The Rock Your World blog
No-one told us where to look
Never quite knowing what the rules are but desperate to stay in the game we call our lives, we spend much of our time and energy questioning our thoughts, emotions, choices and motives. Always on the lookout for the Truth, sometimes confident we know what we are looking for, other times doing the headless chicken thing, running aimlessly, but doing our best to give the impression that we know what we’re doing.
Like so many others, I spent much of my life in search of the ‘true’ job that I should be doing, the ‘true’ relationship I should be in, and the ‘true’ life that I was meant to be living. I knew it was somewhere out there, if only I could find it I would surely know it! Whenever I found a new job, a new relationship, a new country even, I thought I had it. Only to realise that wasn’t ‘it’ after all.
The way of your life is what you create
Sometimes during a coaching session I ask a client to imagine and describe a different life, a life they really want, where they are somebody they really want to be. Answers vary but many of them are along the lines of “but I. JUST. DON’T. KNOW.” or “what’s the point it’s not possible anyway” or “what, am I supposed to just make something up?”.
Exactly. You are!! Make it up, take some of what you have, create something new, and piece it all together as you very own personal puzzle of life. Make your life into whatever you want it to be!
If you’ve never considered it before, it may be an absurd, wild, weird thing to take in, but consider it for a moment.This is not about positive thinking (I ranted about that before). This is, as most things in life, about choice. And the choice is yours, and yours alone. Where will you start?
Stop looking. Listen
One of the things many of us were NOT taught as children is to trust our instincts, listen to ourselves, take a moment to consider what we really feel, want, desire. To know ourselves so that we can live our lives as ourselves. So now we’re grown up and it’s difficult to see the forest from the trees, let alone then inner truth from the never-ending self-talk that fills our heads, day and night.
Maybe you can find it in your day, in your crazy schedule that doesn’t need any more to-dos added, to take a brief moment and NOT DO ANYTHING. Just let your truth surface from the place within you where you hold curiosity, empathy, mercy. Let your truth fill you up, and listen to what it says.
- What is it that you now know about yourself that you didn’t know before?
- What are you going to do now in your life that is different than before?
- Who are you going to be in your life, and what impact will you have on the world?
What am I talking about?!? In case you’ve spent the last year or so in a cave hiding away, Angry Birds is a game where you fling birds towards different types of structures in order to destroy as much as possible, plus kill all the pigs that are lurking around. You get awarded 1, 2 or 3 stars depending on your score. That’s the gist of it.
What’s the lesson?
When I’m stuck at a level in the game, I get really frustrated. I always think I KNOW how to get three stars, things just aren’t happening quite the way I WANT. So I keep coming back to the same episode time and again, trying to make things go my way.
But, alas, every single time only one thing works: trying a different strategy. That’s right. I only ever succeed when I give up on what didn’t work the first time, second time OR the nth time, and try something I ‘definitely’ didn’t think would ever work. And without too much extra effort, voilá, all the pigs are dead and the three stars are mine. I can proceed to the next episode. Take the next step.
Why is it so hard?
There is true ‘letting go’ that is required. Needing to surrender to what is and what isn’t, and allow it to shift, to change. What is, is me thinking I know better, I know everything, I understand everything, and my logic is unfallible. What isn’t, is me standing in front of a perceived problem looking at all the possibilities for solving it, allowing for all possibilities to exist.
This is difficult for us human beings because we have an inherit need to be right, to be validated, to be on the right team, the right job, the right career path, the right side of town, and in the right relationship. We fiercely defend our right to ‘live our lives as we choose’ even if it kills us. Or keeps us stuck at a level way below our capabilities, our intellect, our talent.
Albert Einstein’s famous quote implicates that he saw through this and knew better. But as the rest of us are regular human beings who learn through mistakes and need tangible proof of everything that goes against what we think is the truth, we need to be reminded of all the lessons we learned, otherwise they all too easily fall off and we are back wondering why the hell doesn’t the world work as it ‘should’.
Think about your life and where you feel stuck. And without specifically asking you to get Angry Birds if you haven’t already, I would ask you to at least consider this: What can you have in your life that would help you snap out of behaviours that never worked and never will?
Taking a slightly different approach to this age-old dilemma of saying Yes vs No, I’m inviting you to look into our tendency to match one with the other.
As human beings we have a habit of making up connections between things that happen to us, to make more sense of them. Amongst other things, we instantly make up a ‘No’ statement for each ‘Yes’.
For example, by accepting yet another ad hoc Saturday night gig offer or extra tour dates you might feel you are forever saying ‘No’ to quality time with your partner, family or friends, alienating yourself from your loved ones as a price you have to pay for making a decent living from the profession you have chosen.
Now consider this: The way you choose to divide your time of course has an impact on the time you have left to tend your relationships. But! It doesn’t have to define the quality of your relationships. The same is true for other seemingly ‘obvious’ cause & effect pairings.
So how do you know which connections are real?
Connecting the right Yes to the right No
It can seem like a jungle, sorting out the volumes of Yes & No and seeing the real connections. Here is a simple exercise that you can do on your own:
- Take a blank piece of paper & divide it into 2 columns. Title the columns ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
- On the ‘Yes’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying Yes to. What are you embracing, willingly or grudgingly?
- On the ‘No’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying No to. What are you avoiding, putting off, dreaming about?
- One at a time, pick something from your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ list and see if you can connect it with any of the items on the other column.
- Test out any connection that you think you find by writing it into a full sentence: When I say YES to ________ it means I am saying NO to ________. (or vice versa) Then ask yourself: ‘Can I prove this is true?’
If you find any statements that are verifiably true, congratulations! You are being honest and transparent about the impact of your actions, instead of leading yourself on to think that by saying ‘Yes’ to extra work you are saying ‘No’ to your family. You understand it’s never that straight forward. You can continue by considering how the two sides of the statement each support your wellbeing. Write down what thoughts emerge.
If you cannot find connections that seem water-proof between the two lists, it may mean you are consciously or subconsciously holding back and not allowing yourself to see the real impact of each ‘Yes’ and each ‘No’ to your life. Continue by re-writing the two lists, see if anything new emerges that you didn’t think of before. If you get stuck, take a break and come back to the exercise later.
When I meet entrepreneurs and small business leaders and tell them I help businesses develop people focused growth strategies, I see eyes light up and sometimes there’s even a little sigh of relief. These guys absolutely recognise the value of building their businesses in a way that holds their staff as one of the core competencies their business can offer.
Where’s the challenge
Most often it is in identifying, understanding and harnessing the human power for the benefit of business AND people. There is some misunderstanding that these cannot co-exist, or that you need humans with superpowers in order to have that. Not so.
Initial recruitment is of course important, but as your business grows, morphs and evolves, you won’t always know which skills you will need from your people in the future. More critically, you don’t actually even know what all your staff could do for you. And this is where some businesses get ‘clever’ by getting rid of 10 developers and hiring 5 experienced sales managers instead. It can work, sometimes, but it’s rather short-sighted and please don’t be mistaken to think that’s your only option.
I believe that people are capable of so much more than their degree or education or CV says they are. You know even today I have 4 different versions of a CV because with the 16 years of accumulated work experience and all the different things I am interested in, passionate about, and good at, I am not, and can never be, just one set of skills.
Where to start
What you can try immediately is to treat all your employees like a coach would treat their clients – in fact this is called ‘taking a coaching approach’! You treat them as creative, resourceful and whole. Nothing wrong with them, all the capabilities just waiting to be released. Capabilities, skills and energy you just haven’t tapped into yet.
What are their ambitions, not just for you but for their lives? What do their friends and family ask them help for? And what do they think about where the business is going anyway? Remember, this isn’t about making your developers sell (although that can be a very, very profitable idea!) but rather about being curious about all the human elements and capabilities that you have at your disposal. It is all input for your business planning.
You may think this is a soft approach, but it’s actually the basis of being able to request the most and the best out of all your employees, in line with your vision for your business.
Where is it all headed
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a tweetup where Brian Solis was answering questions about his analysis of the impact of new media on future of business and culture. His latest book The End of Business As Usual is well worth a read, whether you are heading a very small or a very large organisation. It focuses on the change in consumer behaviour but also touches very powerfully on this subject of being in the business of being human.
Because in case you haven’t noticed, the younger generations are creating demand for a whole different way of doing business, and a whole different way of being a business.
Are you prepared?
Coaching doesn’t work on positivity
There is actually no requirement of positivity from you in order for you to get results from coaching. For some reason people still think that what happens in coaching is really just twisting things in their head in order to make something positive out of things that aren’t right. That’s not what happens.
And listen to this: You don’t need to believe in coaching, either! First time I ever got coached myself, I really desperately wanted the coaching to change things for me, but I didn’t really believe that it would. Just like one of my clients recently said: “I’ve failed so many times, why would this be any different?” But right from the first coaching session things started shifting and it all just escalated into a ridiculous amount of positive changes in my life that I would have never been able to create if I hadn’t asked for help from a coach.
What is there, then?
There is a very significant element of positivity in the way I, as coach, treat you, the client. It is called unconditional positive regard. What it simply means is that no matter how you are feeling or what you think of yourself, I will always, without exception, treat you as creative, resourful and whole. There is still no positive thinking required – this is not a way of thinking, it is a way of being that is expressed in everything I do as coach.
So it’s ok to start working with me even if you don’t really believe that things can change for you. I believe. It’s not just my job to do that. It is my personal stand as coach for every person to have at least one person who believes in them. And until you believe in yourself, I will stand by you and be that person.
The real requirement
The only requirement that I have for you is that you don’t want to accept ‘the way it is’ even if you don’t yet know what it is that you want instead. I work with people who are motivated to make a change, people who have something in their life that’s either clear as day or blurry as fog, that’s nagging to be looked at.
And what DOES happen when people are coached is that their view of themselves, their life & other people tends to shift. Sometimes very significantly. This may then have side effects like taking more actions which may lead to a happy, fulfilled life full of possibilities, love and joy… Beware.
What’s wrong with a ‘why’? We all like to know the reasons why people do what they do, say what they say, behave the way they do. ‘Why’ seems like the perfectly reasonable question for finding all that out. How else would we know?
“Why music?” is currently the question I get asked a lot. It thoroughly annoys me. It makes me squirm and want to run. Even though I have nothing to hide and the question is simple enough, something takes over me and I feel like I’ve been put on a spot where somehow I have to produce not just an answer but the correct answer.
The trouble is
‘Why’ makes people defensive. The only suitable answer to a ‘why’ is a justification. What you get for an answer is not more information. What you get is a person distracted from what they were saying into thinking of reasons that you might find acceptable. ‘Why’ is for prosecution!
There is very little constructive, encouraging or forward-looking about a ‘why’. As coach I know that most ‘why’ questions will only stop and distract the client and we end up taking two steps back for the one we’ve just taken forward. So I very rarely use it, apart from when I want to understand the importance of something or encourage the client to consider beyond what they currently think is possible: “Why is that important to you?” and “Why not?” are two questions that can help increase awareness rather than put people in a corner.
If not why, then what?
Well you could try the “what”. For example, “What’s going on with you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” and “What does that mean for you?”.
Or you could try a “how”: “How will you deal with this?” and “How does this change things?” If you asked me “How come you’re calling yourself a life coach when what you do is so much wider?” I would smilingly tell you that’s exactly the point. Life IS wider than any one thing in it. Everything is connected. Many of us think we can ‘sort out’ things in our lives one by one, but life doesn’t roll that way. The way it does roll is that when you make a breakthrough in one area you cannot help but see it impact other areas of your life as well. An automatic bonus!
Go be curious
Curious people are the blessing of this world. They help others move forward by exploring what’s really going on, what else is going on, and by wondering what else and how else could things be. Only with curiosity can we create breakthroughs in what we think is possible.
As long as we stay mindful of how we express our curiosity, there is nothing wrong with asking a lot of questions! So don’t hold back, go forth and be curious!