A Coaching Power Tool Created by Cate Baio
(Transformational Coach, CANADA)
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
An event is defined as,
a thing that happens, especially one of importance. google
A race, competition, special occasion and a deadline are all examples of events. We often perceive our goals similarly to an event. Sometimes they have a deadline and we can even feel like we are racing to the “finish line”. We can even define ourselves by the level of success we achieve. If we are successful and achieve what we set out to do, we feel good about ourselves. If we do not, we can feel quite the opposite.
Let’s take Maggie for example. She was engaged to be married and the wedding date was set. She wanted to look her best and lose weight for the big day. She was committed and put the structures in place to make it happen. She had four months to prepare. She exercised daily and was diligent about her diet. She worked really hard, kept to her schedule of exercising 6 days a week (sometimes twice a day) and eating well. Although she felt like she sacrificed some things (time with friends, dining out, chocolate) in order to achieve her goal, it was very effective and she was thrilled to be a glowing bride. Time passed. The wedding was over and slowly five years and two children later her weight crept up, her exercise routine came and went (many times) and her feelings of accomplishment diminished.
For the four months before her wedding, Maggie was very focused on her goal. This was something that she had to do and nothing was going to get in her way. Her expectations were high and she was willing to put in the effort needed to accomplish her goal. Her friends would joke with her about how “rigid” she was being. She knew that to be true, but she didn’t know how else she could lose the weight and she didn’t want to disappoint herself. After all, she ordered her dress one size smaller than her original fitting.
Now let’s imagine that Maggie hadn’t lost the weight on her wedding day. She instantly feels like a failure. She didn’t meet the deadline. She lost some weight and made some changes, but not what she had expected for herself. Perhaps she puts the weight back on or loses interest in trying after her wedding day has past. Either way, Maggie feels disempowered. She was a failure, or so she thought.
What if Maggie had been able to look at the bigger picture. What she ultimately wanted was to feel good about herself by taking care of how she ate and how she moved her body. What if she were able to take the “event” out of the picture and focus on the process and the journey?
This is what Maggie is doing now. She is working on losing weight once again, but this time it is much different. It is a process. She tries different routines, and is discovering what she likes, what is working and what she can incorporate into her busy life for what may be the rest of her life. Where her focus is now is not so much the event (weight loss) but the process. Within the process is experimentation, freedom from expectation, play, room for setbacks (are they setbacks, or simply a step in the journey? A time for learning?). She is giving herself room to discover what is sustainable, what will keep me moving forward, what she needs to learn about herself in order to create the change she seeks. This is her process. She is more flexible, self-loving, self-accepting and feels empowered on her journey.
There is a time and place to focus on an event. Sometimes when we need to dig in, keep our head down and stay focused to get things done. I would like to suggest that personal change doesn’t necessarily take that shape. Sometimes focusing on the event brings on a, “do or do not” attitude. We succeed or we fail. It is black and white. Therefore, even the commitment can seem daunting and underlying beliefs can prevent us from even getting started. Or, if we do get started and there are setbacks along the way, they may be enough to sideline us completely.
Perhaps there are some tools that would help us look at the bigger picture in order to relish in the journey and the process. rather than focusing on the end point as the only indicator of our success. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” has become a cliché, but if we stop and think of all the successes we have had throughout our lives, they haven’t happened overnight. I would also venture to guess that perhaps through the journey, the final goal may have changed. As we unveil our true selves and get in touch with our values, we may choose to take a detour, or change our perspective on the final destination.
Identify your values
First it is important to ensure that our goals are in alignment with our values. Are we choosing a path that is true to our inner most self? Our beliefs? As we are able to hone in our personal values and beliefs, we can ensure that our goal is ours rather than what we perceive our goals should be through the eyes of our friends, co-workers, families and culture.
For example, let’s say that Maggie was able to identify her values and they included health and wellness, balance, friends and family, love and personal growth. She may have discovered that in fact, the goal to lose weight for her wedding day was a superimposed idea from the bridal culture. Although she still wants to lose weight, she wants her goal to be in alignment with her values. Can you can imagine how her process might look different?
Only by creating awareness could Maggie see what was working for her and what wasn’t. Upon reflection, she discovered that she had placed herself in a win or lose situation. She was judging herself solely on the outcome. She had neglected to acknowledge the positive changes she had made and how she could readopt some of those things and let go of others that wouldn’t serve her long term. As she increased her awareness, she began to accept where she was in the process and how she got there. She began to explore different ways of exercising; she became more open and flexible to trying new things. Her perspective shifted to one of a win/win, knowing that each step on the journey is another opportunity to grow and learn.
The timeline of “events” are often short term. Conversely, when we set goals, they are often rooted in long term or lifelong aspirations for ourselves. It is important to explore how we can provide ourselves with the support required to make these lifelong changes. We must ask ourselves, what is realistic? How can I incorporate change in such a way that I can feel successful every day? What is the smallest thing I can do to move myself forward? How will I know when I am ready for more of a challenge?
Maggie learned that the changes she had originally made were unsustainable. Although some of the changes were realistic, others had caused her to sacrifice things that were very important to her and ultimately resulted in her success being short term. She came to the realization that her success was better achieved by thinking of the bigger picture. She learned that the road to her success was paved by a focus on process vs event. She now understands that in order for her lifestyle changes to be sustainable, they need to fit into her life as it exists. She is not willing to compromise her well-being, but she now makes choices that work for her and her value of family, friends and balance.
Release of Expectation
Expectation takes us out of the present moment. When we hold expectations we focus on future events and can place judgement on ourselves as we compare where we are now to where we want to be. By embracing the process, we begin to enjoy the ride. We can live in the moment. We can see each set back as a learning opportunity or new insight and we celebrate our movement forward. We are able to let go of timelines, and be open to allowing things to happen in their own time. We begin to trust, to know that we are where we need to be and the universe will provide.
It is essential that coaches help the client hone in on what they really want. By discovering the client’s values, the coach can support the client in uncovering what resonates for them on a deeper level. The client is able to sift through expectations from friends, family, culture, etc. and get specific on what they want to achieve. Once the client can get clear on what is important to them, they can begin their journey with purpose. They will feel motivated and energized knowing that the steps they have chosen to take are in alignment with their true self.
By taking the time to acknowledge our clients, we are able to highlight the steps they are taking toward their goal, however small. If the client has an “event” mentality, they might not notice the little things. This can be deeply empowering for the client who can only see the end goal. As the coach brings awareness to these small achievements, the client will begin to notice them more and more often, creating more positivity and reinforcement as well as self-acceptance.
Through powerful questioning the coach can inspire the client to look at the process of change in a whole new light. First, they can help the client discover if their goal is event based and whether or not that would serve them. If not, the coach can ask questions to help the client uncover how the process might look for them. Through questioning, the client will have more awareness of their own expectations of themselves and how to make changes that are sustainable, balanced and realistic. Here are some examples of what a coach might ask:
If you could look down on your situation from above, as if hovering in a helicopter, and see the entire process of getting to your goal (the steps you took, the support you solicit), what does it look like?
Can you think of a time that you almost reached a goal but didn’t make it 100% of the way there? How did you feel? What did you do? What can you acknowledge about that process?
Imagine you have achieved the goal. You are in that place. What happens the following day?
When the client begins to see the beauty of the journey, setbacks are no longer negative, but are ways for the client to learn and grow. They may even discover how to apply this learning to other areas of their life. The time limitations and deadlines may fall away as the client discovers that the process has a life of its own. The client will start to see that they can make changes that may be small but can be deeply meaningful and powerful as they move toward their goal.
- Can you think of a time that you had a goal that took on the feel of an event? What happened after the “event”? What steps did you take in order to make that so?
- What do you need to ask yourself in order to discover if the changes you are making are sustainable?
- How does the idea of letting go of outcome make you feel? What do you need in order to trust in the process?
- What can you do to bring awareness to all the steps you are taking toward achieving your goals? How might that help you reach your goals faster?