a thought on authenticity in coaching...
A few weeks ago I met someone new, and so followed the inevitable conversation about what our respective jobs were. An interesting discussion emerged enabling me to share my passions on the whys, whats and wherefores of being a 'coach'. And then I was surprised to be asked, "so do you practice what you preach then, and your life is perfectly sorted?"
The answer for me came immediately, "well yes, and no". I was not unsure of the answer but clear that these were two entirely different questions.
Yes, because I practice behaviours and use tools that help me to create change and do things differently in my life - in all it's domains - constantly. I am often my favourite guinea pig. Sometimes perhaps even too constantly; I've written before about the risks of having potentially a few too many 'self-improvement projects' on the go at once.
But an emphatic no, because life is a constant process of learning and change, how can it be "sorted". The tools of coaching provide us with the means to do this well but not a magic formula to reach our personal nirvana. The things I want and I am offered personally and in my work change, the circumstances in which I live alter around me, people I care about want and need different things at different times and my personal sense of self, my health and well-being shift in relation to all of this.
Two things in the last week reminded me of this conversation. Yesterday I went for a run. I say "went" but it was more of a case of being dragged out for what in my head was a 5 mile slog, this despite knowing that the route was entirely flat and only 6 weeks ago I ran a trail marathon. And it did turn out to be pretty painful, but more so for the other person in the face of my largely passively silent torrent of angst about my lost motivational mojo, until at least mile 4. For reasons somewhat inexplicable to myself my perception of running - the activity I have been known to eulogise about - has in a short space of time become difficult, fraught and requiring effort to even get out of the door. A shift that I will now have to work on, to find that mojo - and well done that person for knowing that step 1 was just being dragged.
The second thing was speaking to my colleague Lee Chalmers at the Parliament Project last week about a talk she gave for Creative Edinburgh gave on failure - not an abstract discussion of the nature and importance of the concept - but sharing an "epic failure" from her life, and what she head learnt from it. And as I ran on, gradually and reluctantly acknowledging that it was a good thing to be out running, I was thinking we all need to talk about failure more, and the challenges we have set our cap at overcoming.
And maybe as a coach this is a poor 'marketing strategy'. There are after all a host of 'stellar celebrity coaches' out there offering all kinds of elixir, and seemingly living 'perfect' lives based on their own medicine. Maybe there's an attraction in seeking support and advice from someone who appears to "have it all" but I fear it's an illusion, a dangerous one to give to anyone.
In reality, as coaches and as people we are only as good as our ability to face the next hiccup on our journey, or go after the new thing that we want. So, yes I practice what I preach, and I have a far higher success rate in making what I want to have happen, happen than before I coached. But no my life is not perfectly sorted and nor will it ever be. I am a 'work in progress' and someone who rejoices in seeking out new things. This means I take very few things for granted as habits and I constantly re-calibrate where I am at emotionally, physically, socially and financially to adjust my journey.
I don't think I have ever pretended otherwise. But at mile 4.4 yesterday I resolved to share more about my personal change process, the challenges I face and the things I need support with. I hope this does not put people off seeking a coach, or me as a coach, but creates confidence in coaching and what it can help you achieve.