Transformation, Coaching, and the Three Principles

My mother phoned me after listening to my radio show a couple of years back to ask me a question. While at first I was flattered that she had listened to the show, I was a bit taken aback when I heard what she had to say:

“If everybody already has innate health, wisdom, and well-being inside them, why would anyone ever hire you?”

You’d think after 20+ years of working with top performers in a variety of fields around the world I’d be able to handle that question, but, well, she’s my mother and let’s just say I had a little bit of insecure thinking about it in the moment. So after mumbling out some face-saving reply about something or other, I was able to point out that in my experience, people hire coaches for one of two reasons:

a) There is something they are hoping to create or accomplish in the world and they want our support in helping them to create or accomplish it.

b) There is something they are struggling with in their lives and they want our support in helping them to overcome it.

The approach my coaches and I take is called “transformative coaching” – a conversation that not only helps people to be more effective and successful, but helps them to lead richer lives in the process.

It essentially involves doing three things in support of their presenting goal or challenge:

1. Waking them up to their inner spark – the best they have inside them – and helping them to nurture their inner flame 

You know the expression “the lights are on but there’s nobody home”?

I’ve often found the opposite to be true. Many people I work with are technically home, but the lights just aren’t on. In other words, they’re able to wake up in the morning, go to work, and essentially (even effectively) fulfill their duties as a functioning member of society – but there’s no light in their eyes and no spark behind anything they do. That moment when the spark ignites and the light comes on is one of the most satisfying and at times thrilling things that happens in my work.

Years ago I had the chance to take tea with a religious leader who shared his understanding of the Three Principles within a strict religious framework.

“As it happens, I believe everything it says in the bible is true. I believe that Moses carried stone tablets down from Mt. Sinai and Noah built an ark. But I believe my purpose here on earth is to wake people up to their souls. When I can do that through sharing my religion, I do. But I’ve found that in sharing the principles, more people see through the illusion of thought to their true nature. So that’s what I share, both within and without the context of my religion.”

I realized during that conversation that ultimately, any truly impactful coaching I have done in my life has been guided by this same inner purpose. There is something at our very core that connects us up with the energy of life at a truly fundamental level.  If we’re religiously inclined, we might call it “the holy spirit” or “our connection with God”; as someone who is spiritual but not religious, I have referred to it as everything from “the soul” to “pure consciousness” and from “our true nature” to “the space within”.

Whatever it is, it is us at our absolute best – and it is available to every human being at any and every moment in their life. When we’re asleep to this inner spark, we go through the motions and do our best to satisfy whatever it is we think will make us happy (or at least less miserable); as we wake up to it, our lives catch fire and we begin to live in the warmth and light of our own awakened spirit. And as we see and feel the benefits of living in a deeper feeling with more clarity and wisdom more of the time, we begin to nurture a deeper relationship with our own inner flame.

2. Guiding them towards a more functional understanding of how the mind really works

The human mind is a deceptively simple piece of equipment. There are only three constants behind the operation of the mind, but the interplay of these constants is so powerful that they can produce an infinite variety of experiences.

  • The first constant is a higher order of intelligence – what we call “Mind” with a capital “M” because it’s universal rather than personal. This intelligence is the source of fresh, relevant, in the moment wisdom, and when we learn to listen to this deeper Mind, it guides us insightfully through life.
  • The second constant is a capacity for experience – what we call “Consciousness” with a capital “C” because it’s universal rather than personal. Consciousness is what allows us to experience everything from a tree falling in a forest to the divine spark within us. This universal Consciousness is theoretically infinite, but we experience only a limited scope of this infinite potential in any given moment.
  • The third constant is a creative force – what we call “Thought” with a capital “T” because it’s universal rather than personal. Thought is the ultimate content creator – it’s the paintbrush that turns the invisible energy of life into visible forms that we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell when painted onto the canvas of Consciousness.

Here’s how I describe the interplay of these three constants (usually known as “the Three Principles”) in The Inside-Out Revolution:

Our experience of life is created from the inside out via the principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. We’re living in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world.

Understanding this becomes ridiculously significant in navigating the world effectively. As long as we believe that our experience comes from outside of our own minds, we’re continually caught up in a cycle of reactivity, attempting to manipulate people and things to outside forces in order to avoid suffering and find happiness. The moment we see that our experience is only and always being created from the inside-out, we’re able to ride the waves of our experience with more grace while creating what we want to see in the world in harmony with the deeper Mind.

Having said that, the difference between getting this intellectually and “getting it” the way you get a joke means that we all find ourselves battling imaginary dragons from time to time. So while your understanding won’t stop you from falling asleep, it will wake you up from the dream of Thought sooner and stop you from spending too much time and energy developing your dragon-fighting skills.

3. Acting as an insight catalyst and innovation partner

Because very few people go looking for a coach to help them wake up to their divine spark and correct a 5000-year-old cultural misunderstanding of where their experience comes from, it’s important to never lose sight of why someone has come to see you in the first place. Again, it’s pretty much always one or both of two reasons:

a) There is something they are hoping to create or accomplish in the world and they want our support in helping them to create or accomplish it.

b) There is something they are struggling with in their lives and they want our support in helping them to overcome it.

So while you’re working with them on their grounding, you’re also helping them to find clarity and inspiration in relation to their goals and visions, insight into solving or dis-solving their problems, and fresh new thinking that will propel them forward and unstick them when the path ahead seems blocked.

Ironically for coaches who think they need to be experts in whatever their client wants to create in order to help them (business, relationships, athletics, etc.), the most helpful thing we have to offer is that we’re not them. That is, because we’re not stuck in the same made-up version of reality they’re living in inside their mind, we can often see multiple paths to success while they’re fixated on the one pathway that’s blocked.

It’s a bit like this story taken from my book Feel Happy Now:

“Imagine you are dreaming the most incredibly vivid dream of your life,” began the teacher. “In the dream, you seem to be some sort of an adventurer, and each adventure brings with it new challenges and creative solutions. You experience many wonderful things and some not so wonderful.

You come to realize that in your dream, anything is possible. On one of your adventures, you encounter a very high wall so you imagine yourself a rope and climb to the top. In another, you are falling off a cliff but before you reach the ground you begin to fly.

Eventually, you begin to look forward to each new adventure. Until one time, for no apparent reason, everything seems to go wrong.

It is dark, so dark that you cannot see your hand before your face. Even before you can hear or see anything, you sense danger. Strange and uncomfortable sounds begin crawling out from the depths of your imagination and coming closer.

Cautiously, you strike a match. Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by the most hideous creatures you have ever seen.

You try to run, but your legs will not move. You try to scream, but no sound will come out. Everything you’ve learned up to this point seems to abandon you and the likelihood of a hideous death surrounds you.

What would you do?”

The student seemed lost in thought for many moments and the teacher could see a range of fearful emotions play across her face as she lived the scenario fully in her mind. Suddenly and without warning, she opened her eyes and began to laugh.

“I know what I would do,” the student said. “I would wake up.”

Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!

With all my love,