A Coaching Power Tool Created by Glenn Case
(Career and Leadership Coach, CANADA)
Now we know what’s going on inside our head. The storyteller is there; it is that voice in our head. That voice is talking and talking and talking, and we are listening and listening, and believing every word. That voice never stops judging. It judges whatever we do, whatever we feel, whatever we don’t feel, and what everybody else does. It is constantly gossiping inside our head, and what comes out of that voice? Lies, mostly lies…The voice in our head doesn’t belong to us. When we are born, we don’t have that voice. The voice in our head comes after we learn…
These lines from Don Miguel Ruiz in The Voice of Knowledge speaks to the influence that our learning has over our lives. The Tree of Knowledge, as he calls it, is programmed into our minds from the day we enter this life and from then on wards. It is this Tree, through the entrenched belief system it creates, that then controls our lives.
If you think about it, we are all governed by a code. An externally-formed value-set that has been imprinted upon us. By our parents, our families, our teachers, our religions and our cultures in general. We take this learned set of values and beliefs as fact. As what we, too, should – must – espouse.
Or, should we?
If these values and beliefs are actual fact – and right – why then do we suffer? If we live so steadfastly by them, why do we live lives underlined by judgment of ourselves and others?Why are our actions governed by fear and insecurity? Why do we feel that our lives are in some way lacking or unfulfilled?
In my experience as a coach, and personally, much of what limits us resides in our thinking and our “world-view”. We strive to live – be validated – by an externally-imposed set of beliefs. For example, it may have been impressed upon us that we should always respect others. Or, that it’s important to achieve and be successful. Or, to be seen as being successful. These, in themselves, may seem as constructive beliefs to hold onto.
However, this is a double-edged sword. Because once we accept something external as fact and steadfastly abide by it, judgment invariably enters the picture. Judgment of yourself (and associated guilt) if you feel you don’t meet up to these learned values; judgment of others if their own actions or beliefs don’t align with yours.
Once judgment enters the picture, so to do assumption and the associated emotions. We begin to base our view of the situation through our emotional lens, not a factual one. And, in doing so, we give up our control and become victims of the very belief-system that we were taught to never veer from.
We are searching for the way we used to be before we believed in lies: authentic, truthful, loving, joyful. The truth is we are searching for our Self.
The Self, as referred to by Riuz, lies beneath the overburden of everything we have been taught to believe in life. It is our authentic core. Our freedom from the suffering we experience is intimately tied to our ability to reconnect with our authentic selves.
Our emotions are authentic, because they come from deep within us. These “messengers” are the clear indicators that something is not right. That there is a misalignment between our quest for external validation and what we intuitively know at a deeper level is right for us (although this often remains obscured).
In my coaching experience, this disconnect in values is a common cause of a client’s angst. And, until it’s illuminated and brought into full view, the ability to shift to a more empowering perspective and forward movement remains out of reach.
“Russell”, for example, is a former colleague who was at this point in his career. He’d been watching his career pass by him and along with it opportunities to find growth and success. Fear of the judgment of others – of being seen as lacking – rooted him in place and prevented him from stepping into most opportunities that presented.
As we dug deeper into Russell’s values, it became clear that he’d been raised to place high value on success and achievement. And, because it was important to be seen as successful – acceptance and respect from others also therefore rated highly. Attached to this need for respect was an equally powerful need to be seen as strong.
Added to his fear of taking risks, he also realized that he expended a lot of energy concerned about how others viewed him. The resultant anxiety contributed to stress and a reduced enjoyment in his career.
Russell’s inability to take the action he wanted stemmed from his fear that, in doing so, he may not only reveal “weakness” but also open himself up for possible failure. Outcomes that he’d come to believe were unacceptable.
Russell came to understand that these externally-imposed values were limiting him. As we explored further, it became more apparent that what he authentically valued were freedom and exploration. Unfortunately, his inability to express himself and to freely venture into new opportunities left him fully at odds with his own deep-seated values.
By clarifying a vision of what he wanted in life – and, more importantly, who he wanted to become (based on his authentic values) – he was now able to approach the future with a more empowering perspective. This came with a personal commitment for change and a plan that acknowledged the value of both incremental progress and experimentation.
We can assist our clients in gaining greater fulfillment in their lives through understanding this common misalignment between external/learned values and deeper-seated “authentic” ones. Emotional responses to situations that are judgment-based are often a signal that this misalignment is at the root.
Deep-seated beliefs lead to attitudes and then to behaviors. “Reverse engineering” this belief-forming pattern can be particularly useful. Tracing judgmental behaviors through to the beliefs that cause them open up doors to learning.
Guiding the client to understanding the external (learned) source of these beliefs and their limiting effects on their life is a critical step in the process. However, often it does not provide the impetus for action.
This is where probing to uncover one’s vision of their ideal life and self has impact. In moving the client from the limiting, fear-based perspective that controls them to an alternative view connected to a higher purpose, power is returned to them. This provides the motivation required for the client to move to the action-thinking and action-doing stages.
It’s important to note that while actively moving the client to a discussion around deep-seated values is useful, sometimes the most powerful doors to awareness are through the client’s own words. With Russell, for example, the words control, victim, liked, heaviness, etc, came up regularly. This clear desire to “unshackle” himself allowed exploration around a preferred alternative. For example, probing into what lightness looked like to him (vs. heaviness), or not to feel victimized, opened up new avenues of discussion that allowed him to clarify what he truly wanted in life.
Shifts of this kind take time, in terms of both perspective and action. But guiding your client to this depth of learning and change in their life can be immensely rewarding for both of you!