Believing I could "make" everyone change -- if they would only listen!
by Heather Self
(Portland, Oregon, USA)
This heartfelt share from Heather, has some really valuable perspectives and tips in it for the new coach. Wendy
One of the hardest lessons I've learned over my nine years as a life coach is that, while I'm an expert on the materials and philosophies we teach at my current job (I work for Bill Harris at Centerpointe Research as a life coach), and I'm an expert on my own life (well...haha. At least I like to think so), I am not an expert on anyone else.
Just because I want someone to have the changes they say they and I believe in them -- I cannot do anything more than provide the client with more and more information. They have to want to make the changes. I can be encouraging and supportive -- but it's within them (and only them) to feel inspired to do the work. And only they can inspire themselves. I'm just a tool-giver. I cannot use those tools to bop them on the head to knock sense into them.
There are some people who think they want to change...but don't really. I've had to work hard at recognizing my true role in the client's life. The more I allow them to either use the tools they have in their own time and fashion...or not at all...is up to them.
I had to learn how to be engaged in the process, but not be attached -- how to be invested -- but not caught up in being the sole impetus for their change because I arrogantly thought that if they came to me/to Centerpointe, then I could "make" them change.
And I also had to learn how to not take it personally if I couldn't inspire them or they didn't make the shifts they said they wanted to make...even if they blamed me for their not changing.
The more I learned how to do this, I discovered the opposite began to happen -- it was as if by my creating a large space for them to be in, they had more room to breathe and look around. Their emails to me changed with far different voices and energy, as they also did when I spoke to them on the phone.
Does that always work? No. Do I ever feel disappointed when someone feels futile and like nothing is happening? Sure. Because I care about them -- but I've also learned not to carry. Do I still feel personally jabbed at when a client says it's my fault they aren't changing? Yes. But It lasts for a fraction of the time. I am able to practice non-attachment much better.
Do I feel the warmth and excitement when a client excitedly tells me about changes and results they're seeing? Oh -- absolutely! It's enormously rewarding, and I graciously accept their thanks -- but I also make certain to remind them THEY were the ones who instigated them. All I do is provide a flashlight for them to see, and they were the ones who chose to look and start sorting through everything.
I have been a life coach for nearly a decade, and I am still learning how to better my skills with people -- and I will continue to do so as every client is different from the one before. And that's the best part about my job -- the co-creation of learning that happens.
In the fitness world, there are what's known as "goats" -- things you always seem to butt up against and never quite get down as pat as you do other skills. The wanting to/believing I can "make" someone change if they'd just only hear me is one of mine.
Am I better at it? Yes. But because I do believe in everyone and I do want them to have all the happiness and all their dreams and goals that goat can sometimes get the better of me. When it does, all I can do is recognize I've gotten into that mode and shift gears and be okay with the fact it'll likely be baa-iing at me again at some point. It's not a fault -- just a part of me.
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