A Coaching Power Tool By Jesse Moore, Health & Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES
Expectation vs. Emancipation: Preface to Wonderland
While pondering the creation of my power tool, I was looking for inspiration from all different sources including walking outside, random internet searches, playing around on paper, and books. One of my favorite books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland1, called to me. The protagonist, Alice, is on a whacky adventure with, in my opinion, characters speaking quotes worthy of life-changing consideration. In this power tool, I framed sections of writing using a quote from Lewis Carroll’s novel turned Disney mainstay.
I created this power tool reflectively. I did not have a power tool created to practice in my peer coaching while using others we learned in this program. However I saw themes of Expectation versus Emancipation in coaching I received through many sessions in peer coaching, and I saw this in a theme of a client I coached during mentor coaching. But the real zinger was reflecting on a power tool and realizing that expectations held me back from a very young age through today. For me, it is fitting that I use a novel turned Disney classic to guide my power tool.
“We Are All Victims in Waiting.”1
As a child, I attended an annual event, Take Your Kids to Work Day. My mother took me to the Emergency Room at Harrisburg Hospital, where I saw all sorts of interesting things, including a severed finger. Gory details aside, at ten years of age I proclaimed I wanted to be a physician. This proclamation spun into an almost fifteen-year path of verbalizing and believing everyone in my family wanted me to be a physician. Academically, this path was a natural fit, however, I went through college forcing myself to study Neuroscience, taking all the pre-med requirements, participating in and publishing research, and taking the Medical College Admissions Test. The only problem is I did not want to do any of this, but I believed I had to because it was what others expected of me.
I did not finish my secondary applications for medical school, but I delayed my needs and continued to cave into expectations by going to graduate school for a Master’s in Public Health. I told my parents, that lots of physicians earn dual graduate degrees. Because my swimming career was so strong, I received a graduate assistant scholarship in exchange for part-time coaching of their college team. So began my journey into coaching the sport I loved, and I had the most sensational time being a college swimming coach. After earning my degree, it led me to apply to another full-time graduate program getting my Masters in Business Administration from my alma mater. I told my family, that I loved learning about the business of healthcare, so I am going to get my MBA while coaching full-time at my alma mater, and then I will go to medical school. I continued to study and coach, not wanting to do the former in the discipline I studied. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of my parents’ money because I felt a heavy, paralyzing expectation that I had to go to medical school. In return, I delayed and held back on the full and forward trajectory of my life.
“The Best Way to Explain It Is to Do It.”1
While I was coaching at my alma mater and earning my MBA, my parents came into town to watch me coach at a swim meet and show their support. We went out to lunch afterward and spoke about my future, my career plans, and of course, medical school applications. My mother then said to me, ‘You really look like you are having fun coaching’. I told her that I was and that I loved it. I wake up every day excited to get to morning practice, I love coaching this team – they are truly incredible people with whom to spend time. My father followed up with, ‘So Jess, why don’t you coach for a living?’. Suddenly my shoulders, chest, and conscience felt lighter. The external expectations that I created for myself vanished into thin air. I was emancipated. The rest of that lunch was a blur, but it felt like one of the most memorable moments of joy that I felt in my life. Expectations were gone and emancipation was bountiful for me from one sentence spoken by one person during one lunch, On a day I got to show my parents what I loved to do as a career.
“Every Adventure Requires a First Step.”1
While my mindset flipped from expectation to emancipation, it was not because I figured out how to do this for myself. I allowed this release to occur from outside my control. Despite this, I recognize the results of expectation and the improved feelings of emancipation. I leaped forward into coaching college swimming. After a fifteen-year career coaching Olympians, and National Champions, and making the United States National Team Staff, all my career goals were achieved. After my first step, the adventure of those fifteen years took me to seven of the best universities in the United States, travel for competition, and recruiting in many countries, and I understood what it felt like to be happy and fulfilled. But a new first step felt as though its horizon was approaching. In the final couple of years of my career, my happiness and fulfillment were decreasing, and I was afraid to leave. However, a very powerful peer coach in my International Coaching Academy program helped me verbalize what the expectations were and what emancipation looked and felt like. For the first time, in a seriously significant way, I felt as though I did the work to discover my own power tool. I just did not have a name…yet.
“Let Your Need Guide Your Behavior.”1(Expectation vs. Emancipation)
Author Brandon Sanderson said “Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”2 With this power tool, expectation versus emancipation, self-recognition is key. Recognition of what you feel when you are constrained or feel forced into doing things you truly do not want to do. It can feel external and out of your control, it can feel suffocating at times, and it can feel daunting to act on any other behavior, even if you need to.
As someone who coached college students, for the past fifteen years, I saw the change in how they pressurize themselves. Their response to that pressure alarmed me in how they live and lead their lives. In fact, research shows that young people live in a world with increased perceptions of expectations. Over the past thirty years, young people perceive a forty percent increase in their parental expectations. This perception of increasing parental expectations leads to decreases in college-aged students’ mental health and increases in different types of perfectionism.3
Emancipation is our freedom from a limiting belief. Having the freedom to do what we want, how we want, when we want, and with whom we want becomes a weight-releasing consideration for us all. It provides us the power to choose our present and our future regarding time. It is power!
“I Don’t See How He Can Ever Finish if He Doesn’t Begin.”1 (Application in Coaching)
While the effects of feeling the increasing intensity of expectations can negatively impact a person, recognition of these effects of pressurization through expectation is the first step toward flipping one’s perspective. Here is an example of using this power tool to shift your perspective through coaching sessions I received through peer coaching. The Reflection to question these coaching experiences ignited the power tool through the following example:
- What am I feeling right now?
- Example 1: I feel anxious in my day-to-day life.
- Example 2: I feel stuck.
- Why am I feeling this way?
- I feel as though my current career path that freed me in graduate school is now my trap. I feel the expectations of my parents who vocalized wanting to see me take a job that was open this spring, and I feel the expectations of the swimming community who verbalized in the media that there is an expectation of me taking a certain job. I do not want to disappoint anyone, and this builds anxiety.
- I feel like my personal life is not developing. My friendships are stagnating, I am not meeting new people, and I feel lonely in partnership with a life companion.
- What do I want to feel?
- I want to feel excitement about what I do for work in my day-to-day and into my future second career. I want to feel passion, joy, and freedom. I want to feel like I chose this path.
- I crave connection to friends and family and a partner. I want fulfillment, joy, and love in relationships.
- What is stopping me from feeling what I want to feel?
- My parents are stopping me from feeling what I want to feel. I do not want to disappoint them. As I anchor into my thoughts and think, I do not remember a single occurrence of either parent telling me what they expect me to do with my academics and career path. Maybe these are self-inflicted wounds. I trapped myself into thinking this had to be my path. My parents do not – so I am stopping myself from following the path I want.
- Honestly, as I get older, I find myself less willing to go out and make new friends in these new places I move to. I am choosing the path to decreased fulfillment in relationships with friends, family, and a partner.
- With this new realization, what is next with your action plan?
- I want to create an academic and career path that brings me joy. I want to share this with my parents, and I want to include them in my growth because it makes me feel good. I also think if I feel good about this, my parents will be happy for me. They want what is best for me, and that is my health and happiness.
- With my upcoming move, I will join the Stonewall Kickball League as soon as I move there. This will expose me to an entire team of potential friends in a new city at a time when I do not know many people. This begins my journey into building relationships in the place I will soon live in.
“If You Knew Time as Well as I Do…You Wouldn’t Talk About Wasting It.”1
The absolute beauty of this power tool is time. When you work through your shift from expectation to emancipation, you suddenly become an owner of your time. It does not pass you by because you flipped your perspective and took over the driver’s seat. There is a power change to this perspective shift. For example, if you wake up at five in the morning to go to the gym before a long workday and your motivation feels like it is gone, you might think to yourself, ‘I do not want to get up and work, but I have to so I do not get fat.’ You have the power to flip it to, ‘I deserve to be healthy, and I want to work out. This is my time and I want to use it working out.’ Emancipation is power. Emancipation is the choice to take your power and live your life. And your emancipation gifts you with the ownership of your time.
1Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, November 1865.
2Sanderson, Brandon. https://quotefancy.com/quote/950991/Brandon-Sanderson-Expectations-were-like-fine-pottery-The-harder-you-held-them-the-more
3Rising parental expectations linked to perfectionism in college students. American Psychological Association. March 2022.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/03/parental-expectations-perfectionism