A Coaching Power Tool Created by Melanie Escalante
(Performance & Life Coach, BELIZE)
No matter how physically fit you are, your wellbeing will be thrown off balance if your mental and emotional health are out of whack – Jen Fisher, Thrive Global
Understanding that a person is off-balance and providing the space to move them into action and back to their productive successful selves is a key competency for a coach. Becoming off-balance happens unconsciously. Through coaching we can help a client bring awareness to this state of being and help them to consciously reframe to a positive, active and fulfilling state. Some clients are aware that they are off-balance and they acknowledge the symptoms, even rationalize them due to the life event that occurred and accept being off-balance as the reason for being in a holding pattern, not performing at their best, expecting less of themselves and others.
However, because the state begins unconsciously it is important to understand that for the most part the mind acts and presents our reality automatically as a result of a program. For years we have accepted our own and other’s thoughts, opinions and experiences to form our mind patterns and programs. These programs can have their uses – to sustain us, to keep us safe, and to allow us to multi-task while using the conscious part of our mind to do other things like changing a CD or talking on the phone (conscious) while driving (unconscious). Yet, for the most part, we are unaware that some of the automatic/programmed choices that the mind makes for us no longer serve us. While they may once have served a vital or important need at the time of an unexpected life incident, a hurt, a shock, a crisis or a mean word, we have since grown, moved on and evolved in our thinking. Therefore, a programmed response may now no longer be applicable to an incident we have recently experienced.
Mind: a beautiful servant, a dangerous master – Osho
Will you put your mind to work, or will you be its slave? Consider this as we discuss moving from off-balance to taking action.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines off-balance as:
a : upset from or in a state of being upset by confusion
b : into a state of surprise from the unexpected
What happens to our performance and our lives when we get knocked off-balance? Suddenly there can be a sense of having lost control, feeling lost, uncertain, unable to come up with solutions, lethargy creeps in, or perhaps a general malaise and disinterest in most things and people around us. Yet when the observer looks in they see a successful person, one to be admired, functioning well in life, business, on-the-job. Other than perhaps a slight dip in energy, they don’t notice the dysfunction going on inside the person who has been knocked off-balance.
A person off-balance, being led by emotions, is often in a state of confusion, dissatisfaction, self-pity (why me?), anger/frustration, disappointment or passivity. They act inconsistent with their authentic, productive, can-do self.
What is going on inside of the person who has been knocked off balance? Self-judgement, blame of self or others, feelings of inadequacy, disinterest in work or relationships, sadness, even self-loathing. They question their modus operandi, wonder why bother, why make the effort, why care?
Being off-balance generally impacts our creativity and degrades our ability to problem solve. Remaining in this state becomes an act of self-sabotage that a person has unconsciously slipped into as a result of the trigger (whatever knocked them off balance).
Here are some examples of triggers?
- I was told my work was not up to expectations.
- They declined my project or my application.
- I lost to the competition.
- I was told I am too soft, too trusting.
- He snapped at me, or berated me.
- I was told to grow up and get with reality.
- I lost my job.
- I did not get accepted into the program.
- She looked at me in disgust.
- I lost my home in a natural disaster.
There are a multitude of life circumstances that can seem to derail our plans, hurt our feelings, come as a shock and throw a person off-balance. As coaches then, we recognize that each experience of being off-balance is unique to the individual experiencing it.
What contributes to choosing off-balance as a state of being? As indicated earlier this unconscious response develops in our formative years. People we have admired, respected or looked up to, in their effort to show they care, have empathized with the shock, the tragedy, the wickedness of the life event that has befallen us. They have comforted us with words of pity, understanding, reduced expectation of our actions and performance, and have watered and fertilized a lesser version of ourselves. We have go on to greatly appreciate and accept that response and therein a default/unconscious program is born. As Osho refers to the “dangerous master” the mind program remains for life unless we bring it to consciousness and decide if it continues to serve us and, if not, take action to change our state.
As adults now, living in the program, we empathize with ourselves in response to an unexpected life event. We may notice that we are off-balance, we may be aware that the person we are being is not the person we want to be. At times we acknowledge that we are not performing to our own expectations or standards and this leaves us feeling frustrated. It is imperative that we learn different coping mechanism in response to cold, hard life events that we will inevitably face while we live here on earth.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind – Romans 12:2
The first challenge is to become aware that the shift to off-balance happens unconsciously. Then we must learn to recognize the trigger and the state it produces in order to choose returning to our normal productive, enjoyable, fulfilling way of being.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines to take action as:
: to do something
: to act in order to get a particular result
Taking action is an effective way to move from being off-balance. The risk of not addressing this state provides for, in the words of Daniel Goldstein: “the present self to trounce the future self”.
Taking action is performing at your best, it is choosing to engage in all opportunities and activities a day presents, it is making life interesting, it is caring for ourselves and others, it is positively shaping our future, creating our own narrative, our life story.
The journey from off-balance to taking action can sometimes be long and arduous but it does not have to be. In the coaching context, the earlier the coach can facilitate raising a client’s awareness of being off-balance and work with them to identify the triggers, the sooner the client is empowered to begin to identify this for themselves. This awareness can lead the client to take action in order to avoid going into the low activity, unproductive, low energy response mode that follows the trigger to the road of the off-balance state. Clients can learn to take control at the point of, or soon after, the trigger. Rather than go off-balance they can be empowered to make an almost instantaneous shift, choosing to stand up, take the punch, strategize the next move and take it!
So while being off-balance may have its place in bringing to our awareness the mind’s auto response to shocking triggers, coaching helps us to recognize that the auto response may no longer be relevant to us. This is point we can choose to take action that supports our growth, and provides for forward movement.
We need to stop the emotions that work against us and loosen the grip of the off-balance state. Easier said than done right? How do we move from off-balance to taking action?
Take some time to explore how being off-balance shows up in your life. Ask yourself:
- What being off-balance looks like?
- Are you operating optimally, enjoying what you do?
- Are you progressing towards your goals, meeting your objectives?
- Are you positively engaging with people and activities?
- Why you are allowing this state to persist?
Check it out further. Look in to what took you there, what was the trigger. Acknowledge that life threw you a curve ball and you caught it, see what you can learn about why and how you received it. Use being caught off-balance to explore your options now that you have the ball, could you throw it back, how do you refocus and get back to your goals, if you don’t have a goal create one, strategize the next move then re-engage and take the first step towards it. If you need help get a coach, or engage a friend or colleague as an accountability partner to provide you with whatever structure you may need to support taking action.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow – Albert Einstein
As you go through this process observe what is happening within you, how you feel, what thoughts come up, how things look to you from both off-balance and taking action perspectives. Identify the triggers, learn from your chosen responses, learn from the experience. Then put a response plan in place for the next time life throws you a curve ball. Recognize that you do have the ability to consciously choose your state. Know that the more you learn about these states, and the most effective way for you to move forward, the easier it becomes to maintain balance and make the best choice for yourself every time.
A coach works with a client to create awareness around the state of being off-balance and ways in which they can move to action. The coach needs to listen to their client to learn how accepting being in an off-balance state serves them. The coach, together with the client, works to understand how being off-balance comes about and to develop awareness around it being a default/unconscious state that occurs after an unexpected life event. The coach also explores who the client is when they take action and how taking action serves them. Bringing both perspectives to the fore allows the client to see that when an unexpected life event occurs they have choices in how to react. At that point they are able to consciously choose the empowering perspective. The client is able to see that life events happen, yet it is our response that informs what happens next in our lives.
Through curiosity and powerful questioning the coach works with the client to:
- Acknowledge a. much of what happens in life is outside of our control, b. we are not able to anticipate everything and c. identify what we can control.
- Learn to clearly identify and explore the triggers.
- Recognize what happens that allows them to walk down the path taking them to an off-balance state.
- Recognize the symptoms of being off-balance and release judgment around this.
- Identify and explore what moves the client to action and what holds them back.
- Develop a response plan that may start at the trigger point or anywhere on the path, includes tools, support people and structures, as well as reminds them how important it is to them to get into action.
- Inquire and set up client’s preferred accountability structure to monitor progress until momentum kicks in and they return to balance, to their strength, performing optimally and enjoying the benefits of being actively engaged in life.
Begin to free yourself at once by doing all that is possible with the means you have, and as you proceed in this spirit the way will open for you to do more- Robert Collier