A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lorrie Ortiz
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
Know thyself. Temple of Delphi
The Unexamined Life is not worth living. Socrates
In Greek times, when citizens sought answers to questions some would seek the advice of the Oracle at the Temple of Delphi. “Know Thyself” was etched above the entrance of the doors to the temple for all to see. One could have probably stopped there to ponder and realize a visit to the Oracle may not have been necessary if only the power of those two words were really understood.
“Know Thyself” can be both a command and a question. On the one hand, the command is to understand oneself – strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, silly and serious behavior, etc.
On the other, the questions are:
- For what?
- To find what?
- To do what?
Socrates saw these two little words as the key to human wisdom and felt life not worth living at all if we did not actively engage in examining it.
Creating self-awareness is the cornerstone to coaching and a fundamental competency within the coaching framework. For more on this topic, please refer to the Creating Self-Awareness module under coaching presence.
For the client, becoming self-aware is one of two challenging parts of an equation. Referring to our earlier questions, if “to find what” is self-awareness, once we found it, what do we do with it?
Authenticity and Vulnerability–getting in the arena
This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst, not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare
The answer to what to do with the knowledge of self-awareness is to live authentically. Living authentically requires vulnerability and specifically, the courage to be vulnerable.
Brené Brown is a professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Her work focuses on vulnerability, compassion, shame, courage, and empathy. Brené specifically defines vulnerability in her book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:
The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.
… ‘Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?’
… ‘Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?
Creating self-awareness is the first big step. The next one is developing vulnerability to live authentically – to be seen authentically in a crowd, in a spotlight, or alone. Simple enough but in today’s world not easy.
In today’s world, if one does not like what they see, a filter can be added. A spotlight, a funny hat, or glasses, and in some versions of zoom, click the “touch up my appearance” feature. Comments from internet strangers and a simple thumbs-down emoji can make the very idea of being true to thine own self difficult.
Be Yourself; Everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde
Brené likens living authentically through vulnerability as entering an arena. The arena is a specific reference from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech in France:
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt
Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship in A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France April 23, 1910
When we are in the arena, living authentically may be the hardest of all for there are always people entering the arena – critics, cheerleaders, and our own guests – compassion, confidence, shame, guilt, doubt, etc.
Thus, living authentically is not mitigating risk or emotional exposure. Living authentically is developing, strengthening, and solidifying the courage to be seen.
A Filtered Life – when you enter the arena, who else do you bring with you?
Picture Perfect, you don’t need a filter. Justin Bieber, Intentions
The muscle we call vulnerability is strengthened by those things that serve us to live authentically. Inversely, the vulnerability muscle is weakened when we allow filters to diminish the value we bring when we show up authentically. But to artist Justin Bieber’s song title, this work must be intentional because there are often forces that can inhibit our progress.
Internal critics like shame and guilt can wreak havoc on our souls and only serve to keep us down. External critics, if we allow it, can have a similar gnawing effect on our authentic selves. When building strength in vulnerability, it is important to recognize with whom you walk into the arena and who you inadvertently brought along with you.
Brené makes this point succinctly:
If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.
Living authentically is getting in the arena prepared to be our true selves and leaning on those who help us stay the course.
- Think about a time when you lived a filtered life. How has that served you?
- What did you learn about yourself that you can use today?
- The next time you walk into the arena who will you bring with you?
- Watch Brené Brown’s TED talk The Power of Vulnerability. What resonated most with you about her talk?
- Where is there an opportunity for you to dare greatly?
Part of creating awareness is a three-part invitation by the coach to the client to
- articulate what they have learned about the situation or issue discussed
- share what the client learned about themselves
- discuss how this new learning will impact their lives going forward.
When the client articulates how the newfound self-awareness affects their lives, the door to living authentically opens. It is at this time the coach should allow space for the client to explore the many ways this new learning will allow them to build the vulnerability muscle and live authentically.
- What are some powerful questions you can ask to help the client determine if they are living filtered or authentically?
- What are some ways you can help your client discover what is and what is not serving them when they are “in the arena”?
- In your coaching practice, how do you create space for the client to explore how the new learning will be used in their life going forward?
- What questions can you ask to help the client develop an action plan to put the new learning into practice?
Brené Brown shares her personal reflection on the journey to living authentically in her widely viewed TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability.