A Coaching Power Tool Created by Elena Kaplun
(Entrepreneur Coach, SWITZERLAND)
In search of my power tool, I decided to look deep inside into my own values and character strengths. As it happens, love is at the very top in my case. This has a long history starting when I assessed my character strengths using the viaCharacter test several years ago. I had taken those outcomes for further reflection into my life. In the viaCharacter definition, someone with a high “love” character component is valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; basically being close to people. When I got my results during that leadership training, my partner was also in the room. The moment he saw my top character strength, love, he was astonished. Suddenly, he saw the different side in me and realized my reasoning behind most actions in my life. I was driven by living this value of love, my business is about developing close relationships with others, my personal and social circle is very intimate, I love the world and the life in it. I do things because someone somewhere may benefit from it. This is my drive, my source of energy. Of course, I want to make my life sustainable and make the financials to live the life I want but at the end it has still to resonate with love. Now, there is a huge downside to that – I get hurt easily, my tolerance for vulnerability kicks in a lot earlier than for most people. I can get hurt by the smallest things, which may be mostly negligible to others. The reason – I live life to the fullest and am there in every moment with my heart and my soul. That creates vulnerability. I also see “love” behind my actions and thoughts; if others want to abuse me or mistreat me, I get hurt deeply. I allow for this close connection to people because it is important to me and when this turns against me, I suffer.
So, I would like to look at the power tool Love vs Indifference from both perspectives where people are stronger on one or the other and how to bring those back into balance. Imbalances in either way may prevent us from going further in life, enjoying life to the fullest or letting go when we get hurt by someone.
The state of indifference or apathy is most commonly defined as a lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern. In the extreme, an apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life and the world. The person may also lack a sense of purpose or meaning in life. In positive psychology, apathy is described as a result of the individual feeling they do not possess the level of skills required to confront a challenge. It may also be a result of perceiving no challenge at all; like the challenge being indifferent to them, conversely, they have learned helplessness. Now, let’s move from theory to practice. People who simply do not care, they go through the world seemingly ice cold, nothing touches them. They pursue their ambition, neglecting the effects their actions might have on the environment and on the people around them. Often, we would describe them as selfish or ignorant. At the same time those people, who simply seem not to care about others, when friends/family get hurt or go through difficult stages, they would lack sense of empathy. Showing care for others around them seems unnecessary and a waste of time/energy to them.
Often the indifference of the individual would be expressed either to themselves and to their own life and problems or towards others or both. There would be a lack of willingness to fix own problems or take the hard decisions. Indifference to the people around them, to their jobs, their boss, their staff etc. Some level of indifference in life is necessity since we can’t be carried away by all negative actions happening in the world – there are wars, malnutrition, kids dying everyday, catastrophes, criminal acts and many more other issues in the world but we can’t be concerned about them all the time day in day out. Therefore, the “right” level of indifference is self-protection and an essential mechanism of the human being.
At this stage I also want to point out, that the opposite of love is indifference and not hate. Hate has still lots of energy and engagement and emotion tied up in it since if we hate, we care, we are still vulnerable about it. An example is splitting up with your partner and “hating” him long after for all those terrible things he/she did to us. In reality, we are still involved and put energy into this relationship by hating it so much. Only when we move to the stage of indifference, we can let go of it.
Another aspect to consider is indifference and its relationship with self-protection. At any level that we apply indifference we are also executing self-protection. By switching off our sensors and feelings and going into a state of indifference, we are going in protection mode. Same as during a surgery where you simply get an anesthetic so you don’t feel the pain. Feeling numb prevents us from feeling hurt or vulnerable. In some situations, it is essential to be able to apply that mechanism to protect us, as needed in a surgery. In general, if we can learn how to apply that mechanism of choosing the relevant levels of self-protection and indifference, in some situations we may enjoy life to the fullest and feel less vulnerable in others.
Love is a variety of different feelings, states and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection (I love my mother) to pleasure (I loved that meal). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion and affection – “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self and other. Daring to allow loving yourself and others, to love and live your own life how it should be lived. Self-love is the first stage of the “love” journey. Nobody is perfect and allowing to love your own imperfections, is the first step. Love is caring, caring about yourself and others but also seeing behind the flaws. Daring to love the people around you and help them towards their success, is of a high virtue someone with a high level of love. Daring to care for and care for yourself knowing that if you still don’t achieve what you want it is because you have failed which is harder to accept than if you didn’t really try (because you can tell yourself you would have succeeded if you had tried). That sets a path for development and acceptance. It also sets the base for vulnerability which is a key to live life to the fullest, accepting that when we allow feelings for a person, a goal, a business, a colleague we may get hurt but without that we never dare to step out further. Deep relationships are developed because we care for the other, great businesses start because they take the risk to make a difference and potentially to fail.
For people whose levels of love are higher, vulnerability and care are higher. They would put the relationships above all and invest energy and time towards making those fruitful and fulfilling. Some people with lower levels might tend towards indifference or apathy and thereby create protection, coldness and ignorance. So what’s a healthy balance?
Love vs. Indifference For The Coach
One perspective I would like to throw in here is coaching is the sense of love. If we look at the definition of love from varies perspectives we can conclude that it is about relationships with people, concern for the good of another. In the coaching practice, we are using tools and the space to express that love that coaches have, namely towards the others, towards their well-being. Surpassing indifference and finding love for your clients, helping them to see that success comes from trying not from sitting out this game of life is an essential awareness and characteristic of powerful coaches. Coaches “help” clients take the risk of trying and helping them find success by developing their awareness around their values, goals as well as creating actions and accountability towards the achievement and realization of goals.
Are you going through life more in a vulnerable or indifferent state? Which situations trigger love and which trigger the indifference in you? What have you found has hurt you most in your life? What has given you most pleasure/joy/satisfaction? What is your level of love and indifference on a scale from 1 – 10? Where do you want those levels to be?
Awareness of where you currently are the first step to set a base for development. Understanding your behaviors and feelings around love and vulnerability is on opportunity to build this awareness. There is no formula for what is right, we are all individuals and what feels right to one may not be right for the other. Therefore, no universal solution can be given for the levels that should be but at the same time living on one or the other extreme may also not be a happy stage on the long-term. Being vulnerable to everything and only expressing love, can be excruciating and exhausting. Life would be full of concerns, worries, disempowering emotions. On the other side, being indifferent puts you in a stage of missing out, not understanding people around you or your own feelings. That may prevent you from developing fruitful relationships in life.
The balance between love and indifference is different for each of us. Our experiences, values and perception shape our understanding. Below is a suggested strategy for exploration of the client’s levels of balance between love and indifference with further implementation towards the desired balance.
- Situational awareness – Describe a situation where you felt very vulnerable but wished to had been more indifferent? Describe a situation where you felt indifferent but wished to had been vulnerable/ empathic?
- Underlying beliefs – Looking further into those situations, what are your underlying beliefs around those? Which values were you trying or would you want to express?
- Responding vs Reacting – What are you trying to express with your reactions? How would it feel like if you chose to respond rather than react in the situations described above?
- Your personal balance – How would you visualize your ideal response towards those stations related to your levels of vulnerability/indifference?
- Long term impact – In which situations do you want to express love/indifference? What are your values/beliefs for wanting to express love/indifference in those situations. How are you going to hold yourself accountable towards these objectives?