A Coaching Power Tool Created by Stephanie Karakantas
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
My beliefs I test on my body, on my intuitional consciousness, and when I get a response there, then I accept—D.H. Lawrence
We make decisions on a daily basis. Some are pretty simple and straightforward while others are potentially life altering. The decisions we make can often affect our lives in multitudes of ways. When it comes to the bigger decisions in our lives, we expend lots of energy ensuring we make the right one. Often this means we analyze as many as the potential outcomes we can, make pro and cons lists and draw up schemas to predict what will be best. And then, time passes and we sometimes are disappointed with our choice.
Most decision making is traditionally in our head. Being rational can mean “to think carefully or a lot about things; consider, plan, think out, assess, evaluate, take a long hard look at someone/something, think over” (1). We have in the Western world, been influenced to value the mind over other ways of knowing particularly over the body. The philosophy of Descartes “I think therefore I am” diminishes the importance of emotions, physical feelings and intuition. If not rationally based, then there is no validity to these other ways of knowing. Not that using our minds to make decisions is wrong—it may just be incomplete.
Have you ever made a decision and then later found yourself saying “I knew it would end up like this—I didn’t listen to myself”? We listened to our thoughts—what part of ourselves did we ignore?
It could have been a physical sensation—a “gut feeling”. It could have been an intuitive sensing—“a feeling” about the situation. It could have been repeating symbols or words that come up in our everyday lives that can give us clues along our journey. All of these ways of knowing are often subject to being overridden by our thought processes and dismissed. Do we miss out on opportunities when we are not fully in synch with the totality of our experience? Probably. Our experience is so much richer than what our thoughts filter. A choice we can make is to integrate or “combine and merge” (2) our intuition, physical senses with our thoughts to achieve the best outcome.
We may never fully realize our greatest potential if we do not become aware of, value and trust our non-rational ways of knowing when we make choices in our lives. How do we enhance this process in ourselves and others? Taking the time and space to be aware of the subtleties of physical sensations, how our energy flows through our body as we are making choices. Valuing our experience as real and not allowing the mind to independently dictate what is of value and what is not. Trusting that our whole being has the ability to inform us. Integrating all of this information to make a decision that is congruent with our best interests at heart.
Joanie was at a crossroads in her professional life. She had been working as a floor nurse in at a nursing home for many years. She loved her job and coworkers as well as the residents in her care. In addition, she enjoyed the flexibility her job allowed. She had time for teaching floral arranging classes at a community college as well as obtaining her master’s degree in business. Joanie thought once she graduated, that it didn’t make logical sense to her to stay in a clinical job after spending significant money on a management degree. As luck would have it, a director of nursing position opened up at a nearby facility. Joanie immediately applied for it and after several weeks, was offered the position and accepted it, although this meant giving up a good deal of flexibility in her personal life.
A year later, Joanie came to coaching. Although she enjoyed the challenges her new position offered, she was feeling less satisfied with life in general. She was lamenting her choice and shared: “I knew the management job was essential in advancing my career and at the same time, I had a gut feeling when I chose to accept it– I wish I listened to that more” Now she felt she had to keep her job because it was the right thing to do even though she felt there was another way forward for her.
Through coaching, Joanie was able to shift her decision making perspective from a rational approach to one that was informed by physical sensations and intuition as well as her thoughts. What Joanie learned from her coaching experience follows:
“I can rely on myself to make decisions based on checking in completely with all that I receive for information. As I chose between the option of staying in the job to pursuing different paths, I began to visualize myself within each of these options; then I noticed and became aware of what I was thinking, what I was feeling physically and what I was intuitively picking up. I trusted that all the information I was receiving was essential in making my choice. Then to explore the option that resonated the most to me was my next step. Even if I chose to change my choice, I am confident that I will make the best decision for myself in that moment.”
After a few months, Joanie decided to leave her management position, return to clinical nursing and apply her management skills to begin a floral arranging business.
How does a coach support a client in making a shift from a completely rationally based decision making process to an integrative one?
Acknowledging to our client that there is a strong pull to rely on our analytical process in Western society as a whole and that in part it is a learned behavior. Placing value on experiences outside our thoughts as equal informants of our decision process takes time. The perspective that thoughts are more valuable than other ways of knowing begins to fade away with practice. The coach and client decide what activities to best help the client to better access their intuition and physical ways of knowing. A coach can support a client in integrating all of this information, along with their thoughts, when making any life change.
- Inviting the client to share their decision making process with you-As a client relays the steps they take in making decisions, the coach listens for keywords in the client’s description: thinking, feeling, sensing, “just knew”, seeing, gut, awareness, instinct and any physical sensations associated with the decision process. Acknowledging the client’s already existing abilities to get information from sources outside of their thought helps to build awareness and confidence.
- Building structures to allow the client to gain fuller awareness in the decision making process. For a client who needs more assistance in tuning to their physical or intuitive sensations these activities can be supportive: staying in the moment; allowing a choice to remain unchosen for a time while reflecting on physical sensations, feelings and intuition. This can be done by journaling, talking through options; meditating. Noticing when the mind steps in to intervene. A daily awareness practice can be put in place as well.
- Visualizing each option and checking in—having the client check in energetically as they visualize each option. How does the client feel when seeing themselves follow through with the choice they are making? Where are they feeling these sensations? What is their first instinct? What rationally makes sense? How are their thoughts supported by their physical and intuitive knowing?
- Actions and Learnings—clients’ take aways and opportunities to grow more in integrating their full awareness as they move forward in life. How does this experience of integrating all their faculties help the client to make better decisions?
In the process of writing this power tool, I was given an opportunity to take on a consulting position in addition to my full time clinical practice. It offered extra disposable income, was close to home and would only be for 5 hours per week. My initial response, was to go for it…but then I let this choice sink in over the next day or two. As I was describing to a colleague my choice to take on this new position, I felt a bit heavy and flat energetically. And then I got a clear answer. Even though this consulting position appealed to me rationally, I rejected it as it was not resonating with me in a holistic way. I actually felt physically constrained. Not that it would have been a bad decision but not likely the one most aligned with where I am now and where I want to be. What I chose to do would also provide me with extra income, no travel time—but it felt completely different–expansive and freeing. By melding my intuition and physical signs with my logical knowing, I made the commitment to dedicate those 5 hours per week to my coaching business.
- When you have listened to your gut feelings, what did you feel? What were the outcomes?
- In what circumstances do your thoughts override your feelings or intuition? What makes it that way?
- What can you do to equally honor your rational thought process and your intuitive knowing?
- When faced with a major decision in life, what steps would you take to feel more informed and empowered?
- At the intersection of feeling and intuition, what helps you accept the totality of your experience without over analyzing the situation?
- What possibilities arise when you hold back on making a decision?
- What is one thing you learned from listening to your gut?
- What is the cost to you by not fully tapping into your awareness?
- What practices can you put in place that cultivates a perspective of integrating all that informs you?
Synonym of Rational, Macmillan Dictionary
Synonym of Integrate, Macmillan Dictionary