of different things. I don’t have to have a 5 year plan – I only need to do what I love doing right now, and I can change my mind at any time I like. And I don’t have to choose just one thing – I can do many things I love and even invent my own job around the different things I like doing, as I’ve done now.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
I was never the kind of person to throw a pity party because I’m pretty tenacious and I used to think that being sorry for yourself didn’t solve anything so I’d just steam-roll through the difficult feelings or put them aside and keep working at my goals. But being that proactive can mean that I miss important intuitive messages from myself, which I’m learning to slow down and take more time to listen to these days. I’m also learning to appreciate the value in my “negative” emotions and to sit with them to receive the messages they’re trying to deliver to me. I think there’s great value in throwing a little pity party and meeting all my yucky feelings, because they’re always trying to do something important for me!

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I see now that my Essential Self gave me that depression as a way to get me to stop and take the time to withdraw from the crowds and be alone and listen to my own inner voice, and to question the social “rules” and assumptions that were making me feel so trapped. At my essence I’m someone who’s deeply curious, and loves variety, and depression gave me the opportunity to question everything I’d been brought up to believe so that I had the freedom to pursue what was truly important to me.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
I tried lots of things and worked very hard to try to clear my depression and decide what to do with my life – reading books, attending seminars, getting coached, visiting universities and sitting in on lectures, job-shadowing people in fields I was interested in, career assessment tests and more. And it seemed that the harder I worked to find the answers outside of me, the more depressed I got.

Something that helped me get out of that depression was a one-month trip to Namibia on a group tour, where I completely changed my context, got away from family and other social pressures I’d been paying so much attention to, and all the people who were trying so hard to help me to make the “right” decision. I took time most mornings to walk alone and write in my journal, I was barefoot with soil between my toes for most of the month and I gave myself the headspace to stop trying to solve the problem and just enjoy being where I am right now. There were some wonderful people on that trip with me and we had some great campfire discussions about life, the universe and everything, and those discussions opened my mind and gave me some perspective on how small and insignificant my problem was.

I had an enormous sense of well-being and head-space that month and was able to go back there mentally and find my clear headspace again on occasion, after I returned to Cape Town. A few months later, while accessing that sense of well-being, I made a decision to study Social Work – something that hadn’t even been on the cards before.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
I had been taking a lot of action that year (in spite of my depression!). It was just the wrong kind of action. And taking the wrong kind of action made me feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, anxious and stressed. When I stopped trying so hard and got out of stress and into a sense of well-being, I felt amazingly free, and I realized that that was how I wanted to feel in whatever work I chose to do.

When I decided to study Social Work, it was an emotional decision. I stopped trying to analyze what career options were the most logical or would rationally get me the best life, and I chose the one that felt good. My Social Work studies were what began my journey into learning about how our minds work and how to help people create the lives they want. I’ve moved pretty far from the world of Social Work now, but each decision and adjustment in my path has been made by asking myself, “What am I enjoying right now?” and “What else would I love to do and experience more of?” And my experience of working with people in extremely high stress and fear environments while I was doing Social Work is a big part of the inspiration I draw on in my work now, where much of my work is about helping people to get out of stress and fear and to access a state of well-being, where they’ll restore the quality of their thinking and performance and they’ll enjoy life more.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
This is a really hard question, because I no longer set goals and right now I feel like I’m being and doing what I want in all the stuff that’s most important to me. I’ve articulated a list of values – what’s important for me to live and be, and I use that as a guide, and I make decisions based on these values and what feels good right now.

I’ve created a location independent business so I can travel around the world and keep doing the work I love. I love writing and I’m doing more of that. Andy and I have had 10 awesome years of marriage and every year gets better. We have close friends and family we share deeply with and who share deeply with us. I’m doing work I love with people who share a lot of my values, so that’s deeply satisfying. I’m learning from and with awesome people all over the world in areas that are incredibly interesting to me. I have a very drama-free life.

There’s still plenty of room for growth – I’m just no longer motivated to try to work hard to be “perfect” at everything right now because I know that’s unattainable and that way of living was stressful when I used to do it. I’d love to be more physically fit and flexible, to earn enough through my business for Andy to do the Social Development Work in Africa that he loves to do full-time. I’d love to clear our mortgage on our house in Cape Town completely so that we don’t have to rent it out and we can pop back to Cape Town and stay in our own house, and have guests stay there comfortably with us whenever we want. I’d love to make more art, Andy and I still have lost of places we’d love to visit and motorcycle adventures we want to take, and I’d love the opportunity to care for and guide a few children (our own or others) in a very committed and intimate way at some point in my life.

These aren’t goals – some of them are the natural result of what I’m doing right now, and they’re all experiences that would be aligned with our values and give me a good feeling when I think of them now – but I’m more focused on how I’m living right now, and I’m open to having our values met in other ways too in the future.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
I’m being the person I want to be now, and creating experiences I enjoy right now. When Andy and I got married, our vows were along the lines of committing ourselves to helping each other to be who we want to be and to experience life fully. So it’s kind of like living with a coach (with additional benefits!) and we’re always talking about what’s important to us and how we can live more of that, and that kind of stuff, so our relationship keeps me agile.

I’m very committed to learning and developing my general resourcefulness, so I invest a lot of time, money and attention in learning experiences such as developing my coaching skills, reading about how our minds work, traveling, and meeting interesting people. I’ve just recently formed a mastermind with 3 other business people I really respect and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from and with them, particularly in relation to evolving and growing my business.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Don’t try so hard. Relax and let yourself feel good right now, even while you work at changing things in your life. Question everything that makes you feel yucky, and stop questioning the stuff that makes you feel good. Stop trying to “get somewhere.” Be here now, and focus on creating ways you can enjoy or change your life in some small way right now. Love all the parts of your life and yourself – even the ones that “aren’t where you want to be yet” or feel like they might be getting in the way… it’s all natural, safe and healthy, and part of living a fulfilling life.

I know some people will worry that they’ll get nothing done if they’re not driving themselves with goals and fear and feeling bad, but I’m much more productive than I ever was living this way.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
I’d love to do more cool stuff with awesome people. Working with authors over the past few months to create the monthly Bottom-line programs has been very cool, and I’ve realised that I’m totally ready to start doing joint ventures with other coaches and leaders. I’m exploring a few possibilities, and I’m open to having more of the right people find me now, and to see where that goes…

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6 thoughts on “Relieving the Pressure by Living in the Present: Cath Duncan Interview

  1. Walter says:

    Many people loved the illusion of someday, after all, it’s mcuh easier to stagnate than to elevate. Not many people will ever achieve the level of awareness, we are too ignorant of our own true self. It takes wisdom to achieve our higher level, and when we do we can truly discover our true abilities. 🙂
    .-= Walter´s last blog ..How to unleash your true capacity =-.

  2. Great interview with Cath! And YAY for living in the present!! 🙂
    .-= positively present´s last blog ..5 simple ways to cultivate inner peace =-.

  3. Cath Duncan says:

    Thanks for the thought-provoking questions, Alex! Dani: glad you enjoyed the perspectives about living in the present – definitely your kinda thing!

    .-= Cath Duncan´s last blog ..Call with Michael Watson: How to Be Resourceful in Difficult Times =-.

  4. Alex Fayle says:

    Yes, far too many people choose comfort over happiness – and I’ve made it my mission to shake as many people as possible out of it!

    @Positively Present
    Of course you’d love the “live in the present” message here, wouldn’t you? 😉

    My pleasure! I love how the same set of questions produces such varied responses for each interview.

  5. […] Fellow Location Independent life coach, Alex Fayle has a regular feature where he interviews people about their “somedays” – the things they’re putting off until “someday,” or saving in case they need it “someday.” Alex got me thinking with some really interesting questions about my somedays. You can read our interview over here. […]

  6. […] on a whopping student loan doing something just for the sake of it (I shared a bit about this when Alex interviewed me on his blog, Someday Syndrome). So I took a year off, to explore and decide. I say “took a year off” […]

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