When I started coaching I worked with something called the Wheel of Life. It has eight or so sections for each part of life – for example, family, career, finances, relationship, hobbies, contribution, friends, health and fitness. I would ask clients to give each section a mark between zero and ten according to how happy they were in each of the areas.
If any areas had a particularly low rating, I would ask the client what it would take for her to give that area of their life a ten. So for example if she rated career a zero, what would a ten look like? A new job? A promotion? Studying for a new career? What would it take for her to be really happy? And from that we would draw up a plan with goals and priorities and timelines.
This is how life coaching typically works. What are you unhappy about? What do you want more of? Let’s draw up a plan to fix it.
It sounds so logical and helpful. Who wouldn’t want to be at a ten in all areas of their life?
There is a fly in the ointment though. It is a big old fly that means the end of all of this.
The fly is: we are happy regardless of what is going on in our lives. We just don’t think we are.
It is this realisation that happiness is independent of our thinking that is the launch platform to the most breathtaking, inspired life.
Let’s look at this fly. We are happy all the time. We just don’t think we are. Rubbish! I hear you shout. That’s just denial! I’m not happy. I have bills up to my ears. My partner has left me. I’m in a job with no prospects.
We have a voice talking in our heads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year. This voice is commentating on everything we experience. This is good. This is bad. He’s friendly. She’s not. This is scary. This is OK. On and on and on and on. Many of us, me included for 45 years, use this voice to navigate our way around the world – to the situations we want, the people we want to be with. It is this voice that analyses the areas of our life and gives us a zero or a ten rating.
This would be fine but unfortunately, this voice is unreliable, capricious, volatile and deeply unhelpful. How many times has the voice told you to do something that you later regretted? How many times has the chatter got in the way of simply experiencing a situation or a person? How often does the voice change its opinion from one extreme to the other? How often does it cause you to do things out of anger and fear that mean you lose out?
In placing the emphasis on what this voice says and using it to guide our life, traditional coaching ignores one of our greatest gifts as a human being.
This gift is our ability to notice this voice and to know it is not who we are. We are the observer of the voice. We are not the voice itself. We are not the thoughts, opinions and chatter, we are the awareness of them. We are Consciousness. In this realisation, we let go of judgement, of wanting something to be a certain way or not to be a certain way. Every moment becomes something to treasure. We notice the fullness of our experience. As it actually is. Not how the small annoying voice is telling us it is wrong. We notice the perfection. We live as if we were going to die.
That is our freedom.
That is the end of using the voice to structure our lives.
Because when we live in the voice. All we get is the voice back.
Let’s see how this works. Imagine a client scored herself as a zero for ‘relationship’ on the coaching wheel. She has no partner and feels very lonely. The coach asks her what a ten on the happiness scale would look like. ‘Married to a wonderful man’ she replies. And so the two of them gamely take on this challenge of finding her a husband so that she can be happy. Her happiness depends on finding a man and marrying him.
Not only is it nonsense, it is actually this belief that her happiness depends on having a partner that will keep her suffering in relationships. Desperation to find someone pushes people away. If she does succeed in marrying someone and believes her happiness depends on him, she will cling and agonise over his every word. That is no way to live.
How we rate any area of our lives simply depends on our state of mind in that moment, on our current insecurity. If I have just spent the weekend in my friend’s country pad, wandering round her private golf course and relaxing in her jacuzzi, I might peg my satisfaction with my finances as pretty low. If I’ve just returned from a month volunteering in a homeless shelter, I might laugh at the question that I should give my solid four walls, working car, cupboards full of food and clothes anything less than a full ten.
To build a life out of insecurity is to continually perpetuate it. A hang up about money because I use it as a symbol of my value? How much will I have to earn before I believe I am worthy? How many people will I suspect of doing me out of money? How stressful and heavy will I make my charging decisions? How tightly will I cling on to every penny?
When we live our life from our thoughts we will always be restricted and limited by them. We will always be doomed to play out the same patterns.
Resistance keeps something in place.
Acceptance lets it go.
With traditional coaching, we try to control the external world. We could work on each area, make sure our life is perfect so that we can finally be happy. Then a partner leaves us or dies. Or our work restructures and we are made redundant. Or the stock market plummets and our pension is wiped out. Or we have to move house and our social life changes. What then? More goals and priorities to bring it back up to a ten so we can be happy? With this type of coaching, our happiness is out there, in the hands of our employers, clients, families, friends and bank managers.
What a vulnerable and untrue way to live.
So is that the end of coaching? In many ways yes. We can no longer go along with the myth that our happiness depends on something outside ourself.
And because of this, a revolution in coaching is happening. A revolution which means that coaching will live as long as the human race because it comes from the truth of who we are.
The new coaching takes happiness as a given. The minute we stop believing the voice that tells us we aren’t happy, we relax into the pure, blissful experience of life. The idea of happiness becoming a guiding factor in our choices becomes ridiculous.
The new coaching helps clients see that they can be happy whatever the situation. That they could be a zero on every area of the life scale – penniless, divorced, redundant, a social outcast – and that they could be blissfully happy with that.
The new coaching helps clients see that desperation to change a situation, that stress and unhappiness have nothing to do with the situation and everything to do with our state of mind.
And that it is this desperation that is keeping us stuck.
The new coaching helps clients let go of the stress of believing their thoughts. From this place of clarity, they access the deep knowledge that is the true guide to the path their life takes. Decisions are easy. Actions are stress-free. The client will do things because they feel so right to do that there is no alternative.
The new coaching creates a life of sustained, inspired energy, in which there is nothing to be scared of and everything to experience.
This is the beginning of coaching.
Long live coaching.
Long live the truth about who we are.