A Coaching Power Tool Created by Maha Khaliq
(Personal Development and Growth Coach, UNITED STATES)
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination. —Tommy Lasorda
We all have the privilege to view our life from our lens. This is a power that is handed to us and comes with great responsibility. Every one of us will use this power differently and it can be very rewarding. How we choose to use that power can determine if one is either immersed in self-pity or flying with determination.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes determination as;
“the act of deciding definitely and firmly”
The online google search engine describes determination as;
“firmness of purpose; resoluteness.”
We can be determined to take a certain step; we could be determined to feel a certain way or even be determined to follow a belief. All in all, a determination can be found in all aspects of our lives. At any point in time, it takes us some level of determination to bring about change or complete a task. When we think of someone who is determined, we may envision someone achieving all their goals, succeeding in life, and creating a positive impact.
Look back at your life, and those successful moments, perhaps a day or a whole year, what was it about those moments that helped you? Were you simply determined?
We may realize it or not, but we make actions happen through a determined perspective. When we are determined to take any action, it’s usually because it serves a purpose for us. Perhaps it makes us feel happy or positively adds to our lives. For example, a person may want to have a podcast but to make that vision a reality, they have to be determined to follow actions that would be required to have a podcast. Now, this does not mean that all circumstances will be favorable at all times, and this is where determination sets in. If we are not determined, it means we are not sure and therefore it can show up in how we complete steps needed for an action, in this case, creating a podcast. Without determination, a person may not make time, or other steps necessary to achieve their goal.
Determination is not something that will be handed out to us. It is something that we have to bring from within our selves. It is a decision we make once we make up our minds to do something. Determination can serve us in various ways, sometimes not always the way we want. This is because we have to check-in with ourselves to see what we are determined to do. Our determination can fluctuate depending on the circumstances of our lives and our priorities. We can be determined when various aspects of our lives are going well or continue to be determined even when circumstances are not in our favor.
On the other hand, we may find ourselves determined to take any action that does not serve us. Perhaps it has the wrong intentions behind it or circumstances might have changed. For example, Noah is determined to buy a house but does not have the resources. His goal was to buy a house by a certain time which now he realizes is not achievable but he is determined to do it anyway. Moving forward with his decision to buy a house may mean added financial stress. In this situation, we see how being determined does not always benefit us in the way we want. Determination encompasses knowing our intentions, making decisions that serve us, and being open to change them when they don’t.
Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality. John Gardner
The above quote may seem intense but it puts into perspective just how destructive self-pity can be. The online google dictionary describes self-pity as;
“excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s troubles.”
Certain situations in life can be difficult to accept and finding ourselves constantly being immersed in them can prove counterproductive. Self-pity does not serve us and yet we may all find ourselves feeling that at some point in our lives. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge this emotion and where it comes from. Self-pity can give us comfort in times of difficulty which can be beneficial momentarily. There are circumstances in life that are unfair and we are justified to feel so. After all, it is a natural feeling when things are not going right. But when this becomes a never-ending cycle, and starts to get in the way of us making progress in life, it can be extremely harmful.
For example, Simon went through a separation eight years ago and still finds himself unable to move on. He blames his current lack of love life in his past relationship. This is starting to impact his job, lifestyle, and health. Whenever something in his life doesn’t go well, he blames it on his separation and how it left him destructed. In this situation, it is important to realize that a person will feel lost at a separation which is normal but all aspects of Simon’s life are being impacted because he feels sorry for himself. He is wallowing in his self-pity and it became a cycle that has lasted for several years. Due to this behavior, Simon could potentially be closing off other possibilities in his life.
On the bright side, there are ways to cope with self-pity and turn life challenges into learning lessons to move forward. To move forward, we have to realize that we can’t beat ourselves up for being the way we are. Perhaps a person may have realized they are consumed with self-pity and want to make changes. It is important to be patient with yourself as you navigate through that process. Some of these emotions are too deeply embedded in us than we like. Embracing how we feel is an important step to move forward and it is crucial to acknowledge that it is an emotion that exists. Each person can approach their process of overcoming self-pity in their ways.
As a coach, we can help our clients transition from feeling self-pity to feeling determined by encouraging and supporting them. As a coach, we can listen to the client as they gain awareness of how they are feeling. Perhaps a client is not aware of the pity party they constantly find themselves in. For the client to gain awareness we can ask the following questions;
“What makes this true?”
We can challenge our clients to question their reality. Perhaps they are in a zone which does not allow them to see things. They may have been living in a reality that does not exist. A client may feel they are always a victim in all situations and asking this question can allow them to question reality.
“How has this thought been serving you?
It may also be true that a client is justified in feeling a negative emotion such as self-pity momentarily. This question may bring awareness into their thought process and help them make changes to their life.
“How would it feel/be without those thoughts?”
Sometimes a client may be negatively immersed in how they feel or view their life. Helping them see what it would feel like or be like without those negative thoughts can be life-changing.
What will push you to break this cycle?
A client may be in a vicious cycle of self-pity and need to be challenged to have a different perspective.
Other powerful questions we can ask our clients to help identify and then potentially shift from self-pity:
- How do those feelings(self-pity) drive your behavior?
- How would it help you to discern between what was in your control versus out?
- Who would you be without that emotion/experience?
- Who/what is controlling this?
Once a client has awareness, we can support them to move to a place where they feel determined. A place that can be happy and light for them and allows them to flourish. Only the client can be aware of how they feel and what will help them. As a coach, we must be attentively listening to hear how the client perceives their world. We can inquire about their thought process and feelings and mirror it back to support them. Realizing their words, thoughts, and feelings can help clients become more self-aware which is crucial in shifting perspectives. To take action and achieve goals, a client must be determined from within. This is important as it is probably the biggest resource the client has. Our determination is linked to who we are as individuals. For example, a person who values health will be determined to take action around that. Well, someone can say, they value health, but are not determined to take action. In this event, a determination may be present, but health is not being necessarily made a priority.
To help clients be determined or stay determined, we can ask the following questions;
- What motivates you?
- What will help you stay on track?
- How can you lower/eliminate your distractions?
- Think of a time you were determined and completed an action. Where did that determination come from?
- How important is this to you?
- What would change if you took that step?
- What will it take to make that decision?
- What choices do/did you have?
- What part did you play in that situation?
Depending on who we are, different factors will make us feel determined. These can vary from understanding why a certain action is important or not important for you, setting realistic goals, being less distracted, and imagining yourself completing whatever it is you set your mind to. As a coach, we can help the client see their full potential and find their true passions and self. Perhaps they need a reminder of what they value to feel determined. By revisiting past success stories and supporting them through their current journey, the coach can help clients find what strikes them from within.
The coach should be mindful of not bringing their emotions into the client’s stories. Self-pity does come from many unfortunate life situations that justify how the client feels. Our job as a coach is to help the client move forward and help them break the cycle. Only a client who is determined can make that change for themselves. As a coach, we should separate our own life experiences from the client’s. We may feel the need to intervene to help our clients see that they are in a state of pity but only the client can do that. Coaches may feel determined to make an impact on their client’s lives, so we have to be mindful that our feelings do not get in the way of the client’s journey.
- Name an instance that you felt determined.
- What does determination feel like or look like for you?
- How do you continue to stay determined through challenging situations?
- What did your determination do for you in that instance?
- How can you support a client that is showing they are not determined to make a change?
- How do you, as a coach, stay determined to your cause?
- How can you support your client who may be experiencing self-pity?
- How can we keep our determination of wanting to help our clients in certain ways separate from what they may feel they need?
The Book of Life. “On Self-Pity -.” The Book of Life, 8 Mar. 2019,www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/on-self-pity/.
Geller, Jesse D. “Pity, Suffering, and Psychotherapy.” American Journal of Psychotherapy, vol. 60, no. 2, 2006, pp. 187–205., DOI:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2006.60.2.187.
Ramos, Kaye. “How to Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself and Transform Into Your Best Version.” Medium, Mission.org, 19 Feb. 2019, medium.com/the-mission/how-to-stop-feeling-sorry-for-yourself-and-transform-into-your-best-version-f625b4f497f.