Cheryl Richardson: Life Coach Seen on 'Oprah'
YM: It could be argued that you’re really just teaching people to be more selfish. Are you?
RICHARDSON: The path to selflessness begins with being selfish. I’ve been asked, aren’t you just teaching people to be selfish, and I’ll say, yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m teaching you to care about how you spend your time; to spend more time with your wife instead of at work; to not take your work home with you on the weekends. Eventually you’re going to feel better about yourself, you’re going to be better to be around and all of a sudden, you’re going to be a better husband, better wife, better partner, and soon you’re going to see the world differently. I’ve had CEOs of companies who’ve never thought a day in their life beyond their computer screen, who suddenly become incredibly selfless. I had one who went out to throw a bottle away in the rubbish and he suddenly stopped and thought, I can’t do that, I have to recycle. He had never recycled a day in his life and now he cannot recycle. Then what does he do? He goes on to create a recycling program at his company.
YM: Have we let our working life dictate, too much, how we feel about ourselves on a personal level?
RICHARDSON: We’re looking for things outside of us–our jobs, our 401Ks, our salaries–to define how valuable we are. And when we lose touch with our internal center and we spend so much time on what’s going on out there, those labels mean something and that’s dangerous place to be located. We need to do the opposite. So when we see that our 401Ks have gone down, or we are losing jobs, what ends up happening is that our external reference for our value disappears, and hopefully you’re forced to go inside and say, okay, I’ve been allowing the outside world to define who I am and that needs to change.
YM: You write a lot about monitoring what goes into our minds. Why is that important?
RICHARDSON: Our thinking does have a direct affect on what shows up in our lives that’s why it’s so important to monitor what goes into our ears and eyes. What we watch on the news, what we read on the Internet, what we listen to in your car, has a direct effect, not just on our physiology, but on our emotional state as well. You may think that it’s is informing you but it’s informing you in a way that’s not necessarily benefiting you. How do you feel when you look at your portfolio? And can you do anything to change it? Now, you might say, I can’t stomach this, I need to sell my stock. Okay, great. But if you’re not going to do anything to change it, then you need to ask yourself, how do I feel when I look at my portfolio? If you don’t feel good looking at it, then you need to stop doing it because it’s affecting you. It’s not just affecting your body and emotional health, it’s setting your mind up to think in such a way to think more of the same.
YM: What’s the key, then, to finding the right kind of balance in our lives?
RICHARDSON: I always tell my clients, work smart not hard. The people I admire are people who do so little with their time and so my goal is to give you more time to ponder. To just be. To just imagine. To allow yourself to be filled with wonderment about your life and the world. We’ve confused intellect and knowledge with wisdom and insight. Business people get their best ideas in the shower, or driving in the car or while on vacation. Why? Because their analytical mind is engaged in something else. Or they’ve finally given themselves a break to just ponder a different picture of life. That’s what I want. Not to be more efficient and organized, but to be present in the moment. And for most people to be present in the moment requires them to be doing less, not more. People say to me all the time, can you teach me to be more organized, more efficient with my time? Probably not, because you can’t make sanity out of an insane situation. Most people live insane lives when it comes to how they’re using their time. What I can do is help you take 30 percent off your plate. That’s how I want to start. Let’s look at what you have on your plate. Most people can’t even see the meal, they have so much crammed on it. See what the heck is going on.
YM: Is it in our New England character, which is driven so much by a robust Puritan work ethic and a constant quest for perfection, capable of the changes you’re talking about?
RICHARDSON: Of course. Yes, we have a tendency to be conservative, maybe more reserved in our belief in what could be but what’s great about being a Yankee is we have the adventure mentality. That, I can do whatever it takes to make happen. There’s tenacity, a commitment that we have to staying with it, that can work to our advantage. A discipline. A great life begins with an open mind and that’s something we could take from our West coast buddies. If we just let that mind and ask, Who am I? What do I want with my life? What am I happy with in my life? Things will improve vastly. I’m a Yankee and it worked. If it worked me, it can work for any human being on the planet. There’s nothing special about me.