A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lynette Baker
(Executive and Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
It was a week before Thanksgiving. We sat in the conference room and only minutes later, I heard the words, “We are going through change, and you are impacted”. I was losing my job. In retrospect, I was amazed at my reaction to those words. I began to reflect on all of life’s learnings as a cancer survivor, and those achieved through yoga and executive coaching. The decision was made and was totally out of my control; however, how I respond to the decision is totally in my control. Do I choose to be resistant or do I choose to be resilient?
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Charles Darwin
Resistance, according to the dictionary, means the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument. It also means the ability to not be affected by something, especially adversely. Do we want to fight? Do we want to argue? Or do we want to be unaffected by the event, the situation, and the change? If we are unaffected by a situation, we do not learn and we do not grow. We do not take the opportunity to transform our experience.
Life is change.
Change is happening continuously. Sometimes this change is subtle and other times, the change is gross, raw, and unexpected. There is nothing permanent in life and there are no guarantees in life. Impermanence is truth and sometimes this is difficult to embrace. We struggle, we deny, we avoid, we get angry, and we negotiate.
Change is loss.
We must realize that we have to give something up in order to get something else. Humans can be fearful. We want to avoid the experience of pain and suffering. We are afraid of the unknown, ambiguity and uncertainty. This fear comes from our deepest innate fear of death. We fear what we do not know and what we do not understand. This is death. This is the undertone of all fear in life. It is the fear of survival. It is the fear that we do not have enough. We fear that there is a lack of abundance available to us. This fear shows up when we experience change.
We do not mind change unless it is impacting our career, our relationships, our family, or our life in some way. When it happens to us, we immediately find ourselves in the process of loss. We can choose the words, when it happens to us, and be in a place of victim mentality, or we can choose to say, when it happens. The words we choose to use set the tone of our perspective.
Once the process begins, we may be in denial. We may be angry. Then, we start to negotiate the change. We compromise and try to stop the impact and the outcome. We resist the change of what is happening. This resistance only causes greater suffering. It is the holding on to the past that creates the expectation that things will remain the same. This expectation only brings disappointment. We believe we are in control. We believe we are powerful and can stop the change and other factors in life. This is not the case. We know this. We are not in control of everything. When we ask ourselves the two powerful questions, what is in our control and what is out of our control, this puts the events and experiences into the realistic perspective. It is from this place that we can make sound, logical, and beneficial decisions. It is only from this place that we can respond to the situation, taking actions that are for our benefit. Most everything else is just a reaction. The things that are in our control are our reactions and our actions, our responses to the situation and how we view our experiences. The things that are out of our control are the decisions and actions of others, the power struggles and the resistance we receive in exchange as we resist outcomes, and the outcomes.
Why do some people suffer real hardships and not falter? …. One person cannot seem to get the confidence back after a layoff; another, persistently depressed, takes a few years off from life after her divorce. The question we would all like answered is, why? What exactly is that quality of resilience that carries people through life? Diane Coutu
Resilience is defined in the dictionary as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. It is also defined as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Being resilient gives us the opportunity to process the change in a positive way. Even change that we desire can require a resilient mind and a resilient response. This processing allows us to be whole and gives us the ability to evolve to higher levels of consciousness and awareness. We, as humans, are integrated by our experiences and our knowledge. This is a healthy life.
We are powerful as human beings. When we use this power in ways to move with life change, we are positive and lifted out of the chaos of the change. When we move with what is happening, instead of against the forces of the current of life change, we learn, with awareness, what is in our control. Our decisions, our reactions, our responses, and the actions we take are all in our control. This is being adaptive to our environment and our situation. Adapting to what life presents us with is a way to be resilient. When we are resilient, we have the ability to effectively manage the environment and the situation. We are more open to possibilities. We are optimistic and we see the situation as a challenge, not a threat. We know that how we view the world shapes our reality. It is this way of being that enables us to act from a place of personal power, which leads to the best outcomes. When we transform ourselves and transform our fear into positive opportunity, we transform our experience. The brain and the dopamine chemicals of the brain turn on the learning centers. We learn. We grow. We adapt. We excel. As I fear loss, I list the things I will be able to do with the time that I have available, now that I have lost a job that has taken many hours of my time. I reflect on all of the things and experiences that I want in my life right now and the purpose of my life. I find the interests that I am curious about and I focus on what I can do next. The loss, the situation, and experience transforms from being a burden to being a blessing. I have time gifted to me.
When we act out of a strong emotion such as anger or fear, we do not make the best decisions. When we shift our thoughts and become neutral, we can be aware, and we can make decisions from a grounded position. We make decisions from the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is from this place that we can function the best, instead of acting from the weak, reptilian fight or flight brain. We need to understand that difficulty will not kill us. It transforms us to a higher level of consciousness. It is from this place we perform and live to our highest potential.
If we become neutral and observe our thoughts, emotions, and actions, with great awareness, we can understand more about ourselves, how we respond to different changes and stimuli, and how we can evolve to accept the truth of who we are. When we are willing to do this, we can become the genuine leader. We can lead and manage others and ourselves in a profound way.
If we can find the desire and the willpower to stop from reacting, take a breath or two, and reflect on the personal growth, education, and experience gained prior to the change, this gives a positive and uplifting perspective. One of the best ways of becoming neutral and grounded is to distance the self from the emotion of the event or the change or the environment. This could either be through physical distance, such as a trip, or even a brief vacation or hike in the woods or nature. If you live by water, maybe taking time out on a beach or in a source of water is another way to clear the mind. Once the mind is clear, we are in a better place to reflect on our journey and all of the decisions and actions that brought us to this point in time. We can reflect on the lessons, the teachings, and also ask the question, what do I want? When we can be in a neutral emotional state, these answers become clear. We can then make the decisions necessary to move forward in a direction that meets our individual needs.
If we study the field of neuroscience, we understand that each time we repeat behaviour; this gets wired into our brains. It becomes an automatic response. We can develop behaviours that are our highest desire. A developed psyche can manage the pressure of life change and endure the suffering that may exist without inflicting suffering onto another human being. This is responding and acting and being from a place of the greatest personal power. This is rising above fear. This is excellent performance and genuine leadership. It is leadership of the self.
So, when I received the news about being laid off, it took a moment to register in my mind. I thought I had more time before the change would come. I became highly aware of my emotions and my reaction. I stopped reacting and began to ask the questions silently:
“What do I want and who do I want to be?”
“What actions will help me realize this?”
In asking those questions, I realized the opportunity to be resilient and not resistant. So, that evening I started practicing resilience by answering the following questions:
What do I want? I want a position with responsibility that aligns with my values and my principles. I want a position that is in service of others and is helpful to all involved. I want to be respected and appreciated.
Who do I want to be? I want to be a person of integrity. I want to be someone that is remembered by their grace and positive outlook on life and all experiences. I want to be strong for those that will follow me in the lay-offs and I want to demonstrate the ability to accept what is happening and to walk forward with confidence.
What decisions and actions can help me achieve this? I can decide to go with what is happening and avoid resistance and debate. I can be thankful for the time, experience and the learnings that have given me the opportunity for personal growth and development. I can continue to respect others and all involved. I can continue to reflect on my experiences and gain insight to help me get to the next career path. I can trust that another company and manager will value my skills, knowledge, and values.
What do I fear? I fear not having enough and not finding work in time to meet my financial needs. I fear losing the friends I have created over the years in the company. I fear being forgotten.
What is the worst thing that can happen? It takes longer than I desire to find a meaningful position elsewhere. I accept a position that is not in complete alignment with my values and goals.
What is in my control? What is out of my control? What is in my control is the type of role I apply for, the company I decide to go to work for and the job I accept. What is in my control is the time I take off to rest and reflect. What is out of my control are others decisions about hiring me, what they think of me, and what they think of my skills. It is not up to me what jobs are available and when. It is in my control to stay connected with the friendships I have developed over the years. Finally, it is in my control to lead a life of peace, knowing I did everything I could.
These are the questions I continue to ask and continue to answer for myself. It is this practice that provides the direction to move forward, instead of resisting. It is this direction that supports a resilient life.
As I reflect on resilience vs. resistance, I become a self-coach. I am coaching myself through this change. The questions I am asking myself can be directly applied to facilitation of the coaching client. I am able to show up for my clients with compassion and understanding because I have walked the path of change. I have walked the path of difficulty.