A Coaching Power Tool created by Cristina Rosu
(Transformational & Transitional Coaching, ROMANIA)
Creating change is one of the most recognized accomplishments throughout the world. People are celebrated and remembered for pioneering or championing change, and yet it remains one of the biggest fears for most people.
The idea of change is so powerful. Change can elicit hope or fear in a person’s life and is something that requires some exploration and research.
Change is like a coin with two faces. Flip it right and it opens a world of new possibilities, flip it wrong and it will block you keeping you attached to a past that may no longer be relevant.
This power tool will show how the “flip” is two things: a right understanding of what change is and a mastery of the angle from which we look at it.
There is one eternal sovereign of people and of change – and that is time. The Buddhist philosophy puts into perspective this empirical truth by stating and practicing the impermanence of things and the immanence of change. In other words, understanding that change is the nature of things and cannot be stopped is the right approach towards mastering the power of life.
Change is the process that makes the world a dynamic place just as breathing permits us to stay alive.
Understanding change is not just accepting change. Understanding goes beyond to observing and experiencing the truth of change, only then are we able to draw conclusions.
If we take a look at our life, at how we have lived, we soon realize everything changes with time. No need to ask sciences like physics or genies like Einstein to prove this, even the simplest person can observe the strong connection between change and time.
If change is an inherent part of life, how do we master it? Buddhists say to experience change and develop the wisdom to not get attached to suffering or joy, as both will come to pass, throughout our life. Accept suffering and know that it will pass, appreciate joy and know that it too will pass, as they are both spokes of the wheel of life. Remaining attached to both of them will inevitably create disappointment or more suffering.
If change is natural, then why are people so afraid of it? Breathing is also natural and people are not scared…. An answer to this question can be given by the neuroscience that explains how our brains function by using synapses. Synapses are neural pathways that form associations when we acquire new information that, with time, become a habit of the brain.
In other words, acquiring information forms connections, or small interconnected systems our brain will use to explain the world. The tendency of our brain is to use existing systems to process the data. It will create new systems to read new information only if we actively ask our brain to do that. Imagine it is winter and has been snowing the last few days. Whenever you go outside you will most likely use the same path since the snow will be more hard-packed and easier to walk on. In this same way, our brain prefers to use the old synapses instead of new ones unless we consciously choose to take the information and explore it in new ways thus forcing our brain to stay on the new path for a while.
Our brain functions automatically and we each have our own habits – of thinking, of feeling, of acting and so on. In the face of change our brain is asked to create a new synapse, it receives information and is asked to process it in a new way. That stops the automatic process and it feels uncomfortable, this discomfort is strange but only initially because once our brain familiarizes itself with the new synapse and begins using it automatically as well.
What people tend to forget is anything familiar to us right now was once new. The new feels uncomfortable, that is what our brain is saying, but this discomfort is not bad it is just a new situation. It is natural to feel scared in the face of change as we are physically built this way and we need to give the push and the time to our brain to adapt to new systems.
The push is exploring what is happening and the new possibilities that are created with the change.
Not accepting change is like asking our brain to process information with no updated/upgraded systems.
It is important to understand feeling discomfort is ok. This is just part of an imminent process that is change, and the way our brain reacts to new input keeps one moving forward instead of keeping him/her stuck and attached to the old.
Why is this understanding so important to this Power Tool?! Change is simply the coin and possibilities vs. attachment are its two sides. They are both the face of the same process. Which side do you choose when the coin is flipped? Which side do you prefer to look at?
Self – Application
Creating the life we want, the life we feel good living is a series of choices. If we stop to think of choices in terms of right or wrong, good or bad then we start enjoying the process and the beautiful responsibility that comes with it.
Accepting, owning the present and choosing the next step means standing up to any fear we perceive about the (new) world around us.
As coaches we know that concentrating on the present moment is the key to building a bright future. More than that, we know our learning never stops and we are passionately committed to enjoying this process. This is one of the reasons we can support our clients on their path, because we decided there is only one direction and that is positively forward!
However learning, and life in general, comes with the premise of challenge, and there will be times when we will need to stop moving forward and explore the current situation at 360◦ in order to continue in the right direction.
In those situations we will explore the possibilities by asking ourselves a series of questions like:
- What is happening right now?
- What do I really want to obtain?
- How can this new situation be a factor of moving closer to my goal?
- What are the main factors I am recognizing in this situation? What is it I am not seeing?
- If I could see this event from three perspectives, what would those be?
- What new doors might those perspectives open?
- What strengths of mine enhance those new possibilities?
- What structures do I need to put into action for this new vision to become a reality?
We talked about the process of change, and as coaches we recognize the power of new possibilities. Let’s also explore the attachment side of the coin.
Margaret was let go, after seven years of employment, when the company she worked for downsized. She panicked and for a few days her emotions were so strong she did not want to leave the house. Two weeks passed and the feeling was not much better. After two additional weeks at home, Margaret decided she needed support.
After exploring what was happening, what she values and what she enjoys, Margaretwas very clear about her unhappiness with the job, remembering how many times she had wanted to change employment. You probably think my client started feeling better with this new awareness about how unfulfilling her job was, but this was not the case. She still felt badly, clinging onto how unfair the company had been to her regardless of her hard work and good results. Admittedly, Margaret was still frightened by her current situation.
After exploring the benefits of the new situation, Margaret felt better but the clinging was still there and the unknown of the future still frightened her. When I asked her: “What is the worst thing that could happen?” she answered, “I could die!” You can probably imagine my surprise, I never expected that answer. Asking her to be more specific, she gave me a series of things she feared could happened, and eventually painted a picture of how she would not have money to buy food resulting in her own death. Of course my client didn’t really think she would die but it was clear she was looking at things from a very dark angle. We challenged this perception against the empirical reality.
Only after facing the absurdity of her statement (and therefore of her strong emotion) was she ready to really listen to herself.
The next step was to help my client shift from the dark angle to another one. We did that by concentrating on the benefits or new possibilities this event will create in her life. What had she always wanted to do but never had the chance because she was engaged in her old job or did not have enough time? What kind of job would she really like? What is she grateful for in this moment? What are the good things in her life? What actions could she take to make sure she is taking full advantage of the present?
Why did I choose to share this particular example? I did it because it is a powerful display of what attachment really is and how flipping the coin on new possibilities makes a difference.
In this process my client discovered a lot of things about herself, about her underlying beliefs and about what she really wants. She started to own her present and her actions and at this moment her perspective on what happened and about change in general is very different.
Emotions are so powerful that they physically change our body. In order for logic to win it needs to be sustained by an undeniable truth and the seed of a better emotional response.
One way to do this is by asking your client:
- What does having this (job, relationship, house etc.) mean to you?
- What are you feeling right now? On a scale from 1-10, how intense is this feeling?
- What thoughts are going through your mind? What images?
- What are the facts supporting these thoughts and images?
- Are there any assumptions/conclusions that come with these feelings?
- Is there any evidence that contradicts these thoughts and images?
- What are the alternative thoughts you might have taking into consideration the evidence of the facts?
It is easy to recognize attachment when we are suffering because we are aware something is wrong. It is also very easy to understand attachment when we are enjoying something, after all who wants to let go of something that makes them happy?!
There are other fine lines of attachment that we need to dig deep to recognize. These are the attachments that stem from underlying beliefs and thinking our feelings are a true measure of what is happening. Emotions come mostly from our subconscious mind, and when challenged against empirical reality they reveal their true nature giving the client the possibility of choice.
Attachment is clinging to the old because the new is unknown; it feels uncomfortable and doesn’t come with a crystal ball to predict the future. I don’t remember who said something like this: “Many people don’t live their life they just live the same day over and over again.” So the question to ask to our clients and ourselves is simple: What do we want to choose – being stuck in the same day all our life or living a new possibility with every new day?
The choice is only an attitude as change is still happening around us, either we decide to stay blind to it or open largely our eyes with curiosity and trust.
Every great coach knows that his/her role is to give the right tools to their clients to be inspired by change. Letting go of the old with compassion and working on the future with excitement and curiosity means choosing to stay open to new possibilities instead of stuck in attachment.
- How do you define change?
- What do you like about change?
- What scares you about it?
- Can you recollect a time in your life with big changes? How did you feel in that moment? How did you feel a few months after? How do you feel about those changes now? What lessons did you learned?
- What role does your attitude played in situations of change?
- Can you recollect a time in your life with little changes? How did you feel in that period? What lessons have you learned?
- How could you help your client understand change?
- What are some questions you could ask your client to shift their perspective from attachment to the old to possibilities of the new?