An Interesting play of words Two words that are central to this theme are:
Deliberate, and Responsibility (as an outcome of acting spontaneously) In English, addition of the prefix “de” is used denote the “opposite” meaning or to “remove” or to “reduce” a noun or verb.4 Thus Deliberate could be read as De- Liberate i.e., reducing or removing “Liberate” or giving it the opposite meaning of Liberate. Similarly, with respect to spontaneity one needs to take ownership of one’s actions and (as stated above) not react but respond i.e., the ability to respond or responseability.
Relevance to Coaching
The role of the Coach is never to provide a solution but to partner with his Client to help the Client determine the most appropriate solution for his situation. Most people reach out for a Coach when they have tried to work out things to the best of their ability but have not succeeded in breaking the logjam. Typically the Client would have attempted to identify a solution by trying out alternatives that he is familiar with and drawn a blank. These attempts typify the “deliberateness” in his efforts to resolve the issue.
The Coach, on the other hand, helps the Client identify, clarify and articulate his goals. Thereafter, the Coach encourages the Client to delve into his experiences and work out an action plan which would serve to break the logjam and provide a resolution to the problem vexing the Client.
In some ways the Client expects the Coach to solve his problem, but the Coach needs to continue to dance with the Client often making himself invisible and yet providing directional guidance to the Client. The Coach is like the bank of a river, which does not intervene in the journey of the water to the ocean, but gently guides the water to its goal. This aspect has been very well elucidated in ancient texts like Tao Te Ching, in the concept of Wei Wu Wei.
Wu may be translated as “not have” or “without”; Wei may be translated as “do, act, serve as, govern or effort”. Wu Wei is an important concept in Taoism that means “non-action” or “non-doing”. The literal meaning of Wu Wei is “without action”, “without effort”, or “without control” and is often included in the paradox Wei Wu Wei: “action without action” or “effortless doing”. Wei Wu Wei is not about being passive. It is about enlightened action. It is about doing something, seeing if one is closer to the goal and making appropriate corrections. It is effortless action without judgement and without forcing the universe to change.
An example of active non-action using Wu Wei, would be to coach in such a way that no course of action is dictated to a Client. Thus the Client assumes that they have been “taught” nothing, until their learning gets integrated with their lived experience and spontaneity bursts forth.
This approach is also reflected in our usage of daily language. When faced with a complex or vexing issue we “keep it at the back of our minds” or “sleep over it”. There is a “deliberate” effort not to consciously think of a solution and let the issue germinate in our minds for a resolution to emerge spontaneously. One of the best chronicled instances of this relates to Herr August Kekulé von Stradonitz, the German organic chemist, who struggled for a long time to define the structure of benzene. Kekulé, himself narrated that he had discovered the hexagonal ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day dream of a snake catching its own tail.
Ideally, the role of a successful Coach is to take his Client from a stage of deliberateness (i.e., from his comfort zone) into areas where he fears to tread and encourage him to explore areas that he may be aware of but is unwilling or unable to explore and help him journey into spontaneity. In this role the Coach works to (de)Liberate the Client from his comfort zone (of being deliberate) and help him get onto a glide path towards response-ability by being spontaneous.
Reflection and applicability to Coaching
- What is it that needs to be changed in order to attain the goal that has been set for oneself?
- Can the aspects which are posing a resistance to change be identified?
- Are there facets that create a feeling of discomfort and inhibit movement outside the comfort zone?
- Try and identify the primary emotion that surfaces? Usually this is the emotion / feeling that is creating a block in becoming spontaneous.
- Encourage the Client to allow his mind to wander thereby changing gears of the thought processes to a more spontaneous and less deliberate kind of thinking. Usually such an approach could help the Client reach more creative and less predictable resolutions.
- What techniques would the Coach use to elevate the Client into a spontaneous thinking process?
When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. Sigmund Freud