How do I, as coach, get to the heart of the matter? How do we, as humans, work out our true purpose? Big questions that deserve big thinking, for my own life as well as for every client I work with. If we feel fulfilled we feel happier. If we are spending time on the things that matter to us, whether it is work, family or friends, we are more content – especially if we get the balance right – and that balance can be the trickiest thing to achieve. So, when a client walks through my door, full of ideas, plans, difficulties and/or doubt, where do we begin? Where is the focus of the session?
I have been sent emails by clients listing multiple issues, which one, they ask, should they explore? I have faced competent, capable, consultants overwhelmed with projects and ideas, unsure of what to focus on. With so much competing for our time; work, commissions, family, friends, social media, health, news (the list could go on and on); how do we identify what we truly wish to spend our energy on? “Where the focus goes, the energy flows,” said Tony Robbins, life and business strategist and bestselling author.
Is your focus on the right thing? Imagine the small stuff in your life was sand and the big ambitions were pebbles. You have one life, represented by a large jam jar. If you fill up your time with all the small stuff, such as endless emails or checking social media, the jar fills quickly with sand until there is no space for pebbles. But if you put the pebbles in first – the things that matter to you most – that artwork you’ve always wanted to create, the book you’ve always wanted to write – sure, the pebbles fill up the jar too, but there’s space in-between for the sand.
So how do we work out where we should focus? What our true purpose is? People come to coaching for many reasons but these questions underpin all the work. It is the scaffolding from which we build our lives. Like many people, I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, contemplating and analysing, all very useful, all very cerebral. In my previous life, as a writer and an arts charity director, I’d spend hours, hunched over a computer screen, my body a vehicle for my brain. During working hours I wouldn’t give my body much thought; as long as it was fed, dressed appropriately and relatively comfortable, it was doing its job. My body only grabbed my attention if it hurt, was ill, being exercised, massaged or lovingly touched. I never thought it had a role in my life’s purpose. Until now.
I have been learning a great deal about embodiment or somatics, as it sometimes called – being aware of our bodies from the inside out, our posture, breathing, hand gestures, our internal state. How we feel, how we relate, how we are. These physical and internal attributes can really help us find our true purpose, if we take the time to become aware and listen to them.
What might this look like in a coaching session? As well as reflecting words I may reflect hand gestures or head movements, raising the coachee’s awareness of how their body really feels. A classic case might be someone saying, “I really want to do this,” but they’re shaking their head. Often we’re unaware of the messages our bodies are giving, by drawing attention to it, we can connect with our true selves and really consider how we feel. If a client feels stuck or overwhelmed I might ask if they want to do a centring or grounding exercise – a breathing and body awareness technique which neuroscience researchers have identified shifts our thinking; enabling better decision making, problem solving, access to our intuition, emotional regulation and empathy. If a client is rationalising, explaining, talking in circles around an issue, which we all have a tendency to do, I might focus on the here and now. Asking questions such as; how do you feel when you say XXX? Where do you feel XXX? How connected are you to what you have said? This enables the coachee to really access what their body is telling them.
Or I might just ask, “What does your heart say?” Science has proven the heart has its own brain and communicates to the body via the nervous system, hormones, biomechanical and energetic information. Your heart has its own neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, just like your brain. Neuroscience researchers have found that when our brain waves and heart/body rhythms are out of sync we feel stressed and frazzled. By becoming aware of our bodies, taking time to notice our posture, our breathing, our internal state, we can resync our brain/body systems, enabling better self-awareness, access to our intuition and what our hearts, and authentic selves, really want. By focusing on what our bodies are telling us we bypass our tricksy brain, (that can think of a million reasons to not get on with what we really want), creating a short cut to our true selves. And when we know our authentic self, that is when the magic happens; when inspiration hits and transformation occurs. The stuck gets shifted, the unknown becomes known and answers present themselves. That is when we get to the heart of the matter and find our true purpose.