I was recently trying to explain to somebody what transformative coaching “really” is, when they asked me to share some examples of problems or situations that clients came to me with. I reviewed a number of case histories in my mind, and while adjusting as many details as needed to maintain confidentiality, shared stories of a bright young CFO dealing with the simultaneous disintegration of the markets and his marriage, a salesman trying to add one or two “zeroes” to his bottom line, a therapist looking to make more of a consistent difference with her clients, and a celebrity whose concerns about being unworthy of love were causing problems on set, at home, and on newsstands across the country.
The next question they asked me was what was my expertise in each of these areas – in other words how could I help people solve so many different problems without having degrees in finance, marriage, sales, therapy, and counseling?
My answer was that in my experience, it doesn’t matter what the presenting problem is – if it involves human beings, the solution is always going to be the same.
Regardless of our personalities and personal histories, we all have within us a deeper essence that is untouched by our conditioning and circumstances. You could call this part of you “the spark within”, or “the inner flame”, but I like to think of it as our true nature – the source of our fundamental sense of inspiration, sparkle, and aliveness. Some of my clients have called it their “twinkle” – the thing inside you which appears on the outside as a twinkle in the eye, spring in your step, or as the warmth behind honest laughter.
But we also have the power to think, and to experience our thinking as though it were really happening to us. And when we get caught up in the dream of thought, we get cut off from time to time from that inner sense of aliveness. Most of us don’t notice it at first, except as a vague sense of something being not quite right. Work just isn’t as fulfilling as it once was, our partner isn’t quite as handsome or beautiful or loving as we thought they were, and don’t even get us started on what might be wrong with us.
Because we have been conditioned from birth to believe in the myth of an outside-in world, we assume the path back to well-being and joy and peace of mind must be through getting a better job or a better partner or working on becoming a “better me” And the harder we work on changing the world to change the way we feel, the more distant we get from our true self, and the more important it seems to work on all those things, and the more lost we become.
So regardless of what “problem” a human being thinks they have, the only real problem is feeling cut off from your innate wisdom and well-being. And the moment you reconnect to your inner twinkle, you live in a different world. Nothing changes, but everything’s different. Life stops seeming so scary and the world stops seeming like a problem to be solved.
Any changes to be made become obvious and while not always easy, remarkably straightforward. Every situation can be handled through a combination of common sense and insightful action. Goals stop being the difference between happiness and misery and go back to being the targets that we aim at to make the game of life more fun to play.
As transformative coaches, we don’t have to be experts in each of what the Taoists called “the world of 10,000 things”. We simply assist people in reconnecting with that deeper part of themselves that somehow connects us with the larger whole. We wake people up to the dream of thought and point them in the direction of a deeper truth. From that place, they can handle whatever problems life throws at them with grace, approach their goals with a sense of fun, and live (for the most part) from a place of quiet peace and joyful well-being.
Does it always work? I wish it did. There are times where the dream seems so compelling that to even suggest it might be a dream brings forth anger and resentment. And some people are so convinced that they’re fundamentally broken that the idea of a true self with innate mental health, wisdom, and well-being is perceived as naive at best and offensive at worst.
“If you say it’s just thought one more time”, a client once said to me, “I’ll kill you.”
But the best bit about this work is that the only way to do it effectively is to embody it for yourself. Your own grounding, clarity, and understanding are the keys to the impact you’re able to have with others. So while we all get lost in our own thinking from time to time and wait for the world to change before we allow ourselves to feel peace, we can return home more and more easily.
In a way, we get paid to be happy and content – to live from our inner twinkle. And while sometimes I can get caught up in thinking which makes that feel like a burden, most of the time I’m just grateful for the kindness of the design.