Tag Archives: Pat McHenry Sullivan

Need a Compelling Vision? Start with the Anti-Vision

hospital bed, shutterstock

Your creative, visionary self requires juicy, specific details, but most people over the age of five can’t easily imagine exactly what they want.

Yet most people can easily describe what they don’t want … like how awful it would be to be helpless in a hospital bed while others decide your fate. Because there’s such a common fear that others will make wrong decisions for you, the advance health care directive was invented.

When my husband and I created our directive, we went way beyond deciding  who can sign papers for us when we’re out of it.  We created a powerful support system that helps us in sickness and in health.

Revisiting an image of being helpless in a hospital bed recently clarified some things that are important for our lives. As I tell the story, I hope you see how you can apply the process to yourself.

For a Great Vision for Your Life, Face Your Worst Fear

For my husband, the hospital bed conjures up pictures of being unable to communicate.  Flipping this around, he affirmed a basic vision, “Throughout my life, I hear, speak, talk and write well.”

Fleshing this out, he affirmed how much communication in many forms matters to him.  “I want frequent, meaningful contact with friends and family.  I want to finish my fantasy about Blackfire the cat wizard, publish it, and write many more fun and informative pieces.”

Looking at what he needs to make this vision real, he sees both the need for better writing support (a writers’ group, perhaps?) and for ways to keep his brain as sharp as possible as he ages.  That led to discovering, among other things, the exciting work of Norman Doidge, M.D., author of The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.   As we watched these and other pieces about the brain’s plasticity, both of us got more hopeful.  Now our ideas are spinning about how we can find the best ways to help ourselves and others become and remain brain-sharp.  Is a book on how to fight for our brains in the offing?  Stay tuned.

From a Yucky Picture to a New Vision for Rich Life

 While imagining myself stuck in a hospital bed, this image popped up:  “I’m at the mercy of someone else’s ideas of what I should eat and when.  That means over-cooked, under-seasoned meat and veggies served with white bread and lime gelatin. All on someone else’s timetable.”

Flipping this image and fleshing it out led to:  “Good food I love that is well cooked is a primary value for me.  To have this the rest of my life, I have to do everything I can to protect my health and to build up more financial reserves so I can always afford the organic fruits and vegetables, the antibiotic-free poultry and fish I love insetting I love. Paris again and Tuscany are high on my venue list.

“Being with friends around the dinner table is also a primary value to me. I can’t remember why we stopped the tradition of Sunday dinner with friends years ago, but it is time to bring it back.  Also, I want monthly trips to different types of restaurants, starting with the paella restaurant near Jack London Square that catered an event I loved.  Also, I want to learn how to cook Indian and Ethiopian foods well.  Oh, and having more pantry space and a much bigger kitchen, so I can store and use that humongous stainless steel roaster I was given …”

Those visions are already being set in motion.  I’ve found it’s a lot easier to eat healthily today when I envision eating and sharing food I love for the rest of my life than it is to follow a diet because I have to keep down the blood sugar.  Yeah, I know the numbers on the meter are vital, but they are not nearly as motivating as the picture of choosing healthy, yummy foods for life rather than ever being stuck with overdone, boring hospital food.

What’s Your Vision for Any Part of a Better Life?

 The formula is simple:

  1. Start with a dreaded or fearful image that bothers you. If you can’t think of any, try this:  I’ll end up broke and in the street.
  2. Flip that image around to specific positives.  I will always have plenty of resources to pay my mortgage or rent, pay all bills, continue learning and growing throughout life, eat out often with good friends, go to Tuscany or other places special twice a year, donate 10% of my income to causes that matter, and leave a legacy of money and creative works.

Keep getting more specific and real. Run the numbers so you know what you need, but also look for options.  Do you really want to stay in your house all your life, or might co-housing be better?  Can you let go any expenses or are there things you really want to buy?  What elements need to be in place to fulfill your vision?

For more tips, see “Reality vs. Vision:  What if There’s a Huge Gap Between Current Reality and Visions of a Richer Future? 

The very best to you and your visions, Pat

Lost Your Genius?

Art by Andrea, see source below

Art by Andrea, see source below

You probably have lost access to much of the brilliance you had when you were a child. Numerous tests show that 90-98% of children register genius level abilities to think of many possibilities. Only 2% of adults are so smart.

I’ve not found statistics on the loss of access to curiosity, intuition, instincts, sensory awareness, awe, playfulness and other gifts so potent I call them elements of genius. But hundreds of interviews with adults have shown that even if we can’t remember enjoying these gifts or know how to use them now, we can see them in young children.

Why call childhood brilliance “elements of genius?”

Childhood brilliance certainly doesn’t fit current definitions of genius as super-IQ or stratospheric expression of talents.

Ancient definitions of genius and cutting edge wisdom give a better picture of our potential. My husband’s beloved Latin dictionary (1996 version) by John Traupman, Ph.D. defines genius as three things we could interpret today as 1) trustworthy guidance; 2) natural appetites and inclinations that came in our DNA, and 3) our talents.

Here’s how it works. Curiosity, our senses and other forms of natural brilliance constantly gather information which our internal guidance system uses to guide us to our best life and work. Talents are engaged and stretched in every stage of the process.

Genius Benefit 1 — Trustworthy Guidance

The ancients saw guidance as coming from a “guardian spirit,” the muse, or sometimes the genie. Today, we have a myriad of ways to be guided to live our best lives and do our best work.

Michael Meade says that everyone has innate genius, which is about “each person’s unique way of perceiving the world and unusual way of expressing themselves in it. There can be no end to the shapes and sizes of human genius. When it comes to personal genius, the point is not to compare oneself with others as much as to find the unique form and shape that genius takes in one’s own soul.”

43 years of working with human potential have shown me how many of us were trained out of our best ways to perceive the world and express ourselves, particularly after we went to school, our brain developed, and we learned how to compare ourselves and come up lacking.

Genius Benefit 2: Trustworthy Information from Multiple Sources.

The ancients’ second definition of genius was the “personification of natural appetites, natural inclinations.” This I see as the elements of genius or natural genius.

Buckminster Fuller wrote over 30 years ago that, “Children are interested in everything and are forever embarrassing their specialized parents by the wholeness of their interests. Children demonstrate right from the beginning that their genes are organized to help them to apprehend, comprehend, coordinate, and employ—in all directions. …

“Every child is born a genius, but is swiftly degeniused by unwitting humans and/or physically unfavorable environmental factors.”

Without the information that comes only from our best innate gifts, it’s practically impossible to envision and create adult life and work full of integrity, purpose and joy. That means it’s impossible to recognize or create trustworthy guidance.  No wonder so many of us get stuck in unimaginative, same-old, limited non-solutions to pressing problems!

Genius Benefit 3: Talents

One of the most beloved promoters of talents is Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and other best-sellers. She says, “What you love is what you’re gifted at. Your talent is coded into your genes … The only way to feel satisfied is to listen to your own nature; in other words, to do what you were born to do.”

Sher teaches that you can always ally with others who have talents you lack. She’s adamant that you don’t have to be already good at something to have a talent, though she is also very practical and realistic. She tells of a self-professed lousy singer whose dream was to sing opera. By daring to play with this dream, Sher’s client discovered her truer passion for turning friends and others on to her love of opera. That’s so doable!

The more I study the elements of genius, the more I see those also as talents. Say you have a talent for composing music which didn’t explode out of your DNA when you were very young. Instead, composing music comes from the interplay over time of talents for listening, imagination, self-expression and all the ways we discover, “I love and am fascinated by this” versus, “I am bored by that.” All the white the inner guide is inspiring, motivating and guiding you to follow your fascinations in spite of others’ negative comments.

Why You May Have Lost Your Genius

Everyone’s story is unique, but here are some common themes:

  • Others thought they knew best who you are and what you are called to do with your one precious life
  • It was too dangerous (or at least felt too dangerous) to listen to your inner voice and express yourself when you were young.
  • You got too wrapped up in the challenges and demands of growing up to protect and grow up your gifts.
  • The playground, school and other group settings were sources of competition and humiliation, so you withdrew or did your best to fit in, no matter the cost.
  • You were not taught to discover many ways to receive inspiration or focus a compelling vision to meet any problem.
  • You didn’t learn basic design or planning skills so you could bring your ideas into concrete form.

The result now: you block, distort or ignore inspiration and information that could be really useful. You get stuck in same-old supposed solutions. You don’t do your best thinking and you don’t get your best results.

Miss Your Lost Genius?

Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy and delightful to bring back lost childhood brilliance. Future posts will offer many ideas.

Now, please explore the resources section of www.geniusagain.com, particularly the FAQS, tips on how to find visions for your life and work, and visioning lessons from the multi-talented Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer.

Comments and ideas are welcome. What’s now missing for you? How have you lost those gifts? How have you kept alive or reclaimed other gifts? What advice do you have for others?


About the art:  thanks to Andrea, on a Creative Commons license.

Building Your Workday Around Prayer: Guest Post by John Sullivan

Monastic life in all faiths is ordered around prayer. Such prayer sets the rhythm for each day. It keeps members focused on the mission of the order and the life of the community, as well as the spiritual life of each member.

I spent 13 years in the Discalced Carmelite monastic order, which traces its origins to hermits living on Mt. Carmel in the 13th century. As is the case with most religious orders, the Discalced Carmelites prayed together at least six times a day on a regular schedule, using Latin names for the hours. These were also known as Canonical hours, because they have been used by all orders in the Roman Catholic Church for many centuries.

As our Muslim friends have so ably demonstrated, prayer can also provide the framework for secular life, including busy workdays. Inspired by what I learned in the monastery and from the example of Muslims, I adapted the canonical hours to my spiritual practices. Continue reading

Real Spiritual Practices for Real Lives, Real Work and Money Challenges: by Guest Blogger Kimberly Weichel

In a recent post, guest blogger Tricia Malloy wrote: “To me, a spiritual practice is any routine or ritual that connects you to your inner wisdom and helps you be less stressed and fearful and more positive, focused and productive. It’s often how you communicate with your subconscious mind. It may or may not relate to any religion or belief.”

Over the years, I’ve integrated many spiritual practices into my life and work: meditating, taking a moment of silence, being grateful, walking, visualizing, spending time in nature, or journaling. Some of these practices I learned from others; some I invented or adapted. All have led to rich and sometimes surprising insights for work, money and the rest of life — provided they fit my life, not some idealized notion of what the spiritual life ought to be. Continue reading

Creating a Culture of Integrity for Work and Money

If all the expensive fallout from corporate, political or other shenanigans could be traced to a few greedy rotten apples, then it should be easy for all us good, non-greedy apples to toss out the rest.

But greed is just one variety of fraud, waste and abuse that have long been rampant in our world. All are supported by a culture that makes it equally hard to confront wrong-doing or to envision a culture based on honesty, sustainability, and compassion. Continue reading

Getting Back into the Stream of Spirited Work and Life

Yes, it’s been a while since I last blogged. An overload of work has made workdays extra long and my blogging time minimal. The death of a friend across country interrupted the work flow and made me more keenly aware of how short and precious life is. Reconnections with old friends and family there make me feel sad that I’ve missed so much by being too little in their fascinating lives, yet hopeful about the possibilities for richer friendships.

Never has it been more obvious that real life can’t be broken into categories such as work, life, money, children or fun. Everything important always happens right when we’re smack dab in the middle of seeming contradictory challenges. How to do the tasks that need to be done versus the work our soul calls us to? How to find time to mourn and reflect in the midst of work that needs to be done and life that needs to be lived right now? How to follow one calling, complete one task, when there are dozens or hundreds or thousands to be done? Continue reading

Meaning: A Really Practical Application for Money, Work and Business

If you believe that the meaning of life has no practical business, work or financial application, you’ve got a lot of company. Yet there’s a huge body of evidence, even among top business and professional publications, that meaning and other “soft” stuff can be the catalyst for solving some of the most pressing worldly problems. meaning-of-life-cartoon Continue reading

True Love of Money Is the Root of Many Blessings

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” What if that ubiquitous saying is flat-out wrong? What if, instead, true love of money returns many benefits spiritual and material, including a more sane, kind and profitable economy for everyone? What if you love money according to the definition in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13, where love is defined as patient, kind and many more wondrous things?

If love is one of the most powerful forces for good in the universe, then loving money must also be a powerful force for good. Continue reading