The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self. Albert Einstein
When you hear of liberation, what comes to mind? Race, gender, sexuality, religion or resistance to power. Well, the context here is about freedom but the process does not have to be a struggle. Liberation is defined as freedom from limits on thought or behaviour while inhibition is defined as a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unable to act in a relaxed and natural way. If we become aware of who we are, we start to experience freedom. We need clarity of purpose and visions to be fully alive. In every human being is a rare capability. We have the power to change and transform ourselves and those around us. But what holds us back? It could be disempowering beliefs, values and perspectives that inhibit us from living our true self. It could be our life situations that crowd us to an extent where we cannot execute with the power that is within us and lack the commitment to walk in this freedom.
Venus Austin is a firstborn in a family of seven. The father was a teacher, the mother a housewife and had four siblings. Venus got educated to university level with a child in the third year of college, the second-born completed elementary school with a child in the last year and a below-average performance, the third born completed elementary school education with above-average performance, the fourth born was continuing in tertiary level education with a professional course at the time this article was written and the fifth born completed elementary school level with below-average performance. The father got infected with HIV in the late ’90s and went into denial for several years, which culminated into alcohol addiction. With little money left for the household, the family could not educate all the children beyond what the government institutions could offer…a free elementary school education and university loans and bursaries for the one in the university. They were driven to despair even though they had several hectares of productive land, a few heads of livestock as well as access to natural resources e.g. water source and quarry within the same piece of land they owned. They also had access to government-provided services e.g. schools, local dispensary and infrastructure within a distance of 15 kilometres radius from their home.
The father had served as a school principal for about fifteen years, was demoted to a regular teacher. This combined with the HIV status demotivated him. The common belief was that if his children never got educated to university level because of his status, it was a failure to the society. The children dropping out of school and early pregnancies within the same household distressed the family more. The family had to deal with the effects of HIV silently because of the stigmatization in society. They were dejected but to society, a laughing stock. It appeared like there was no exit point to their many troubles for seventeen years.
Venus got educated and graduated with a degree, confident and aware of her surroundings and her next moves in life but only at a personal level. This whole period of her education, her family struggled but she had not found structures to support them. It took Venus six years after her graduation to finally get a breakthrough. After this period, the family got an awareness of who they were and what they wanted out of life. They had resolved to turn around their circumstances into a success story where other families could learn from. They put their focus on developing themselves and learn within the process. As for Venus, the child she bore in university was topping his classes, his teacher once mentioned that he had a unique gift in creativity. Finally, they felt alive.
Here is the context: In an African rural setting within the poor families, the firstborn child takes care of their family and the younger siblings when they start earning a living. After getting into employment, with a non-governmental organization two weeks after her university graduation, Venus had a difficult task, to take care of her family and siblings. She started building structures around her family. Got water provision through safe tapped water from community water projects, collected rainwater into storage, provided a solar panel for household power, supported education for her sisters’ children, monitored the rainy seasons and discovered rain-fed farming was not helping the situation. In one of her official trips at work, she got to see a community that had rehabilitated their area to irrigation farming. They would dig water pans through community groups and wait for the overflow of rains to collect into the water pans and water would be used for irrigation and domestic use. They got their livelihoods which would support their expenses and were able to sustain their newfound lives.
Apparently, Venus and her mother had a unique capability. They could perceive things beyond the five common senses. Venus continued describing her visions from her childhood and her mother casually described her dreams but none of them thought it was significant. After the education trip at work, Venus had a conviction that the same water pan technique would work with her family. However, she wanted to support her family to do it and not through community groups. Two days after manually digging a water pan, water broke through the rock and to date, the underground water exists. This motivated Venus, who bought two water pumps and gave a head start with fuel to start the farming. The family did not own the process initially, so the farming did not pick. Three years later, Venus had a vision which had land full of crops and livestock. She called her parents to inform them of the vision, certain that this was their farm but asked that they discussed it when she had enough time.
By this time, she had enrolled in a coaching program. When the holiday season came four months later, again another conviction came that she combines her coaching skills and the vision she saw. However, she did not explain to her siblings or remind her parents of the vision. She requested her family that they allow her an opportunity to try something she had seen work with her friends and colleagues. She sat and coached her family members one by one in her local language in light of all the resources they had beyond money. After sitting with all the adults in her family, she called them together as a group and shared their collective vision of what they wanted to achieve as a family in one year. They drew their plans for the coming year, responsibilities and contribution of resources for each individual and assigned roles to the family members. Each individual acknowledged their part in the vision, they owned the process. Venus had graduated as an agronomist in the university, she had married a veterinary doctor and they had a financial base to support this family but agreed to only meet them with support after the family had initiated the process. Venus was committed to support them but only took a facilitator role.
Six months later, when Venus returned to monitor progress, this is what she saw. The family had grown two horticultural crops and sold, bought a motorcycle for transportation of produce, was able to buy fuel for the pumps, had two other crops in the farm growing and other two crops in the nurseries. The coverage was a few acreages. In progress, was laying of pipes in another acreage to access water from a community project and in the nursery was other three different types of crops. In the sheds were a few upgraded heads of cattle (local and dairy breeds interbred through artificial insemination), solar-powered machine for the production of the cow feeds, several heads of sheep, rabbits and in the chicken houses were several hens hatching. Venus had carried an engineer during this trip to demystify what the underground water was. He confirmed a pool of underground water which broke through when the water pan was dug. Adequate water that could sustain large scale farming. In the presence of Venus, the engineer informed her father that he had everything he needed to create wealth and that if he died poor, it was his choice as the head of this family.
It is judgment to self and others that have restrained us to move forward. We hold beliefs that are limiting to ourselves. We make decisions that do not serve us. We believe that there only two options out following the decisions we make and our actions. That one is either right or wrong. That the results lead to either rewards or punishment.
Sometimes we believe that we do not have what it takes to get out of challenging situations. We lose direction in life and lack motivation. We feel powerless and lose hope in life. Negative thoughts make us believe that we are incapable of. The disempowering beliefs cause us to be blind to all our capabilities hence losing out in opportunities to turn around the life. Sometimes we begin self-destructive behaviours.
What if we were to live a life of freedom? To see challenging life situations as opportunities for growth. That even though we have done what may not have served us, experienced through our feelings, we have other opportunities to try out other options. That we would love ourselves and acknowledge all that we are. In the same measure, that we would love and respect others. We need to get to a place where we are at peace with ourselves and be grateful for all that we are. Forgiveness sets one free and releases creative positive energy essential in moving forward in life.
What makes your heart soar? What makes you feel most alive and energized? It is a lot easier to be self – motivated towards this goal. You experience freedom both during the process and also with the goal. Know your passion and pursue it. Love what you do and the satisfaction will be worth the investment. Positive thinking is essential in motivating yourself to reach your goals in life. Use this motivation to create the life you desire. Think of a reward that would motivate you at the end of achieving your goal. Use this as a tagline that encourages you along the process.
Whenever there is clarity as to who you are and where you want to go, then you see life in a clear lens. You draw a vision and focus all your energy to achieving this purpose. Identify your top five needs and the how-to meet these needs. Are you going to meet them through helpful manner or is it going to be through destructive manner? When you clearly know the needs you want to focus on, then you can channel every resource, capability and create an enabling environment that allows you to achieve your objectives. No matter how challenging life gets, you maneuver to live your purpose.
The best starting point in supporting a client is listening. Providing an open, trusting and non-judgmental space to this person. Letting go of any agenda as a coach. Listening to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Hearing the client’s concerns and underlying beliefs. Understand the client’s perceptions. Waiting a few seconds before responding to them. Allowing the silent moments and not jumping in to fill in space. Responding back to the client when appropriate including the non-spoken gestures e.g. nodding. Mirroring back what the client is saying to ensure there is clarity. Empathizing with the client and valuing him/her.
It is important to understand the context and purpose of asking questions. Questions can create unnecessary pressure if not asked correctly. Be clear with what you want out of questions. We have both closed and open-ended questions. The first is limiting while the latter are expansive. Powerful questions allow the client to get to their solutions and with a lot of originality. Questioning follows listening. Without understanding the context, you cannot ask the right question. Consider the timing and take time to reflect on your question before you raise it. Ask probing questions to get more information and not leading questions as the latter may be biased. Ensure you are non-judgmental within this process. Use questions to give energy to your coaching conversations.
Awareness gives understanding and clarity into a situation. It is about consciously facing your challenges and analyzing all factors involved and at play in a situation. This can help bring to light both internal and external factors that surround an individual within a specific situation. Self-awareness is more on internal factors. It is about knowing who we are and what we choose to become in situations. It is about knowing that we are three entities in one; body, mind and spirit. That we have creative power in each one of us. Using this process to identify our strengths and capabilities as well as areas of improvements. Coaches aim to support clients to get clarity and move forward. Using intuition and communicating with the client what the coaches pick.
Planning and Goal Setting
We run our lives as projects whether we are aware of it or not. To a cook, he plans on what to cook, considers the costs, time, factors in the ingredients, and even organizes cooking into small achievable tasks to have the desired food ready. Success has different meanings but without clarity on the process, goals and products it is no success. Planning is essential to the achievement of goals. The client needs to make the right choices as choices define life. The coach can support the client to narrow down on the choices made into powerful goals. Goal setting helps the client focus their attention and effort into the achievement of set goals. One common guidance to setting a goal is the use of SMART decoded as Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic and Time-specific. Goals can be short-term, intermediate and long-term. Visualization can be used to create a strong vision of the client’s goal. This is one way for a client to motivate themselves to achieve their goal. It is advisable for the client to plan on rewarding themselves following the achievement of the goal.
Processes are everywhere. When a client understands the process he is involved in, it becomes easier to spot the areas of improvement. Achieving the goals set in life requires clearly looking into the process. Investing time in mapping the process ensures efficiency. It is in the mapping of the process that a client can identify areas where he needs support. This support could be an encouragement, additional insights into the process, or being held accountable to achieve the goals set. One powerful question used is; who or what motivates you to achieve your goals? The answers given to this question form a basis to build upon a support structure for the client. Some structures are formed consciously while others are not and exist on their own. For example; Time is self-managing…one cannot put time on hold. We, therefore, plan with the standard 24 hours a day. Some structures are set by ourselves while some are set by other parties. It is advisable to evaluate whether the existing structures serve the client and contribute to the achievement of their goals. This gives an opportunity where alternative structures can be established.
- What is your perception of liberation?
- What characteristics do you see in a person modelling liberation?
- Consider a past experience when you were in a state of inhibition. What beliefs did you carry into the situation?
- What did it take you to get out of this situation?
- How do you remain mindful in a challenging situation?
- How do you manage a situation where a person is inhibited?