By Yael Blum
Change is constant. In just three weeks our lymph cells regenerate; in two to four weeks our intestinal mucous membranes turn over; in four to eighteen months our muscles and skin regenerate and over a span of two to seven years our entire cartilage, nerve and bone cells are replenished. This is our body system’s quiet process of continuous change whereby weak or damaged cells are substituted for healthy cells in a constant life-preserving cycle. Mostly this change takes place without us ever even noticing. And we usually take it for granted, in part because, despite the flurry of transformation going on, we all remain essentially the same. Or do we?
Last month, Worldwide Coaching Magazine’s editor Ton de Graaf, suggested we take a stab at describing how coaching had changed us. I liked the challenge as I don’t always take personal stock of the way in which what I apply myself to actually begins to shape me. At lease not when it comes to my intellect, passion, values and beliefs. Using a mind mapping process to encourage random associations and a free flow of ideas, I spent about an hour the other day in deep contemplation retracing the my coaching journey over the past 11 years. I brushed up against my favourite books, courses and retraced my footsteps through past clients and the many coaching colleagues who have and continue to inspire me. Below is a record of my transformation:
- Communication skills: communication is at the heart of coaching and questioning and listening are at the heart of a great coaching conversation. I have spent years working on understanding the power of a question to act as a catalyst to personal discovery and transformation. My listening skills have sharpened to the point where I often feel as if I listen to a client with my whole body, noticing the slightest shifts in breathing, skin tone, and voice. Presenting, facilitation and teaching are now at the heart of my work, which was not the case prior to my certification.
- Mindfulness: Being able to coach well requires our full attention, but also relaxation and presence in this moment. I have become adept at watching and attending to the quality of my own mind so that I can be of complete service to the person I am working with. I have rituals for ensure I stay grounded and centred before, during and after a session and frequently investigate the quality of my thoughts in order to understand my biases, mental models and beliefs. This helps me suspend my judgments and hold a space equanimity with those I am working with.
- Systems thinking: Shortly after completing my coaching certification, I decided to obtain certification in systems thinking. This experience has shaped how I think, plan, and act both on a personal and professional level. Today, I introduce systems thinking to all my clients in an effort to help them locate themselves within the larger context of work and play. Systems thinking has inspired me to think about myself, my family and friends, community and world in a different, more inclusive manner. And has inspired a coaching framework that I use and teach with great impact and success.
- Passionate for Possibility: I have always had a knack for questioning if not downright busting the status quo. Coaching has helped by holding me firmly in the realm of future possibility while simultaneously reminding me to breath and be in the moment. Today when I work with clients, I bring this passion into every conversation not to be controversial but to open new pathways of thought that help clients fulfill their purpose and step into their best version of life. I see this orientation to life as a great blessing for me, as it helps me remain buoyant through hardship.
- Awareness: Of all the things I have come to appreciate in the realm of awareness, I have found the idea of mental models most beneficial. By unearthing my own mental models and helping my clients see theirs, I have been witness to the frailty of our strongest biases and convictions and the catalyzing force that comes when we shift our thinking and make room for alternative realities and experiences.
- Compassion: Working with people as they strive to realise a different quality of life is such an astonishing privilege. Through each journey I gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to face ones self and decide to change. My approach when working with people has deepened to make room for the much more complicated conversations that are taking place below the surface, the ones that touch down on love, and grief, and death and birth and justice, and fear and self esteem and hope and beauty.
- Resourcefulness: Being a coach has meant that I have had to pay attention to industries and professions I knew little about while remaining highly responsive to the needs of my clients who work in those industries. This has made me more resourceful on many levels. Combined with my passion for possibility, I am relentless in my search to bring new knowledge to bare on my work be it coaching, consulting or teaching.
- Creativity: My interest in the field and discipline of creativity and innovation took off about a year after I completed my coaching certification. I knew it would be a central feature of my work, if not explicitly then certainly implicitly. I have a gorgeous collection of creativity resources and love to engage with people in an process of creative exploration and innovation.
In this moment, as I attempt to conclude my article for this months issue of the WCM, I am appreciating the way in which my cells are silently refreshing themselves even as I sip my tea. And I am grateful for the way coaching has transformed me. Quite literally, I am not the same woman I was 10 years ago. And I suspect you aren’t either.
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