I’ve been doing a lot of coaching lately in a variety of different mediums. In the past week, I’ve spent ten minutes or less coaching over two dozen people, an hour or so coaching five people, and three full days coaching one person. So I’ve been more aware than usual of the many elements that create impact with my clients – the “differences that make the difference”.
So in service of Einstein’s dictum that “Everything should be made as simple as possible – but not simpler”, I thought I’d share what seem to me to be the three things that truly effective coaches assist their clients in doing that makes a truly positive difference in their lives – the three “impacts” of a transformative coach.
1. Waking Up and Coming Alive
“Don’t ask what the world needs – ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
When I was at university, I didn’t sleep much. Which meant that from time to time, I would fall asleep at inopportune moments and in bizarre places. One of my most vivid memories is of falling asleep in a comfy chair in my best friend’s dorm room in the middle of a multi-person argument about whatever it is seemed worth arguing about to us at the time.
I woke up a bit disoriented, apologized, and made my way across campus through the rain until I got to my own dorm room, dried off, got ready for bed, and slept the sleep of the just until morning when I woke up, looked around, and realized I was still in the comfy chair, my friends were still arguing, and less than two minutes had passed.
While I lead a more balanced life these days and only occasionally fall asleep in public places, what I realized about the power of thought in that moment still amazes me to this day:
We are all capable of sleepwalking our way through the world without really knowing that the vast majority of what we’ve experienced in our lives never actually happened.
The fact that our reality is continually being created in our mind means that we’re walking around in a world that looks, sounds, and feels real even though it’s made of the same “stuff” as our dreams.
So my number one job with a client is to wake them up to that fact. Not so that they can stop thinking completely, or substitute one made up reality for another, but so that they can get out of their heads, wake up to their deeper nature and infinite potential, and come alive at a whole new level.
If that were all that we accomplished in our time together, that would be more than enough. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Syd Banks, used to say:
“We have the most wonderful job in the world. We find people in various stages of sleep. And then we get to tap them on the shoulder and be with them as they wake up to the full magnificence of life.”
But in truth, waking up and coming alive is only the beginning…
2. Expanding Possibilities
“I’m not much of a hero worshiper, but I could have followed T.E. Lawerence over the edge of the world.” – John Buchan
One of the most impactful things a coach ever said to me was that I had “created a masterpiece of a life on a postage stamp of possibility”. And while I cringed inwardly when I heard it, it was only because I knew it was true. It’s easy to feel fearless when you’ve shrunk your world down to fit the size of your current capabilities.
By way of analogy, a few years ago we moved home and our dog, Sgt. Pepper, kept finding ways to escape what we thought was a completely closed in yard. An animal trainer suggested we set up an “invisible fence”, which used a small shock collar that we were assured wouldn’t hurt him but would just startle him enough that he would learn not to go past the underground wire that sent an electrical signal to the collar.
I had extremely mixed feelings about it, both because I wasn’t quite convinced a “small” electrical shock was much kinder than a “large” one but also because I hated the idea of him beginning to fence himself in a smaller area than was really his to explore.
The big day came, and when the wire was buried we placed Pepper’s new collar on him, sat back, and watched as he got to the invisible line, looked back at us as if curious as to why we would place a buzzer around his neck, and then carried on romping across the boundary we had attempted to set up for him. In the end we found the place where he had been escaping and from that day forward he had the run of the place.
I was actually relieved that it didn’t work, as I hated the idea of contributing to the shrinking of anyone’s world, including my dog. More to the point, it struck me that if human beings knew that feelings of fear, insecurity, and discomfort aren’t “stop signs”, but rather direct reflections of scary, insecure, and uncomfortable thoughts, they would be free to “feel the discomfort and do it anyway”, opening them up to explore a much larger world of possibility than they’re used to.
When we step over the invisible and imaginary edge of our world, we find ourselves in the unknown, which is another way of saying “the not yet created”. And when we realize that we are the creators of our own reality, the blank canvas of the not yet created is the most beautiful place to be, like muck to a pig, a banquet to a gourmand, or heaven to a true believer.
Once we see that the world we live in is made of memory and imagination (i.e. Thought), we realize that we don’t have to settle for what we think we can have. We can play with creating anything it occurs to us to create, even if it seems unrealistic given the limits of who we think we are and how we think our life’s patterns have already been set.
And that takes us to the third of our “big three”…
3. Creating the Impossible
“Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
We’re now seventy days in to the latest Creating the Impossible program, and the manuscript for the book version is with the editors at Hay House, getting itself ready for a September release. And when I asked the over three hundred people in the program to share what their big takeaways were so far, the consensus was that we’re all terrible at predicting the future.
Projects that seemed truly impossible a couple of months ago are coming to fruition. Opportunities that were unimaginable have come up from the unlikeliest of sources, and people are simply living and creating in a bigger world than ever before.
For me, one of my favorite things to do is to co-create with my clients – to pipe dream possibilities with them and begin making things happen. I don’t actually do their work for them – that’s not only not a coach’s job, it’s like eating the best bits of the meal off somebody else’s plate.
What I do, as best I can, is make sure they have everything they need to succeed. Fortunately, everybody already does, which means my real job is to hold up both a flashlight and a mirror to their true potential. The mirror reflects the wisdom and insight they already have; the flashlight directs their attention to the unknown space where the glimmer and twinkle in a creator’s eye begins to take shape and form in the world.
I am endlessly fascinated by the creative process – how everything comes from nothing, and how something that doesn’t even exist as an idea in someone’s head when the sun rises in the morning can exist in the world as a painting, sculpture, product, or blog post by the time the sun sets in the evening.
It seems to me that we are born to create, and our creativity – our relationship with the pre-existing creative force – sits inside us patiently waiting to be unleashed like a dream waiting to be dreamed, a song waiting to be sung, or Sgt. Pepper on the trail waiting for me to say “OK” so he can run and run to his heart’s content.
You don’t need a coach to do any of this. It’s inside you now – always has been, always will be. But for me, my journey has been infinitely richer for the many men and women who have patiently guided me on my path and lovingly smacked me across the face to help wake me up to the beauty and potential of who I really am and what’s possible beyond the current limits my imagination.
And if you are a coach, there’s no better job I know than waking up, coming alive, and helping to light the path for others.
With all my love,
Some more Caffeine for the Soul
Today’s blog is excerpted from my book Creating the Impossible: A 90 day program to get your dreams out of your head and into the world…The week I began working on this book, I read a distressing (to me) article about how Mahatma Gandhi was estranged from his eldest son, Harilal, throughout his adult life. I immediately called my own first born, Oliver…read more
Today, I want to share a third thing that I have come to see over a nearly 30 year career as a teacher and coach. It impacts how I do everything I do with students and clients, and is perhaps best summed up in this story I first heard in a dialogue between Anthony de Mello, an enlightened Jesuit priest, and one of his students….read more
In part one, I shared a simple truth about human beings that flies in the face of a lot of self-help ideologies and neo-cognitive therapies:
We aren’t in control of our thoughts and feelings. Today, I want to point to what may seem an even odder piece of good news…