What does it take to move you to action? In some ways, that is the heart of coaching. People hire coaches because they want to get into gear. They want to move forward with their hopes and dreams, their plans and priorities, their values and commitments. If you are not moving forward as you would like, if you are procrastinating, agonising, or fearing the worst, then perhaps it’s time to take just one step. Read on if you want to learn how.
Once we know what we want in Work / Life Balance, we begin to experience a gap. There is a gap between where we are now and where we want to be. There may be a gap in things like how much money, time or happiness we have. These things lie just on the other side of the gap. Knowing what to do and feeling good about doing it, can be our biggest challenge in crossing the gap.
We may be torn between enjoying our success and work, and wanting to spend more time with our family. We may be torn between wanting to change careers and not knowing how, so we remain where we are. Being torn between two things is a central challenge in Work / Life Balance.
The truth is that we all struggle to cross the gap sometimes. We all experience being torn between two things. And sometimes no matter how much we want to or need to move forward, we are unable to. Sometimes the gap is too large to cross for risk of falling into it.
In this issue, we stand at the edge of the gap and ponder ways of bridging the gap. Our goal is to explore ways to find a bridge that will allow us to take one first step that is right for us. This step is not a running jump over our gap. Instead, it is finding a stepping stone and taking one step onto it.
To do this, we have to buy into two crucial ideas: Idea #1: We are the only one who can choose the right stepping stone, and Idea #2: We are the only one who can take that one step. No one can take it for us. Others may walk beside us or even walk ahead of us to show the way, but no one can force us. Only we can take that one step onto our stepping stone.
So, how do we know when we have found a stepping stone? It feels like one of those “Aha!” moments. There is a physical release of energy, a sense of relief, followed by an exciting desire to move forward. There may still be some doubt, but there is enough excitement and energy to try it.
To get closer to that exciting desire to move forward, we need to start by changing something. As the old saying goes, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” The great news is that it doesn’t matter what changes. Our lives are like interconnected systems. Changing one thing in the system causes the whole system to change. Like changing a cog in an engine system, more fuel is burned, more stress is put on some parts and less on others. A cascade of changes occurs in the system.
A change to the system doesn’t have to be huge. Rather than changing an entire step in the launch sequence of the space shuttle, just changing a piece of foam insulation can change the whole system of the space shuttle. It is the same with our lives. By changing just one thing, the system can never be the same. It must be different.
We can use the concept of changing the system in infinite ways to find our stepping stone. Maybe it is getting up earlier. Maybe it is reacting differently to a regular event. Perhaps it means wearing a different piece of clothing. It does not have to be huge. And it does not have to make complete sense. If it does, we compromise discovering something new and have effectively “fixed” the results.
The scientific process of discovering a stepping stone is to perform an experiment. We can use this approach with fantastic results. If we try an experiment and it doesn’t work, we measure, learn and try another experiment using the parts that worked. This is the difference between having a Perfection Mentality and having a Discovery Mentality.
A Perfection Mentality is a win or lose mentality. Mistakes are not tolerated. Any action is either right or wrong. There is always blame, but little encouragement to learn what happened so we can take another chance. Many of us gravitate toward a Perfection Mentality because experience teaches us that many things don’t work out the first time. So we stick to what we know. And if we haven’t learned this for ourselves, the people around us try to protect us from failure. These experiences, if unquestioned by us, teach us not to risk it anymore. We stay stuck with what we know, even if it doesn’t work!
A Discovery Mentality is never stuck, because it never ends. There is no winning and losing, only winning and learning. With discovery, the pressure is off and we can’t help but learn. New learning takes us to new places and moves us forward. Discovery usually contains some fun and a sense of play. Discovery seeks to learn what works. It is not satisfied with the reasons why something cannot work, but is more interested in possibility.
If you want to try a Discovery Mentality, try picturing a scorecard. Any scorecard will work, a Baseball Scorecard, Golf Scorecard, a Corporate Balanced Scorecard, or some other. What do all scorecards have in common? Most sports coaches take delight in reminding us that, “There is no room on the scorecard for a story!” I find this little truth sobering when I am complaining about a bad game of golf!
But if scorecards have no room for a story, then there is no room for trying to be perfect about how we get the score. As long as we observe the rules of the game, we can happily try different ways to get the ball in the hole.
Tiger Woods sometimes chips with a 3-wood. Many people originally thought this was odd, but the first time he tried it in the 1996 U.S. Open he holed the shot. What happened? His experiment worked. Does he care if his experiment is judged as perfect? I don’t think so. He is after the result, the stepping stone that will bridge the gap between his current reputation and his future reputation in the record books. His search for new ways to get results is endless; his results speak for themselves. Regardless of Tiger’s so-called slumps, the record books, that are his scorecard, are trending toward greatness.
The important thing is to build on our strengths by taking small risks and finding what works. Then using that stepping stone to find the next until the gap is narrow enough to make the crossing.
When we let go of perfection and embrace discovery, we become open to the possibility of trying new ways and finding our stepping stones. But how do we recognise a stepping stone among all the static? We can use our inborn radar.
Our inborn radar is called our Reticular Activator System (RAS). Our RAS is the part of our brain that heightens our awareness of certain things. Do you remember the last time you bought a new car and started seeing cars just like yours everywhere you went? This is your RAS at work. And we can use it to find new ways to bridge the gap.
With our RAS tuned in, we start becoming receptive to Life’s messages. Life has a way of sending us messages until we listen. If we miss a message, Life will send it again. Each time the message is sent, the volume gets a little louder. Sometimes we miss Life’s messages for so long, we are whacked in the side of the head and forced to change. We experience this in many ways like health scares, job loss, marriage failure, and all kinds of opportunities that Life was trying send us. “Tuning in” is how we recognise the stepping stones when they appear.
We “tune in” by getting clear about where we are and where we want to be. We can do this on our own, or with help. And when a stepping stone initially comes, it may be in the form of noticing a book, an article in a magazine, something someone says that is unrelated, or something deep inside that we already know.
With our RAS tuned in, we must evaluate the stepping stones by using a simple technique to ponder them and find an “Aha!”. There are many techniques for “thinking through” things, and we all have our favourites.
One way is to use what’s called the Decisional Balance: two columns, “For” and “Against,” where we weigh up all of the good things and bad things about an idea. While doing this, it is possible to have an “Aha!” moment about the current idea or a completely different idea. Alternately, we may discard it and move on to the next idea.
When you are ready to search for your “Aha!” moment, try combining the ideas mentioned here. Get what you want in mind, be patient, and have some fun with these ideas:
- Set your intention. Give some thought to where you are and where you want to be (you may have done this throughout our series).
- Decide to change something small in your system
- Remove some pressure by trying a Discovery Mentality.
- Treat it as an experiment. Be open to possibility
a. Write down things that don’t work (and stop doing them)
b. Write down things that do work (and do them).
- Tune your RAS to receive Life’s messages.
- Evaluate the stepping stones using simple methods.
- Go back and try it again when you are ready. Give it some cycles.\
Crossing the gap is possible on our own. It can be challenging, but it is from within that we find the stepping stones to make the crossing. Sometimes we will need the professional help of a coach or other trusted person who will not “tell” us what we should do, but will walk beside us while we find our stepping stone on our own. The important thing is to be ready and then willing to take our one step.
Coaching Inquiries: Crossing the gap is about risk. When was the last time you took a small risk to improve your Work / Life Balance? How many messages have you missed lately? What could you change in your own system to experiment with results? How will you take one step?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.
You response to last week’s reader reply about podcasting LifeTrek Provisions • “What a terrific suggestion. Thanks! We’ll look into the logistics of making it happen in the near future.” • left a lot to be desired. “Making it happen”? What happed to those good German gutturals like “we’ll do it,” period! “Near future?” In the same issue with SMART goals! I’d have expected better. My take on “near future” could be translated “when pigs fly”!
So here would be my answer: Terrific! We don’t know everything. We’ll have to learn about podcasting. If it makes sense, we’ll do it. Thanks for teaching us something. We can all learn for each other.
BTW, I have replaced my commute time radio with podcasts of free talk live about political freedom and IT conversations about new ideas in various ways. I used this new technology to turn Quadrant IV time into Quadrant I. I now actually look forward to my commute as a learning time.
Let me know, if you want me to babble on more about podcasting. Now, get back in there and keep giving good poop. We won’t dwell further on this one let down. 😉 (Ed. Note: You got me there! It does make sense and my SMART goal is to start podcasting at least some Provisions with the next series.)
Thanks a lot for all the good info and sharings!!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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