A Coaching Power Tool Created by Anita Swartley
(Life Coach, USA)
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. Henry Thoreau
Thoreau may have made a very strong assertion here and for most of us, desperation may not be the word we would use to describe our present existence. However, for many of us, we may carry an uncomfortable ‘feeling’ that our song, or who we are, has yet to be revealed. This ‘feeling’, oftentimes, signifies to us that we are out of alignment with who we are and what we value. We can feel it, we just don’t know how to identify it.
The problem is that we are often blind to the true nature of the issue and to what our ‘feelings’ honestly represent to us. Blindness in our lives can come in many forms. We can be blind to our emotions, blind to our behaviors, blind to our own desires and dreams. We interpret our lives through filters created from past experiences, current biases, and unidentified emotions.
One way of becoming blind to ourselves and our actions can be described as Confirmation Bias. “Confirmation Bias, as the term is typically used in the psychological literature, connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.”( Nickerson; Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises) How we interpret our environment and events impact what we believe, and subsequently what we do. We are blind to the reality of the situation because we infuse it with our bias and emotion. Our brain does this automatically and without awareness. We then react from this perspective.
Denial is another manifestation of blindness in our lives. “Denial is far trickier than simple ignorance. It isn’t the inability to perceive information but the astonishing ability to perceive information while automatically refusing to allow it into consciousness.” ( Beck; Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots) Sometimes we refuse to see truth because it is too painful, it opens old wounds and makes us hurt. Other times we just refuse to look at ourselves honestly because we cannot bear to admit that a negative event or feeling may be our responsibility. We become blind to reality and begin to employ ways to avoid seeing what truly is. The danger with this approach is that is not only potentially harmful for those around us, it hides who we really are from ourselves and hinders growth. We don’t truly connect to ourselves which in turn, creates a barrier to connecting with others.
There are also times where we honestly don’t know when we are just ignorant to our reality. We just don’t recognize what is really going on. Bringing clarity into our lives and our situation can shift our behaviors to a more positive and authentic place.
Clarity is defined as “the quality of being clear, the quality of coherence and intelligibility.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) Clarity pulls away the blindfold, shines a light into our dark places of denial, and helps us to reconnect to who we truly are.
You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining. Joni Mitchell
When we seek clarity in a given situation, it counters our past bias and yearns for clear vision. Our emotions can become identified and handled with appropriate care, and our ignorance becomes knowledge. Clarity is the vehicle with which we bring awareness into our lives in order to foster positive change and growth. There are different ways to facilitate clarity in one’s life. Knowing you have blind spots and desiring deeper understanding is the first step in finding your truth. Clarity starts and ends with awareness.
The best source of reflection that I currently have is my own life. When I started this journey, I had no idea the growth and awareness I was about to encounter. I came to coaching from a very blind, obscure place that I called my life. I had lived a life that was formed and designed by others, infused with others values, goals and dreams. I thought they were mine, blind to the reality that as a people pleaser, I had adopted other’s goals for myself and claimed them as my own. I was blind to my own behaviors, to my actions, and to who I really was.
Blindness is not seeing, not knowing what is beyond the darkness and under the mask. If anyone had asked, I was living my life; I was the one making the decisions, making the choices, unknowingly led by others. On the outside, I had a career many would envy. It had a good salary, great hours, and prestige. A career for all intents and purposes I had chosen, worked hard for, sacrificed to achieve. But I was blind to the reality of the situation. The reality was that I was that I had a career molded and created by others expectations of what I should be doing. I was miserable and I didn’t know why. I beat myself up for not being grateful for what I had, I put an extraordinary amount of energy in to making myself content, and I pushed harder to find my place. None of which worked. I became, irritable, angry, tired, and lost. What I didn’t realize was that nothing about what I was doing represented who I was and what I wanted. I was lost to myself, misaligned with my strengths and values, and living someone else’s life.
As I began to search for an answer to my discontent, I started to bring more awareness into my situation. I began to search for how thing truly were. Who was I, and what did I really want from life. I searched for meaning behind my behaviors, my actions, and my choices. As I began to apply more clarity to my situation, more awareness to my emotions, and more mindfulness to my thoughts, everything started to make sense. My discontent had a source, my identity became clearer, and my goals started to align with what I discovered were my true values.
Shedding light into those areas of blindness opened up a deeper understanding of myself, and with that understanding a clear vision, a clear purpose, and a changed life. I resigned from my administrative position, I took time to reflect and get to know myself better, and then I found a career choice that was in line with who I was, and what I wanted to contribute to this world. Despite others fears and vocalized reservations, I knew that my passions, my values, and my strengths all lined up with this career choice. Bringing clarity to my situation created an awareness and shift of perspective that was pivotal in my choosing coaching as a career and has impacted all other areas of my life.
Recognizing that we have pieces of ourselves we are blind to and realizing how clarity can reconnect us with our true selves is a foundational tool that can transform lives. Bringing clarity to an area of blindness can help identify feelings, discover truth, and create a clear path that is lit by the power of knowing who we truly are and where we want to be.
Melissa was a bright, energetic person who was struggling with asserting her opinion or making a decision of her own. She often ended up going along with the crowd, doing things her friends wanted her to do, or following her parent’s lead. She would hesitate when asked her opinion of something, often saying “it doesn’t matter” or “whatever you think”. She thought of herself as a very easygoing, compliant person that just wanted the best for everyone around her. She felt that this made her loving and easy to be around. But underneath all of her compliance were feelings of unhappiness and discontentment. Melissa struggled with these emotions because she didn’t feel she had anything in particular that made her unhappy. She just felt sometimes that she just wanted to run. She wanted to move to another country and do something independent and on her own. These feelings confused her because she felt that she was already an independent, self- reliant person. Melissa was blind to her own self. What she didn’t see was that what she believed to be a loving and generous act of yielding to others wants and desires, was really a denial of her own. She was increasingly frustrated but had no idea where it was coming from. Melissa’s blindness to her own behavior was creating her unhappiness and discontentment. She had not learned to voice her own wants and desires and really couldn’t even identify them. By bringing awareness to Melissa’s blind spots and underlying beliefs, a shift could be made from blindness to clarity. Seeing that her frustration was stemming from her inability to identify and voice her own wants and desires enabled Melissa to address this issue and work around this truth. With help from her coach, Melissa would be able to begin to identify what she really wanted out of a situation, out of life, out of herself. She could then build the confidence needed to start voicing that desire and asserting that independence that she always thought she had. Melissa would begin to be seen, valued, and appreciated for who she was and what she wanted. She was no longer frustrated, and no longer invisible.
Creating awareness is pivotal in helping the client move from blindness to clarity. Awareness is the tool that will identify the source of the obstacle or area of blindness, and help discover the strengths and resources within the client themselves that will help move them forward toward growth. A coach can help a client create awareness which will lead to clarity in many different ways:
- Safe Space: Create a safe space for the client to explore and discover themselves.
- Reflect: Be a mirror to the client and reflect back what the client has shared and discovered to help that client create a picture of their reality and further reveal any underlying beliefs or obstacles
- Mindfulness: Share mindfulness techniques so the client can begin to observe their own
- thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
- Meditation: Have the client take some time to learn the art of meditation. This is a valuable tool in helping the client develop mindfulness, create focus, and reduce anxiety.
- Journaling: Ask the client to keep a journal of their thoughts and feelings to make it easier to
- identify those feelings and behaviors they may have become blind to.
- Get input: Sometimes it is hard for us to see what is real because we are too close to our own feelings. Encourage the client to seek out input from trusted friends and family on the client’s behavior and how they are perceived by others.
Coaches partner with their clients in recognizing areas in their lives where clarity and awareness are needed. By helping a client transition from blindness to clarity, a coach can support their client through a shift in perspective that can be transformational.
Here are a few questions to help create that awareness:
- How are your current behaviors serving you?
- What is good about this current situation?
- What is it you REALLY want here?
- What is out of harmony in your life and how do you restore it?
- What parts of yourself are you dying to let out?
- What’s missing in your life right now? And what are you doing about it?
That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something. Meredith Monk
Copyright 1998 By The Educational Publishing Foundation, 1089-2680«8/$3.00, Review Of General Psychology, and 1998, Vol. 2, No. 2, 175-22. Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Beck, Martha. “Seeing Your Emotional Blindspots.” Creating Your Right Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.