… and why you might too!
Hi there, I’m John. I’m a coach. But that’s not what this is about.
This is about me loving being coached.
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I’ve always been pretty self-reliant, and certainly since I discovered music and drumming when I was about 15, pretty well motivated. I read some books around the same time (thanks again to my drum teacher and mentor) that pointed me in the direction of taking responsibility for how I thought and felt. (Thanks Geoff!!!)I got absolutely fascinated by self-coaching and ‘self-help’ type books and ideas. Maybe even slightly obsessed.
I’ve also always been fortunate to have a really good group of people around me, friends and mentors who had the best in mind for me and would support and push me when I needed it. Some people that gave great advice, but a few that could ask really really good questions. I read the books, tried the stuff out, went to courses, and watched speakers. I had help if I wanted it, but I mainly got it together myself, and it all worked brilliantly…
… and then one day, whilst on a week-long ‘Licensed Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ training at a hotel in London, I was doing some work with a partner on the course, examining this particular way of dealing with old, ‘back ground’ type feelings. I couldn’t think of anything to pull out of the bag for this one, I didn’t think I had anything like that. But I found something from the past I thought I had pretty well dealt with, it didn’t really bother me. As my partner worked through I experienced the most extraordinary feeling of change I had ever felt (thanks Joey) and after it was actually a little bit shaken up. We went for lunch and I had to take a few minutes to myself to settle before the next session. After doing that, I was quite euphoric. That metaphor of the weight being taken off your shoulders? That’s the best description I have for it. A burden I honestly didn’t know I was carrying.
… and this happened at a training session!
That is the moment when things changed for me. I realised that actually, great though the results you could get doing things by yourself were, having someone else there to catch all the unconscious signals and things you just can’t be aware of yourself, makes a HUGE difference. Having someone else work with you could lead to even more dramatic results with these skills than I had been getting before.
That’s when I started to realise there was nothing to brag about doing myself, when I could get bigger results faster, by enlisting skilled help.
So with a lot of the following things, it’s true I’d have figured something out sooner or later.
It’s not just about the speed of getting to ‘the answer’ though, It’s also the quality of the answer you get to, which I know for certain has been greatly improved for me by working with a coach.
It’s also funny writing about these things in retrospect, because these days none of these types of things are really a problem anymore, and trying to remember exactly what it was like when it was a problem is sometimes quite difficult. (What a shame…)
I’ve had coaching on loads more stuff than this, in fact, I get coached regularly. (Have I mentioned that I love it?!)
But here’s some specific examples of things I’ve been coached on and how it helped.
They’re not in chronological order and represent challenges from different points in my life since I started getting coached, rather than one sequential programme.
1. I had loads of ideas for getting my new project going, but just couldn’t seem to get anywhere.
I’d always been pretty good at coming up with ideas, maybe that’s to do with having been a professional drummer for so long, being used to improvising.
Anyway, I’d come up with a massive poster sized brain splurge I was constantly adding to of things I could do with my newly developing skills. I’d even started running workshops in stress busting for school staff. It had gone well, but it turns out that I was trying to sell something to people who didn’t think they needed it. Time to pivot.
Now I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I think I was just overwhelmed trying to make ‘the right choice’ of direction this time around.
So I started doing a lot of thinking and reading, a lot of things around the edges to help me decide, but I wasn’t actually committing to a new way forward. I knew I wasn’t taking as much action as I could, and I knew what I wanted from the project ultimately, I wanted a new career, but in truth, I was a bit confused about what exactly I was trying to do with that new career.
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I WAS STUCK.
I really wanted to figure it out myself, I thought I should be able to, and that actually it was important that I did. But, something was missing from my thinking and I had no idea what it was. I realised it was time to do something different, and actually make some progress!
And then I remembered:
That’s what coaching is.
It would be me working it out, it’s just there would be someone there to catch some things that might need questioning, check blind spots, challenge assumptions and help me figure out what was missing from my thinking. So, I finally took it to a coaching session. As soon as I booked the session, I felt a little shift. I felt like a weight had already been lifted.
In the session, my coach and I first figured out what I actually wanted.
After some gentle but precise questioning, not letting me off the hook if I started telling the story of my challenge, we figured out that although relaxation and stress management workshops would no doubt be part of what I could offer, my real purpose and passion lay in working one to one and in small groups. My real passion was in coaching individuals and groups. Not just teaching, but coaching.
We then went through a process where I picked up a bunch of insights during the journey about the kinds of people I really enjoyed working with. The kinds of challenges I was most interested in.
As we continued to talk, I would describe the process as like moving from overwhelm to a tangible crystalline clarity, that I had never had about this work before.
Even though I was actually being more focused and making decisions, I felt like the possibilities for things I could do, the size of game I could play had been blown wide open.
I walked out of the session feeling energised, focussed, excited about the possibilities AND with a plan to get started… That plan is still serving me well.
Thank you, coach!
2. I wanted to look after myself better, and had all the tools to do it, I used to have a really good routine, but I’d somehow fallen out of it…
Since I was about 17, I’ve been aware of the importance of having some kind of ‘be a good version of me’ type routine. I’d discovered meditation and then later, NLP whilst learning to play the drums as a teenager, and as soon as I started practicing meditation I loved the profound effect it had on me.
At Christmas 2020, I decided I was going to take 2 weeks completely off, I wasn’t going to do anything I didn’t have to unless it occurred to me naturally, and I was just going to relax and take a break. It was wonderful, relaxed the whole time, and didn’t really feel any NEED to meditate or take charge of my state on purpose. And that was fine.
However, after my little break finished and I started working and dealing with the normal challenges, I didn’t start the ‘looking after me’ stuff again.
And that was fine.
For a while.
And then for the first time in at least 20 years, I started to see and feel times where I’d rather be in a different state, but I chose not to do anything about it. For me, this rang some alarm bells.
Which I promptly ignored.
Fast forward a few weeks and I just wasn’t me, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t being unpleasant to anyone around me, but I just didn’t feel like me. Fortunately, I already had a coaching session booked, so I took this (admittedly vague) problem with me.
Really quickly my coach and I worked out that what I wanted was to get back to my old self, and that meant in a tangible sense was get back to doing the routines that worked for me, including meditation and taking charge of my state and how I was feeling.
So we talked about what had been stopping me, which it turns out was sort of malaise about my general life situation (lockdown was a strange time!) and I realised I just needed to relax and start to get a little more excited about things again.
My coach got me to vividly imagine how I wanted to feel and be responding to the world, the kinds of things I’d be doing IF I felt good and was back into my normal habits. Just imagining it started to make me feel differently. I could already feel the good feelings I’d been missing.
That little glimpse of that better way of being, that little taste of what it could be like was enough for me. With my coach, I worked out what I needed to do and when to make sure I got back into the good habits from that day and on into the future. My coach also asked me to stay in touch over the next week to check in and see if I needed any more support on the matter. I was happy to do this, as every day there was a self care triumph to report.
I’m happy to report that as with the other examples in this series, the habits and insights I got from this session have stuck with me, and continue to serve me well. It feels great to be back to living how I like to live on the inside. Things in the outside world might appear up and down, but my inner life is steady and happy.
3. I had noticed I thought about a colleague in unusually harsh terms…
… (for me, I pretty much like everyone.)
He, I thought, was extremely bad at his job, and he didn’t seem to care that he was so incompetent. He would send condescending emails full of errors and create extra work for those of us trying to work with him. In fact, at several important moments, he just failed to do the required work at all, which meant those of us around him either missed out on being paid for work or at the very least were inconvenienced. Whenever an email came in from that job, my brain would automatically start criticizing and making jokes about him, before I’d even read the email. I noticed that although it didn’t make me angry, in fact often I would laugh about it, I thought I could probably have a better attitude to the situation, and towards that individual.
So I took it to a coaching session…
In the session, my coach led me through an exercise where I had to not only deeply examine my own thoughts and feelings about the situation, but I had to meaningfully get into what my ‘unhelpful colleague’ could be experiencing. Now, at first, this felt a bit like guess work, but as I really made an effort to think about what MIGHT be happening for the other person, I reminded myself about a few things that I actually knew WERE happening. Not just guesses or intuition. Guiding my mind more sympathetically in their direction brought up things I’d heard them saying over recent months that actually did help explain some of their behavior.
As I did this, I felt a lot more sympathetic towards him, and I gained some insight into how to deal with the situation better and what might help them.
Then, my coach had me look at the situation through the eyes of an impartial observer. At first finding someone to play that role was a little tricky, but once I’d selected someone, and looked at both my (John’s) behavior and that of my unhelpful colleague through the eyes of someone impartial, I started to laugh.
My unhelpful colleague was actually doing the best they could, in a job they didn’t ask for, in a situation that was inherently difficult to manage. My unhelpful colleague had different values to me, for him, his family was his highest priority, and although that was sometimes inconvenient for me, I couldn’t say that I thought it was wrong. Actually, there was probably a lot I could do to help just by slightly tweaking the way I responded to them. If I could be even more light hearted about it, then dealing with the issues we shared might not be such a terrifying and off putting thing for my (formerly…) unhelpful colleague.
That experience (seeing it from an observer’s view) re-enforced some of the insights I’d already arrived at, and also reminded me that when I observed my own contribution to the situation, that I was already dealing with it fine, and that there wasn’t really a problem – but yes, the tweaks in approach I’d discovered would have a positive impact for everyone.
My coach then helped me figure out that what I wanted was to spend even less energy thinking about the situation, even when things went wrong. It was also a job that I had run out of enthusiasm for, and whilst ultimately it was time to move on, there was no reason not to enjoy my life and even my time doing that work. Why would I choose to be down on it if I didn’t have to be?! (See number 4.)
Most importantly, I didn’t need to take the situation so seriously.
In the following weeks, I started to enjoy my interactions with that person. I didn’t need it to be as ‘professional’ as I had done before, I was more comfortable accepting the realities of that working relationship.
4. I really hated part of my work…
There was one small part of my work that I’d been doing for a long time, that had actually served me very well over the years, that I had developed a really unhelpful and unhealthy set of feelings towards. What’s worse, is that over the course of years I was aware of it and actively made it worse in the way I thought about it, even though I knew what I was doing!
I’d managed to condense that work down into one day, and used to just sort of grin and bare it.
In a coaching session about something else, it occurred to me that actually, why wouldn’t I choose to have more fun doing that work? At that time I wasn’t in a position to easily stop doing it, so why wouldn’t I do something to make it better?
SO! I took it to my next coaching session.
Initially, I thought my goal was just to enjoy this work more, and it turned out there were a couple of reasons I hadn’t done anything about it already.
I’d been reducing the amount of this work I did, and ultimately I wanted to stop doing it all together. Part of me thought I needed to hate it so that I’d work to move on to something else.
Also, after some further prompting from my coach, it became clear that I resented the feeling of ‘having’ to do it.
My coach asked me if I’d be prepared to try doing things differently, safe in the knowledge that if I didn’t like enjoying my life more I could always go back to being resentful and angry about it…
… obviously, I said yes let’s go for it.
I went through a process that examined in detail when and where the problem would occur, what my role / ‘inner’ thought processes tended to be, then what I believed about the situation, what I believed about ME in the situation, and what some of my beliefs more broadly might be that could be affecting it. It turned out (as it always does) that I had a clear method to make myself unhappy about the work. It would start by me groaning to myself in my head, speaking to myself in a heavy way, thinking about how tired I would be, and literally imagining the work being unfulfilling. NO WONDER I WOULD END UP FEELING BAD.
As I’ve said a few times, I think of myself as being quite self aware, aware of how and what I’m thinking. But this pattern was completely unconscious, and when my coach helped uncover it so clearly, I had to laugh…
Then some real magic started to happen, we expanded my thinking and explored some big questions. What did I want beyond just feeling better about this work? I discovered some aspects of my purpose (yeah, as in purpose in life! Be brave…) that meant that work was totally acceptable, in fact, I was grateful to have it, but having that gratitude didn’t have to stop me from moving towards things that might be even better or more fulfilling.
As I gathered up these insights, I also realised that not only was it fine for me to ‘not hate’ that work, it was actually of course way better for me to actively find ways to have more fun with them. This would mean the period of time before that work wasn’t spent dreading the work when I could be enjoying or productively working (OR BOTH) on something else. And it meant I could quickly move onto something else after doing the less desirable work, and wouldn’t have to ‘write off’ the rest of that day to recover. I could just bounce into the next thing I really wanted to do.
In the weeks that followed, I set aside a small amount of time before each of those days of work to create a fun mood, or state, to work from. One that brought to the fore all my enthusiasm, fun, organisation, creativity and motivation.
… the work gets done a lot quicker and with better energy now, and I’m building up other stuff faster, and soon I will have the choice to simply stop doing that work, without losing income or security or any of the other things that work gave me.
5. I really wanted to make time for creative work in my schedule, but just wasn’t doing it…
I really enjoyed creative work. I knew that it was worthwhile and that it felt important. I knew that I was a creative person. I knew that a lot of the challenges I was facing needed an injection of that kind of thinking. But I wasn’t doing it! Even though I had the time! I also had no idea why I wasn’t doing it, no idea what was stopping me (if anything) or what could be in the way. It just wasn’t happening.
As you’ll have guessed by this point… I took it to a coaching session!
As I talked it through with my coach, I started to realise how a big part of me had been ‘missing’ whilst I wasn’t doing creative work. I remembered how much I enjoyed creating and doing music stuff. I begin to build an image of me doing it and enjoying it, growing from it on a regular basis.
After further questions, it came out that one of the things that had stopped me was thinking EVERYTHING in my schedule needed to be a daily activity.
What would happen if I promised myself a creative slot two or three times a week? Could I schedule that in without interfering with my existing balance and work? Yes, it turned out I could.
This might seem like a very small thing, but to me it was huge.
I had for a long time been thinking about the ‘micro’ of my routine, what was important for me to do every day, and of course, once I’d scheduled a fairly small number of daily things, alongside things that I had less choice in the scheduling of, it became overwhelming to try and fit more into each day.
I could operate exactly as I wanted on say, a Thursday when I didn’t have scheduled meetings or events, but how about a Wednesday when I would leave the house at 6 am and get back at 7 pm?
In the session, I realised I wanted to reduce the number of things I had to do daily and start to think more in terms of weekly activities in my scheduling.
This opened up a lot of space in my thinking, and instantly relieved a lot of pressure, I realised I did in fact have the time I needed to do and make progress with all of the different things that were important to me. I just needed to take a look at the situation using the frame of a week, rather than a day. As I thought about doing that, I saw myself enjoying being creative with other aspects of my work that I was already doing. AND LOVING IT.
I could be creative, and experience and express a similar feeling to when I was making music in all kinds of other situations. Writing blog posts? Creative. Designing handouts? Creative.
Like with my insight into my weekly scheduling, that little switch, realising I was being creative in a variety of ways and actually could enjoy that NOW was huge!
Thanks for reading
I hope those little snippets have given you a taste for why being coached has been such a powerful thing for me in my life and my growth. I’ll keep being coached now, on a regular basis, and actively look for things where a second pair of ears (and eyes…) might help.
The more coaching I get, the more I’m amazed at the power of it, the scope of the changes possible, and also the sheer fun of making progress and having a space to think out loud, with someone who REALLY knows how to get the best out of me. Someone who is caring, but also knows when to push to get more out of me when they can tell I’ve held back.
I hope that you will have the chance to experience some of this for yourself, and that if you have had coaching before that you are reminded of the power of it.
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