The Highest Goals of Transformative Coaching

I’ve spent the past week in the company of a group of amazing, committed, and curious souls who came together for the first five days of Supercoach Academy 2018. In preparing for the week, I reflected at length about the nature of happiness, insight, creating, success, the Three Principles, life, and the whole field of coaching,

One of the many things that emerged from all that reflection was a clear sense of what the purpose of the coaching that I do and teach really is, codified in three objectives which build on one another to make for a truly wonderful life…

1. To come alive to the magnificence inside us

For the past few years, my business one-liner has been “Unleashing the human potential with intelligence, humor, and heart”. While the intelligence, humor, and heart bit are perhaps self-explanatory, I always find it interesting that the idea of ‘human potential’ is both widely accepted and largely underestimated.

In his Foreword to The Inside-Out Revolution, my friend and mentor Dr. George Pransky talks about it like this:

Everyone experiences times of mental clarity and well-being, even moments of out and out genius. Even in the extremes of mental illness, every single patient has moments of ‘normalcy’ independent of the severity of their disorder. At a more personal level, we have all come up with inspirations and solutions that seem to have shown up out of nowhere to save the day. At times, our children’s wisdom goes way beyond their level of education and life experience. And we consistently see high levels of well-being, grace, and hopefulness emerge in times of crisis such as floods and earthquakes, and even with people informed of terminal illnesses. So it should be equally obvious that the human potential for life enjoyment, mental clarity, creativity, and relationship satisfaction is considerably higher than we are manifesting in our everyday lives.

As we come alive to our “inner spark”, we start to move through the world with greater ease and a less conditional sense of confidence and well-being. While our life circumstances may still seem messy from time to time, people can’t help but notice a twinkle in our eye and a lovely feeling in our presence. Here’s how I go on to describe it in the book:

Some people describe this transformative shift as moving from riding a roller coaster to floating in a river; others as the gift of meeting themselves for the first time. ‘It’s as if I’ve been plugged back into the mains,’ one client said to me. By far the most common description is some variation on the feeling of coming home after a long time away. While your experience will be unique to you, the awakening of your inner spark and a feeling of reconnection with the energy of life are part of the promise and purpose of our time together.

Or in the words of Syd Banks:

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.

2. To go beyond our psychology

I had a friend who was a traditional psychologist with a somewhat controversial premise – that every human being has a personal psychology, and that all personal psychologies are inherently neurotic and insecure. While I didn’t necessarily agree with her conclusions about what to do about that fact, I don’t dispute the fact.

Our “psychology” in this sense is a catch-all phrase for the sum total of our habitual thinking – what might in other contexts be called our personality, our conditioned self, or our ego.  And there are a few things that seem to me to be true across the board about our psychology:

  • We all have one and get caught up in it from time to time
  • A certain amount of the thinking we have could accurately be described as ‘neurotic’ and/or ‘insecure

and most importantly:

  • We are NOT our psychology – we are the thinker, not the sum total of our thoughts.

And it is this last point that points us towards a different way of being with our psychology. If I am the thinker, not the thoughts, then I don’t have to overcome or ‘fix’ my thoughts and feelings. They will come and go as all ephemera do. And in noticing the temporary nature of my thought-created story of my past and my thought-created future hopes and fears, I also begin to notice that which is constant and unchanging – the inner spark and wisdom within that make up the human potential.

So how do we go beyond our psychology?

By seeing it for what it is – an effect of thought rather than its source.

By way of an analogy, think of consciousness like a mirror and thought as that which is reflected in the mirror. By nature, we don’t experience thoughts directly – we see their reflection in our mind’s eye, hear their echo in our mind’s ear, and feel them via the senses in our body. That which we call our psychology is the sum total of that which is being reflected in the mirror of consciousness.

But the mirror itself is unaffected by that which it reflects. It remains unseen although everything is seen via its presence. In other words,  just because we think limiting thoughts doesn’t mean we have to be limited by those thoughts. And when we go beyond our psychology, it becomes easier…

3. To create cool stuff in the world

Last week, someone raised an interesting question on Facebook:

I have a question. I’m entertaining myself with Syd’s book The Missing Link while waiting for your book to arrive. Today I read a paragraph that I’d like your take on as it relates to CTI. 

Syd writes, “Many people would succeed in life if their ambitions weren’t so above their abilities.” I am curious why this feels true and yet at the same time sounds opposite of what we are up to here in creating the impossible. I’m confident your reflection will help me see something new here.

My answer came in two parts. The first was that Creating the Impossible is not a euphemism for “creating the grandiose”, “creating the impressive”, or even “creating the ambitious”. It is, very simply, about creating what you’d most like to see in the world, regardless of whether you think it’s possible or believe you can do it.

Ambition, as a whole, is when we try to create what we think will make us a different kind of person – more successful, more impressive, less of a loser, or whatever shift we’d like to make in our self-perception that we think we need to change ourselves in order to think of ourselves differently.

So when we attempt to create from ambition, we wind up focused far too much on our psychology and nowhere near enough on whatever the very next step is in our creation.

By way of contrast (and brought to mind by my outside-in driven thinking about how the success of the New England Patriots can make me happy 😊), during last year’s Super Bowl, when the Patriots trailed by 18 points at half time, they didn’t get ambitious and try to impress themselves or anyone else. They stayed within their abilities and followed the team’s mantra – “do your job”. The result – scoring 31 points as part of the largest (and by most people’s measure “impossible”) turnaround in Super Bowl history, was the result.

In the same way, when we don’t create to sate our psychology but to satisfy the incredibly human urge to facilitate the divine creative force taking form, it’s remarkable how much we can actually get done without exhaustion, stress, or pressure.

The second part was to point out that we take things one step at a time without feeling the need to bite off more than we can chew (or do more than we’re capable of doing and control more than we’re actually in control of), it’s remarkable how many of those steps take us far further than we imagined they would.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau:

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

And this is the sense in which all three objectives build on one another to make for a truly wonderful life. When we come alive to the magic and magnificence inside us, we are inspired by possibility. When we go beyond our psychology, we are unbridled and unleashed. And when we are alive to our magnificence and unleashed from our psychology, creating cool stuff in the world is the inevitable result.

With all my love,

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