A Coaching Power Tool Created by Nada Stadtlander
(Youth & Parent Coach, NEW ZEALAND)
Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t. Steve Maraboli
Life is full of experiences, both good and bad and as you navigate through your own personal journey, keeping momentum and forward movement can be hampered by the way you try to make sense of the world you live in.
As you build and forge relationships with family, friends and business colleagues, all with unique ideas and perspectives, there are bound to be “prickly” moments and conflict when you don’t see eye to eye.
This power tool is linked to my coaching model “water” and can be used with children and adults alike.
As with a stream or river, debris/reeds/rocks and boulders over time, left unattended, can hinder the natural flow of the water and sometimes the flow can be completely impeded. You too can have circumstances and life experiences side track you and even “stop up” your forward movement if you allow them to and leave them unattended.
Someone (source unknown) once said, “the important thing is not what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you”.
What happens when someone does something annoying, speaks a careless word to you, betrays you or hurts you in other ways? It can feel like your stream of life, which a minute ago was comfortable and flowing with ease, all of a sudden has unwanted obstacles in the way and it can feel like a very different, almost foreign place. Your wonderfully familiar “stream” has now been spoilt by someone’s garbage and litter. They’ve invaded your space, dumped it and left you to try and navigate around it.
It is paramount for us as coaches to support our clients in that “navigating around” or actively “letting go”. Helping them to keep a short account and almost daily examine anything that they are holding onto that should be let go of. Not to do this could mean getting “stopped up”/holding a grudge and feeling like there’s no energy, vitality or means to pursue their goals and dreams. The former brings with it life, possibility and opportunity, whilst the latter brings resentment, bitterness, and blame.
According to the Mayo Clinic(2) some benefits of “letting go” are:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self esteem
One I’d like to add:
When you let go, you have a shift in perspective.It creates space to think clearly, focus on what’s important and change and grow as a person. Opportunities abound in this atmosphere and success follows.
“Letting Go” – letting go is giving yourself permission to move on. It’s recognizing the experience for what it is/was and choosing to let it go if it doesn’t serve you. It’s something you do for yourself and not for others. It’s an active choice to let go so you can be well and move on. Letting go doesn’t mean that what the person does/did to you was okay or that they are free from the consequences of that situation. Letting go means that you choose not to be trapped in what that person does/did to you or allow it to adversely affect your life.
Conversely, “Holding On” is either knowing or unknowingly keeping hold of something, sometimes with white knuckled determination. It’s a decision to maintain a particular theory, thought or feeling whether it serves you or not.
It’s a busy Monday morning in Janet’s house and everyone is getting ready to go to work. She is angry with her flat mates for finishing all the milk and now she can’t have her usual breakfast. She yells at Cameron about how selfish everyone is, and he yells back saying it wasn’t him who finished the milk. She mutters under her breath and decides to stop on route to work to get a coffee and grabs an apple on her way out. Not far into the journey, a motorist cuts in front of Janet’s car causing her to have to brake suddenly to avoid colliding with the vehicle. She gets a huge fright, feels angry at the rudeness of the motorist and yells at him. She continues on her way, gets to work and finds that someone’s parked in her usual parking space. She begins to yell to the imaginary person and tells herself how rude this person is to steal her parking space. She finally gets to the office 15 minutes late because she had to park further away and everyone in earshot gets to hear of the awful start to her day.
Unless Janet practices mindfulness and chooses to actively “let go” of these negative situations, it has the propensity to become like a “snow ball” effect and hinder not only her productivity for the day, but potentially could cause conflict with her colleagues in the office because of her heightened stress levels. Janet could also blow any further situations completely out of proportion if she doesn’t address them.
Obviously there are far more serious situations that you could be having difficulty letting go of. Examples are:
- Being betrayed by a spouse or friend;
- Having someone abuse or treat you badly
As coaches we need wisdom to know whether we can deal with some of these issues or whether to refer them on to a counselor if need be.
Janet’s case study highlights the fact that every day there is the potential for someone to annoy you and the need to let go and not allow one thing to build on another. If you cannot let go of the more “mundane” life issues you will not be able to let go of the more serious ones listed above.
Holding on – Holding on will eat into everything you do and taint relationships around you. Practicing mindfulness can help you keep a short account of daily negative experiences when you examine what’s going on for you.
- Ask yourself what does letting go mean to me?
- Do I believe that I need to let go of everything that doesn't serve me, or only some things?
- Do I have issues in my life that are hard for me to let go of?
- What are they?
This is a very important exercise because we cannot be fully present and without judgment, if we have our own unresolved “letting go” issues. Work through them with your coach or a counselor to enable you to be strong when working through “letting go” issues with your clients.
The concept of “letting go” can be extremely difficult especially when the resulting pain runs deep. Coupled with a misunderstanding that “letting go” could mean that you are letting the person “off the hook” or that what they did was okay. This can compound the issue and could be a temptation to “hold on”. Visualization can also be helpful. I ask the client to visualize a casual game of tennis…. Two players are enjoying knocking the ball to each other, when one player hits the ball so hard that it lodges in the back court fence. They only have one tennis ball. Ask the client, “What would happen if they just left the ball stuck in the fence”? They wouldn’t be able to play and the game would be over. Ask, “what needs to happen for them to continue playing”? They need to free the ball. So an “active” decision to free the ball needs to be made in order for play to continue. Ask, “how is this similar to your situation”? This exercise helps to highlight to the client that by holding on you get stuck (like the tennis ball) and are not able to participate fully in the “game” of life. For a shift in perspective, an active decision to let go needs to be made for things to change or be different.
A trusting and accepting relationship between coach/client has to be the platform from which this power tool can be used, as some of the topic matter can be of a sensitive nature.
Examining underlying beliefs can also be helpful to understand why “letting go” may be difficult. Be aware that when examining “letting go” issues with a client, there will often be very charged emotions that go along with relaying the experience. Allow the client space to vent, if that’s what they need to do before attempting to use this power tool. You could also take them through some breathing exercises to help centre them. Once the client is ready, below are some questions that can be used to help the client gain clarity, awareness and bring them to a place of choosing to let go.
- What are you feeling right now?
- How would you like to be feeling?
- What does that look like for you?
- Do you believe you were in control of that situation?
- What could you have done differently?
- Which of your core values were being stomped on?
- What does letting go mean to you?
- How would it be for you if you chose to let go of that person/situation?
- What is preventing you from moving forward?
- How is that serving you?
- If this happened again, what could you do differently next time?
- Do you feel ready to let go of that person/situation?
When the client is ready to let go ask their permission to do an exercise with them. Say, “there’s a variety of ways to “let go” of something. You can write it down on some paper and scribble over it, rip the paper up, tear it into lots of pieces, scrunch it up and stomp on it, flush it in the toilet, or go outside and burn it in the yard. Do any of those appeal to you?” Let them choose to DO something to reinforce the “letting go”. Once completed, rejoice with them celebrating their courage, effort and determination to let go and move on.
Steve Maraboli – Quotes (Google)