The universe smiled at me today. It started with sleeping to my heart’s content last night (very important for my happiness!), then my yoga class with Birgit, who used me to demonstrate Halasana and Shoulder Stand with a chair. I’d never been put on display like that in such a large yoga class, but I love Shoulder Stand. Today I felt particularly aware of my trunk muscles and was very stable during the opening seated meditation. I went up slowly, calmly, fluidly, effortlessly, in front of twenty pairs of eyes watching me. I heard a few sounds of appreciation from the onlookers, but mostly I was feeling it without thinking. No worries. The reality of the moment was blissfully obvious to me.

Then I came home and took in my emails – mainly one from Gail Larsen of Real Speaking finalizing some details for our certification training in January. I remarked that last night I had started to write an email to her, but then decided to save the draft and reread it this morning before sending it. Again, the universe smiled, as she ended up writing to me today! I was riding the wave of excitement from reading what she has added to the program. During our certification week, we will get to practice facilitating to a group of important strangers that Gail will bring in as “guinea pigs” for us. It lit me up from inside to hear of this addition. I guess there is a part of me that values practice and feedback before launching out on my own to do something “for real”. I was having trouble visualizing how I would transition from a week-long training into marketing and delivering my own workshop immediately upon returning home. But this piece was the missing link. I was also excited to hear that we will be training at a new location, this time in downtown Santa Fe, just blocks away from the Plaza. I can’t wait to return to this blessed place. I also can’t help but envision that someday I will end up living there. I scribbled down four new potential workshop titles plus a list of To Do’s before Feburary 2010. It was the first real moment of clarity this week.

The final smile from the universe came from my deciding to take the Kolbe conative style assessment. I don’t even remember the chain of events that led up to this, but suddenly I found myself on the Martha Beck site clicking on the link to the assessment. Martha is a big fan of the system, and all her certified coaches refer to it in their everyday language. So I thought I’d give it a try. I’m a big skeptic of any self-reporting assessments related to working styles, mainly because I’ve found that the surveys are very dependent on interpretation of language -the meanings you attach to certain words and how they attract or repel you. Maybe that’s the exact power of the tools! But in the past I’ve found them to be unreliable because I never knew if I was accurately describing myself.

Well, I clicked through the 20-some questions in the test and paid for the assessment. Imagine my surprise when the first words came up as follows:

Your Kolbe A Index result shows you’ve been working very hard.
You’re probably tired of making such great efforts and not getting the results you desire. Kolbe explains why and how that is happening.
Most importantly, you’re about to discover how to increase your mental energy – and get vastly improved results.
If you completed the Kolbe Index according to what you would do if you were free to be yourself, the results show that you don’t have that freedom right now.
At this time, you’re in a period of Transition which is causing an internal tug of war over the way you try to get things done. You may be trying to do whatever you believe you have to do to satisfy your present situation or requirements of others.
This result provides valuable tips for removing the obstacles that are interfering with the use of your innate abilities.
About 10% of the population is going through a period of Transition at any given time.

Wow! It was like seeing myself in the mirror! I kept clicking through the report and I had the strange feeling that I was speaking to someone who had just met me and had seen all of the interior struggles I am going through right now. It was spooky, because this was an ONLINE ASSESSMENT TOOL! I was feeling understood deeply – at a psychological level – for the first time BY A TOOL!

In my writing and in my dealings with people in my life, I’ve come to realize that how I see myself is not always – actually it’s rarely – how they see me. Even the people supposedly the closest to me have very different views of who I am than how I feel from the inside.

So what is conative style, anyway? Conative style refers to a third part of the mind that was never discussed in medical school – we talked about the cognitive (thinking) part and the affective (feeling) part, but never the conative (doing) part. Just as we each have differing cognitive and affective profiles in our minds, we each have a unique conative profile. As I’m thinking about this now, I am reminded of the slippery slope towards “fixed mindset” that these kinds of labels and assessments can lead to. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, coined the terms fixed and growth mindset. Fixed mindset is the belief that we are all born with a certain amount of innate ability in a certain area, which cannot be changed. Therefore, when we come to a challenge that we are unable to surmount with our known quantity of skill, we back away, attributing our failure to a bad match between the task and our level of ability. In contrast, growth mindset is the belief that we each have the capacity to train and practice to increase our own potential at anything, and that challenges are overcome not by having a greater innate quantity of skill, but by doing more effective practice (ie, hard work) over a sustained time period with expert guidance. Dweck’s research has shown impressive results in all age groups when subjects were taught that their results were a product of their own effort, rather than their innate talents.

I’m curious how applying the Kolbe conative styles can help or hinder the growth mindset philosophy, of which I am a huge proponent based on personal experience and observation. I suppose one camp would say that “success” is defined by achievement, while the other might say that “success” is defined by happiness, energy, and fulfillment. I can see how hard work and discipline do not necessarily lead to the latter.

For now I’m suspending my disbelief and continuing with a curious mind on my journey, staying open to any new information as an opportunity to question more deeply. That’s the beauty of being in Transition…