A Coaching Power Tool created by Georgina Adams
(Transformational and Business Coach, Australia)
As a person with perfectionist tendencies writing this power tool has been a challenge and a great learning experience for me. My goal is to create a portfolio, without the need to be perfect, incorporating my coaching model and other works that is cohesive and representative of me as a coach, meaningful to me, my clients, fellow students at ICA, and colleagues.
If you are a perfectionist, it is likely that you learned early in life that other people valued you for what you accomplished or achieved and as a result you may have learned to value yourself only on the basis of other people’s approval. Thus, your self-esteem may have come to be based primarily on external standards leaving you vulnerable and excessively sensitive to the opinions and criticism of others. In attempting to protect yourself from such criticism, you may decide that being perfect is your only defence, adopting the belief system:
I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.
Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it – Salvador Dali
According to Tal Ben-Shahar, a former Harvard professor who taught the most popular class in Harvard’s history (on Positive Psychology), one of the key attributes of a perfectionist is a deep fear of failure. In “The Pursuit of Perfect” he writes that the pain associated with the fear of failure is usually more intense than the pain following an actual failure. He tells of the wish for his students to fail more often. If we fail frequently, it means that we try frequently, put ourselves on the line and challenge ourselves. We learn and grow from the experience of challenging ourselves and we often develop and mature much more from our failures than from our successes.
Moreover, when we put ourselves on the line, when we fall down and get up again, we become stronger and more resilient.
Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. ― Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent 10 years studying vulnerability, shame, authenticity and courage. She is the author of
The Gifts of Imperfection” (Hazelden), Daring Greatly (Gotham Books),
and has a blog on courage.
She has talked of how her own “inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”
Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.
A need of all people is a deep sense of love and belonging and as Brown conducted her research interviews it became clear to her that only one thing separated the people who felt that deep sense of love and belonging from those who seem to be struggling for it – the belief in their worthiness.
If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.
Believing that we are worthy right this minute is the greatest challenge for most of us. However, many of us have long lists of prerequisites, telling ourselves
I’ll be worthy when… or I’ll be worthy if….
As we let go of our prerequisites for worthiness we can embark on the journey from
What will people think? to I am enough,
and the first step in the journey is practicing courage to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are.
Creativity takes courage. ― Henri Matisse
In his book The Courage Quotient: How Science Makes You Braver, Robert Biswas-Diener the foremost authority on positive psychology coaching, defines courage as
the willingness to act toward a moral or worthwhile goal despite the presence of risk, uncertainty and fear.
According to Biswas-Diener, courage
allows you to pursue the life you want, to overcome obstacles that hold you back from living a full life, and to put your core values into action, and it also helps and elevates others along the way.
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. – Erich Fromm
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference.
People with a fixed mindset believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them and believe that talent alone creates success, without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, brains and talent being just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron writes:
Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop – an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. – Brené Brown
To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that. – Brené Brown
A blueprint for my personal creations was born out of a recent art experience framed by coaching sessions before and after.
The journey of creation began following my first life drawing class at LaSalle College of the Arts, Singapore, that I had somewhat reluctantly enrolled in. I had just completed 8 weeks of oil painting and wanted to continue, however, the class was not being offered this semester. In the spirit of continuity of practice and developing my skills I approached the life drawing class with enthusiasm and a beginners’ mind. Or so I thought!
The last exercise of the class was a pastel drawing. The instructions were unclear and we had very limited time (13 minutes). I now realise that I was fearful as I began that my drawing would not be good enough. I made a real mess, and was self-critical. The teacher looked at my drawing, made a face, told me that the proportions were correct, the application of pastel was not, and I could use the other side of the paper next week for another drawing. Now I had failed! The self-criticism continued throughout the evening and into the following morning, until I decided to take action!
Certainty is a cruel mindset. It hardens our minds against possibility. – Ellen Langer
I set myself up with a new piece of paper on a board and started another drawing using the rudimentary sketch I had drawn in class for reference. Feeling relaxed and with childlike curiosity I continued to explore and play with the application of the pastel and completed the drawing to my satisfaction. Good enough! I had so much fun that I went on to complete the original drawing from class. In three hours I created two drawings, photographed them, and had a grin from ear to ear. During the remainder of the day I walked in the Botanic Gardens with a friend, went out to dinner with another friend, and ran into yet another friend who is an artist. Amazingly, I shared the photo and a synopsis of my story with each.
The breakthrough creative process
In a peer coaching session a few days previously I had an awakening that I need to trust my knowing and wisdom.
As I reflected on my experience it became crystal clear to me that I had approached the class and the final drawing with big expectations of myself, risking my sense of self-worth and opening myself to criticism from others. In applying the work of Carol Dweck I achieved a reframing from the fixed mindset of
Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.
to a growth mindset perspective of
I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.
Through this raw and awakening experience I learned that I can relax and lean into the vulnerability of imperfection. A shell was cracked open, and a space opened for creativity to emerge. In trusting myself I let go of my attachment to a result, had fun along the way and enjoyed the journey.
The world has opened up for me.
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