Everyone enjoys the spontaneity and curiosity of little children. We laugh and play along. So what happens to that joy as we grow older? It gets replaced with judgmental voices of what can and should be done. Unfortunately, those voices interfere with developing our full potential. It’s important, therefore, to learn how to set them aside in the service of natural learning. Then, and only then, will we become the change that we seek. This Provision shares a few stories on how to make it so.
Well, things are really getting interesting here in the United States of America. Whatever happens with the election this fall, history will be made in terms of two under-represented groups in the corridors of power: African Americans and women. It is ironic that the nation with the most powerful military in the world would also prove to be the most daring when it comes to who might control that military. We truly are a nation of laws more than guns.
As someone both witnessing and participating in the spectacle of what’s happening, I find myself stimulated by the drama’s curious and unexpected twists. Take the Democratic National Convention. My favorite moment took place on the first night, when Barack Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, grabbed the microphone in response to seeing a live video feed of her father at eye level and just a few feet away.
“Hi, daddy! ” she exclaimed, overriding Obama’s recognition of his wife’s speech. When he remarked how cute she looked, Sasha immediately took the compliment to heart. “Thank you! ” she exclaimed again, before greeting Obama’s host family, interrogating Obama as to what city he was in, and concluding, along with her sister Malia, with some heartfelt expressions of, “I love you daddy! “
You can watch the scene yourself by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i23QYFAIrvI. It is truly quite adorable.
What makes it remarkable is the authentic spontaneity of Sasha in a context so large and important where everything else was so scripted and controlled by Obama’s people. That, for me, was not only a breath of fresh air; it was also evidence of good home training and of the freedom we are born with as children. No one teaches us how to walk or talk; we figure such things out for ourselves. We get interested in something and go after it, with spontaneity and curiosity.
We don’t worry about failure; indeed, the whole concept of failure is foreign to our natural learning style. We don’t fail when we fall down, taking our first steps. We don’t fail when we babble our first sentences, learning both vocabulary and grammar. We just do our best, repeating whatever works and makes us happy. The whole experience is full of joy and wonder, at least until someone comes along and makes us miserable by pointing out all the things we are doing wrong.
So begins the voice in the head, as we learn to silence our natural spontaneity and curiosity in order to avoid embarrassing ourselves or worse. We start evaluating our own behavior as to whether or not it’s good or bad. We end up second guessing ourselves and doubting whether or not we can trust ourselves, our instincts, and our talents.
Don’t do that. Instead, learn and take heart from a simple analogy described by Tim Gallwey in his 1974 book, The Inner Game of Tennis:
“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as ‘rootless and stemless.’ We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear.”
“We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
“Similarly, the errors we make can be seen as an important part of the developing process. In its process of developing, our tennis game gains a great deal from errors. Even slumps are part of the process. They are not ‘bad’ events, but they seem to endure endlessly as long as we call them bad and identify with them. Like a good gardener who knows when the soil needs alkali and when acid, the competent tennis pro should be able to help the development of your game.”
“Usually the first thing that needs to be done is to deal with the negative concepts inhibiting the innate development process. Both the pro and the player stimulate this process as they begin to see and to accept the strokes as they are at that moment. The first step is to see your strokes as they are. They must be perceived clearly. This can be done only when personal judgment is absent. As soon as a stroke is seen clearly and accepted as it is, a natural and speedy process of change begins.”
By setting aside of the voice in the head regarding what and how things should be done, favoring, instead, a clear, nonjudgmental awareness of what and how things are being done, the change process begins because we unleash our spontaneity and curiosity. We end up returning to that place of natural learning where we simply do our best, repeat what works, and find our joy.
That, in fact, is what coaching is all about. It’s not giving people good advice or telling them what to do. It’s listening to people with a complete absence of judgment so they can begin to figure out what they want to do, what adjustments they want to make, and how they can make life more wonderful both for themselves and for others.
I think of coaching (thanks, in part, to the work of Tim Gallwey) as a great awareness conversation. We discover what’s actually happening, how people are feeling in the moment, and what wants to be happening in life and work. That discovery process is often enough to trigger the changes people seek. No instructions or incentives are required. The expanded awareness does all the heavy lifting.
So don’t be afraid to look. View whatever happens as fascinating bits of information that you can explore, play with, change, and develop. Make spontaneous, just-in-time adjustments. Then, and only then, will you grab the microphone and become the change that you seek.
Coaching Inquiries: How often do you walk around with judgmental voices in your head? What helps you to suspend judgment and to become aware of what’s actually happening? What’s your best experience of learning something new? How could you replicate that experience in other areas? Who could assist you along the way?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.
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, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
It is challenging to live from the perspective of the beautiful mosaic that you wrote about in yourlast Provision. It is indeed easier to be with people who think and look like me. Thanks for the challenge to go out of my comfort zone in order to connect deeply with people who are different. I may not always reach that goal, but I do appreciate its value.
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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