I love helping people create change in their lives. Change is really dependent on two skills: the ability to ignite change and the ability to sustain change. Put another way, it’s dependent on our being able to channel our inner Barbarians and our inner Farmers.
Barbarians are great at charging in and changing things, but are not as skilled at sustaining and maintaining that change. For example, a barbarian dater may be great at going into a bar and charming the men in it, and even have some dynamic first and second dates, but lose interest or passion when faced with a long-term, committed relationship. A barbarian financier may be quick to set up a financial plan with state-of-the-art budget trackers and the latest and greatest new investment strategies, but then does not check in with his accounts regularly.
In contrast, farmers are are not as skilled at sparking change in their lives, but are great at sustaining systems that are already in place, nurturing their crops season after season. For example, a farmer employee may work tirelessly at her job, producing reliable and consistent results with care, but is afraid to ask for a promotion or to make a switch to a different career. A farmer son may be happy celebrating every Sunday brunch with his parents and talking about the standard “how was your week,” but is too uncomfortable to ask them difficult questions about their pasts, or share intimate details about his current life.
What I teach my clients is that in order to create lasting change that brings about joy in our lives, we need to be both a barbarian and a farmer. The barbarian dreams bold, passionate dreams, and plunges forward to make them a reality. The farmer maintains the dream fulfilled and makes it a new, sustainable way of living life. Both barbarians and farmers require strong personal integrity; that is, the ability keep your word to yourself and do what you say you will do. A barbarian’s integrity comes in taking the scary or difficult steps of rocking the boat, bucking the status quo and going after deeply desired dreams. A farmer’s integrity comes in following through on the new behaviors, day after day, week after week, to cement the dream fulfilled into a new way of life.
Behind every successful, sustainable change in my life was a strong partnership between Barbarian Sam and Farmer Sam.
When I took on losing 15 pounds a few years ago, I first became Barbarian Sam. I made a strict list of food rules, including giving up sugar, processed grains and food after 9:30pm, and watched excitedly as the number on the scale dropped lower and lower. When I reached my target weight, Barbarian Sam congratulated herself on a new territory conquered, and then felt like going out for a burger to ponder what big conquest would be next. Learning Chinese, maybe?
Had I stayed as Barbarian Sam, I would right now be wearing those 15 extra pounds again. Instead, Farmer Sam stepped up, and I learned how to make this new way of eating become my new “normal.” In Farmer Sam mode, I learned a solid set of healthy recipes, set up weekly grocery shopping time and celebrated my new body. When tempted to stray from my eating plan, Farmer Sam made sure that I did not lose sight of just how joyful it was to live in my dream body. Thanks to Farmer Sam, my “new” approach to my body became steadfast, season after season, as predictable as the sun rising in the east.
As another example, when I first split up with my ex, I became Barbarian Sam. I decided I was going to go after my big and exciting dream of moving to New York City. Within a few weeks, I packed my trusty steed (i.e. rental car) with just my most vital possessions and made the bold voyage over to a temporary sublet in central Brooklyn. I slept on an air mattress and worked on a folding tray table while sitting in a collapsible picnic chair. At that point, Barbarian Sam was satisfied. Mission accomplished. What shall I take on next? Maybe it’s time to start that family genealogy project I’ve always been dreaming about?
Had I not called Farmer Sam onto the scene, I would likely be writing this blog from that same picnic chair overlooking that same decaying alleyway. Instead, in order to sustainably “plant” myself in NYC, Farmer Sam stepped in. I researched neighborhoods in the New York area, learned about rental rates and found the nearest IKEA. I set up weekly outings with friends, learned how to use the subway and what the different lights on a cab signified. I crafted each facet of the new New York life I wanted for myself, and now, almost exactly one year later, I can honestly say that I live that life, day in and day out. Thank you, Farmer Sam.
The key to powerful and lasting change in your life is to partner with your inner Barbarian and Farmer. Where in your life do you need to be more of a Barbarian? Where do you need to be a Farmer? Write a note and tell me.
P.S.- Want to become more of a barbarian or a farmer or learn to balance the two? I lead a weekend workshop where I teach you how: the Life Coaching Crash Course. I promise, in two days, YOU will change your life. Locations include: NY, Boston, DC, San Francisco area, and L.A.
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Dr. Samantha Sutton is a Senior Coach and Vice President and Director of Courses and Seminars at The Handel Group®. Samantha designs and leads the Handel Group’s® flagship workshop, the Life Coaching Crash Course. Samantha additionally coaches at universities such as Stanford and MIT. Prior to becoming a coach, Samantha received a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT.