Through my years of coaching, I've been honing my philosophy about what coaching is, what allows for the greatest growth, and what I believe about the power of personal development. I’ve noticed certain patterns that influence my beliefs about coaching. And as I grow and mature as a coach, I’m sure these premises will continue to evolve. For now, here are my 10 basic tenets of coaching:
1. Meaning 6. Purpose
2. Growth 7. Uncertainty
3. Emotions 8. Paradox
4. Awareness 9. Yes, and...
5. Acceptance 10. Practice
As humans, we are driven to make meaning of our emotions and experiences. That meaning comes in the form of what we tell ourselves about our emotions and experiences. They are expressed as our beliefs, perspectives, attitudes, mindset, and the things we tell ourselves. This is what I call our “stories” or personal narratives. We are story-making creatures, it is a way to make meaning of our life and experiences. It is how we judge things, events, people in life and how we justify our behavior. We might say that:
b happened because of c and the result is d.
I am feeling this way because _________.
I can/cannot do this because _________.
A good person is ____________, a bad person is ____________.
Our stories are not truth with a capitol “T.” Different perspectives of the same event will give you different stories. People will create different meanings based on those perspectives.
We can change, grow, and develop. Development does not stop once we reach adulthood. We all can learn to improve our communication skills, increase empathy, and generally “grow up.” A major part of growth is changing our perspectives. This is what I call “rewriting your story.” Setbacks can become opportunities. Suffering can provide a place for new growth. We begin to see our experiences as a platform for learning. Changing your story, rewriting your story, is not about denying what you’ve experienced, nor is it toxic positivity. Rewriting your story is about gaining a new perspective on your experiences and allowing yourself to move through/beyond the suffering and trauma.
Emotions are one of the fundamental parts of being human. They are bits of information that we can use to help us navigate our lives. There are not “good” emotions and “bad” emotions, and they do not define us. They are something we experience. Unfortunately, many of us are ill-equipped to handle and express our emotions in a healthy way. There is a general lack of emotional intelligence. And the real problem with a lack of emotional intelligence and awareness comes from the fact that when we do not understand the emotion we are experiencing, we simply react to a set of thoughts and beliefs about those emotions. When we fail to really understand what we are feeling and why we are feeling that way, we usually end up reacting as a way of self-preservation without determining what is motivating our actions and deciding if it is the healthiest way to respond.
Before any change, growth, or improvement can occur, we must first become aware of our stories, thoughts, and emotions. Until we are aware, we will just be reactionary. Once you are aware, you then have choice and you can choose a new response, you can choose a new way to act, you can choose new meaning that you give to your emotions and experiences. You may continue to choose to act the same way, and that is just fine because you will be acting more intentionally. If you’re looking for a change, awareness is where it starts.
Much of our suffering in life comes from fighting the things we’re feeling and experiencing--telling ourselves things should be different. Acceptance is the art of allowing yourself to feel and experience without judgment. It is the art of allowing. There’s a difference between acceptance and complacency. Acceptance does not mean you say, “well, that’s just the way I am and there’s nothing I can do so I’m not going to try and speak/act better…” With acceptance, you acknowledge how you are feeling and acting, allow those feelings, and then choose what you will do with them. Whatever it is you’re going through or working on is okay. There’s nothing wrong with your imperfections and foibles. Awareness, then acceptance, are the first steps towards change.
Whatever we’re currently doing is serving us in some fashion. It may not be healthy for us, but it is serving some purpose. Usually, it’s keeping us safe from a perceived threat. Often times, our thoughts and actions were originally a way for us to survive and protect ourselves. As children, many of us lacked experience, modeling, and the tools necessary to deal with different stressors in our lives. We acted in the best way we knew how, and it kept us safe enough. But as we mature and gain more experience, we can use different tools and choose healthier ways to interact. Understanding how our actions/reactions serve us can open up development.
Most humans hate uncertainty. We crave certainty. But there is very little in life that is certain, so learning how to embrace the uncertainty is a powerful way of gaining peace. This begins with accepting that life is uncertain. We can only be certain of death and change. Life will always have ups and downs. And that is okay. The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can learn to navigate those ups and downs, rather than wasting energy trying to fight it.
Life is rich in paradox. Learning to hold the paradox within brings greater peace. Sometimes letting go brings us greater control. We cannot find ourselves unless we first get lost. The things that bring us the greatest joy in life often bring the greatest pain as well. To me, paradox is about understanding the tension in life and living within that tension. It is about in-tension-al living.
Part of holding space for paradox is life is adopting a yes/and approach to life. Life is rarely either/or, although thinking in such binary terms can give us a false sense of certainty and security. As we learn to embrace the possibility that life can be both amazing and horrible, people can be cruel and kind, and we all have moments when we are foolish and other times when we are wise, we will find greater flexibility in our relationships. This applies to our relationships with others and ourselves. Yes, there are things we can change, and some things we cannot change. It’s all part of the package.
Change and growth are possible, but it takes practice. Living, growing, and developing are all a kind of practice. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes conscious, mindful, daily effort. And once you’ve mastered one thing, there’s always another way to grow and develop, like layers of an onion. Personal development is a lifelong practice.
These premises form the lens through which I view my clients potential and my own potential. I am a firm believer in the power behind these philosophical ideas--they are the backbone of my own growth and development. These basic tenets have helped me grow from an anxious, depressed individual into someone with greater patience, acceptance, grace and compassion--for myself and others. And they’ve also helped me realize that I’ll never “make it,” in terms of having everything figured out and never needing to grow anymore. There is continual room for growth and development. Sometimes I fight that idea. Sometimes I criticize myself for not having it all figured out. Sometimes I can’t believe how long it’s taken for me to mature. But that’s okay. I’m getting better at embracing uncertainty, paradox, and I’m getting better at the art of acceptance. It makes life good.
If you’re interested in delving into these ideas more or if you want to find out how coaching can help you in your own personal development, sign up for a free consult--Explore Your Options. I’d love to chat with you and see if there’s a way I can serve you.