Early in my coaching career, I had the good fortune to work with a large number of clients from a variety of backgrounds. This gave me the opportunity to observe something I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to see and it changed my perspective as it will change yours.
In coaching, most initial phone conversations rarely match what we discuss during our first meeting. For example, a client might mention their desire for help changing job positions over the phone, but when they arrive for their first meeting, they don’t have any idea what they want to do next and instead talk about some other part of their life that is not working. Perhaps they are facing an impending divorce, a major health change, or they have some financial concerns. 40 minutes into a session, most clients “fess up” to whatever they believe their “embarrassing little secret” is and then the real work begins. This is how it goes.
One morning, a senior attorney walked into my office. He had an air of easy confidence and authority and his resume showed that he was at the top of his game. He was extremely polished and his beautiful European suit told the story of his success. Like every client, he is a full cup of water and so I proceeded to let him empty his cup. After about 30 minutes of sitting and listening and holding space for him, his real needs, desires, and pain slowly began to emerge – because for the first time in a long while he finally arrived at a place where he could sit still, be heard and witnessed versus judged – long enough for more of his real self to show up in the room.
This is the thing. We all need a still, safe space. In our crazy western culture, we rarely slow down or get out of the maze and noise of our busy lives, long enough to get in touch with what’s really going on with our day-to-day existence. We rarely stop and ask ourselves about the things in our lives that may no longer be working. We all need a good pause. The good news is this – when we finally do slow down and open up our senses, new understanding comes to us that we have trouble accessing during the hustle of our daily routines. It is only in this still place that we can find some clear perspective and consider solutions to our problems. With full perspective and truth we can then begin to move forward towards a new vision for our life.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Vision comes later. Pain is often the thing that shows up first. Pain is that needling driver telling us that it’s time to make some sort of change. My highly successful attorney-client sitting with me happens to be in considerable pain, though I’m optimistic for him. I know his pain is the very thing that can motivate him to set a new course – the road to remarkable change and transformation.
We sit quietly together and he considers an offer I have just made. This is no small moment. He is about to make a choice – either to take a step back towards “the way things are” – that familiar place where it feels deceptively safe and comfortable. Or to take one small step towards trust where he can explore the answers to some important questions – What now? Where am I headed? What will bring more meaning and purpose to my life? Committing to step out into these questions is called courageous living – his own personal heroes journey, awaits.
He looks up from his thoughts and I recognize the look on his face – a look that says he’s craving deeper insight and answers – the man in the impeccable blue suit is ready to be inspired!