A Coaching Power Tool created by Catherine Oleksiw
(Transformational Coaching, UNITED STATES)
The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher and contemporary of Confucius in the sixth century B.C. scripted this now timeless saying in Verse 64 of Tao Te Ching, a book of roughly 5,000 words and eighty-one verses which mirrors the essence of Taoism. The more complete excerpt reads:
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot:
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
We are each on a personal journey. The energy we bring to that journey, whether it be transitioning to a new career, developing leadership skills in the workplace, meeting the challenge of a difficult relationship, or facing the seemingly insurmountable test of losing weight, will ebb and flow as we face the inevitability of change. Our willingness or reluctance to proceed step by step is driven by inner beliefs, some of which may not reveal themselves until we have begun the journey. These inner beliefs will prove themselves to be our greatest allies or our harshest adversaries.
The Coaching Process
A future-focused service profession, coaching concentrates on supporting the client in setting specific personal or work-related goals, creating new outcome-based actions and becoming more empowered through transformation. The unchanging focus is on identifying, developing and celebrating individual strengths, capabilities and talents with individual limitations or failings acknowledged only within the context of creating self-awareness. Coaching emphasizes taking actionable steps, being accountability and sustaining change over time as the client moves forward in a positive trajectory.
Reflecting the client focus of coaching, the fundamental underlying premise of coaching is that the client has everything s/he needs to create personal change based on self-generated solutions. Therefore, in the coaching process, the client determines the direction while the coach lends encouragement to the client in discovering new ways of thinking and feeling for the purpose of exploring new approaches and frameworks, that, in turn, leads to committing to action steps and, therein, positive change.
Action steps and accountability structures go hand in hand in the coaching process. Is the client committed to take action?
What are the specifics of the action? That is, when and how will the client know that s/he has completed the action successfully? It is at this early stage of tackling personal change that a client may falter, especially if the client struggles with a heightened internal barometer for excellence that sees only two points on the scale: Perfect and Failed. This measure of the inner voice reflects a negative self-belief that undoubtedly may inhibit the client from moving outside their comfort zone since nothing short of perfection, however the client has defined that, be acceptable to the client. Frozen in a state of inertia, the client may not step forward to experience any degree of progress but remain stuck, feeling an undeserved shame, one of the most toxic emotions undermining the potential for personal growth.
So how does a coach help the client escape from this emotional entrapment? How can the coach show the client the debilitating nature of perfection as opposed to the liberating energy of progress? With what questions or activities can the coach stimulate the client to realize the restrictive nature of demanding perfection in every action? What structures can the coach present to the client to prompt an expanded self-awareness and heightened capacity to take the risk of action? How can the client refocus and embrace progress, however imperfect, as valuable and worthy of praise? Lao Tsu delineates this struggle in Verse 76 of the Tao
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the discipline of death.
The gentle and yielding is the discipline of life.
Perfection Perfection is an ideal, a noble goal set forever in the abstract. Broad definitions for perfection speak to “a state of completeness and flawlessness,” “the highest degree of proficiency, skill, or excellence,” or “a quality, trait, or feature of the highest degree of excellence.” On the positive side, perfection is an illusion that colors our hopes and dreams of excelling and creating something of great meaning. Pir Vliayat Inayat Khan, Sufi mystic and past leader of the Sufi Order International, defined a perfect human being as
man in search of his ideal perfection.
This search for perfection may move a person to action or to inaction depending on his capacity to be open and vulnerable to change and so move into action, or his tendency to be closed to change and so remain frozen in a state of inaction. On the negative side, perfection produces inertia as so clearly reflected in Winston Churchill’s words:
The maxim, ‘Nothing prevails but perfection,’ may be spelled PARALYSIS.
A powerful self-defeating belief, perfectionism
turns people into slaves of success—but keeps them focused on failure, dooming them to a lifetime of doubt and depression.