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The archetypes are a map and model of personal growth. They point to your qualities and greatness and the pitfalls you might encounter that hold you small, in limitation and fear. And they offer a way out of that fear and into choice, freedom and expansion.

Relationships are the most fulfilling part of life.  And simultaneously the most challenging.  How you show up in your relationships is essential to your life success and your personal sense of connection and belonging.  Be it at work, relationships at home as partner, parent and sibling, or with friends, archetypes can help enrich all your relationships.

The world has changed, there is no doubt about that. Coronavirus had altered the landscape of our lives personally, locally, nationally and globally. It has affected how we shop, work, educate our kids, travel, socialise and created so much uncertainty that is affecting the mental health of many people around the world.

What is your relationship with Intuition?  Do you doubt that you have intuition?  Do you second guess intuition and find yourself plagued with doubt, indecision and confusion?  If you get that intuitive hit, how does it come to you- through words, pictures, thoughts or feelings?  And when that hit comes, do you act on it, or do you ignore it?  Perhaps it scares you, or you don’t like what it says, think it’s mundane or pointless?

Intuition and Transformation

When a coaching client connects to their intuition, listens and takes action, it can be one of the most empowering transformations they can make.  Suddenly, they move from needing advice and support from others, to independence, self-sufficiency and clarity.  Advice and support have their place, but when they stop a person from trusting themselves and undermine their sense of autonomy, they become disempowering.  The client becomes small in their body through lack of confidence, plays small in their life by acting without courage and feels small in themselves by staying inside their comfort zone and resisting risk and failure.

Building trust in Intuition has become an important part of the work I do with clients.  And I have begun to run training to empower people to connect to Intuition, learn how to use it, listen to it and act from that place of inspiration.  In collaboration with Thea Allison and Catelijne Coopmans, we devised a series of five sessions focusing on Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth.  These were part of the Embodiment Circles Online in 2020.  This blog focuses on Magician.

Intuition and Magician Archetype

The Magician archetype is an excellent way to access these inherent skills and build trust in imagination, creativity and vision making.  Magician is not an illusionist.  It is a transformer and synthesiser that brings things together to create something new.  It creates from the ether, sensing that which is beyond the senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) and bringing it to life.  Magician captures dreams (like the Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl), creates vision, senses what is on the verge of becoming and helping it manifest.

One Magician in our modern day was Steve Jobs.  He sensed that people wanted a computer that could be used easily, intuitively, immediately and would not be a struggle to learn.  And so he created the Macintosh and computing, animation, publishing and education have never been the same since (see this article Giving People What They Want Before They Know They Want It for more information). Jobs instinctively knew how to listen to Intuition as do many actors, visionaries, authors, musicians, thought leaders, artists, trail-blazers, entrepreneurs and anyone who uses imagination to create a solution.  Stephen Hawking, Paul McCartney, Lin Miguel Miranda and Banksie are all 21st century Magicians.

How Intuition Speaks

We are all born with the instinct to listen to Intuition.  Many of us unlearn that skill.  Fortunately, you can relearn it too.

Intuition communicates with you predominantly in one of four ways:

  1. Words- your inspiration comes in individual words or phrases. Less often it might come as a sentence or perhaps a stream of words.  If it does flow, it is usually because you are writing it down or saying it out loud in some way.  Once you act on the individual word or phrase, you may receive the next step on the journey.
  2. Pictures- flashes or glimpses of insight come to your mind’s eye. Or you may get a moving image like a film playing in your head.
  3. Thoughts- you’ll get an idea jump into your mind or the thought to call or reach out to a specific person.
  4. Feelings- intuition often speaks through the body. A gut reaction, your heart skips a beat, you feel an urge to take action in some way.  Perhaps you’ll meet someone and take an instant liking, or disliking, to them, without having spoken a word.  Or that urge to eat a particular food or be clear that you don’t want to eat something.  You might be inspired to speak your truth.

Bolts from the Blue

Intuition speaks to us through these means.  Most people have a dominant one or two ways, but we have all four.    The one thing they have in common, is that the insight is usually out of the blue.  It has no reference to what you may have been thinking about beforehand.  To the point where it seems weird or freaky.

As an example, I was at a particularly low ebb one New Year’s day.  I felt lost at that point in my life and was wondering what I could do to change it.  A person’s name, someone I had not thought about in months, sprang to mind.  I reached out to him and he helped guide me back on track.

One of the reasons I work with archetypes is because Intuition keeps bringing me back to them as an answer to my questions in life.  When opportunities for new and inspiring work come up, archetypes come, unbidden, front and centre in my mind and workshops and seminars come together with ease.

I will plan what I am going to say when I present workshops or give seminars, but often the script goes out the window when I get an intuitive push to approach the work differently.  In the moment, I’ll change tack and go with it, because I trust my intuition- at least much more than I used to.  Every time, without fail, I ask for feedback and participants say the material was just what was needed.  When I suggest I could have done it differently, hinting at what I had meticulously planned for the event, they always shake their heads and say what I did was better.  I can’t explain it, but it works every time.  I know it works and I have learned to trust it.

Learning to Listen

There are many ways to cultivate your relationship with Intuition.  Over the years I have practised many forms of spontaneous creative output including writing, movement (dance, martial arts), music, play (such as comedy improvisation or playing with children) and public speaking.

Here are a couple of ways in which you can connect to Intuition from the Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth series about Magician:

1. Meditation to Access Intuition

One of the reasons you may not hear Intuition is because your conscious, logical and rational mind is so busy, it is a distraction. It’s so loud and consistently active that you rarely if ever hear Intuition.  And the world is a busy and loud place too.  Lots of distractions there as well- TV, internet, social media and so on.  You may not know it, but Intuition is reaching out to you all the time.  For most of us in the modern world, our focus is towards the busyness and loudness of life.  Intuition often does not get a look in.  Sometimes, its messages get through the cracks when there is a pause- like when you’re taking a shower, running, driving, day-dreaming and so on.

If you want to access Intuition more purposefully, take time to remove some of those distractions from time to time and learn to recognise when Intuition is communicating to you.  Ask for the answer to something about a relationship, a business challenge, health concerns, problem solving and Intuition will give you the next step.  This video is a guided visualisation that will give you a chance to connect to your intuitive voice:

Guided Visualisation

The key is to go with the thing that first comes to mind.  Don’t second guess it.  If you don’t like what you hear, don’t waste your time listening out for something different.  It might be scary, mundane, obvious, not glamorous or glitzy enough for you.  But if that is what Intuition says, then that is the message.  So often, Intuition has me stepping out of my comfort zone that feels great once I’ve done it and isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  Or doing the mundane things like keeping the house tidy or organising my accounts.  It means that I can relax, which feels good and allows me to focus on more important things for my development.  Important things that without that organisation, I wouldn’t have the time or space to do.

Intuition isn’t some woo woo hocus pocus.  It is eminently practical and useful and very often flies in the face of logic, reason and common sense.

2. Embodying Intuition

The Magician in you nurtures your natural ability to go into the unknown, using imagination and intuition to seek new understanding and wisdom to be of service in the world.

Magician can hold itself in the practical, real world, and also transcend the physical to allow valuable information and guidance to come through.

As individuals we access intuition differently. This movement practice, devised by Thea Allison*, uses three different, embodied techniques to access intuition to test them for effectiveness and appropriateness to you personally.

Using the over-arching question What am I here to learn and share? we explored these three embodied enquiries:

1. Transcendence Pose.

We used the Embodied Yoga Principles pose of Transcendence to experience that lift into the higher, into the airy realm of intuition and vision. Standing on tip toe, with your arms straight up, your palms facing each other a shoulder width apart and your gaze going upwards. Holding the question, we used movement to reach out, plucking ideas and possibilities from the ether and intuitively putting those ideas into the body, wherever it felt true to ‘land’ them. Like plucking apples from a tree, or the stars from the sky.

2. Circles

Using circles is an ancient intuitive technique. Create or imagine a circle and define that space to suit your needs, for example, my true vision, or clarity on this project. When you connect with, or step into the circle you will have an experience of how you have defined it. We walked around the edge of the circle, holding the question ‘What am I here to learn and share?’ purposefully imagining the circle to be empty and free of other influences. Stepping into the circle we waited to receive whatever information came.

3. Centring

We went through a simple centring process.  Starting on the external environment by feeling our feet on the floor, standing tall, becoming aware of the feeling of the air on our skin. Moving internally, we noticed our breathing and relaxed our core – eyes, mouth and jaw, down to the belly. With relaxed breath, in this centred state, we asked the question and listened for what came. (Based on ABC Centring technique as taught at The Embodied Facilitators Course.

Intuition is a natural gift that can be practised and nurtured in all of us. We all have aspects of the Magician to call on. The important thing is to find the best way for you to be in the unknown, free of the normal layers of conditioning and bias that direct your thinking, and then hold onto the first thing you get.

To complete the session, we continued walking while considering three questions:

  • 1) Where/how do you experience intuition in your body?
  • 2) What was your reaction to the first thing you got (e.g. reject it, want something more, want something less, doubt it)?
  • 3) What can you do now to make this information useful?

Over to you

How is your relationship with Intuition?  What practices do you have to connect to it?  Were the two offered here useful for you?  What is Intuition telling you?  How will you use Intuition in the future?  If you did use Intuition, how would your life look different in a year from now?  Or five years from now?

We will be creating and delivering further sessions and courses on Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth.  If you’d like to know more about future content and dates with the interest of possibly attending, please e-mail David at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk and I will contact you with additional details as we publish them.  Alternatively, you can subscribe to my newsletter on the right hand side of this page.

Pass It on

Did you find this blog valuable and gain something from it? Do you know a friend, colleague or family member who would find it valuable too?  I’d really appreciate it, and I’m sure they would too.  Thank you.

*Thea Allison specialises in teaching people to use intuition and embodiment to create what is most important to them. She put together this simple exploration of intuition and embodiment.

How do you view responsibility?  A necessary evil?  Part of the blame game?  Something to avoid at all costs?  When you think of responsibility, do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach?  Or does it lighten you and bring a thrill of what is possible, excitement and potential?

Bringing your awareness to the skeleton aligns you to the support your body gives you so that you can be relaxed, more present and at ease.

Do you find it hard to relax?  Are your muscles tight and painful?  Would it be useful to be able to let them release so that you feel at ease and calm?  Could that muscle tension and discomfort come from stress and anxiety?  Where can you find the support to ease that pressure?

Covid-19 and lockdown are both emotional subjects for a lot of people.  I am noticing that there are many emotional responses as individuals, families, businesses and communities come to terms with the impact this pandemic is having on all our lives.  This varied emotional response is completely normal, natural and healthy.

Do you have an inner voice that tells you are not good enough?  Or declares you will not get a better job, or lose that weight you so desperately want to shift?  May be that voice says you’re not intelligent or talented enough?  Perhaps you have an inner voice that says you just need to go on one more course before you’re ready to get that promotion, write that book, or start that business?  These inner voices have many names- saboteurs, gremlins, the committee, inner critics, demons.

Whatever name you give them, you probably face these voices many times a day.  From getting out of bed on time to eating healthy meals and working out to getting your filing done, your saboteurs have a lot to say about what you do and think and what you don’t do and think.  So, if you are finding these saboteur voices are particularly loud, especially during this new year resolution period, here are some things to think about to help you manage your saboteurs more effectively:

Recognise the voice and the feeling of your saboteurs

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?  Low? Lousy? Depressed?  Negative? Does it make you feel like giving up or not bothering?  Are you focused on the problem or the solution?  Do you feel particularly creative or inspired?

When the saboteurs have their grip, you feel heavy, low and uninspired.  It’s not a great place to be.  It also makes your body feel lethargic and you may experience tension in you stomach, chest, shoulders, neck or other places.  You might be confused, conflicted and find you are second-guessing yourself.  Worst of all, you don’t have clarity and you feel stuck.

The saboteurs use words like “can’t” such as “You can’t do that!”, “should” like “You really should do it this way!”, “shouldn’t” for example “I shouldn’t make that phone call………”, “would” such as “I would do it this way rather than that way”, “wouldn’t” for example “I wouldn’t do that”, “ought to” like “I ought to do what he wants”, “don’t” such as “Don’t do it like that!”

Saboteurs hold you back and stop you moving forward.  When there is any growth, your saboteurs are there to stop you taking risks.  The bigger the risk, the louder and sharper the voice, the heavier the feelings.  The voice and feelings are designed to get you to take notice, shrink back and stay well inside your comfort zone.

What are the embodied resources to counter your saboteurs?

Like any superhero movie, there is the hero and the villain.  In fact, you cannot have one without the other.  They are the yin and the yang, opposing forces that keep things dynamic and flowing.  If your saboteurs are the villains in your tale, who are your heroes?

The heroes to counter-balance and hold in check your saboteurs are the positive voices and feelings that make you feel empowered.  While the embodiment of the saboteurs is usually contracted, small and reduced, the embodiment of your inner heroes is expanded, large and takes up space.  When you were a kid and pretended to be Batman and Tarzan or Xena warrior princess and Electra, you felt invincible.  You could achieve anything………….. and often did.

Simply envisioning yourself as this character (putting your big boy/girl pants on) can be enough to feel more confident and do something you wouldn’t ordinarily feel willing to do.  If TV and movie characters don’t work for you, why not try a mentor, sports personality or a person in history you respect and emulate the qualities you admire in them.  You are not trying to be them.  You are embodying the qualities they possess that bring you confidence and an opposing voice to the saboteurs.

If that doesn’t work, stand and move like them. When I feel the grip of one of my saboteurs, one of my strategies is to go for a fast and determined walk, which breaks the lethargy and gives me more energy, focus and determination for the task ahead.  I call it my “fire walk” as it gets me all fired up and I stop listening to the limiting voice of my saboteur.

What is the 2% truth?

What is the truth behind what the saboteur is saying?  Saboteurs will take the smallest grain of truth and blow it out of all proportion.  When you can see the core of the truth, you can dismiss the rest and you can deal with the truth of the situation more effectively.  For example, I don’t like calling people.  My saboteur tells me that they are busy, or they do not want to talk to me and that I am wasting my time.  Then, when I call and they do not answer of brush me off, my saboteur then says “I told you so” and tells me not to bother and makes up stuff like “they don’t like me” or “they are not interested in the work I’m doing” or that my work is pointless and useless.  And even worse, that I am pointless and useless.

See how insidious these saboteurs can be?  Maybe you relate to this direction and momentum of thought?  When I can look at it clearly, I can see that being rejected or ignored are possibilities when I call, and that has nothing to do with me.  The rest is make-believe.  Sometimes it’s easier to stop that train of thought than others.  The key is to catch it early as your thoughts have less momentum.  With greater saboteur awareness, the sooner you can head it off and with greater ease.

What do your saboteurs look like?

Rather than a disembodied voice, it can be easier to work with your saboteur when it has a face, body, clothes, habits, character and personality.  Create a stereotype of your saboteurs.  Have fun creating a caricature that gives you a more manageable perspective on your saboteur.  One of mine is The Drill Sargent, like the one from Full Metal Jacket.  He shouts and rants and raves at me, saying that I’ll amount to nothing and give in.  Another is The Sex God.  I’m sure you can imagine what negative and undermining things he says to me!  But, when those voices have a comedy caricature, like a cartoon, it makes it easier to dismiss them and even send them somewhere so that I am apart from their negative influence.

Saboteurs are trying to help

As frustrating as they are, saboteurs are actually created to keep you safe.  Though you may want to change and do things differently, your saboteur is designed to stop you failing, being humiliated, getting hurt and taking risks.  The truth is, change involves risk and failure is possible.  So, learning to manage your saboteurs for the sake of change, growth and evolution is important.

It seems our habit is to fight our saboteurs.  We push against them, refuse to accept them, tense up and rant and rave in the face of them.  And all that does is make them come on stronger.  It’s human nature to push against what pushes against us.  So, rather than steam roller him, try thanking him.  That’s right.  It’s not a type-o! Thank your saboteurs for trying to help and explain that while you understand they are trying to keep you safe, you no longer want to act and live like this, so it’s time to change.  I was amazed how well this worked the first time I used it.  Faced with lots of negative talk about growing my business, I continually thank my saboteurs for their input and respectfully say that I choose a different way that I believe will get me the results I want.

Because of their helpful nature, I’m not sure we ever stop the saboteurs’ voices.  Perhaps they become easier to manage.  And remember, the bigger the risk you take, the louder the voice they have.  In a way, we don’t want them to stop- as they tell you that you are on the right track!!

Another useful tip given to me by my coach was the more saboteurs you have and the louder they speak, the bigger the dreams you have and the more capable you are of creating them.

Over to You

So, there are five strategies to manage your saboteurs.  Use one, use all, use them in different scenarios.  Work with what works best for you.  Do you recognise the voices of your saboteurs?  Are there more than one?  How do they sound different?  Have you noticed how you stand and move differently when you are lacking confidence and in the grip of a saboteur, compared to when you are feeling like a superhero?  Can you see the truth in what the saboteur is saying and separate it from the lies?  Will you face that 2% of truth and let it teach you what your next moves need to be?  Does it help to personify your saboteurs?  What becomes possible when your saboteurs are no longer holding you back?

Pass it on

Saboteurs are active all the time, not just when new years resolutions are at the fore front of your mind.  Whenever change is afoot, saboteurs are there to hold you back and keep you safe.  They are there to stop change.  So, if you know someone who is struggling with making changes, perhaps their saboteurs have got a hold of them.  Maybe this blog could give them some insight that could make all the difference.  Why not send it their way?

** inspired by personal life events, clients’ conversations and Taming your Gremlin by Rick Carson **

Do you notice that you have patterns or habits of behaviour that show up again and again?  And not just in the same situations, but across many areas of your life?  For example, do you take control of situations at work, with your partner, kids, friends, parents without thinking about it?  Or do you allow others to lead you, taking a passive role in decision making and taking action in family situations, friendships and with work colleagues?

Have you noticed for example how your organisation in book-keeping and completing your tax return shows up in your wardrobe, your kitchen and in the garden?  How does your gardening influence your patience and care for things or allowing time for growth and development of colleagues, clients, ideas, even yourself and loved ones?  Perhaps your yoga practice leads to calmer driving or more enquiry about your health and listening to your body?  Or maybe you notice that your creativity and impulsivity used to such good affect in writing, art and sky-high and out of the box thinking, make it hard for you to settle into doing paperwork and keeping the house in order?

Apply lessons from any task or hobby and see how those qualities show up in your life in other ways. Having recently taken up Tango, I am beginning to see how I do Tango mirrors how I do other areas of my life. And how qualities that Tango asks of me are familiar or unfamiliar.  And how I might apply them more broadly to enhance the quality of my life.

Leading and Following

For example, in any partner dance, there is a leader and follower.  Someone has to create the opportunity for movement and direction while the other adapts to that and flows with it.  There is a misconception that the man leads and the woman follows only.  In reality, they co-create a magical dance.  At one moment, the man leads and the woman follows.  In the next, the roles are reversed.

Tango is a magical dance of leading & following. Where are you leading & following in your life?

This is definitely true of Tango in my experience.  The man may guide and invite his partner to a certain position or movement, but how she goes there and performs the technique is open to her feeling, mood and emotion in that moment.  How you lead influences how she follows.  Once your invitation is taken, you both find yourselves in a new place and the man leads again.

Strong leadership gives her freedom to express herself.  While ambiguous leading leaves her unable to own her moves fully.  Nor does over-bearing leadership allow the woman her freedom either. You can only co-create a beautiful dance if one takes ownership of the leadership and the other to own the following role.  The follower must take responsibility for her role, as well as the leader being responsible for leading through intention, passion and direction with his body in movement, intention and energy.  And then the roles reverse again, and the cycle endlessly continues.

Where does this show up in your life?

The ease with which you lead and follow shows where your patterns and habits lie.  Are you a follower or a leader?  Of course, it is context dependent.  But what feels most familiar to you?  I feel more comfortable following and taking ownership of that.  That can be a huge asset as a life coach as I follow my client’s agenda both within the session and throughout the arc of the coaching relationship.  However, I have to be able to lead in coaching as well, setting boundaries, coaching fiercely and courageously as I champion my client’s strengths, ambitions and visions for a fulfilling and purpose-driven life.

Leadership

Tango is a great opportunity to learn the art of leadership.  To lead and be sensitive to my partner’s balance, poise and direction.  To be clear with my intention so that she is in no doubt where we are going, she can trust my direction and willingly follow without fear. Leadership requires safety.  And all this transmitted through the body without words.  Tango first and foremost is about the body in motion.  The embodiment of leadership- trust, vision, inclusion, fierce courage, communication and listening.  This I bring more and more into my coaching as I learn to lead and follow as required in the coaching conversation.  When coach and client get this right, something magical happens.  Suddenly, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and the partnership is taken on a journey they both feed, and feed from.  This synergy is the probably the pinnacle of co-active coaching, where true transformation occurs for both coach and client.

And this is what happens in Tango as well.  Partners get lost in the moment of flow, balance and music.  For a moment, if you are lucky as a beginner.  I have been lucky enough to experience this moment a number of times.  And then, there is the prolonged moment, which I have only seen other couples enjoy, in which they are lost in the magic and beauty of the dance.

Followship

And what of the art of followship?  In Tango, the skill is to be open to the moment as it unfolds.  To feel the next opportunity present itself and move into that void as the leader invites you into it.  Notice the receptivity in your body and willingness to move with it- this is the follower taking ownership of their part of the dance.  This is taking responsibility for the follower’s role and allowing the leader to lead with confidence, trust and acceptance.  In coaching, my experience is that there is an identical mirroring.  I feel what my client feels in their body and that can be a powerful message that directs the coaching into new and unexplored territory.  There is fruitful learning here.  And, I may notice something in my body that the client has missed in theirs, possibly raising awareness of what is happening for them and offering new insight into their process.

How do you lead and follow?

So, what is your pattern of behaviour? If you find yourself falling habitually into leading or following, it may mean you are taking on these roles unconsciously.  Maybe leading or following feels safe to you?  But you may not do so consciously, intentionally, purposefully and with choice.  Being at choice is the beauty of the dance and it is the magic of coaching.  Freedom and choice are two of the joys of life.

How would life be different if you were more conscious in your leading and following?  What impact would it have on your personal and professional relationships?  How would it enrich your career, parenting, business, intimacy, teamwork and relationships?

For a limited period, I am offering FREE embodiment coaching both on-line and face to face.  As part of The Embodied Facilitator’s Course which I am attending in 2019, I am required to log practice hours in coaching on leader- follower, 4 elements and centring. The coaching could lead to:

  • greater awareness of your unconscious patterns that may be holding you back and limiting your potential
  • tools that would allow you to manage stressful situations more skilfully and therefore achieve more fruitful and effective outcomes
  • better understanding where your strengths and shortcomings lie for better leadership and management of yourself and others

If you’d like to know more about FREE coaching using the body, please e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk. Thank you.

The four elements model

In business, do you sometimes wish you could capitalise on your strengths more?  Would you and your business or career benefit from cultivating those strengths?  Are you unsure how to take advantage of your skills and talents more effectively?  Do you notice where your short-comings may lie and how they might impact you personally and professionally?  Would you like to be able to identify those areas you might develop so that you can take your self-employed business or career to the next level?

Would it be useful to have a model that allowed you to identify all these aspects of yourself, and others, and improve your business as a result?  The four elements model is such a framework, bringing ancient wisdom into modern relevance, benefiting people’s personal and professional lives.

The beauty of the model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others.  This empowers you to know where your strengths lie as well as the strengths of those around you.  It also shows your short-comings.  We even use the elements in our everyday language, as a hint to it’s intuitive descriptive qualities: “they have a fiery temper”, “what an air head”, “he is the salt-of-the-earth” and “she moves like water”.

All this to bring awareness to your short-term states and long-term dispositions and, consequently, develop your range and choice about how you respond to situations and circumstances.  Therefore, you also have the tools to build a team or community around you that is mutually supportive and nurturing.  As well as grow yourself and your impact in the world and on those you share your life with.

Ancient Wisdom

What I love about ancient wisdom is that it has stood the test of time and remains relevant, sometimes thousands of years after its origin.  For millennia, people have found ancient wisdom like the four elements useful, because it enhances their lives through the observation of human nature.  And it gives practical answers to everyday challenges, goals and questions.

The human condition has not changed much in all that time.  We may get caught up in the language and stories of the time and find them hard to understand: Ancient philosophers like Rumi, Lao Tzu or Plato; playwrights like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Andrew Lloyd Webber; American Indian Chiefs like Black Elk or Sitting Bull; the European Pagan stories popularised by The Brothers Grimm and; the Bible or Koran.  They may all seem impenetrable without deep study.  In fact, they simply share wisdom about human nature and our place in the world.  What’s great about the four elements model is that it is an intuitive description of human behaviour that you can test and play with from day one.  And, you can explore each element through your own embodiment, giving you real time feedback about what:

  • it feels like
  • seems familiar
  • you’d like more or less of
  • you could do differently
  • you would wish to leave behind
  • is no longer serving you
  • you long for

The four elements explained

The beauty of the four elements model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others

Throughout history, humanity has sought out answers to questions about the human condition.  Therefore, each culture in every age, has found a way to explain the human condition and help improve how we respond to life’s challenges.  For some it is a model with animals.  Others may use archetypes, spirits or gods.  An enduring model uses 4 elements (some use 5 or more like the Chinese) which are relatively organic and intuitive to interpret and are, to a degree, relatively subjective.  This is a model I have learned while studying The Embodied Facilitator Course (EFC- find out more here) and makes as much if not more sense than many of the models I have studied in the past.

So, let’s take each element in turn and see what you notice in your behaviour.  Which one or two elements are most familiar?  Do certain elements show up in particular situations/ contexts in life?  Did any feel unfamiliar to you?  Is there an element you long for?  Or one that you are sick of?  Pay attention to where the elements show up in significant relationships with others in your life: parents, partners, friends, colleagues, bosses etc.  How do these impact your relationships?  Are there patterns and preferences?  What are the strengths of your preferences?  What are the risks?

Earth

Earthy people like structure.  They like stability, reliability, control, things to be correct and organised.  Therefore, they like planning, management, budgeting and making lists.  You want your accountant or lawyer to be an earthy type.  However, too much Earth and things can get stuck and uninspiring.  Earthy people will maintain standards and hold to tradition.  When things get chaotic, the Earth quality will bring fairness, stability, reliability and self-control.

If you want to engage with an Earthy person, show them the facts.  Go slow and be structured and methodical.  In turn, they communicate in a factual and practical manner and will offer a supportive and reliable role.  If you find yourself lacking this element, slow down and get into the garden.  Literally, work with the Earth.  Take a walk in nature and breathe deep into the belly.  In excess of Earth?  Use qualities of the other elements, especially Water to create more movement, action and challenge some of that physical, mental and emotional rigidity.  Air can also bring a lightness, playfulness and creativity to counter Earthy heaviness and conformity.

Water

This element’s primary focus is relationship and acceptance.  Watery people love to listen, accommodate and care for others and support people.  They want loyalty and harmony in relationship.  Dislikes are rejection, conflict and loss.  They are great in feedback, networking, staff-care and HR roles.  You want your HR manager, coach and therapist to be a Watery person.  Too much Water and someone is a push over with weak boundaries and prone to collusion.  Empathy, connection, intimacy and relationship building are all Water qualities.

If you want to engage with a Watery person, take your time to listen and build the relationship.  Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings and show that you care.  Water’s communication style is empathic and relational.  In need of more Water?  Get to the sea or a river or failing that create comfort and soft lighting in the home.  Too much Water can be balanced with all the other elements, especially Earth to give structure and Fire to create and maintain boundaries.

Fire

What needs to be done?  When you need to take action, get results, prioritise and make tough choices, Fire is what you want to embody.  It will come as no surprise to hear that Fire is about directness, assertiveness, energising and doing more, being stronger and getting it done faster.  You want your boss or manager to have Fire.  If you are self-employed, you benefit from Fire too as you are the one who has to get the job done.  At their best, Fiery people will be challenging, name what needs to be said, be sincere and cut to the chase.  Too much Fire and you will rush and get pushy (perhaps to the point of brutality).

If you want buy-in from Fiery people, tell them what the results will be and the benefits.  Motivate to action through challenge, creating competition, setting goals, having a fast pace and being competent at what you do.  They will likely talk to you in a challenging and direct way.  Too much Fire can be balanced with Water for more relational integrity and with Earth for the rushing and potential burnout.  If you have too little Fire, get to the bright lights of big cities like London or New York or indulge in fiery activity like martial arts or tango.

Air

What is possible?  Sky-high, big picture thinking without a box is how Air people envision and strategise.  Leadership, innovation, brainstorming and creativity come from Air energy.  The light side of Air also leads to humour, flexibility, inspiration, and spontaneity.  Air types love freedom, creativity and perfection and fear boredom, imperfection and being controlled.  Use Air to over-come challenges, get clarity and come at things with lightness and fresh ideas.

Want to engage Air people?  Inspire, explore, study and learn with them, be original, use humour and pace.  Get them curious and fuel their joy of whatever you are trying to enrol them in.  Too much Air and people are vague, chaotic and silly.  Use the other elements to balance the excess Air, especially Fire for directness and Earth to bring order and calm.  Too little Air can be balanced with open space, bright lights, colour and chaos.  Head for the hills and mountains.  All this will inspire creativity, joy and excitement.

Four elements embodied

As you may have noticed in the descriptions, there are embodied qualities to each element.  You can evoke each one by moving, standing and sitting differently and even by subtly changing your posture.  This empowers you to bring more of what you think you might need to a situation or dial down what you might need less of.  We will be exploring the embodiment of the four elements in the next Be the Best Boss event in Cambridge on September 19th, 2019.

You will learn your particular mix of elements and be able to work out the mix of others.  This will allow you to better communicate with other people, teams and organisations. You will learn how to work with the elements through embodiment, to get better results in business situations as well as personal ones. The elements will give you more adaptability and versatility in work situations and work better with different people, groups and cultures, thus developing your leadership skills.  You can find further details here.

Over to you

What are your element preferences?  How do they impact on what you’re good at?  How do they limit you?  What elements would you wish to cultivate?  What impact could that have on your business, career and relationships?

Pass it on

If you found this blog interesting, please forward it to people you think might be interested too.  And if you know people in your network that might be interested in attending the Be the Best Boss workshop on leadership and embodiment, please send them the link (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-the-best-boss-you-ever-had-a-workshop-on-leadership-and-embodiment-tickets-67255712647).

Thank you.