Jenny (not her real name) came out of her second session recently describing what she felt like as she came out of her first. “It was as if the whole world was brighter. The colours were brighter, the greens greener, the sky bluer.” That’s a key motivator in my coaching. I can turn the light on for my clients – and giving others a brighter future is a JOY.
This week I’ve had several life-brightening comments like that – two from people who I coached over fifteen years ago. Fifteen years! And they BOTH called this week, with real, deep, kind, oh-so-rewarding things to say. Completely out of the blue.
I stopped to think of how much they would have missed if they had not connected up. They both have children in their teens and twenties now, whose lives also are brighter (greener, bluer?) because these two men – their dads – chose to take action on the tough challenges they were facing.
Although it is impossible to guarantee results from coaching (no coach can do that) the long-term effect can be massive. The whole world can come alive in a way you have not noticed before. It is like hitting the Enhance button on your photo app, only to realise what you now see is how life actually is, the real deal, not an ‘enhanced’ version at all. It is just that yesterday was duller, a faded (tarnished, darker) version of how life is, and you hadn’t noticed.
Or perhaps you have. You’ve known a time when you were happier than you are now. You suspect there are dark shadows in your life that you want to get rid of.
And if I’ve coached you in the past, and you’ve not been in touch for a while, I’d love to know what happened and what you’re doing now. Sharing your joys with others multiplies them.
Either way, call me on my mobile 07771631945 (or email me a few lines at firstname.lastname@example.org) and multiply the benefit for both our lives. I’m itching to hear what happened to you.
This story may or may not be for you. Or maybe it is. You decide, or just take from it what is important for you for today and take the rest out in a doggy bag for tomorrow. Here it is anyway:
Ever watched a potter at work? Or had a go at spinning a pot yourself? It’s not so easy, but an expert makes it look like it is!
When I was a teenager I read a simple short story about a notoriously miserable man who was told to go down to the local potter’s house and watch him at work. As instructed the man went down and watched the village potter at his everyday activity, making vessels to sell to his community. (It was an old story, but happens every day in some parts of the world.) Imagine both of us, you and me joining him down in that pottery, watching…
The potter ‘throws’ the clay onto his wheel and centres it. The clay is soft and pliable, yet as he raises it into a vessel, something happens and it loses its shape. (No one’s fault. Its just life. It happens to the best of us.) It isn’t quite right, so he presses it back and starts over. It takes less than five minutes; using his professional skill this artisan craftsman simply makes it again at his wheel. Same clay, different vessel. All part of a normal day’s work. No big deal. No song and dance. He hardly notices. He was a lifelong expert in pot-making so he just remade it, another one. If it wasn’t going easily into one shape, well, he needed a wide selection of different pots and this one would be as unique as the others, handmade, with it’s own individual character, interest and purpose. Great. Who knows how much more useful, refined or beautiful – or all three – this one would be?
The story was beautifully told in 17th century English, and included the line “and the vessel was spoiled in the hands of the potter, so he made it again, a different vessel as it seemed good unto him.” Quaint, isn’t it? Biblical language. I like this ancient tale because it’s message is as reassuring to me now as it was to the observer then.
Today many people are living lives they feel have been spoilt and they’re scared that “that’s it. I’m stuck here. There’s nothing I can do.” But life is actually more hopeful than that. When you feel spoilt in some way, bear this in mind: for the clay that is flexible there is always the possibility that a fresh new design is on its way. “… he made it again… different.”
In 1997 I was the clay on the wheel of life myself when I needed to resign from a job that I thought would be my life’s work. Within that context I had learned to feel secure behind a safety fence of professionalism I had carefully constructed, and I’d become snared in it.
I was good at what I did… and that was part of the problem. I was becoming imprisoned, sort of under house arrest, yet not daring to accept my position for fear that there may be no way out. In an environment of significant misunderstanding, I jumped before I was pushed and went into free fall.
Amid the shock of having three late-teens children, a lovely wife, no savings and no family income, I was to find out in practice what I knew in theory that life is about being moulded and as long as I stayed flexible there was hope for a new and better future.
Yet that wasn’t quite so easy. I didn’t realise how all-knowing and un-curious I had become. I had come to depend on my 47 years of experience and professional competence for my emotional and practical needs. I knew what I knew and that had become enough. I was about to find out how much I needed to relearn the joy of being flexible and allow myself to be “made again, a different vessel.”
That’s when I met up with a fellow coach who asked me the question that changed my life – and the question that was the beginning of me being ‘made again’:
“Andrew,” he asked, “What would it take for you to move from a position of ‘knowing‘ to a position of ‘enquiry‘?”
Naively I replied, “I am in a position of enquiry.”
He said, “that’s a position of knowing.”
After a very very long pause I quietly said, “Ok, help me”.
He said, “That’s a position of enquiry.”
In that moment of enlightenment something happened. My coach became the hands of the artisan potter for me. I’d got messed up through no fault of my own, and in that instant I started being made again.
That evening I let go of the need for me to have all the cards to play the game of power, promotion and a pension, or whatever, and began developing a more useful focus: to become truly happy and content without those things, and to let them go.
Looking back, that evening redefined my life and my definition of success, and enabled me to enjoy each day for what it is. It enabled me in fact to be far more productive, far more influential for good, and far more hopeful – and it was the beginning of me being free enough inside to help others redefine theirs. I discovered the joy of being curious, of being enquiring, playful and less afraid. I found myself evolving into a different vessel, made with the same clay. I cannot describe how utterly refreshing – and ‘nice scary’ – that was.
So here’s a thought…
Maybe like I had, you have become trapped by the belief that you’ve reached your peak and there isn’t anything more worth going for – or you wouldn’t know what was if you were staring at it.
Or maybe like I was, you’re facing the insecurity of an uncertain future and despite a brave face, are struggling under the pressure. Or are apprehensive that you won’t have the resources to handle it for very long.
Or maybe like I had, you’ve become imprisoned by the need to be right.
Perhaps like I had, you’ve decided its too late in the day for you, or that there simply is no way out.
Or maybe (unlike me!) you’re facing the prospect of a nice final salary pension and 40 years of life to fill in a worthwhile way. There are dangers there too.
For me, as I looked at the next stage of my life, I knew the old would never do. There would be no excuses good enough to have kept me where I was. I knew I wanted a different, more fulfilled and happy future. It was time to be “made again” and I was curious to know how it would happen.
It has happened, and thankfully is continuing to happen. Today I see things very differently.
“What would it take for you to move from a position of knowing to a position of enquiry?”
That question really did change my life for ever. (Let me know what happens to you.)
As always you can contact me via the Powerchange website. Worth exploring in any case!
I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘pleasure’ recently, how important it is, and how central and essential to the human experience. I suspect it is very close to the very reason we live.
And I want to include all pleasure in this description, as long as it is beneficial to everyone and there are no losers. (So we’ll exclude any thought of ‘damaging pleasure’ and the like, where one person gains pleasure from another’s misfortune, discomfort, or pain, or pleasure results in damage and hurt to others.)
The pleasure of the artist creating her work, the pleasure of a home-maker entertaining guests, the pleasure of a company director running his business well, and the pleasure of a surgeon relieving injury or illness. The pleasure of a teenager with her first driving experience, the pleasure of a little child constructing a car from a cardboard box, the pleasure of helping a friend (or an enemy), the pleasure of love in all it’s guises, the pleasure of listening to a stunning performance of orchestral music, the pleasure of the first croaky, squeaky noises I made that day on a clarinet in a music shop in Crawley. The pleasure from using my iMac computer here in front of me. The pleasure of walking away from it. The pleasure of a sweet night’s sleep, and the pleasure of a dawn departure. The shape of my little grand-daughter’s nose. The pleasure I derive from watching over her quieted body as she lies asleep.
I love it when my children experience pleasure, especially in the ‘small stuff’, an item of clothing that fits ‘just right’ and feels so good to wear. The five minute telephone conversation yesterday when daughter Lizza and I had so much fun playfully ‘sparring’ with each other. The pleasure of meeting my son Jonna with a drink half way through a 10k run. The pleasure of watching Ben as he is learning to be a good dad.
And I want everyone who works with me as a coach to experience pleasure. I want everyone who buys our products and services here at Powerchange, our personal development company, to experience pleasure. I want to be a continual and overflowing abundant source of all the best kinds of pleasure. Will you join me? Then we’ll both be able to say…