When I sat down to write this blog today, I had several ideas swirling in my head, and so I decided to pull an Oracle card from Colette Baron-Reid’s deck “The Enchanted Map.” The card I got is pictured above Into the Unknown, and the upshot is that trust and willingness to admit I don’t know this new territory are needed as I move forward. Bingo – every day right now feels like this for me, a perfect thing to write about!
When I got into coaching, many pieces of it felt “known” to me. I had trained as a therapist, and had lots and lots of experience working with people, listening to them, identifying their strengths, zeroing in on problems. I had hired my own coach, who helped me change my life and I modeled a lot of how I practiced in the beginning on how I experienced her and what I already “knew.” I felt like I was doing a pretty darn good job, I could connect the dots for people, show them another perspective, and guide them towards solutions and changes they could make to help them feel better and move in a different direction.
When I entered into a coach training program a couple of years ago (amazing program with Invite Change, highly recommended), I realized that “knowing” and thinking that “I know” were actually impediments to my being a great coach. I have an incredibly analytical and quick mind, it’s a quality that helped me be successful in graduate school, earn my Ph.D., and have people want to hire me afterwards. This quick mind can see what is going on, can see other pathways and other perspectives, and wants to share it, to make everything better. So what is the problem with that? Why is that an impediment, and obstacle, a challenge really to my truly being in service to my clients, to their highest good? What I learned was that this mind itself isn’t the obstacle, my quick mind can certainly be in service by asking powerful questions and noticing what is being said and not said. The problem was that I felt that my value, and what clients expected of me was that I would connect the dots for them, that I would tell them what to do to help them to feel better.
When I entered that coaching program, I was constantly challenged to quiet that voice in my head that says “I know!” and to allow for not knowing, to be curious, to ask the powerful questions that would help the client come up with their own answer, their own connections, their own paths forward. The simple truth is, I may have connected the dots and found solutions, but what I came up with was never going to be as meaningful, as empowering, and as in alignment with who the client was deep inside as what they came up with for themselves. That understanding was both a relief, I could put down the responsibility for having the “right” answer, and a bit shattering – who was I if I didn’t “know?”
This shattering feeling led me to explore my need to get it right, to know already. As many of these things are, it was a deep exploration into my childhood, my school experiences, my incredibly mean first grade teacher whose main strategy with the children was humiliation and intimidation (I went to Catholic school, and most of my teachers were wonderful and interesting and loving, except this one). This exploration has been incredibly healing work, and through this I could see that the “have to get it right” concept was pervasive in most every area of my life, it’s more like a compulsion. Simply being aware of it, taking a breath, saying a prayer, and moving into the space of curiosity and saying “I don’t know, how about I ask?” has been an incredibly transformative process. In my coaching, my clients are more empowered, not at all dependent on me for answers, and our sessions are more energized and celebratory as they access more and more their own wisdom and creativity.
I am writing about it today, because again I am venturing into areas where actually I really know nothing, and those critical voices inside of me are none to happy – for them it is “if you don’t know it already, it’s not for you.” Written down, that looks silly, doesn’t it? And yet, it’s there, an old protective mechanism, trying to save me from looking stupid and being humiliated. The area I am walking into with both feet and eyes wide open is social media and building my business. In the past month, I’ve joined Pintrest, Instagram, and Mad Mimi (for a forthcoming newsletter) and tried to figure out how to use them for connecting to others. I know that I am still very much a novice and have so much to learn about using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for my business. Even this blog is really in its infancy. I am getting help, however, and switching up the old paradigm – do it all yourself, asking for help is dangerous – with a new one – having help and support is the only way this is going to fly.
The other part of walking in to the unknown is that I will be trying new things, taking risks, and failing sometimes (crap!). It feels very uncomfortable for me to say this: failure has to be an option. If I do not allow for failure, I won’t even try many things. As a parent, I’m getting used to saying to my daughter – I’m sorry about that, I thought it would help and it really didn’t. Simply saying that opens up entirely new lines of communication with her, creating a collaborative space. I am hoping for that here in this space too. As I try new things and sometimes fail (even epic failure) my intention is to admit it (yup, public failing!) and that you here or anyone else I’m connected to on social media can collaborate with me to create something mutually wonderful.
So after I pulled that Into the Unknown card, I decided to pull out one more, asking that it be a card to help me with going into the unknown. The card I pulled was Wide Open (pictured below), and the sentences that resonated with me were: Don’t remain small and contracted. Instead, expand your horizons beyond what you believe to be your limitations. And that is exactly what I am doing.
I will leave you with a video showing some amazingly successful people in their moments with big time failure.