A Coaching Power Tool Created by Agatha Hughes
(Life & Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES)
One of the definitions of the word comfort from dictionary.com is this: a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety.
A perspective of comfort is the belief that buffering yourself from change or disruption will preserve stability and happiness it is the maintenance of freedom from pain or anxiety,as the definition explains. By having this perspective, the structures one employs support stagnation and standstill with the assumption that any adjustment to lifestyle will cause instability, imbalance, and chaos. Once a routine is established, deviation even in a positive direction evokes fear. There may even be an idea that if a situation is recognized as less than ideal, external factors will eventually accommodate a better situation without personal action. A state of comfort is often just the opposite, as it usually leads to feeling trapped, anxious, and unhappy.
Example of comfort perspective:
A newly married woman who is living with her husband allows her sister with her children to live rent-free at her old residence due to the sister’s marital and financial struggles. The woman can no longer afford to keep this old residence with her new bills, but continues to make ends meet because the sister is unreceptive to encouragement to find her own place. The woman also knows that taking back this offer would put pressure on her parents to support the sister and kids. This situation is now causing financial and marital strain on the woman, but she does not change it for fear of family drama and expresses hope that with the birth of her new son, the sister will change her mind and move out on her own.
One of the definitions of trust from dictionary.com is this: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. The word that strikes me in their definition is surety.
A perspective of self-trust is the belief that living in alignment with your values will always lead you to the top, even in unclear situations. A strong foundation and understanding of your beliefs supports and directs you in making decisions and allows for the discovery of positive solutions to seemingly negative disruptions. This state supports confidence and a feeling of calmness or peace.
The woman in the above scenario considers her values. She values her family, independence, responsibility, and respect towards all. She brainstorms possible courses of action that would resolve the situation, including having a family meeting and setting financial requirements or boundaries for her sister. She knows that providing her sister shelter at her own expense, when she believes her sister is capable of supporting her family and is taking advantage by making unnecessary purchases, is not offering realistic help and is not aligned with her respect for herself and husband. By having a family meeting, she is respecting all involved by giving an opportunity to participate in the decision, and by setting boundaries she is exercising her values of responsibility. She believes that abiding by her values will produce the best outcome.
I drew this tool from a client’s experience, though I can apply it to my own experiences as well as another person’s circumstance that I’ve observed.
My client preserved a long-term relationship with her significant other who had a drug habit, was dishonest, and in legal trouble. She was committed to the belief that through rehabilitation and love, he would change, though he repeatedly let her down. She was anxious, worried, and arguing, but kept an unchanged lifestyle that made her comfortable- she still had a relationship and someone to live with. However, she was struggling with staying in the relationship. I asked what it would take for her to know that circumstances were improving, what the ideal life together look like. She had difficulty explaining because of the possibility of a jail time sentence. The knowledge of this outcome would provide her the turning point she needed to decide which action to take, and so I asked her what she would do if he did or did not go to jail. She explained that either way, she would initially stay and observe his course of action afterwards, and outlined what actions would indicate improvement on his part. If he did not change, she would have established reasons to leave him. Highlighting her neglected values of health and self-respect allowed her to define actions that would align with her priorities. Once she created an action plan for possible behaviors of his that would upset her comfort state again, she felt confident navigating their relationship no matter what.
I remained committed to my chosen career path with the idea that venturing away from it could wreak havoc on my life.
What about all of the money I’ve spent on school?
How could I afford learning something else?
Could anything else support my budget?
How much time would changing careers take away from my new marriage and ideas of a new family?
How could I explain this irresponsibility to my family?
All of these fears questioned my comfort, my stable career and routine, but left me unhappy and helpless.
Eventually, I let it slip that I was in the wrong profession. Instead of burying that thought, I let it surface and stay there. I became familiar with it. I realized that the existence of this disruptive thought caused me no chaos. It was a tiny sparkle in the distance that actually gave me hope. I shifted. I picked up the inkling that I can reflect on my strengths. I don’t truly like being a nurse day in and day out, and that itself makes me less than the best one out there! So my strengths and interests must support something else. I read and researched and took personality quizzes. I indirectly discovered my values, which led me to coaching. Trusting that my belief in fulfillment and pursuing a meaningful career would lead me somewhere better, I was able to find my calling and be comfortable leaving my fears behind, replacing them with solutions that worked.
Now consider this scenario. This is actually a real situation I’m observing, but am only hypothetically coaching it using this tool.
A wife is feeling that communication in her marriage is lacking. She and her husband are remodeling their primary residence, inside and out, and she feels her husband is too quickly pushing her to create plans for these changes. He is also making phone calls to contractors and making purchases without consulting her. Her husband contributes the primary income of the household. They also own a second summer residence, where her husband would like to permanently move after retirement, with which she disagrees.
Right now she is in a state of comfort, though she is unhappy, stressed, and overwhelmed. Her solutions to these barriers are of a passive-aggressive nature.
Well, that man can come speak with us in two weeks about the room, but my husband’s going to look like an idiot when I don’t have anything to say.
Or she questions her husband’s plans, but makes no objection when he provides an answer. Something like,
Well I thought we were going to do the foyer and kitchen first because our customers see those with no solid refusal or invitation to discuss further when he states he’d rather do the bedroom. She then begins the silent treatment. She believes that speaking up will not result in any change, and has exhibited these behaviors for many years. It is not unusual for her to voice her complaints to others, but it is unusual for her to attempt to illicit real change. However, her lifestyle is consistent and her conversations and disputes are predictable, and she knows how to (ineffectively) cope.
- Invite her to consider how she currently views the remodeling of her home, along with how she would ideally experience it. Is it a positive or negative experience right now? What about it is negative? How would she like to remember it?
- Do a vision exercise: if she were to imagine this project in the future, what would it look like? How would the plans be made and where? Give her the opportunity to envision a positive experience; perhaps discussing plans, phone numbers, timelines, and ideas with her husband over dinners and before bed, being excited together and bouncing ideas. What is their communication like? How does she feel when it’s all finally completed?
- Ask how her husband is entirely responsible for this situation and then how she is entirely responsible, and ask her to reflect which perspective allows her more options. She may have explained earlier that in order for the situation to be better, her husband would have to be, change, or do X, Y, and Z, which she might now realize has left her powerless.
- Ask her how important is it for this experience to be a positive one. What would it take for her to bring her vision to reality? What coping mechanisms or behaviors (structures) does she have that have prevented this from happening before? What adjustments can she make to support better communication?
- Encourage her to consider how these solutions could improve other areas of her relationship or life. Where, when, and how (specifically) can she take a small step towards this goal and start making the adjustment?
- How does she feel about the idea of remodeling their home together make her feel now?
- Consider a time when you preserved a situation or lifestyle that didn’t serve you. What compelled you to stay? What was the moment that prompted a change? How did it make you feel?
- Has a past experience of self-trust in your foundation catalyzed additional changes in the future? Were you able to recall the sense of empowerment you felt once you shifted away from comfort?
- What are other ways you can help a client shift from a perspective of comfort to one of self-trust?