Personal Tidbits for Personal Growth – delivered to your inbox on alternate Wednesdays

I’ve recently started a newsletter that feels like a labour of love for me: on alternate Wednesdays, I send out Morsels of Change — personal tidbits for personal growth.

The people who sign up for this list — and you can sign up here — are, in my head and heart, MY people — the people that I am most wanting to speak to in my work and life. The people who are always reaching out for ways to grow, and who have found that my way of speaking about personal growth resonates with them.

Here’s the first issue of Morsels of Change. If you like what you read, perhaps you’ll join me by signing up here (click the “Morsels of Change” checkbox).

Morsels of Change #1

Underlying Approaches to Conflict, Mashed Up with the Enneagram

Morsels of Change question to ponder:

What’s your default position when faced with a problem? How does it clash with the default positions of those with whom you come into conflict?

This week I’m combining conflict, which I’m really bad at, with the Enneagram, which I love.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram book (Riso and Hudson) has this neat little table that outlines how the different Enneagram types are likely to react to a problem.

Here are the 9 different reactions (NOT in order of type), according to the book:

-“What problem? I don’t think there is a problem.”
-“You have a problem. I’m here to help you.”
-“There may be a problem, but I’m fine.”
-“There’s an efficient solution to this — we just need to get to work.”
-“I’m sure we can solve this like sensible, mature adults.”
-“There are a number of hidden issues here: let me think about this.”
-“I feel really pressured, and I’ve got to let off some steam!”
-“I feel really hurt, and I need to express myself.”
-“I’m angry about this and you’re going to hear about it!”

Which reaction sounds most like you?

Now, notice how these reactions will play out in relationships. For example, when my niece and I are facing a problem together (or engaging in conflict), our reactions go head-to-head.

Mine:
“There are a number of hidden issues here: let me think about this.”

Hers:
“I’m angry about this and you’re going to hear about it!”

If we both stay true to type, neither of us gets what we need. I don’t get to spend time thinking about all the different aspects of the problem if she’s going on about how angry she is. If I do get to go spend time thinking about the problem, she doesn’t have my attention to listen to her talk about how angry she is.

For the two of us to engage in conflict together, or face a problem together, we’ve both got to be accommodating to the other’s needs. (Or, more accurately, I need to accommodate her needs, as I’m the adult, but you get the idea.)

 

Morsels of Change question to ponder:

What’s your default position when faced with a problem? How does it clash with the default positions of those with whom you come into conflict?


If you ever want to reach out for a conversation about something you’ve read in this newsletter, or something in your life that you are wanting to explore more deeply in conversation, please be in touch. We are all on a journey of learning and discovery together.

Warmly,
Laura

Stories on the Head-to-Heart Journey: Working With Self-Judgment

I occasionally share stories to illustrate what a coaching session is like. While these stories are drawn from my experience working with clients, names, details, and identifying information have been altered.

 

D. has spent much of the last year exploring a space of mindful presence. Even while her job throws challenge after challenge at her, D. takes time to meditate, reflect, and do yoga. She knows that doing these things helps her maintain balance, openness, and calm in the midst of a hectic life.

In a recent coaching conversation, D. observed that although she was still going through the motions (taking time away from work to spend with friends, spending time on her yoga mat), her sense of peace was getting interrupted by a nagging, worrying voice in her head. I’ll call the voice Mr. Judge.

“What if you’re missing something?” Mr. Judge said. “What if you’ve forgotten something important? You don’t have time to take an evening off; you should be working!”

What I noticed in our conversation was how much energy and power Mr. Judge’s voice had. When D. talked about what Mr. Judge said in her head, D.’s voice got louder and stronger. I could tell that Mr. Judge was the one calling the shots right now.

“Here’s what I’m noticing,” I said to D. “Mr. Judge has all the power. He’s keeping you from enjoying your time off. Even when you take some time for yourself, for self-care, Mr. Judge gets in there and keeps you from really relaxing.”

“That’s true,” D. said.

“So,” I asked, “what would satisfy Mr. Judge enough that you could quiet him down, send him out for a cigarette, and get him to leave you alone for awhile?”

D. and I explored the different strategies she has for dealing with her self-judgment. As we talked about what had worked in the past, and what wasn’t working now, D. discovered that she was engaging in mental warfare with Mr. Judge. Every time he showed up, she fought back and tried to shut him up. So this week, she’s going to experiment with a new strategy: when Mr. Judge shows up, she’s going to let him say his piece. She’s not going to fight. She’s going to listen, observe, and then let him go. Rather than making inner war, she’s going to try making inner peace, knowing that if she gives mindful attention to her thoughts, they tend to lose their power over her.

P.S. For all you coach geeks out there, some of the coaching skills I was using in this conversation were:

  • Working with the “saboteur” or “Gremlin” (similarly, from a Gestalt perspective, we were working with a top dog/ underdog situation): Of the many ways there are to work with the saboteur, I chose in this call to ask D. what her saboteur needed to satisfy him, but I made sure that D. got to exercise her own power over her saboteur by choosing what she would offer him.
  • Big-A Agenda: the client’s Big-A Agenda is what brings her fulfillment, what she values, what’s important to her in the longterm. I know D.’s Big-A Agenda includes bringing peace and mindfulness into all aspects of her life. Meeting Mr. Judge with peace, rather than with war, is one way for her to continue to embody her Big-A Agenda.

Stories on the Head-to-Heart Journey: The Big-A Agenda of Realizing Potential

I occasionally share stories to illustrate what a coaching session is like. While these stories are drawn from my experience working with clients, names, details, and identifying information have been altered.

realizing potential, life coach ottawa

Image: Sam Ely and Lynn Harris, Unrealised Potential stamp, 2010

E. said he wanted coaching on procrastination. First, I got curious and asked what procrastination looks like for him. He talked about what he does and doesn’t do when he procrastinates.

I wondered what it would be like for E. if he didn’t procrastinate. He started describing what he would do, and how he would get it done, and how he would meet deadlines.

E. was starting to paint the picture of what he wanted in his life, but I didn’t have a sense yet of what made this important. So I asked, “What’s important to you about this?”

As E. answered, I heard one of those big, lightbulb, heart-stopping phrases come out of his mouth:

“I could actualize my potential.”

Wowzer, I thought! We’re not just talking about getting things done. We’re talking about this beautiful human being’s ability to realize his potential!

I echoed that back to him, telling E. that I was really appreciating the significance of what he was speaking about. I had a sense that he was feeling the significance too, so I checked that out: “How does it feel for you when you start talking about actualizing your potential?”

E. answered that indeed, he was feeling the significance of it. I imagined he could feel it even more, though, and what I wanted for him was to get a taste of what he was describing, the person he would be without procrastination.

I invited him to choose a spot in the room that would represent “the land of realizing potential”. He chose the spot, and then together we moved there. We stood there, sinking into the feeling of “realizing my potential.” When I thought he was really experiencing the vision of it, I asked, “What’s possible here?”

A huge smile broke out on E.’s face as he said, “What’s possible? Well. . . anything! What couldn’t I do from here?”

I could see he was feeling and embodying that sense of possibility, and I wanted him to get even more tangible and specific. “What might you do?” I asked.

E. started naming things he would do in this land of realizing potential. He named the things he would have time to do once he got over his procrastination tendency. He pointed out that he would have more time for his personal projects, the things he really wanted to do.

When I could see his excitement at what he could accomplish, I knew we had tapped into the vision – we had touched on what was really important to him about being able to address his procrastination. So it was time to turn back to where we had started.

From where we were standing, I asked him to look back at the chair he had left. “Over there,” I said, “sits E., a great guy who’s struggling with procrastination. As you stand here, realizing your potential, and look back at E., what’s your advice for him?”

“I guess what he doesn’t get is that just because he doesn’t want to do something doesn’t mean he should put it off, because it’s not just about doing that one thing. . . doing that one thing affects so many other things he’ll be able to do.”

“Almost like he’s not looking at the big picture?” I asked.

“Yeah! E., see the big picture!” E. said.

From there, E. and I started drafting what it would tangibly look like to take a “big picture” approach, and how he could start putting it into place, starting with spending time later that day taking on something he’d been putting off.

P.S. For all you coach geeks out there, some of the coaching skills I was using in this conversation were:

  • Curiosity: Exploring what “procrastination” looked like for E.
  • The Big-A Agenda: The little-a agenda – the topic-of-the-moment, as it were – was procrastination. But procrastination was a piece of something much bigger for E. – his Big-A Agenda was self-realization, or actualizing his potential.
  • Fulfillment coaching: In Fulfillment coaching (one of three coaching principles taught in the Co-Active coaching approach), we spend a majority of the time painting the picture of What-It-Would-Be-Like if the client achieved his/her goal. From this place of fulfillment, identifying, choosing, and committing to an action comes easily.
  • Articulating what’s going on: I took time to articulate to E. that I was appreciating the significance of what he was talking about, and took time to get him to articulate what he was experiencing as he spoke about it too.
  • Geography: I used physical movement to get E. to explore a different “geography”. When he physically stepped into “the land of realizing potential”, he got a visceral sense of what it could be like, and what it was he was aiming for.

Stories on the Head-to-Heart Journey: Taking Time to Celebrate

I occasionally share stories to illustrate what a coaching session is like. While these stories are drawn from my experience working with clients, names, details, and identifying information have been altered.

A. sent me an email before our coaching session and listed a number of things that she’d done during the week, including an amazing race she’d run, a successful team meeting at work, and taking time out from a busy day to spend some time recharging with friends on a patio.

All of these fantastic celebrations were overshadowed, however, by a difficult situation she was facing with a supervisor. As our call began, A. was about to skip over all the good stuff and dive into the challenging stuff, but I interrupted.

“Hang on! Look at all these things you have to celebrate!” I said.

“Hmmm, I guess so. . .” A. replied. “Actually, it was a pretty great week.”

“What I’m seeing,” I said, “is that even in the midst of a stressful situation at work, a situation that’s taking up a lot of your energy and causing you pain, you were still able to accomplish so much and enjoy so much in your week. That’s really something to celebrate.”

After we’d celebrated, we delved into the work situation to do some coaching around that.

Later the same day, I received this email from A.:

“Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to celebrate. . . I really didn’t take the time to consider what I’ve done recently, or to look at it as anything more than regular. It felt really good to have that validation. I’ve really been in need of that. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until you stopped this morning and acknowledged it.”

P.S. For all you coach geeks out there, some of the coaching skills I was using in this conversation were:

  • intruding – yes, I cut my client off to make a point.
  • acknowledging – I acknowledged her ability to accomplish a lot and enjoy herself even in the midst of a sticky situation.
  • celebrating – I was inviting my client to take some time to celebrate herself and what she’d done, and I was celebrating with her.