A Coaching Power Tool Created by Dana Ashkar
(Life Coach, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Ten months ago, Emma has decided to quit her job and follow her passion in writing. A few months through, doubt, worries and uncertainty started surfacing and took over her life.
Thoughts of: “Whether she rushed herself into the decision?” “Did she make the right decision?” “Will she have enough money to continue?” “Could’ve she waited, she would’ve saved more money to survive” and many more questions she would ask herself daily.
Frozen and stuck Emma stopped working on her novel; even worse she is in complete isolation at home. Her regrets and fear have paralyzed all movement. What is happening to Emma? How could she move forward?
Well, Emma is no longer being “here” in the present; instead she is dwelling “there” in the past and the future. Let’s revisit Emma’s thoughts:
- Rushed herself into the decision of quitting her job
- She made a wrong decision
- She might run out of money
- Could’ve she waited; she would’ve saved more money to survive
By listing her thoughts we realize that the first two are regrets and doubts about past decisions, and the last two are fears of future scenarios, neither exist in the present.
Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. James Thurber
Sometimes you stray in thoughts of a far past or an anticipated future. You reminisce or regret, plan or worry. The past and the future steal your attention. You are not present, your mind is wandering in it’s own clutter. You are suspended in two time zones that you have no control over.
There, in the past
You hold on to regrets by reviewing things that already happened, trying to explain them in terms of your own or someone else’s actions. How many times have you wished to take back something you said? You even wish we can go back in time and do certain things over. Unfortunately, the pathway of time is a one-way street.
There, in the future
You make assumptions about what is going to happen and then become attached to those expectations. You build dream build dreams and fears, wins and obstacles. Take an interview example; you get so worried about next day interview, you start assuming the worse scenarios that might take place, you become stressed and overwhelmed which in return affects your night sleep, next day you’re so worn out that it affects your performance. You lose confidence and trust in yourself, or even blame others and circumstances for what happened.
Being “there” means you are not being “here”
Life unfolds in the present. The past was, and the future will be, but the present is all was here. Now is a moment of power, where decisions are made, emotions are felt, life is lived. Give the present the only attention. How do you do that? By stopping judgment, letting go, and shifting perspective.
Stop judging and just be
Think of an event that has happed in the past or anticipated in the future, and how is affecting you now. Now visualize this event again, as neither good nor bad, and how is it affecting you now. How does this change your reaction? Or even your mood? And how does this change bring more lightness to your present?
When you judge situations, people and even yourself, you are saying: “certain past events could’ve been avoided if it wasn’t for ______(situation, person, you)”, or “your future can be perfect if it wasn’t for ______(situation, person, you)”.
Take a deep breath; look into yourself and around you with no judgment, allow yourself to be more open and understanding of what comes is neither good or bad, but simply is.
Let go and learn to accept
Letting go is learning to accept change and imperfection; not constantly reviewing past choices and future plans, but instead focusing on what we’re doing now and embracing it. It is accepting reality and allowing it to stay, knowing that it will be fine.
The Dalai Lama once said
There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.
So learn to let go yesterday and tomorrow because yesterday has ended and concluded; you can’t change it, and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet and is beyond your control, it carries it own changes and surprises. And instead embrace today because you can make all the choices and changes; it’s your only certain opportunity.
Shift your perspective to reality
Your thoughts, emotions, and experience create your reality. Thus by revisiting a thought or a feeling, that you formed by either a memory or an assumption, and reframing its perspective can change its truth i.e. changing your reality. Dangerous thoughts that we hold to ourselves are:
- If it happened once, it will happen again
- Others have caused this situation
- Life is unfair, I expect the worse
Shift perspective immediately, and learn that you are the only one that has control over his/her reality. Instead nurture perspectives that support your growth and self-development to help you overcome challenges.
So as coaches, we should always be here, focusing on the client not allowing thoughts and assumptions distract us from being present. The ICF affirms that, by including it among its competencies, and supports it with the following:
- “Present and flexible during the coaching process, dancing in the moment.”
- “Sees many ways to work with the client and chooses in the moment what is most effective.”
- “Confidently shifts perspectives and experiments with new possibilities for own action.”
Back to Emma’s case
Emma being stuck for months has decided finally to seek a coach. Her coach identifies her problem that is holding her from being “here” present in the moment. To help her shift perspective and let go judgments, the coach asks her some questions:
- If you were feeling resourceful and generous, how might you look at this situation?
- What’s missing here, that once it is included, will make this situation flow?
- How does that perspective work for you?
- Remember a time when you did something similar to this goal. How did you accomplish that? What resources could you bring to the present time?
- When you leave here today, how do you want to feel (or think) about yourself (and/or the situation) that you don’t feel right now?
- What could move you towards your goal right now?
- What is the MOST important thing you want to complete right now?
- What’s working well for you at the moment?
- What isn’t working well at the moment?
Asking these questions will help Emma look to her a situation from a different angle, a more realistic one. All the questions are questions that take place in the present, using the power of now. To ensure Emma would stay present and reflect on her thoughts more accurately, her coach asked her to write down her emotions and thoughts.
Emotions blur judgments in the moment; they allow past experiences paired with negative emotions to play a deceptive disguise of reality. Journaling brings back your awareness to these destructive thoughts, creates a mental space and increases your ability to let go.
At the end of each day, write down: What has upset you? What made you happy? If something upset you, how much of that was based on your interpretations? How much of your feelings are about assumptions?
Journaling brings back your mind to the ‘here’ stage, and within this mindful space, your thoughts about the future or the past will seem distant and illusionary.
- What behaviors would you develop as a coach, to be ‘here’ with a client rather than ‘there’ in your own thoughts and distractions?
- What other mindful techniques that you could develop to support your client further?