As this is written, summer is winding down. The beaches are quiet. The local children are back at school. The wild geese are practicing their flight formations. Everywhere, life is returning to familiar Fall routines. And, for many, it’s time to consider new initiatives.
Perhaps it is all those years of heading back to school, but Fall is a time for people to start something. Gym and yoga studio memberships swell. Night school programs fill. Public and private programs get underway, and coaches are approached by people looking for help and support to make important changes.
This Fall, before you head out the door and sign up for your next thing, here are a few suggestions to help you get the most out of whatever you might plan.
- Firstly, take a little time to get clear on what sort of change you are looking for. Are you just a little wanting something to entertain, fill your time, or add to your current knowledge base? Or, are you wanting something more substantial; perhaps seeking to make a bigger change, grow, or otherwise broaden your mindset. Some Psychologists make a distinction between horizontal and vertical growth. Horizontal growth is when we acquire some new skill or knowledge, but keep our current mindset. In contrast, we undergo vertical growth when we make a major shift the way we think, feel and behave. There is nothing wrong with horizontal growth, but if you want the bigger payoff, you will want to give more attention to pursuits that will evolve your current mindset.
- And to figure this out, you may want to schedule a little quiet or reflective time. It is an old carpenters adage, measure twice, cut once. In other words, it really pays to take the time to think before you act. And there is a wealth of neuroscience that has shown we are simply not in touch with our intuition, wisdom or creativity if we are too busy and too stressed.
- You may have noticed that little of what we hope for, undertake, or achieve, actually translates into a significant gain in our happiness. Sometimes we pursue the wrong things. Sometimes we quickly adapt to the new conditions and move on to the next challenge, expecting it to be different. Perhaps this Fall, before you start climbing your next ladder, you might want to make sure it is indeed on the right wall. Are you 100% sure that your greater happiness you seek is located in some set of future circumstances? There are 3 thousand years of teachings in a variety of wisdom traditions, and 15 years of Positive Psychology research, that would suggest there is a great deal of untapped abundance, fulfillment and happiness available where you are right now.) That said, there is nothing wrong with taking prudent action to improve your life. So if you do begin something new, one way you can ensure a more meaningful payoff is to ask “how does what I am contemplating align with my values? Now we all have our unique set of values, but if you have never had your values worked on, some common value areas include; family, health, freedom, fun, learning and growing, creativity, adventure, peace, nature, etc.. You simply want to be in touch with those areas of your life that matter the most, or bring you the most joy, meaning and engagement? Our values may shift with time, but you will always benefit from heading in a direction that aligns with what makes you feel you are living the life you are meant to live.
- Consider, what is the best possible outcome you envision? As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are heading, any road will suffice. Even a rough, general vision of the desired outcome will provide you some direction, motivation and, when times get tough, an answer to the questions, “why am I doing this?”
- Check to see if you have at least a 4 out of 5 level of emotional commitment to move forward with this change? If not, take the time to build your emotional connection to the desired outcome. This is a rule of thumb I learned from Harvard Developmental Psychologist Robert Kegan, who observed that if someone does not have a significant emotional commitment to a proposed change, chances are high they will get distracted and discouraged when things get tough. And whenever you are undertaking a big change, you have got to expect resistance. So be ready.
- Figure out, what is the first concrete step you can take? Big goals, like big journeys, can be overwhelming. Find and take the first step which commits you and gets you moving. Once you are in motion, it is far easier to stay in motion. Commitment does have some magic in it.
- Ask yourself, “who can I do this with?” A friend? A colleague? Your partner? A coach? The structure and support of sharing your initiative with someone else, greatly increases the support you feel, and the likelihood of success. The right partner can also make any undertaking a lot more fun.
Finally, whatever you may choose to do this Fall, I hope that your will enjoy the journey as much as the anticipated payoff. Life is far too precious to spend time doing things you do not enjoy.
“As you journey through life, choose your destinations well, but do not hurry there. You will arrive soon enough. Wander the back roads and forgotten paths, keeping your destination in your heart like the fixed point of a compass. Seek out new voices, strange sights, and ideas foreign to your own. Such things are riches for the soul. And, if upon arrival, you find that your destination is not exactly as you had dreamed, do not be disappointed. Think of all you would have missed but for the journey there, and know that the true worth of your travels lies not in where you come to be at the journey’s end, but who you came to be along the way.” – Unknown
For My Fellow Coaches
Here is a link to my recent ICF Blog posting on THE TWO ESSENTIAL ENERGIES IN MODERN COACHING AND WHY THEY NEED EACH OTHER It talks about how the energies of purism and realism in coaching, which seem to conflict, but actually complement each other.
For Coaches Needing More Clients
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For Coaches Needing More Mentor Hours
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