A Coaching Power Tool Created by Iani Bacula
(Life/Transformational Coach, ROMANIA)
The word ‘should’ is by dictionary definition “used to indicate obligations, duty and correctness”. When stating a goal, it comes from a place of obligation. It’s what others and the unclear self expects to do. Using this type of language in describing a goal is like riding a bike uphill. It’s still possible to arrive at the destination, but there’s a lot of hard pedaling involved.
Achieving something from this perspective is possible, but it requires double the effort. One part of the effort is the ‘physical’ work on what has to be done, and the other is the mental strain from convincing oneself that it is the right thing to do. The “I should” phrase is having an annoying infomercial constantly repeating in your head, convincing you to buy something you don’t really need. The sad part of this is that one not only convinces herself of achieving the ‘should’, but she actually starts believing what she ‘should’ do as well.
Trying to achieve something from this level is working with the part of the iceberg which is visible and out of the water, it’s staying at a superficial level and not being aware of the bigger, more important chunk that’s underneath.
What makes this so important?
The language one uses to communicate their dreams has a deep impact on their engagement, empowerment, determination and ease of acting.
“I want” is, as the dictionary puts it, “to have a strong feeling; to wish (to possess or do something); to desire greatly”; in other words, the sound of determination and genuine desire. Using the example given earlier, “I want” is riding a bike downhill; it requires the light release of the brakes and all the biker does is happily enjoy the ride.
When a person truly expresses what he wants, he gets committed and turns into action mode. Saying “I want” comes from a place of determination and desire. It is a pleasure, and after taking that one first step, it rapidly turns into momentum. A person acting from a wanting perspective thoroughly understands what has to be done and why it must be done.
As an experiment, the next time you catch yourself saying “I should”, try this instead. In a curious and playful way ask yourself “why is this important to me” 3 times in a row. The point is not to answer to simply justify, it is to get to the core.
I should exercise
Why is this important to me?
It’s important to me because I want to be healthy.
Why is being healthy, important to me?
It’s important to me because being healthy helps me function at an optimum level.
Why is functioning at an optimum level important to me?
Functioning at an optimum level is important to me because I get more work done and feel great as well.
After the third why, then ask “what do I really want?” Picture what you want and formulate just from what you want. What you don’t want is not relevant here.
I want to function at an optimum level because I get more work done and feel great as well.
Most of the time what we want is totally different from what we should do; it’s important to keep that in mind. The essence of this exercise is to get to the real issue.
To discern the “I should” from the “I want”, a coach must first listen for these words whenever the client is stating a goal. The coach’s job is not to break down the issue and understand it. What the person wants has nothing to do with the problem.
One of the toughest things to do as a coach, especially at the beginning is to coach the client, not the issue.
The issue is just the “leaf” of a tree. The leaf leads to the stem, the stem to the branch, the branch to the trunk and the trunk to the roots. To effectively coach a client, one must first trust the client as being the expert of their own life and second, one must not be afraid of not knowing. Our society is built around having all the information first. The desire to know is like a drug. It is so deeply ingrained into us that we may feel withdrawal symptoms whenever we feel that we don’t know enough. The funny part of not knowing is that it actually helps a coach to better concentrate on a client. It helps get to the trunk and roots; the client is the only one that has to know. A coach is the farmer, harvesting seeds of self-awareness into them.
The coach can use questions like: “What makes this important to you?” or “What is at the heart of this?”
“Why-type” questions as mentioned above in the self-application can also be very useful. Most coaches avoid the ‘why’ questions, fearing that it may take the client from an exploratory perspective to a defensive/justifying one. Although this may be true, a simple “why” thrown into the coaching conversation can have an explosive effect. It helps, of course for the coach and client to have a strong connection, and for the coach to use a friendly non-judgemental tone. The trivial ‘why’ can blow the insignificancies out of the way; it helps get to the core of the client and their issue.