Training to be a coach is a privileged position. Perched on clients’ shoulders and hearing their confidences, I’m not quite Jiminy Cricket, but I like to think my voice does get heard. One of my clients has a talisman for inspiration. His favourite superhero, Spiderman, is plastered on his wall. And what did Spiderman always say? With great power, comes great responsibility. Well – his uncle said it, but that’s not quite the point. I have to show the responsibility that comes with being a coach.
What lessons have I learnt from this past few months training with the International Association for Generative Change (IAGC)?
Not quite Jiminy Cricket, and not yet a fully qualified coach, I like to think the directness of approach afforded by generative coaching has taught me a number of valuable lessons. I can apply these to a future coaching career, but to my own life too. I am not a guru. I don’t ever intend to market myself as a ‘guru’: I have much work to do on myself.
The most obvious and practical lesson I’ve learnt training as a coach is the one I’ve referenced: the need to act responsibly, listening to every story with sensitivity.
Focusing on the coaching process, I like to make my presence ‘felt’ so my voice and words resonate. I work to deepen my connection with clients, so we feel the necessary trust to confide in one another. Whatever our individual identities or background, the aim is to share that one hour in partnership with one another, exercising zero judgement.
Patterns have emerged. I’ve done work experiencing my own emotions, noticing how they fluctuate. I’ve listened to others. Whatever scepticism I show in response to the material world and to politics, ultimately I like to think I am compassionate.
Whomever I’ve worked with, and whoever coached me, I’ve observed common behavioural patterns and mindsets.
- By and large we want to do our best in life.
- By and large we carry childhood wounds we might not want to name; all too often, we’re scarcely aware these wounds manifest in our adult choices and behaviour, but scratch beneath the surface, and soon enough, we realise they are there. It’s better to deal with them. Invite them to dinner or tea.
- By and large we are modest and humble. Even when we’re not, we have insecurities that lie deep within. These insecurities are among the biggest barriers we face, but they do need to be confronted, some time or other.
- By and large we want to be liked, or respected. We travel some distance to achieve recognition.
For some, this human desire for recognition solidified early on in life into something rather chronic, which is a constant need for validation. In 21st century life, some forms of validation are easy to come by. Or we fool ourselves into thinking they are, but like a donkey to water, this need for validation constantly needs to be refilled. But it can never be filled, which is precisely the point. Self-love is a workable substitute.
- We are bored, not because our lives are boring but because we want to save ourselves from confronting our true wants, needs and fears.
- We procrastinate or self-sabotage our own chances of success because we’re afraid of our goals; they’re overwhelming. We don’t believe we’re deserving. And so we don’t achieve what we want, thus confirming hard-wired assumptions about how we’ll always underperform. Negative thought patterns mean whatever (poor) outcomes we achieve are by and large, self-fulfilling. Breaking free takes hard work.
- Addictive and compulsive behaviour is commonplace. We’d all do better to admit we have a tendency or bias towards one addiction or other. The key is not to simply address the ‘symptom’ (to stop eating so much, to stop smoking, to stop watching porn etc.), but to ask questions about what the behaviours and compulsions are triggered by, what they help us escape and how we can work to acknowledge these underlying issues, and with the right support, self-heal.
Women have by and large had their voice muted so they seek permission or qualify their true wants and needs.
- We can work incredibly hard or put ridiculous amounts of energy into a project and still find we’re not fulfilled, because we’re comparing ourselves to others’, or fear missing out on some other project or goal. We’re not nearly satisfied enough with our efforts or the rewards we reap.
- We largely look to eliminate negative thought patterns. We wish away anger, sadness and other difficult emotions. Looked at another way, these are instructive emotions. They’re human signals. They send us a message, and we’d do better to embrace them and work out how to nurture our other latent needs, without turning these so-called ‘negative’ emotions into implacable enemies.
By and large we can turn obstacles into resources. We can show our obstacles we’re ‘boss’ with a fierceness equal in ferocity to anything they can throw at us. But fierceness alone won’t work – not over the long-term. We’ll also need to show ourselves compassion and tenderness when the same challenges inevitably re-appear. A sense of humour and some playfulness can come in handy too.
We beat ourselves up too much, especially as a secondary emotion in response to a difficult first experience. If we feel bad, we’d do better to feel bad and work out why, than to beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we’re stupid, pitiful etc. for feeling bad.
- We’re not nearly connected enough to our bodies or nature. In terms of understanding our bodies, we pop pills (I’m not going to be a hypocrite, I know I do), but we don’t do the cheaper and easier things available to us first, i.e. sleep more, work less. More essential still, we don’t take enough care to listen to our bodies to prevent things from going badly wrong in the first place.
- We live in a binary world; things are either good or bad, up or down, black or white, strong or weak, when in fact multiple realities define our lived experience. Being open to them all and understanding the relationship between these states of being or emotions (we may feel good about some things and bad about others), is probably a gentler and more humane way to live our lives.
This is hardly ground-breaking, revolutionary stuff.
It’s not Jungian, or Freudian, or anything specifically, but good common sense.
Writing is also a privilege, especially now as I belong to creative writing and non-fiction writing groups. If I can’t write, I think I struggle to make sense of what’s happening around me, to those who I care about and the world we inhabit. And it’s the most democratic of acts. As author Joanne Harris says anyone can do it as long as they have some paper and a pen.
I am currently part of a writing circle organised by Curtis Brown Creative, the literary agents. It’s a wonderfully supportive and talented group and I learn a hell of a lot from the other writers. We’re all writing a memoir or undertaking life writing. Again, it’s worth observing that whatever age we are, wherever we come from – for all our apparent differences – the life challenges and fears we’ve come into contact with and want to write about are at core, almost identical.
To some degree we’re conflicted. These conflicts are bloody awful for some, and for others, the conflict will appear indirectly but touch them nevertheless. Much as we look at strangers or friends and observe their lives in comparison to ours’, and imagine how much easier they have it, or how seemingly straightforward their lives are, the reality is that no-one – no one at all – has it easy.
I like to think that by coaching (and writing), I can confront my own challenges and in the process, hopefully help others too. If you’re interested in learning more about my coaching work, please do get in touch.