A Coaching Power Tool Created by Inge Van Den Wyngaert
(Life Coaching, BELGIUM)
How comes dumb stuff seems so smart while you’re doing it? Dennis the Menace
People are often encouraged to behave normal. We all seem to accept that normal is the easy and optimal way to behave and to deal with a situation. Normal is accepted and encouraged, it is – after all – the norm.
When we do what we normally do in any given situation, it goes automatically and therefore seemingly effortlessly. Life is busy and the paste is often fast. Most of the time, we do not have or take the time to stand still and reflect. In fact, most of the time we are happy when things are normal and we know what to expect.
However, is normal really the best approach to our lives? Maybe, sometimes, normal stands in our way to live a better life, and we don’t even realize it, because when things are normal, why worry about them?
With this tool, I would like to encourage people to check if they really feel comfortable with normal? Is it really is the best way to go?
The normal vs comfortable power tool is particularly aimed to discover the hidden inconveniences in our lives. These might be small and in se not very spectacular, but they can have a serious impact on the quality of our lives. It’s not about the big underlying believes that may hinder us to live truly fulfilling lives, but it is about the little practical stuff taking time and energy that can be better spend otherwise.
He did nothing in particular, and he did it very well W.S. Gilbert
1. definition of normal:
- conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected: it’s quite normal for puppies to bolt their food normal working hours
- 1 [mass noun] the usual, typical, or expected state or condition: her temperature was above normal the service will be back to normal next week
2. definition of comfortable
- 1(especially of clothes or furnishings) providing physical ease and relaxation: comfortable sturdy shoes relax in a comfortable chair
- (of a person) physically relaxed and free from constraint: he would not be comfortable in any other clothes
- (of a hospital patient) not in pain or in danger: he was said to be comfortable in the West Highland Hospital
- free from stress or tension: they appear very comfortable in each other’s company few of us are comfortable with confrontations
- free from financial worry; having an adequate standard of living: the Rector enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle with plenty of servants
- 2as large as is needed or wanted: a comfortable income
- with a wide margin: a comfortable victory
Lisa, an example…
Lisa has 3 children, a hard working husband and a job she loves. Four days a week, her children stay in after-school-care. She picks them up on her way back from work and cooks dinner for them. Her young children are always tired, and Lisa is stressed most of the time.
But, this is the way Lisa has always done it. She is actually proud that she manages to combine all her tasks so successfully. Her friends admire her and often complement her. Her husband is grateful that he can organize his work freely, knowing that Lisa takes care of all the rest.
Lisa does not have time nor takes time to reflect on her life. She accepts the way things are going as normal and therefore just.
However, encouraged by her coach, Lisa took the time to reflect. She realized she did not like the stress and she did feel bad seeing her children so tired. Keeping the focus on her values and life purpose, she also knew she wanted to keep her job, both because she liked working and because the family needed the money. She knew she couldn’t count on more help from her husband since his job required long hours and frequent traveling.
However, there were a few things she could do. These steps required some energy and time. Also emotionally Lisa found it hard to change because she liked being self-sufficient and asking help was not a normal thing for her to do.
With the support and encouragement of her coach, she decided to try anyway, listed some actions and moved ahead.
After a few discussions with her boss, she was allowed to work from home 2 afternoons in a week. She also talked to her parents-in-law who actually were happy to take the children home after school one day a week.
For Lisa, both steps were out of her normal spectrum, because she did not like to ask “favours” from others. However, in the end, she and the people she cared about felt much more comfortable: Lisa’s stress level was much lower, her children were relieved to come home after a busy school day, her parents in law were happy to help and see their grandchildren more. In the office, more employees were allowed to follow her example since it proved to work well.
For all involved, the situation became more comfortable and Lisa gained extra time and energy to focus on goals that connected to her life purpose and values.
As a coach, it is important to live our coaching essentials and beliefs. This is probably the best way to convey them to our clients. Therefore, we need to check if our normals are really comfortable.
Take a paper and a pen and think about a normal day, from the moment you open your eyes in the morning till you close them again at night.
Check all your routines:
- Do they feel comfortable?
- Which are the ones you actually do, day in day out, but rather wouldn’t do?
- Which are the ones that make you sigh, at least if you allow yourself to think about them?
Working with the Wheel of Life may help us to realize which area takes a lot of our time and energy, but gives little satisfaction and fulfilment: specify the percentages you spend time on the several tasks and projects. What takes too much of your time? Where do you feel the time you spend doing it is not in balance with the result it provides?
Or a simplified version: make an overview of your typical, normal day and score all your actions form 1 to 10. Low scores for the ones that make you feel unhappy, frustrated and tired, the higher scores for the ones that give you satisfaction and energy. Let’s now focus for a while on the “bad” scores. Anything you can do about them?
Of course, some of these routines might be unavoidable, part of life, normal… Not everything in life is perfectly how we want it to be. However, some of them might be up for improvement just by giving them some – or a lot – of attention.
Reflecting on our own normals, can help us to help our clients to reflect on theirs.
Coaching our clients…
- Detection of the ‘stuck-to-normality’ problem
Some clients understand that they have a problem with the way their daily life is organized. They will tell you very clearly that life doesn’t feel comfortable. If this is the case, you can deal with the normal vs comfortable challenge immediately.
However, on the other hand, the problem might not be obvious but rather a nagging inconvenience. The client might not even be aware of it. He might come to you with clear goals and ambitions in several areas of his life, ready to make big and challenging changes. However, when - in the midst of all this - he seems to be overwhelmed by daily life, you might ask if it is ok to first take some time to check if his normals are comfortable. Only if this is the case, he will have sufficient space and energy for the bigger goals in his life. The coach can help the client to grow awareness of his uncomfortable normals. As an outsider who is keen on listening, the coach might pick up the clutter that the client himself considers to be normal and unavoidable. It is the job of the coach to make sure to pay sufficient attention and check if this is an issue that requires more coaching. Of course, the client has the final say in this.
- Identify the normals that do not work
The same questions and tools we use to identify our own uncomfortable normals can be applied to our clients.
- Not worth the effort?
Often clients do not feel the urge to deal with their small inconveniences because these - apart from being normal - do not take a lot of time or effort on an individual basis. Changing them probably requires more time and energy. Encouraging the client to actually calculate their time an effort spend on these issues spread over a week, a month or even several years might make a shift in perspective, needed to actually see the problem and the benefits of dealing with it.
Consider, for example, a mother who drives her child to school every day because this is the normal thing to do for a stay-at-home mum. Instead of taking the time and making the effort to teach her child to bike safely or to take the bus, she is spending daily over 30 minutes in the car, paying the gasoline, harming the environment and not helping her child to become more independent. Encouraging her to see these issues over a longer period of time might clarify the burden of this normality in her life.
- Make the shift
Once the client has identified the routines that are disempowering him, the coach can support him into commitment, action and perseverance. Just because we’re dealing with apparently “non-issues”, with actions that were considered normal and therefore deeply embedded in our life, this part might be particularly important! Making sure that the right support structures are in place to guaranty a sustainable shift to comfortable solutions is crucial for long-term success. Often the client depends on his environment to make the necessary changes in his life. Helping to identify the key persons and actions to get them on board is part of the coaching process.
Even when the client is successful in installing positive change, this might not feel comfortable right away. After all, it is a change from the normal. Helping the client through the adaptation process is also an important task of the coach. Discussing and handling underlying beliefs that undermine the new situation is very important for the changes to be sustainable and become comfortable.
making a purposeful life more comfortable…
The exercise of making a conscious shift from normal to comfortable is a small but significant step in enhancing our chances of living according to our true beliefs and principles. When our days are cluttered with uncomfortable items on our agenda, living our true purpose might be hard to achieve.
The other way around is equally true. If clients are not clear on their true life purpose and goals, they will more automatically choose to do what seems to be normal, especially to the outside world, even if this is not the optimal choice for them.
Spending some coaching time to gain clarity on what we normally do in our lives can be very valuable in order to achieve the best life we can possibly have.