Monday, May 25, 2009

The Coaching Life

This Memorial Day has yielded an unexpected, indeed memorable outpouring of integrated insights. I love when that happens...and I notice how one season of insights gradually leads to another, further opening the door toward making holistic sense of life...usually after you've hit a "rut" and things do not make sense for a while and you have to keep stretching and growing and learning through disappointments and successes.

While walking through the woods with my family this morning, I was pondering my constant internal struggle between the vocational life I lead and the creative potential I long to fulfill. I often pit my full-time work against my part-time writing, a false opposition easily reinforced by the surrounding culture and one that can plague most artists. Exhausted by so many years of this battle (a John divided against himself cannot stand!), I was open to an alternative way of looking at things.

And finally, in the woods today, I began to discern how a dynamic I am calling "The Coaching Life" can serve as a hub that synthesizes seven key spheres of my being and doing and demolishes false dichotomies.

As soon as we arrived home I grabbed a small note card and began scribbling furiously, attempting--visual learner that I am--to diagram the emerging insights so that I could make sense of them. I then took my very rough sketch and re-drew it inside of the small journal I carry around for creative moments, and hope to soon design a PowerPoint slide that refines it with more precision.

Essentially, here is my vision for "The Coaching Life":

First, I would define coaching as a facilitative process that helps generate new insights which lead to new thinking, culminating in different behaviors and, usually, different and better results or performance. Although I am a professionally certified coach and make a living primarily through coaching business leaders, I believe we all have the potential to coach ourselves and others in some manner if we are intentional.

To fully embrace "The Coaching Life" for personal and professional application, however, one must tap into what I have learned is best termed "the creative unconscious." This is simply raw energy within the brain that we often cut off or lose touch with because of so many distractions. Psychologist Carl Jung called it the "collective unconscious" or "self," while Freud called it the "superego," "libido" or "id," and religions often refer to it as God or particular names for God.

The creative unconscious seeks to reveal hidden truth to us, guiding us along a path of cycles to help us realize our full potential. It guides us as we coach ourselves and others, and helps us to grow in wisdom and practice as we interact with these seven key spheres of living I have identified. Identifying and leveraging our strengths, along with becoming disciplined in healthy rituals, deepen our chances of satisfaction and enjoyment in each of these spheres.

The most melodious symphonies to be heard take place when all the key spheres of your life are "sounding together." The spheres (alphabetized for organizational purposes only, because they are all top priorities) are Art, Learning, Recreation, Relationships, Service, Spirit and Work.

Art: This includes all of the creative expressions that we often were engrossed in as children but too frequently gave up as we "grew up." Some continue to embrace them, as writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, potters, etc. Personally, I am a professional writer and enjoy writing books, blogs, articles, marketing copy, scripts and so forth. In any artistic pursuit, there are opportunities to coach oneself toward new insights and to coach others as well. Dissect any quality work of art, and you will tap into some specific epiphany that helps you push through a barrier that has stood in your way. The best art teems with coachable takeaways.

Learning: This flows through endless forms, whether reading, taking a course, walking in nature, traveling, sitting at the feet of a mentor or teacher, or being formally coached. The forms are too exhaustive to list here. But as we learn, we are coaching ourselves and have the chance to coach others when we share or apply the learning.

Recreation: I lump exercise, leisure, play, fun, partying, dancing, vacationing, celebrating and many other forms under this particular umbrella. The rush of a good sweat or a great party or night out on the town--again, if viewed with intention, this can lead to coachable insights for us and the people we touch.

Relationships: Some people at work tell me I am always in coach mode. And this is mostly true. It is hard not to be, once you begin to assume the coaching life identity. Family, friends, business colleagues, former strangers you meet on airplanes--from each you have insights to glean and to each you have insights to facilitate as you allow more and more of the creative unconscious to permeate and integrate your life and being.

Service: Involvement in the community in some aspect that betters the human condition, fosters stewardship of the environment, promotes peace or dialogue, and so forth...again, these are flowing with moments of insights for yourself and others.

Spirit: This is the simple term I am applying to that key aspect of ourselves that seeks to connect with a higher power of our own naming or lack of naming. "Spiritual formation" might be another phrase I would use here. As we pray, meditate, worship, study, etc., we are allowing the creative unconscious to nourish our spirits and generate powerful new insights. We surrender to spirit and are coached in the process, equipping us to coach others.

Work: Any vocation you embrace bears the seeds of coaching yourself and others. There are moments throughout the day to learn and teach, whatever the task or skill set or product at hand. I happen to work full-time as a coach, consultant and trainer, and so I am quite deliberately seeking to coach others in all that I do on the job. And I learn so much from each person I coach as well, generating more insights that further shape my thinking and lead me to modify my behavior toward stronger performance.

I am energized and freed by this integrated approach, a "2.0 version" of a keynote I did for a while called "The Intentional Life." This former keynote, and the self-branding that resulted, launched in mid-2004. Across the past five years I have learned and experienced many things and met so many more individuals. No one wineskin lasts forever, so my holistic models are always evolving; things get added or tossed out. We are constantly being nudged out of our comfort zones as we grow in consciousness and tap into more and more of our latent potential.

"The Coaching Life" is for anyone willing to embark on the adventure of letting the creative unconscious come to full flower. Only a handful will actually be "paid" for coaching others, but the flow of coaching one's self and others is at hand for those open to the insights that are available at this very hour.


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