A Coaching Power Tool By Shruti Garyali, Transformational Coach, INDIA
Self-Discovery Whole vs. Fractional
Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. Daniel Gilbert, American Social psychologist.
This quote, which I chanced upon randomly (although lately, I have come to believe that there is nothing random about whatever I come across), sparked a furious self-discovery for me almost 4 years ago. A self-discovery that brought me across innumerable ways to find oneself, accept oneself, and transform oneself. The start of my ICA journey has been one of these series of revelations. Every time I have felt disheartened, heavy, or lost, I have come back to this quote that reminded me that I am on an ongoing journey. Every time I asked myself in exasperation, “when will all this be over or when can I start enjoying my life”, I realized that as long as I am alive, I have been given the opportunity to keep moving forward, and maybe change my direction, but keep moving. And with this being my driving force, I have come to understand the essential value of my being alive – just simply ‘being’. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher, and author
Try to say or think “I Am” and add nothing to it. Be aware of the stillness that follows the I Am.
When I don’t try to qualify ‘I Am’ with anything positive or negative, I sense an immediate shift from all the meanings that my mind has assigned to each and every moment, thought, feeling, and action of mine, towards feeling wholesome, perfect and complete in the way I am at any given moment. And that has brought about for me this power tool of ‘Whole vs. Fractional’.
Whole vs. Fractional
When applied to the landscape of humans, we could broadly define these two perspectives as meaning:
Whole – entire, perfect, enough, all of something, a thing that is complete in itself, unbroken, undamaged.
Fractional on the other hand – broken, limited, weak, imperfect, incomplete, deficient.
It helps to understand these two perspectives by looking at examples that abound around us, in nature. Any ecosystem is made up of millions of visible and invisible components. And yet, what is seen by us is just the surface – a fully functional, balanced, and thriving system working as a whole. Does this mean that any of its smaller bits and pieces are irrelevant or incomplete? Of course not. But in our daily lives, we are often unable to see this beautiful symphony of underlying designs. And due to this lack of awareness, we dismiss the parts, we criticize the components, and we hide the truths. We see anything incomplete or imperfect as wrong. We view anything small or delicate as a weakness. We call out anything different or unique to be dangerous. As a result, we are allowing ourselves to be driven by some form of ‘fractional thinking’.
We can go back to a few minutes ago, a few hours ago, or a few days or weeks ago in our lives and we can see many instances when we are in the space of feeling Whole and when we are operating in the space of Fractional.
One may ask at this point why is it relevant to understand this or some may feel that this is all too philosophical. It’s only when we see the implications in our lives, that we realize the importance of understanding what is really driving us. Life is a series of decisions, small or big, right from our childhood. There is a fascinating amount of background work that goes on in our minds and bodies before every single decision. Most often, we are not aware of this, and hence very often, we question our decisions, doubt or second-guess ourselves, or look for some form of validation or approval to feel comfortable about our decisions. These are classic scenarios of operating from Fractional space.
Being in the Fractional Space
There is extensive research on how the human mind works and how we make decisions. There are some basic influencers that drive every decision of ours such as – our beliefs, values, experiences, likes, dislikes, personal benchmarks, social benchmarks, etc; and these form a robust package of our decision influencers. And then there are a series of steps that lead to the creation of this package – our mind codes and decodes messages, creates and associates meanings, and manages and filters experiences to create this one package. Unfortunately, we don’t often take the time to check the validity or truthfulness of this package. We keep using and reusing its contents to base our decisions on, irrespective of their usefulness or satisfaction derived from the results. But then, we are bound to reach a point of feeling so stuck, dissatisfied, lost, or anxious, that we are forced to look within and examine what’s really not working for us.
My personal life has been a prime example for me to see closely the negative impact of fractional thinking. And I have seen many examples of this during my interactions with clients.
Personal Example – I have been on a constant warpath with parenthood, never thinking of myself to be a good enough parent, always downplaying my contribution and capabilities, and believing that because I myself am a broken person, it but natural that I will end up messing up my daughter’s upbringing.
Fractional Thinking– As I looked deeper to understand my unhealthy relationship with parenting, I realized that I am looking at parenting as an examination where I am going to be graded. And getting approval from others for being the best parent was high on my list of needs. I was determined to do a better job at it than my parents and my peers, and in the process, I was unable to see the joy and the intention of parenting clearly. Everything was black or white for me when it came to my daughter’s upbringing. There was no room for ease, being in the present moment, or mistakes. I was driven by a constant need to ensure the best and safest future for my daughter. In essence, I was unable to see the whole picture. I was only looking at the various parts of myself, which, by themselves, looked broken, insufficient, not good enough, wrong, or lazy.
Client’s Example (name changed) – Neha was embarking on her self-employed business but felt strongly that she was not good enough. She felt that she did not have enough to offer her clients and doubted her capabilities to the extent that she found it hard to take on paying clients. She felt disheartened by the poor results of her marketing efforts to get more clients, which seemed to further strengthen her limiting beliefs about herself.
Fractional Thinking– Neha believed that she needed to be more qualified in order to feel confident in taking on paying clients. She equated certifications, education, and degrees with feeling confident and with feeling rightful about demanding fees from clients. She was confused about her true value and was constantly telling herself that there was no point in trying because it just wouldn’t work. Her marketing campaign frustrated her because she felt that she was being fake about herself and that showed up when she didn’t get too many inquiries from new clients.
Being in the Space of Whole
Accept yourself as you are. And that is the most difficult thing in the world, because it goes against your training, education, your culture. From the very beginning you have been told how you should be. Nobody has ever told you that you are good as you are. Osho
And these lines are true no matter who we are and what we are. The very fact that we are alive and present in this world should be reason enough for us to believe that we are loved, wanted, and perfect. We all have our own unique journeys but if only we dropped the need to be a certain way, as prescribed by external demands, we would be able to see ourselves as a whole and complete. And from that space of being Whole, many things become possible for us, despite our imperfections or challenges. Because we stop looking at these imperfections and challenges in isolation. Instead, we realize that they are a small part of our Whole and that they do not define us in our entirety. They are present in our lives to enrich us, give us wisdom and help us learn important lessons about being alive.
In the Personal example above, moving away from Fractional thinking to being in the space of the Whole brought about the following for me…
A big revelation for me was the realization that the only thing that I really needed to be as a parent was to be a ‘safe space’ for my daughter i.e. whatever may happen, whatever challenges she may face, or whatever mistakes she may make, she needed to be able to truly believe that I would always be there for her, complete in my love for her. Once I saw it in this way, it became clear to me that I could relax with her and allow her to make mistakes, and face hardships and unpleasant situations by herself, wherein I would always be there as her support, never judging her. She needed to learn her lessons in her own unique way and accept responsibilities of her own will. And that, I found to my surprise, to be quite easy for myself – being her safe space. Because it took away all the imaginary pressure of being an ideal parent or of making sure that she has the safest or happiest possible life and in place of that, it created a space for me to be an imperfect parent who is Whole in her love.
In the second example above of a client, reframing the Fractional perspective into the being Whole perspective created something powerful for the client –
Through a series of coaching sessions, Neha confronted the beliefs that were not serving her. She realized that she was trying to use degrees and qualifications as a shield to protect herself from the fear of failure. She was scared to look within herself and to fully accept herself, which was why she felt fake whenever she advertised her business. She understood that she first needed to discover her true self, without the external meanings, and only then she would begin to feel the confidence of taking on paying clients and feel comfortable in demanding fees for her consulting services. Neha realized that every time her mind told her to not bother trying, it was only wanting to protect her from disappointment or hurt. So she developed a system of hearing these thoughts, acknowledging them and thanking them for their concern, and then moving forward.
In effect, she learned to look at herself as a whole person, with all the skills, imperfections, strengths, and challenges – and she was able to see how all of these had a role to play but did not define her essence.
Some coaching questions that could enable a client to move from ‘Fractional thinking’ to ‘Whole thinking’:
- What is working well for you right now?
- What might be a different way to look at it?
- What is available to you to move forward?
- What do you think these (thoughts) need?
- What would you want to say to these (negative thoughts)?
- What are you when you are true to yourself?
- What makes you believe that?
- What do you need to ask yourself?
- What would you like to tell yourself right now?
In both the above examples, what becomes evident is that we ourselves make our present realities, unconsciously, and believe them to be the truth, however distorted or dis-serving they may be. As Louise Hay says in her book “You can heal your life”
The Point of Power is always in the present moment. You are never stuck. This is where the changes take place, right here and right now in our own minds. ….. You are the power in your world! You get to have whatever you choose to think!
The Whole vs. Fractional Power Tool
Hence, the Whole vs. Fractional power tool is a way to look at ourselves from a higher vantage point and see ourselves fully, with everything that we bring to our lives. And then, once we accept the Wholeness, the importance that we give to the imperfections, weaknesses, doubts, anxieties, and limiting beliefs seems to diminish. And the possibilities arising out of the Wholeness seem more exciting and powerful. Our decision-making patterns change, our way of looking at things shifts and the quality of our lives transforms, leading us towards a life that is happier, fuller, smoother, and more courageous.
A New Earth, book by Eckhart Tolle
You Can Heal Your Life, book by Louise Hay
The Psychology of Your Future Self, TED Talk by Daniel Gilbert, March 2014
Insights from coaching sessions with clients, names withheld for privacy
ICA graduates’ Power Tools