Edison and the Light Bulb

Failure is a natural part of the creative process!

Thomas Edison, the American inventor, is thought of as being one of the most creative and intelligent men in history – and yet, the history books tell us that he attended his school in Michigan for only three months before being expelled at the age of 12 because his teachers thought he was ‘educationally subnormal’. In later years, Edison was to become famous for his saying ‘genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration’.

This was certainly true for him in his attempts to convert electricity into light, one of his most famous endeavours. He was reputed to have tried and failed over 1,000 times to perfect the incandescent electric light bulb, and when advised by his colleagues and friends to give up the whole project because it was doomed to failure, replied with total conviction and some surprise: ‘Why, I haven’t failed; I’ve just found a thousand ways in which my formula doesn’t work!’

It was as much Edison’s positive and tenacious attitude to endeavour and problem solving as his obvious intelligence and creativity that, in the end, were his most powerful allies.

(Source: Tales for Coaching, p.109)

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Moral: There is no failure – only feedback!

Questions:

  • What represents the ‘light bulb’ that you are currently trying to invent?
  • What projects have you given up because you thought you had failed? Could they be rekindled?

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness Coach

The Star Thrower

Do you see your mission and your goals clearly? And how do you feel about small steps – do you give yourself credit for them, do you celebrate your small accomplishments?

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Story: A man was walking along the beach when he noticed a young boy apparently picking something off the ground and throwing it out into the sea. As the man got closer to the boy he saw that the objects were starfish. And the boy was surrounded by them. For miles and miles all along the shore, there seemed to be millions of them.

„Why in the world are you throwing starfish into the water”, he asked the boy as he approached.

„If these starfish are on the beach tomorrow morning when the tide goes out they will die”, replied the boy, continuing with his work.

„But that’s ridiculous”, cried the man. „Look around you. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. How can you believe that what you’re doing could possibly make a difference”? The young boy picked up another starfish, paused thoughtfully, and remarked as he tossed it out into the waves, „It makes a difference to this one”. (by Loren Eisley)

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Moral: What is never attempted will never be accomplished; even the smallest of efforts defeats apathy.

Question: Who or what are the ‘starfish’ that you want to save?

Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness Coach

Freedom in Between

So often, people feel that they are not in charge of their own lives, that their lives are determined by circumstance, duties and habits.

Victor Frankl is said to have shared a thought-provoking perspective:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

What are your thoughts on that? Please drop me a note.

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New and super relevant: I have expanded into Mental Fitness coaching to support lasting change in my clients’ lives.

#mentalfitness #personalfreedom #mindfulness #coachmanuelazeitlhofer

Multiple Perspectives

Essentially, things just are. We attribute meaning to things and events. Sometimes we dwell in the negative aspects or implications of something, when there really are other sides to everything.

In coaching we use this principle, and we call it reframing: We encourage a different perspective or seeing something in a different light.

Today, I did this with my sandpit: Part of our property consists of a former sandpit that was left in its soil-deprived state. For the past 25 years, nothing more than a few tough grasses, willows and even fewer very tough pines and cedars (all looking like bonsais) have been growing here. In the summer, this bothers my agriculturalist’s heart. Now, with a little bit of snow, the steep banks make marvelous sliding hills. And I wonder what other things in my life need reframing.

How about you? What could you reframe right now? – Please share your thoughts!

How to Live in a Seemingly Small World

I find that with the restrictions imposed on us during COVID, my world is shrinking to the size it was when my daughter was born. Back then, we were living in the wilderness, and I was the only person taking care of the baby. I could not leave the house or have any time to myself for a seemingly long time.

I learned how to carve out a space in my life that would hold who I was, so I would not loose myself. And it worked. For example, instead of going for long walks or do the outdoor chores (like getting water from the creek), started Yoga, which I could do inside with the baby around. I also reframed – that is, give different meaning – to seemingly tedious chores like doing the dished or doing laundry (I washed my daughter’s cloth diapers by hand): The repetitive action of those chores made it possible for me to reflect on life and get into a creative mental space that was relaxing.

I have always enjoyed working from home, and seeing nature change through the seasons right in front of my window. Being homebound during another lockdown is no problem for me. At times though, I miss that I cannot go and see my family when I want, or take my daughter to an indoor pool on a cold winter day. Instead, I find myself in the little and bigger chores that every day life as a mother, wife, duck owner, life coach and teacher brings, like collecting two beautiful duck eggs every morning, engaging in some small talk with the producers and negotiating the details of food – especially peas – exchange with them.

I hope you are in a position where you enjoy life, and you can be who you are without feeling restricted. If that is not the case let me tell you that you have it in you to create those conditions!

Please feel free to share your ideas or questions.

Love the duck (October 22, 2021)

Everything Has Two Sides

I repainted my mailbox. It looks like new, but the flag is not installed properly yet (long story). When I inspected it today, contemplating how to solve the issue, I noticed beautiful ice crystals on the north-facing side of the mailbox. The south-facing side was steaming in the sunlight.

I was thinking how everything has two sides: literally and metaphorically speaking.

If we accept that our perspective can only be subjective, and that every situation has different aspects to it, then we have to accept that we might not always sit on the sunny side of a reality. And if that is the case, we could infer that there IS indeed a sunn(ier) side to things.

How does that strike you?

By the way, as a life coach I can assist you in finding those other perspectives. And I accept new clients!

Freedom Choices

I keep thinking about my fellow Austrians. My country of birth seems divided and propaganda is driving the wedge even deeper.

Thinking about our collective history, I am concerned where this might lead (again). What comes after the division? Segregation? Finding a scapegoat? Then what?

I keep thinking about this dilemma. And I want to understand. So please come along and let’s ask some questions.

The situation as it presents itself to me in the stories I hear and read from people I know:

The government is taking away some of our freedoms, and we feel restricted. Some of us fight by being obstinate or by complaining. Others, in a more inward-directed way, are being unhappy. A few might be involved in constructive political activism; others trust that our countries’ leaders are doing the best they can.

Right now, we find ourselves deprived of some of the freedoms we have gotten used to, like the freedom to travel, the freedom to meet friends, the freedom to go window shopping, or the freedom to have a nice meal in a restaurant.

I am putting the following thought out there:

Our freedom is never absolute. There are always some limitations to our actual choices.

Freedom then becomes a choice. We can choose to be happy, quite independently of the circumstance. We can be happy that we are alive, content to be able to go for walks, loving the sun, the wind and the stars. We can choose our emotional response when we hear people spreading negativity, we can even choose to turn off the TV or turn away from those people.

We can choose which feelings we act upon: Love or hatred, contentment or restlessness….

I am challenging you to try this:

Do the best you can, always, from a place of love and consideration. The let it go and be happy, this very moment.

Drop me a note with your thoughts. Thank you!

My Freedom in a Tree (August 8, 2021)

The World of Little Things: Seeds

Again, I was walking home from the school bus, when my gaze fell upon a little milkweed seed on the ground. It was glistering with dew drops. While the general scene, albeit sunny and not too cold, was rather brown – mind you, it is November and nature supposed to be brown – that little seed was a sparkling messenger of life and hope.

Have you ever thought of all the beauty we might miss, by focusing on the big picture only?

Happiness is Here, Now

Happiness is a Value, not a Goal!

That means, happiness is not something to look for, to try to reach, a goal, but a value, something to believe in, a moment-to-moment way of being!

Does this sound familiar? – “I will be happy when _______” (fill the blank).

What did you wish for as a child? – Your next birthday gift? As a teenager? – Your driver’s licence? As a young adult? – A good job? / A wonderful partner? – And once you got what you were wishing for, how long did your happiness last before you filled in the blank with something new, a new condition for your happiness? What are you longing for or chasing today? – Do you think this ____ (fill the blank) will make you sustainably happy? It is an endless cycle in the pursuit of happiness.

How can we break the cycle? Can we be happy here and now? Independent of circumstance?

Here are a few mental exercises that can help you create new thinking habits that make it possible to be happy, independent of pursuit:

Talk to and about yourself in compassionate ways

Instead of being hard on yourself for all your flaws, your failures and mistakes, assure yourself:

_______ (Your name), you are perfectly human, with all your imperfections, just like everyone else. Let’s acknowledge what is wonderful about you, like _______ (fill the blank), and have fun improving you a little bit every day.”

Talk to and about others in constructive ways

Instead of dwelling on a situation that feels hard or impossible to change, assure yourself:

Like you, dear ________ (your name), everybody around you is perfectly imperfect. Their essence is a beautiful as yours. To draw out their best, concentrate on interacting with that part of them!”

Talk about your circumstances in solution-oriented ways

Instead of focussing on mishaps failures, assure yourself:

Every event or circumstance can be a gift. It can be turned into an opportunity. What is a mistake or failure you could look at and see potential in?

Mindfulness in Motion

Mindfulness is commonly understood as paying attention to what is happening in one’s mind, body and surroundings, with a focus on the present moment, and in a curious, compassionate and non-judgmental state.

What does mindfulness do to us?

Mindfulness improves our well-being. Focusing on the here and now makes it less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or nostalgia over the past. It also improves our mental and our physical health.

One technique is Mindful Walking:

The ability to walk sets us apart from most animals on earth. It is a defining factor of being human. Most of the time, we might fail to see walking as something special.

When you walk mindfully, pay attention to the sensations of your body:

  • How do your feet feel, in your shoes, when you step down and when you lift them up?
  • How do your other muscles keep you balanced?
  • Pay attention to how your arms swing as you walk.
  • How about your breathing? Is there a rhythm between your breathing and your steps?

Pay attention to and become more aware of your surroundings, beyond the practical (like avoiding a puddle or drop off a letter on the way). Enjoy the immediacy of sights, sounds, and smells.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?

You can also pay attention to intuitive messages: Ask yourself a question and see what your intuition tells you.

Do you have a question for me? – I would love to hear it!

Less Knowing More Being

Sometimes I wonder about the scope of our awareness. My ego does not agree, but my intuition tells me that there is more than I can perceive. Nature taught me a valuable lesson about that:

I have been baffled many times by the perseverance of ants, walking back and forth on their established routes, carrying up to twenty (!) times their body weight. I kept thinking about their world view: What do they see? What do they perceive the world to be? And where does the world as they know it end? While I am aware that the average ant might not be thinking those thoughts, I inferred that their world view is probably more limited than ours. Yet, they might confidently state: “This is how the world is!”

We do the same. We postulate that there is an objective reality and that we know what it is (or strive to find it). I postulate that – even if an objective reality exists – we might not be able to perceive it. So what are we left to do?

How about living in the moment?

I would love to read your thoughts!