Living an Extraordinary Life

February 6, 2008

Last week I attended a workshop called “Living an Extraordinary Life” conducted by the Handel Group, a life coaching company. I should prefix this whole post with an admission, I was (am?) a raging skeptic about this concept of “life coaching”. But this three day workshop came highly recommended and I thought it might be entertaining. Skipping to the punch line: it WAS an entertaining three days and I even learned a few things.

The highlights (very abbreviated and summarized):

  • An extraordinary life means different things to different people, but in general it is going past your typical (doing something out of your ordinary), being willing to fail (learn from the failure and try again), and dealing with feelings. It is doing things for which you are proud. It is about taking actions to manage the issues in your life.
  • The idea is to author your own life. To identify the beliefs and labels which you hold (e.g. I’m introverted; You can’t have a hobby and be successful in science). Realize that you make these beliefs and labels true with your life. So instead of just accepting them, decide which ones you want to keep and create new ones.
  • The key to an extraordinary life is getting good at personal integrity. Make promises to yourself and keep them. Have consequences for not keeping them. Make yourself accountable to somebody else if necessary. You must tame the mind (which can be a lunatic) … so keep a thought log and identify when you are being negative and crazy.
  • A lot of the workshop was devoted to being honest in relationships. Having integrity with yourself and others without being mean or ill spirited. In particular there was a real focus on parental (lineage) effects. Honestly, I was shocked to see how difficult this was for some people and how horrible their relationships were with their families.
  • Working on self improvement is like training for a marathon. Things take time and hard work to conquer. Work daily and realize every day is a chance to try again.

There was homework which revolved around identifying how we stood in 18 different areas of our lives (career, family, relationships, home, etc …), how to improve each of those areas, and how they were interconnected. It slipped on occasion into self help motivational mojo (i.e. I wanted to shout “Bingo” like the woman in the commercial does). Despite this, I came away with a few lessons:

  • I can change any trait or belief I have. Including some things which I’d just taken for granted were “facts” because I’d never questioned them.
  • A lot of people have personal issues (family, friends, significant others) which disturb them deeply and impact all parts of their life. I am extremely well off in these areas.
  • Everyone has “self talk”. Keep a thoughts log and figure out what kind of voice you’ve got. Most people find that the voice in their head is a lunatic. If so, counter it’s negatives with positives and try to censor it.

Interestingly, I’ve been reading _Advice for New Faculty Members_ by Robert Boice. While Bioce describes things as “what he learned from exemplars”, many of his recommendations are surprising inline with the Handel Group’s “Extraordinary Life” workshop. I’ll write more on Boice’s book once I’m finished with it.

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2 Responses to “Living an Extraordinary Life”


  1. I didn’t attend any of such workshops but overall I find information on sites devoted to “self-development” very useful in many cases. Several years ago life coaching field was really “wild wild west” in a sense that it was hard to distinguish between hype and a real value. It fortunately changed recently so we can use some help in achieving balance between scientific and non-scientific life ;).


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