A Coaching Power Tool Created by Julianne McKnight
(Life Coach, AUSTRALIA)
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Confucius
For those of us lucky enough to possess the gift of sight, generally we give little thought to what visually fills our world. We look and take in sufficient to enable us to negotiate our surroundings and respond as expected or to ensure our safety. We do not always truly see.
You may be familiar with the term of ‘active listening’ – the act of giving your full and undivided attention to someone when they are communicating with you by concentrating entirely on what they are saying. This is in stark contrast to being aware that someone is speaking but not focusing fully on their words or message (and perhaps simultaneously doing other things).
Both instances can be described as ‘listening’, however it is only in the first instance, when we ‘actively listen’, that we truly ‘hear’.
The concept of ‘looking versus seeing’ is somewhat similar, in that ‘looking’ is a passive or subconscious activity, carried out sufficiently to find our way through our physical environment. This contrasts with ‘seeing’ when we concentrate on our environment, giving it our full attention.
Just as hearing is not something that just occurs, seeing is not something that just happens. A conscious decision must be made.
We live in a busy world with numerous stimuli seemingly fighting for our attention at any one moment, and we have no doubt adapted to the needs of such a lifestyle. But does this mean that we are missing out on a truer reality? What are we missing when we do not look with thought or focus? If we truly not only looked, but actually saw, what beauty would we see and how much more deeply could we experience? Could we deepen our relationships and strengthen our self-knowledge?
When we actively see, we are able to more passionately live in rhythm with our environment, nature, family and other loved ones. We recall better at the end of each day and are blessed with greater appreciation of all that is around us and within us.
Self Application – Learning to see
I picked up my son from school each weekday afternoon for about 4 years. Each afternoon I was on auto pilot and spent the time waiting for my son to come out the school gates, willing the time to pass quicker and for him to move faster, and usually lost in thought about what had occurred during my work that day and the next deadline I needed to meet.
I never noticed anything about the houses fronting the school street, or the flowers in their yards, or anything else about my surroundings. And in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter as that is not critical information on which someone’s life will rely.
I had recognised that I was not fully present for my son when he came home from school, and was looking for something to help me with that aim. One day I heard about mindfulness. I discussed the concept with my coach, and how I might become more mindful and present in my day to day living. My coach told me that she used the sound of birds to bring her mind to the present – whenever she heard a bird, she would take a second to be truly present. Whilst I could understand her use of that trigger, I know I am more of a visual person so decided I would try something around sight – colours. That afternoon, I parked the car and truly looked. What I saw took my breath away… The colour and shades of the sky, the grass, the flowers, the trees; the colour of the other cars; the colours of the clothes worn by other parents; the colour of the road, the footpaths, the tissue packet in my car, the collar on the dog walking by, … A true kaleidoscope before my eyes that somehow I had missed for years until that moment.
My sight had been activated and that night I continued to practice this new skill around my home. That night, my entry to my gratitude journal simply says “Colour!”
Interestingly, my connection with my son each afternoon became much stronger – not only was I more present when he opened the car door to get in for the trip home, but I was more attuned and better able to appropriately respond to his needs as I had noticed much about him (the way he walked, how he carried his head, and his interactions with his friends) before he even touched the car door handle.
Many years later and I still use colour to bring myself to the present. This has served me well when working with my coaching clients as this tool not only supports my mindfulness and brings me to the present, it also enables me to more easily identify their visual cues, let them set the pace and direction of their sessions and better support them in their journeys.
The method of moving from looking to seeing will differ from person to person. My experience was via identification of colours, however you may respond better to other stimuli. Regardless of the method, strengthening our sight is an important tool not only for a coach but also as a human being, and the benefits of bringing you to the present, increasing your connection with your environment and those around you, and identifying more of those things for which you are grateful will still come.
If your client is struggling with mindfulness, slowing their thoughts, bringing themselves to the present moment and/or gaining focus in the practice of gratitude, introducing the concept of looking versus seeing may be of benefit.
You might start by asking them what they can see right now, asking them to verbally list every object in their sight. If, for example, they are sitting in an office, this may include anything from a stapler to a book to the colour of the carpet; if they are at a window looking over a major road, it may include the colours or various makes of the vehicles. Take note of any use of categorisation adopted by your client, for example colour or size or article uses, as this may provide an indication of a personal trigger appropriate for your client.
Discuss with your client what they have been able to see. Ask how they might be able to use this experience on a more regular basis. For example, next time they are feeling overwhelmed, how they might use the act of visual identification to bring a sense of calm. Support them in using what they can now ‘see’ in their practices of mindfulness and gratitude.
Check in with them at future sessions to ascertain what they are now noticing, what feelings have been aroused and any changes in their actions or reactions.
- Think back over your day so far and try to recall what you have truly seen.
- Truly open your eyes in this moment and look at your surroundings. Take in what you see.
- How does activating your sight make you feel?
- What role can sight activation play for you as an individual?
- What role can sight activation play in coaching for you as a coach and for your client?
- What other methods of sight activation can you think of?
- How can you support your clients to move from looking to seeing, and to use this shift to their advantage?
What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportsmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.― John Lubbock