One of the primary drivers behind clients hiring a coach is often that of achieving goals faster and more efficiently. Coaching is certainly effective toward that end, but it is in the process of evolving that we really come alive. Goals almost always help to evolve us, as we push ourselves beyond our current situation, knowledge or limits. One of the strongest benefits of coaching is in having a partner in your evolution.
I have a long-term executive coaching client whose purpose in working is clear: it is to evolve himself as a human being. He achieves many financial and tangible “success milestones” along the way, but true success is in who we become. As we grow, other goals fall in step. Without personal growth, material goals can feel empty in meaning.
How we interact with people is perhaps the best saw available to hone our development. Friends, business associates, partners, and strangers present us with constant opportunities to choose who we are at this moment, and who we want to become. All of us have a Smaller Self and a Bigger Self. You know what I’m talking about! The Bigger Self is the one we’re really proud of. It’s the one who is able to rise above self-centeredness. You feel this when you are able to truly “be there” (with no agenda) for another person, when you volunteer for a greater good, or contribute to a charity meaningful to you, when you smile or help or speak with a stranger and make their day a little lighter. It’s kindness, larger purpose, and gratitude for what we’re able to give and be.
The Smaller Self is the one that derails us – in relationships, business, and just day-to-day living. The Smaller Self wears the sign on her back that says, “It’s All About Me.” There’s not enough time for all the things we need to do that feed our ego and the illusion of control, and we feel scarcity everywhere. This triggers selfishness and self-centeredness, as the scarcity makes us feel like we’re constantly fighting a battle. Instead of gratitude, we complain, find fault and make excuses.
All of us have this Smaller Self inside us. How we evolve is by recognizing when the Smaller Self is taking charge, and then consciously shifting to our Bigger Self. A tremendous sense of relief comes with the realization that it’s not all about us after all, that we’re just a small piece of a huge tapestry. The organizational challenges of work, or say, getting ready for the holidays, fall back into perspective. Discussing with your executive or life coach what triggers the appearance of your Smaller Self is a great platform from which to create change.
How can we consciously effect this shift? The holiday season presents wonderful opportunities to practice. Most of us will socialize more during the holiday season. This means we get many, many people with whom to practice! Think about it – friends and family at parties or on phone calls, business associates who may be trying to get our attention when we want to be relaxing, or those who are relaxing when we feel they ought to give us their attention; people we want to be with or connect with, who may or may not meet our expectations; people in a rush doing their shopping or dashing to the post office; people with expectations about gifts, cards, time, tips or invitations. What a rich smorgasbord with which to work on your evolution!
Here are ten practical steps to be your Bigger Self, more often:
1. Be an observer of yourself – pay attention to what part of you shows up, when.
2. Imagine someone you admire handling a situation. Do it that way.
3. If you were to watch yourself on videotape tomorrow, with all of your friends, family and colleagues there to watch as well, how would that shape your behavior today during the filming?
4. Can you be grateful for the interactions you have, even the difficult ones? Can you go to a place of “what can I learn from this” instead of “this stinks for me?”
5. How genuine can you be, the ultimate mastery of the art of balancing your Bigger Self with your own personal needs and desires?
6. Can you be honest about Small Self stuff with your coach, and be ready to act in different ways?
7. How is your sense of peace? Are you agitated and stressed vs. happy, grateful and eager to participate? Make a conscious choice.
8. When you have conversation, can you share about yourself and truly care and be interested in the other person?
9. Can you find interest and accomplishment with who you are and who you are becoming this holiday season, vs. what you are doing, and how much you are doing?
10. Can you shift from how much you “have to get done” to enjoying how much you want to do and get to do?
One of life’s greatest ironies is when having the chance to do wonderful things – like spending social time with friends or family, being wanted and needed by a friend, colleague or a life partner, going to a dog show or a company party, working on a high profile project for work, shopping for and wrapping holiday gifts or sending cards to people we want to know we care – becomes a source of angst instead of joy. That’s Small Self stuff all wrapped up with a bow! When that happens, I hope you’ll see red flags and hear sirens everywhere, which will remind you that you have a choice – that of your Bigger Self. Choose that joy! And have a peaceful, joyful holiday season, and success on all levels in the coming year. I appreciate all of you!
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