Words Matter (part 3): What Are Your Tendencies?

I posted last year about the Tyranny of Self-Knowledge: the more we know about ourselves, the less room we leave for possibilities and discovery. But who wants to let go of all this self-knowledge we’ve built up?

How can I hold and appreciate my self-knowledge, and leave room for discovery and growth? Here’s a switch I’m playing with: rather than describing myself using “I am…” or “I always…”, I’m starting to use the words “tend” and “tendency”.

For example, instead of saying “I take on too much” (as if it is a fixed fact), I say, “I tend to take on too much.” Now that I’ve labelled it as a tendency, I also realize that it’s something I can choose not to do. It doesn’t have to be my identity to take on too much. It’s just something I tend to do, and I could decide to tend to do something else.

Another example: “I get overwhelmed.” If I change that to “I tend to get overwhelmed”, then I can now work with a spectrum – a spectrum of tending towards overwhelm or away from overwhelm. No longer is it “overwhelmed” or “not overwhelmed” – it’s a tendency I can lean towards or away from.

I invite you to pick something you *know* about yourself, and to restate it this week as a tendency. What changes for you?

Hat-tip to one of the many amazing Co-Active Coaching leaders who emphasized this language switch.
I can’t help it. I have near-majors in linguistics and psychology. You can see previous Words Matter posts here and here.


A Few Reasons Coaching Rocks My World

In my very first conversation with my coach, I was talking through a career change. I was training as a coach, facilitator, and psychotherapist, and I was feeling career-burned after discovering I didn’t want to be a speech-language pathologist and subsequently quitting grad school. I remember distinctly that as I talked through all of this with my coach, in no way did she try to convince me of what I “should” do.

Instead, she asked questions about what drew me to the different areas, and what excited me as I considered each of them. She asked me questions about my purpose, and about what got me interested and intrigued. As I answered the questions, I started hearing my own answers. I didn’t need advice, and I didn’t need to make a pros and cons list, and I didn’t need a career assessment test— I needed to be asked genuine, curious questions. As I answered them, I realized for myself what I wanted and why. My coach was modeling co-active coaching skills: being curious, asking powerful questions, and self-managing (i.e. not assuming that because coaching was a good career fit for her that it would be a good career fit for me).

I left that coaching session with homework to explore: “What would thrill me?” My homework assignment surprised me. What did this question have to do with my career? I thought. Looking back, it strikes me that my coach recognized that this conversation wasn’t just about my career – she had my “Bigger Agenda” in mind. She had sensed in my conversation that I wasn’t living a fulfilling, thrilling life, and she was holding out to me the possibility that I could. My career might become one part of that, but first I would need to dream about and glimpse the totality of what my fulfilling and thrilling life could be.

That conversation was 16 months ago, and I remember it clearly because it’s been a powerful influence in how I’ve lived my life ever since. I’ve now worked with my coach for almost a year and half, and I regularly have conversations with her that are just as powerful. Our coaching sessions keep expanding my sense of what my life can be. As my sense expands, I become more willing, able, and eager to take action to bring that vision alive. I say confidently now that I am leading a far more fulfilling and thrilling life than I was two years ago.

That’s just a little bit of what coaching has done for me. If you’re interested in seeing what coaching might do for you, many coaches offer free sample sessions so that you can see if their style is a good fit for you. I’m offering a day of free sample coaching sessions this week, on Thursday, April 8. I’d love to hear from you if you would like to try out a coaching session with me.