During the week after that first coaching conversation, I tried to focus on my language. In situations where I would normally panic and say “I can’t do that”, I found myself saying, either silently or out loud, “I wonder what we can achieve”. In meetings with senior leadership, who I usually found to be aggressive and bullying, I lifted my shoulders and took a breath before responding. As much as I could, I aimed for the self-talk in those meetings to be about wondering where we would go together, rather than judging myself for being incompetent and useless. This all seemed very basic, and I couldn’t believe the results that I was seeing.
Don’t get me wrong – at this stage, I still had a very long way to go before I would beat that self-doubt monster. However, the simple tweaks that we had discussed in that first coaching conversation were making a difference.
I didn’t apply everything that I had learned all of the time, and I still needed to remind myself regularly to check my posture, or change my language or to consider a mood of wonder instead of a mood of anxiety. However, I was tackling this self-growth thing in the best way I knew how and, if I was honest, this way of being thing was starting to occur to me as nowhere near as wanky as I had originally suspected.
I saw results immediately after that coaching conversation, and I wrote about it the following the day:
I missed a call from my manager during the coaching session. As soon as I realised, my shoulders slumped and I started thinking about what disaster could possibly have happened for my manager to call me. I stopped myself, sat up and said “I wonder what they want?”. It actually worked – I felt even more confident when I called my manager back and we had conversation.
I am not for a minute suggesting that I found a miracle cure. It was far from it. However, what that conversation gave me was hope, and that little bit of hope was enough for me to start seeing possibility instead of failure. That may sound small; it wasn’t. I was shifting from a world where almost everything seemed impossible, to one where things were starting to seem as though they might possibly be possible. It was amazing.
What I found during that week was that I was starting to develop a curiosity. When I felt a certain way, or thought a certain way, I started to wonder why that had happened. I didn’t have the answers, and that was ok; I had the curiosity to help me find answers that would serve me.
I was becoming a learner.
Sometimes, the slightest shift to our language, emotions or body can have a significant change to the possibilities that we have available to us. For example, at work, if I am having a difficult conversation and I feel as though I might be struggling, the first thing that I will do is to check in on my posture. If I can find something obvious to shift, such as slowing my breathing, or opening up my chest, or lifting my shoulders and pushing them back, then I will do it. If, in the moment, I can’t determine what would be useful to shift, I change my position in my chair. It doesn’t matter how; I just lift my bum or cross/uncross my legs, or move my arms, or whatever happens to come to me. More often than not, after doing this, I can then check in with myself and shift my emotional space and language to something more serving (if shifting my body hasn’t done that already).
Another trick that I use, if I am feeling anxious during a conversation, is to mentally ask myself a question. This tends to shift my emotional space ever so slightly towards curiosity, and from here, different actions become available to me.
These tricks and steps are not limited to work. I use them when interacting with my family and friends, when I am coaching, when I am interacting at work, or at the supermarket, or even when that 4WD almost ran me off the road when it decided to zoom past me at the end of a merge lane the other day!
In the early days, it wasn’t always easy for me to remember to check in on my way of being, so I arrived at the idea of putting a reminder in my phone that popped up every two hours during the day. It said “How are you being in language, emotions and body right now?” and I would take two minutes to check in with myself and see if anything could be shifted to serve me better. I still check in with myself regularly now, and I no longer need the reminder.
I didn’t always manage to shift my way of being to something useful. Sometimes, I couldn’t shift it at all. Many times, I just wanted the people around me realise that it wouldn’t hurt them to shift their way of being either, instead of always waiting for me to do it. However, I would calmly (ok, not always calmly, but as calmly as I could be) tell myself that I could only shift my own way of being. Then I would make notes about what had happened for me during the week and I would take some of what I had discovered along to the next coaching conversation. The beauty of having a coach was that we could then work together to discover the next steps; I didn’t have to do it alone.
It took months before I felt as though I could apply the approach completely from beginning to end without help, and I had lots of ups and downs during that time. What I have learnt from that experience is that none of this is failure, or wrong or incompetence or anything like that. It is learning, and it happens when it happens. So now, I be kind to myself, remove judgement, and accept the learning as it comes.
So what does being a learner mean? To me, it means being willing to take our virtual binoculars and observe how we interact with ourselves and others and then look at what could be different for us. When we have done this, we then take that learning, applying it to our way of being, so that we can take different actions.
Points to Ponder…
- What is happening for you right now in language? In your emotional spaces? In body? What might be more useful for you?
- What happens when you adjust your posture right now? How does it feel? What is different? What other possibilities become available to you?
- What does being a learner mean for you? At home? At work? As a leader?
I am a leadership and life coach, available for coaching and facilitation services. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.