Life Coach Martha Beck
Who she is: A sociologist with three degrees from Harvard, Beck is the author of several bestselling books that help readers map their way to a more joyful life: Finding Your Own North Star (2002), Steering by Starlight (2008), and her latest, Finding Your Way in A Wild New World.
What she does: Beck was named one of the country’s first life coaches in 2002, thanks to an article by USA TODAY. It explained that life coaching guides “give clients the confidence to get unstuck—to change careers, repair relationships, or simply get their act together.” In the last several decades, her national and international workshops, and sophisticated coaching training program, have helped millions bridge the gap.
Why she does it: “Most of our biggest problems come from the misuse of our imagination. We imagine a situation or event someone told us we should want, or we imagine a repetition of our past and so create nothing new. The best way to learn real imagination is to practice “feeling into” the future. Picture yourself feeling your way through an unfamiliar room in the dark. Relaxing and allowing your mind to wander will actually help you correctly intuit your next steps.”
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Truly Amazing Women
“How the hell did you get here? What the hell are you going to do now?” These are the questions that Martha Beck asks—and helps readers answer—in Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, which is her newest book.
To begin, Beck suggests we locate our “inner rhinoceros.” She explains: “It’s the one thing that so fulfills your life’s real purpose that if someone told you, ‘it’s right outside—but watch out, it could kill you!’ you’d still run straight out through the screen door without even opening it. Barefoot.”
Does anything pop to mind? Whether you are shaking your head “yes” or “no,” Beck believes that you do know what your rhino is, but you may not yet know that you know, because, she insists, “the part of you that clearly sees your right life is your true nature, and it doesn’t talk much. But it will awaken in you such happiness that you’ll want it to return again and again.”
Once you figure out what constitutes the thing that makes you tick, your best bet for living happily and prosperously is to go interact with it, says Beck, who insists:
“Maximum positive attention (the most valuable resource in this wild new world) comes from being absolutely yourself, operating from your true nature, to connect with the true nature of people, animals, plants, and situations.”
Think this sounds like bunk?
Beck knows there are plenty of naysayers out there. But her perspective is provocative: “As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, the pace of technological and social change has reached what statisticians call ‘the knee of the curve’ in an exponential growth pattern. That means that, after many centuries of slow progress from basic fire-making to the Industrial Revolution, we are now inventing more powerful technologies at such a pace that soon the human brain won’t be able to keep up with the machines it has built.
“Even professional futurists have no idea what the world will look like in the coming decades, though they do highlight a few key trends that will almost certainly continue.”
Beck believes these include the following:
1. Individuals now have the power to do things that at any earlier point in human history, only large organizations like governments and corporations could do—such as getting information to billions of people.
2. The means for achieving objectives like this are becoming cheaper, more accessible, and more ubiquitous each day.
3. Knowledge is no longer power, because knowledge is no longer scarce. What is scarce is human attention. Directing human attention is the way people trade good and services—thus how they survive financially—in the wild new world.
4. The qualities that capture positive attention these days aren’t slickness, blandness, and mass consensus (boring), but authenticity, inventiveness, humor, beauty, uniqueness, playfulness, empathy, and meaning (interesting).
5. The most scarce, most coveted resources aren’t high-tech machines or highly developed cities, but “unspoiled” places, people, animals, objects, and experiences.
So how can you identify and heal your true nature to create the life you want?
We asked Beck to shine some light on these topics, and more. Following is our Q&A with the life coach.
Be Inkandescent: Your new book helps guide people through their personal and professional transformations, which you call “technologies of magic.” Tell us how you define this term, and why it’s fundamental.
Martha Beck: Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So to a rainforest shaman, an iPod looks like magic, and to us, his ability to create psychoactive medications by listening to plants “singing” looks like magic. Our technology is about learning to make silicon chips, his is about learning to hear plants. Don’t believe in his technology? See if his medications work.
The premise of this book is that in the process of becoming the most materially successful culture in history, we forgot much of the ancient “technologies” that our ancestors used to live in harmony with nature. We have been very successful in terms of making stuff, but we’re not so successful at making ourselves happy, or caring for the planet on which our survival depends. I believe we can use the best of our culture (the magic of technology) and the best of less-materialistic traditions (the technologies of magic) to create lives and communities that are simultaneously technically advanced and conducive to the health of our psyches, our bodies, and our natural environments. This starts within each individual, so to some extent, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” is a self-help book. But it’s designed to take people beyond healing their own lives, and on to healing other people, beings, places, and situations.
Be Inkandescent: Given that some business people aren’t used to the concept of “magic” yet, what’s the best way to impart your teachings to the skeptical or the ultra-logical?
Martha Beck: I actually don’t believe in magic, and neither did any of the people I found who could do magical-looking things. Our own physicists describe a reality in which every physical thing is actually a field of energy, “entangled” with other fields of energy that may be millions of miles away, and communicate with one another faster than the speed of light. Reading the work of great physicists is more mind-blowing than the strangest ghost story. There’s a monkey at Duke University who can control a robot in Japan simply by imagining that she’s moving her own body!
Despite all this, most of us still hang onto the Newtonian view of ourselves as unrelated, solid bodies clunking around in space. BE SKEPTICAL, but be skeptical in the best tradition of the scientific method. Follow modern physics, which will rock your worldview. Test the claims of anyone who says he or she can do “magic.” Believe what works, throw out the rest. There is nothing that can’t be explained by science. And there’s a tremendous amount of reality that science has not yet explained. Go there.
Be Inkandescent: Now let’s talk about the specifics of the new book. In each of its four parts, you teach readers how to “chart a course through the wild new world using Wordlessness, Oneness, Imagination, and Forming.” Let’s tackle each, starting with the power and importance of Wordlessness. Why is this important, and what are some tips to help our readers accomplish this state, which shifts consciousness out of the verbal part of our brains?
Martha Beck: The verbal part of the brain, which is what we’re taught to focus on almost to the exclusion of all other things, is relatively new to evolution, and full of “bugs.” It’s like a first version of a software program that was rushed to market. The nonverbal portions of the brain are much larger, more powerful, and less prone to error. Dropping out of language and into an awareness of the information coming from the rest of the brain is the first step in creativity, connection, and problem-solving. There are many methods we can use to do this—too numerous to mention here. You can always read the book!
Be Inkandescent: Next, tell us more about Oneness, which enables us to sense the interconnection between our own consciousness and beings that are seemingly unconnected to us. How can we accomplish this in our daily work lives? And how can Oneness help us find and embrace the professional lives we want?
Martha Beck: Oneness is not only the way all mystics perceive reality, but the way we all function in the moments we forget to stay locked in mental stories. Another word for it is “love,” but that’s so misused I want to be careful using it. The moment we slip out of language and into the larger supercomputer of the nonverbal brain, we notice that things we saw as separate from us are actually parts of ourselves.
Neuroscientists now know that our brains are continuously creating new areas that correspond, for example, to the tools we use—a part of your brain is now operating your watch, your car, your clothing, as if these things are part of your body. When we let ourselves feel “one” with anything or anybody, a real connection is created between our consciousness and that supposedly separate entity. This is where we get to the limit of the Newtonian view—but our science and ancient traditions keep telling us it’s true.
As long as we’re able to sense our connection with things, we really can send and receive information through that connection. We’re all wireless communication devices communicating through a field of energy. We can learn to use that reality to function better in every area of our lives.
Don’t stop now! To learn more about Martha Beck’s other books, read our Tips for Entrepreneurs.