It’s so easy to offer glib platitudinous directions! What makes it OK for one person to tell another what to do, be or have? I think we ought to just shut the heck up and stop telling people what to do.

Mayfly Dreams

Have you noticed how business coaches, spiritual teachers, gurus and guides, coaches and trainers all constantly tell us to ‘be yourself,’ ‘come from your heart,’ ‘speak your truth,’ ‘follow your dream….’

And we swallow that. We even welcome messages like that.

We are so used to being instructed what to do with our lives that we allow others to tell us what we ought to do!

Sure those ideas can be wonderful positive ones, but we don’t see how sneaky those orders are!

Sneaky? Why are they sneaky?

Because those sweet uplifting live-your-life-better orders don’t necessarily fit for everyone.


Not everyone has a solid idea of ‘who they are’ — I sure didn’t until I was in my late 50s!

What if someone doesn’t have a Big Dream — or has no clue how to even find one, much less follow it?

What if someone’s truth has been so buried for so long they don’t even know it’s there?

What if someone has a past so tortured and abused, they’re terrified to speak at all, much less think of, much less whisper, their truth?

What if their heart has been crushed so many times they daren’t access it, because it feels like dying?

What if being told to do those things just makes for more fear and feelings of I’m-not-worthy, I-can’t?


It’s a conundrum, really, because most of the people who offer ‘help’ really do want to help. But they assume the Other Person needs help. They see the other person as not-OK where they are right now. Who are they to judge? Maybe that person is in exactly the right place right now!

And then they use worn out methods that don’t really work all that well. It’s so easy to offer glib platitudinous directions!

What makes it OK for one person to tell another what to do, be or have? I think we ought to just shut the heck up and stop telling people what to do.


I like the idea of provocative questions.

What would happen if that Famous Guru, instead of strutting around onstage spouting platitudes and slick suggestions, came off the dais and sat down beside you and simply asked, ‘I’m curious — what would your deepest heart want to do/have right now?”

And what if, in the case that you don’t know the answer to that, s/he said, ‘It’s OK that you don’t know! Maybe think of one thing you wish you could do, be, have, or say, and if you knew you could get and have what you wished for, what would it be?’

After you get over the shock of the question, you might allow yourself to relax and sink into the Question.

You might skirt around it, not really believing you could have what you want or wish for.


It’s a funny thing. We say we want to change ourselves or the things in our lives. But when it comes right down to it, most of us cling to old ways like gum on a hot sidewalk gloms onto your shoe.

Change is scary. We ain’t never be’n thar before!

So we make a big deal of wanting change, and spend a lot of money on trying. But we don’t always follow through — that’s why all those shelf-help courses we’ve never touched, right?


So, coming from curiosity, rather than an obsequious ‘helping-you’ position— what is one thing you wish you could do, be, have, or say before you leave the planet ? If you knew you could have what you wished for, what would it be?

When I ask myself those questions, I close my eyes softly, and watch as an answer — maybe even more than one — floats up from my insides like a delicate, newly hatched butterfly.

I carefully note them down so they don’t slip away.

Provocative questions are so much more fun!

I like how they help me find out my deep answers; they are so much more opportunity-opening than orders, suggestions, quotes, dictates, rules and regulations.

When someone asks me a provocative question, it feels good to me.

I feel like the person asking is on my side, not telling me I should be better or something I’m not. After all, maybe I AM the thing they want me to be, but they just can’t see it!


Most people — especially women — find it so hard to ask for something for themselves. They get embarrassed, ashamed — like it’s wrong to think something good might happen for them. Early conditioning has ruined us!

Every single one of us goes through social conditioning as as we grow up. No one gets through it unscathed. Some never get over it.

When I was a kid, it seemed like every time I looked in the mirror, my mother would catch me and nag, “Stop looking at yourself all the time! You’re so vain!”

What neither of us knew was that I don’t have a good sense of where my body exists in the world, so using a mirror to see if I really do have my feet on the ground, or my pants on right, kept me from feeling as if I’m floating away. It has zero to do with vanity.

She didn’t know that what I was experiencing — still experience — was a Thing. To me, it was just how things were. I was too young to know I was weird, or to be able to articulate that I had a problem grounding myself in this physical reality.

So because of her, for many years I didn’t dare look in the mirror.

It’s that kind of conditioning that cripples us inside. We just take it as ‘this is how life is,’ because we get the same conditioning day in and day out. It isn’t until we grow older that we can see that not everyone has the same ideas about life.

My sense of self was severely damaged because of that one message — you’re vain if you look in the mirror. Because I came to feel that I had to avoid checking myself in the mirror, I became disastrously clumsy — and was scolded for that, too!

If you had asked me what my Big Dream was, I’d have gone blank, because it never occurred to me that I could have one, much less know what it was.

Not everyone can see clearly enough to know how to make an individual, Real Choice, unaffected by the ideas and opinions of parents, teachers, bosses, ‘experts,’ ‘officials,’ and authorities.


In a video I watched last night, a teacher suggested that, instead of asking a kid ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ — to which most kids either say what they think you want to hear or go blank — you ask, ‘what is it that you do or be that makes you feel happy about yourself, or proud?’

He gave examples of what happened when he did that. There was a kid who enjoyed helping people see life clearly. He suggested that she might think of becoming a counselor. A kid who loves playing with tools and blocks might be a carpenter or construction person. A kid who likes helping her classmates with math might think of one day being a teacher — and so on.

I loved his idea. It allowed the kids to feel good about themselves, and then to see beyond that feel-good to something they might expand upon later.


Just as forcing the egg off a chick can kill it, forcing ideas of change on people who live within the bounds set by their social conditioning, never questioning ‘how it is,’ can set them back, too.

As kids we instinctively try to fit in, not stand out so we can feel safe and survive the hazing of growing up. Most of us bring that self-protection mechanism into adulthood.


So why not offer the idea of change in a way that feels safe to people — even exciting? Even possible?

What if we could start expanding our own horizons, and learn how to ask curiosity-based questions that provide the same kind of reaching-far consciousness for others?

I like dreaming up ways to provide openings to new ideas and opportunities, despite the restrictions placed upon us in childhood.

Thinking of these things helps me keep on keeping on.


Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or made you curious, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. Or maybe take on a new exciting scary fun adventure! That’s my wish.



Image: Mayfly Dreams
© Angela Treat Lyon 2021
text © Angela Treat Lyon 2023

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