I remember when I first opened up to the idea of letting someone into my life to take my personal development to the next level. It was 4 years ago. I had been going through a particularly difficult crossroad in my life and still fighting off a persistent nagging feeling that I had a deep purpose and calling to fulfil in this life. What that was I had no idea. All I knew was that I was on a sterling trajectory in the corporate world, a star job as the Strategy assistant to the CEO of Unilever, listed for directorship and absolutely knowing in my heart that I did not have any desire to be a CFO or even a multi-national CEO. Was I lazy; was I unambitious or just doomed to be abnormal? I did not have any answers to anything, only questions. All my life I had been fiercely independent, surrounding myself with self-mastery books and courses, always thinking that opening up to a third party to walk with me on that journey would be a sign of weakness and completely unnecessary.
#Lesson 1: Treat independence with an attitude of healthy balance. An overly ‘independent’ attitude taken to the extreme can hold us back in life. We are fundamentally interdependent and grow through and with each other.
Through the MBA, I met many leaders that I looked up to, highly successful and inspiring beings that were a world apart from the narrow confines of my corporate experience. What a surprise it was for me to learn that they all had a personal coach, and even at times sought therapy to help them to keep healing and growing. Not only were these beings highly-respected, and renowned leaders, but some of them were also leadership experts. It taught me the meaning of humility and helped me to realise that actually, when we are blocked by our egoic patterns, it can be difficult to look into ourselves honestly and clearly. Great leaders display humility and courage and are not afraid to seek assistance to maximise their growth potential, thereby helping them to lead others more effectively. I started to open up to the idea of investing in a coach and/or therapist to take my personal journey forward with, even if it meant doing so at my own personal cost. In fact, I was more drawn to the idea of leading my journey of personal development and not leaving it in the hands of my company. Having had an awful experience with a corporate coach who did not and could not display independence because he was being paid by, and had been chosen by the company, I decided that I wanted to be able to work with someone I could trust. And so I decided that not only would I have to find a way to go ahead with this if I was serious about my journey, but that my work was to provide accessible and affordable coaching for those like me, that were earnest about developing and growing holistically so as to shine their full potential in this life. And so my life purpose revealed itself and here we are. The point is that opening up my learning process instead of thinking that I could grow sufficiently in my own little world was the catalyst to my personal change.
#Lesson 2: We grow by investing energy. It is like a law of life. Just as seeds grow by the investment of sunshine, water and nutrients, so too if are to grow, must we be prepared to invest our energies of time, money, commitment, dedication, open heart, and pure intention so as to receive the fruit of our efforts.
Coaching can be difficult to define because every coach has a different level of spiritual maturity, philosophy, training and life experience, and I have experienced this personally in my own journey having been subject to some rather dubious coaches along the way. So rather than ask the question: Why can coaching be valuable for you, I will ask: Why can having the right independent, experienced personal development facilitator be an asset on your journey of self-mastery? For starters, unlike our friends and family, a good coach will reflect back to you with honesty and integrity, i.e., allow you to see what you need to see, rather than what you want to see. Often our close ones happily encourage us along in our blind spots to the detriment of our ability to develop. Sometimes, a clear intention to develop, and paying for that, can make us more receptive and less sensitive to difficult messages, with constructive clarity on how to work on ourselves.
#Lesson 3: Just as the little seed has to land in the right spot on the earth to receive what it needs to grow into a magnificent tree, make sure that you find the right coach.
How do we do this? Chemistry is a very personal thing and our requirements will vary. My personal checklist (others may have a different view) includes inter alia:
- Does the person have a high degree of spiritual intelligence (SQ)? Great leadership expert Stephen Covey describes SQ as the axis around which all the other intelligences (mental, physical and emotional) revolve. A high level of SQ will assure you of qualities such as integrity, trust, respect and intuitive wisdom. Note that spiritual understanding is embracing and inclusive, and very different to religious fundamentalism.
- Does the person have a strong professional qualification e.g. CA, engineer, MBA, doctor, etc.? This tends to demonstrate that such a person is likely to possess a level of discipline, professionalism and experience necessary to have achieved such a qualification. An undisciplined coach is unlikely to assist you to reach your full potential effectively. Professionally qualified individuals are also usually trained in and subject to, a professional code of ethics in their respective disciplines.
- Does the person have both a breadth and depth of both business and life experience? Again this gives us an idea as to the personal competencies of the coach such as emotional resilience, open-mindedness to new experiences, intellectual capacity, etc.
- What coaching training does the person have? Be aware that a coaching certification is not necessarily essential as anyone can “buy” one and still lack the first three qualities because coaching training cannot get you these. My favourite accounting term applies beautifully here: “substance over form”.
Always be guided by your inner wisdom described beautifully by the Sanskrit terms buddhi and vivek, mean higher intellect and discernment.
#Lesson 4: Some seeds just stay seeds forever, some stay as little saplings for a really long time and some grow stronger and develop steadily and quickly. Know yourself and be clear about your intention.
Deciding both whether coaching is for you and, really maximising your journey, requires a clear intention and firm commitment. In deciding whether coaching is for you, ask yourself these questions: What do I want for myself and my life? Am I a plodder or a grower? Am I happy being a seed or do I want to grow and discover my potential, risking discomfort to get there? How serious am I about my development and is my commitment strong enough to invest in myself and prioritise my growth? Am I prepared to really lead my life versus being driven along? Gandhi said: Be the change you wish to see in the world. Ask: Do I resonate with this philosophy?
The second part to this is around maximising your coaching journey and here clarity of intention plays a huge part. Define the desired outcome and then be prepared to invest in what is realistic to achieving that outcome, i.e., ensure that the frequency and duration of your coaching sessions are commensurate with your desired outcomes and stick to it. Irregularity and a lack of commitment will not grow the seed. Do the coaching homework. Believe in and be open to the process. Those that are committed to their coaching journeys and are willing to invest in themselves, gain tangible and swift progress.
Which brings us to the topic of procrastination, something that many of us struggle with. I won’t even attempt to write about it, because the blog links below (shared by a very delightful friend) are just so superb. Enjoy!
And so these are some reflections for this week. My intention in these blogs is to share insights with you that may be of assistance, opening you up to fully explore the path of leadership and self-mastery, sharing some of my personal experiences, and also useful material that comes my way with you. Have an inspiring week!
“The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”