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Possibilities mindset: persistence, patience, peace

Message 24, January, 2021

Dear Guest,

If I could write the outline of a story for family caregivers, I would wave a magic wand and give every caregiver character the superpower of seeing possibilities. And, along with it would come three other Ps: Persistence, Patience and Peace. 

As you read through this, please don’t misunderstand where I’m coming from with this. I think this could sound a lot like I’ve got it all figured out and I’ve arrived at a destination of enlightenment and now I’m looking down on you from my meditative mountaintop, sharing my tips with you. That’s hilariously far from the truth (just ask anybody who knows me well)! I still have so much left to learn and to figure out

Still, when I look back at the ways I’ve changed since becoming a caregiver and started figuring out what it means to be an adult now (out of necessity and, at times, sheer desperation) I see so much growth in myself. I’ve got a long, long, long way to go, but I’d never have it any other way. I want to be growing emotionally and spiritually until the day I take my last breath. But I’ve also come a long way already.

My possibility mindset has become a base layer, reinforcing the three Ps below, but also being fed by them, as well. Most days, I can't seem to get into the groove of positive thinking or gratitude (remember, I already admitted I’m not enlightened, so I hope you aren’t shocked that I can’t really do positivity). So I look for possibilities instead (see message 2 here). In fact, I've used possibilities as the primary method of encouragement throughout this series. Please explore it (read here, listen here) if you, too, struggle with taking the advice about positive thinking, and want to know more about this alternative I suggest.

Here are my thoughts on the other three Ps that create this learning and growth cycle of possibilities. 


Being a caregiver has without a doubt layered more responsibility and complexity on my life and on my family's life. By adding my mom and dad (and then mom by herself after my dad passed) into our immediate family’s daily life, we added another decision-maker into the mix, too. My mom is one of the smartest people I know, by a wide margin, so when she has a strong opinion, I listen to her. My husband and my teenagers have opinions, too. But I also pay attention to what I believe and think and feel, and I weigh my own opinions in the mix. And when I believe in or want something, I will keep working toward it until I reach my goal or change my mind.

Sometimes my persistence is gentle and measured, but sometimes it’s more aggressive. For example, I started learning to play the guitar just a few years ago, which is something I’d been wanting to do for as long as I can remember. Gaining skill on the guitar, for me, is an example of the gentle, quiet kind of persistence - my progress is tiny, one day at a time, and consistent. But improving my skill as a life and leadership coach, well, that’s an aggressive kind of persistence. I’ve been coaching a while now but I’m never going to be satisfied with my skill level, so I’m constantly pushing myself hard to be better so that I can help my clients in profound ways. 


I think patience is a tricky thing to suggest to caregivers. Certainly the virtue of having patience can be (and is) used like a weapon to scold us, as in, “Oh, dear, you just have to learn to be more patient with your mother.”  That’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about the practice of patience in pursuit of a more meaningful life for yourself. 

Things change, every day. In my life, there are a lot of moving parts and I don't have much control over most of it. I am a mother of two teenagers, wife of 25 years, sister to 3 siblings, entrepreneur and caregiver - so yes, there's a lot going on here in the Coughlin household and in my business. And only some of it is related to my caregiving responsibilities and relationships.

But I know my purpose in life and I have a vision for what my business and life will look like in five years and in ten years. So the daily adjustments I need to make to timelines and strategy are just part of my life. And if I lose a day or a couple of weeks here and there, or if I suddenly can only work half days (like, for example, when a pandemic hits and my teenagers are home with me for ten months…), I remember that I’m working on a much longer timeframe.

I cultivate the practice of patience, which helps me in moments (and days and weeks) when I am frustrated by my circumstances. I can be more present in my days right now, and less anxious about the future, because I know there will always be another possibility to see. Even when something seems to go up in flames (like the year 2020), I can see possibilities, and I can fix my mind both on what I’m doing now and on what’s ahead. 

I think it’s actually pretty funny that I would be one to talk about patience, because anybody who knows me would say that I am famously impatient (especially with myself). But I’ve redefined what patience means for me. I’m a work in progress and still lose my temper when I’m off schedule. But as I have also come to understand and cultivate peace for myself, in my mind and in my heart, practicing patience has given me a new depth of self-love. Which leads me to: 


In the past, I tried to work through my thoughts and beliefs and feelings so that I could “get over them,” or “let them go.” One of the things I’ve learned, from my clients but also in my own work, is that most humans don’t really “get over” stuff. The things that have happened in my life, even the very terrible things, made me who I am. Why would I want to get over them? I don’t think there’s any point in denying or resisting my past. I’ve learned to choose to work toward being at peace instead.

And when things don't work out the way I want - and this happens to me a lot! - now I can be at peace with the circumstances. Because I can see possibilities, I don’t spend a lot of time arguing with reality any more (as Byron Katie says, “You can argue with reality, but you’re only going to lose 100% of the time”). I ask myself how can I start again, what can I adjust and, when this is all over, who do I want to be?

And that’s really what this series is about: who do you want to be? Learning to see possibilities helps you ask that question from a place where there is no judgment. It also helps you see more choices so you can choose to move in the direction of living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling, in ways that you define for yourself. Even when you are a caregiver, and you want things that have nothing to do with caregiving.

The next message is going to be the last one in this series, but it will be more than a wrap-up, so stay tuned!

Please let me know if you can relate to this, or if you have any thoughts or  questions, by leaving a comment here.

Kay Coughlin

*If you want to break through to see your possibilities quickly. grab my free "Thought Download Cheat Sheet". And let me know how it goes for you. I'd love to hear from you!


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Copyright 2020, Facilitator On Fire, Galena, OH, 43021, 614.426.8062

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