A Coaching Power Tool created by Kunnath Chandran
(Executive Coach, India)
Man is a social animal and is naturally inclined to seek acceptance in the group and feel wanted. Looking good therefore becomes a significant part of his pursuits. In doing so not only does appearance, or projecting the right image, become a matter of concern but gaining approval of those in the group becomes essential. ‘Disapproval’ – the opposite – could on the other hand be very disconcerting! The importance given to the approval of others is often exaggerated and considerable effort gets directed towards getting such approval. Rare is the case when individuals stop to consider which standard or yardstick has been used for the stated approval (or disapproval) and whether it is a genuine reflection of the state of affairs or merely ‘make-belief.’ Looking good, in other words, is more a pretense. The lure to look good and get acknowledged nevertheless remains very strong and unbridled.
Feeling good, however, does not need the ‘other’. It is all about one’s self. Feeling good is more than cosmetic – it touches the insides. It emerges from feeling fine about who we are and acknowledging our efforts and achievements. The essential difference is in ‘feeling in a particular way’ from within, as against ‘appearing in a particular way’ to the world outside. Such feeling stems from a genuine respect for self including what one feels after an achievement, small or big, in private or under the glare of publicity, rather than what others have noticed.f
Thus, while looking good is temporary, feeling good is long-lasting.
‘Feeling Good’ Analyzed
A distinction between self-indulgence which is a pleasure – when one seeks to ‘feel good’ momentarily – as against nurturance of self which is fundamental to achieve an enduring state of well-being needs to be made. What must be recognized is that the former could lead a person to resort to substance use, an activity, or a relationship, or anything else for pleasure (or to alleviate pain) and thus risk becoming addicted to it. In the effort to seek happiness – the end goal of all endeavors – such pursuits lead to only disappointments and not to ‘feeling good.’
The question that arises then is why would anyone perform for an audience or the critics (to be noticed)? Why cannot it be done for one’s self without attempting to second-guess what results or behavior other people may want? It is beyond dispute that anyone who does not hold himself or herself in high self-esteem cannot earn respect from another. Varied backgrounds and upbringing of each person contribute considerably to the self-esteem of each individual. For instance, those who in the early days was continuously criticized by people who mattered (like parents or teachers) would find themselves overly critical about themselves when grown up. In such circumstances, the urge to look good to gain praise from others without there being any substantial reasons, and thus feel nice for a while, takes over. What is often overlooked is that looking good in such manner does not lead to feeling good, however much the praise may have been.
The path towards feeling good about ourselves requires much reflection, self-restraint, and discipline which we may not have demonstrated earlier. Developing these qualities begins with a commitment to self that may previously have eluded us–the commitment to become the best, most complete, and ‘realized’ person. And the resultant self-esteem – different from any exaggerated sense of self-importance or conceit – is a necessary component to being a balanced individual.
Impact in Coaching
The most important issue in the context of coaching is the impact on goals set by the client. Coaching engagements are time-bound and it helps a great deal if such paradigms are examined early. Discovering the degree to which image matters to a client becomes an early step in the coaching process. Identifying those persons whose approval the client routinely seeks must also be done.
Client’s goals that have relevance only to make the right impression, or are more for image than actual fulfillment in life, can then be identified, talked about, and re-examined.
The next important stage is the recognition that energies devoted to merely looking good are a waste. The client begins to see the impact that external influences such as mindless competition, comparisons, or being ‘one-up’ have had on the choice of his/her goals till then and the minimal value that they have delivered on really feeling good. Awareness dawns that choice of such goals may have been couched in the belief that a person’s worth must get recognized by society so that ‘respect’ follows. The commitment to goals that are in consonance with looking good would invariably below and the integrity associated with the efforts less than desired. These recognitions give reasons for a client to pause and reconsider priorities in life and choices for the future.
The awareness that feeling good resulting from meaningful accomplishments in life is fulfilling makes room for a useful paradigm shift towards empowerment and happiness. The client sees that there is a wonder in being different and cause to celebrate his/her difference and inventiveness. This opens up opportunities to go into the futility of chasing goals merely to conform, and instead explore how to spend energy and resources towards more productive pursuits.
Underlying beliefs of the client are brought to the surface and looked at afresh. Re-modeling occurs, and significant progress towards tackling those matters which may have been put off earlier due to fear of failure can begin. The sense of self-worth of the client soars and the drive to achieve meaningful goals energized by a feeling of ‘come what may’ deepens.
Questions to use the Tool
Powerful questions and proper feedback to support clients to know more about themselves, and examine opportunities for growth and creativity are essential. Some questions in that direction could be:
- What are top three values that you hold dear in your life?
- What is your vision in life? Some details of the elements in the vision?
- What are the top 2 or 3 goals you would like to accomplish in the next 3 years?
- What are the major lessons you learned from any mistakes you may have committed in life in the last 3-5 years?
- When you deal with challenges what is the pattern you most often adopt?
- What does ‘respect’ mean to you?
- What 3 things about you do you respect yourself most for?
- What are your thoughts regarding being ‘proper’ or ‘right’ in the eyes of those you deal with regularly?
- Who are the people whose respect for you matters the most?
- What would be different in your goals for the next 3 years if these people were not around?
- How do you think this will help towards your vision?
- If you were true to your inner self what would be different?
Caution for a Coach
At all costs, the coach has to hold a trusting space for the client for the latter to open his mind and reflect on himself. The slightest hint of disapproval by a coach can lead to that space being lost. The process of looking within can then close down for the client. Also, the coach must continuously maintain his faith that the client will bring about those changes in his/her life. Releasing judgment becomes critical and the ‘Advice Trap’ must be consciously avoided.
The coach also needs to address the question, “How important is it for me to look good before a client?” This must be done at the commencement of each session, else the urge to ‘provide answers’ or suggest solutions may be too strong to stop! The discipline to allow the client to fall (if necessary) and learn than to prevent falling at all is what will, on his part, leave a coach feeling good because that is what would make a difference to the client in the long run.