My son Oliver and I were talking the other day when he commented about how cool he thought my job was, and I had to agree with him. After all, I spend my days talking with people all around the world about their lives and the nature of life itself, and as a result of those conversations, I get to witness their well-being and wisdom bubble up to the surface as their lives begin to soar.
But even while we were speaking about that, I recognized the question he was likely too embarrassed to ask, as I’ve seen it in the eyes of many people in the past and heard it spoken aloud dozens if not hundreds of times:
What do you actually do?
I’ve had the question from my wife, my mother, my best friend, my students, radio interviewers and potential clients. I’ve even had actual clients confront me after a particularly dramatic transformative experience and say “What the hell did you do to me?”
While I’ve never held back with my answers, I have struggled at times to make them satisfying as I try to connect up the invisible, almost magical nature of what goes on inside us with the wonderfully visible and tangible results that we can see showing up outside us in our lives.
So in today’s tip, I thought I’d share a bit of my current understanding of why something that works so well actually works so well…
If you have ever seen a post-apocalyptic film or comic book, from War of the Worlds to Mad Max to modern classics like The Watchmen and The Book of Eli, you’ll recognize that one universal symbol that they nearly always contain is an image of new life emerging through the scarred and scorched remains of a barren wasteland.
The most common one I’ve seen over the years is a green plant growing up through the cracks of a concrete wasteland – a symbol of new beginnings and hope for the future.
It is not we humans who grow these plants – it is life itself, which like hope, springs eternal.
So what does this have to do with transformative coaching?
Well, what we are doing as transformative coaches is not attempting to change our clients to make them more or less like some sort of societal norm for happiness or success. It is rather opening up cracks in the concrete of their world view that allows the wonder and beauty that is inside them to find it’s way to the surface, and then nurturing that “new life” until its roots have truly taken hold.
This involves a shift from attempting to continually control the world in order to feel better about ourselves to allowing our true self to guide us from the inside, and “let the chips fall where they may.” Fortunately, the chips most often fall in the form of meaningful work, wonderfully loving relationships, gentle prosperity, and happy success.
What can be frustrating about this approach is that we as coaches don’t control the timing of the insights that lead to transformation. A “breakthrough” may or may not happen in a particular session, and new growth may or may not be evident each and every week.
And because of the “inside-out” nature of this approach, at times it may seem like the coach isn’t even necessary. After all, if new life will find a way to emerge in even the most difficult of circumstances, why pay all that money for a coach?
My answer comes in the form of a story I first wrote in Feel Happy Now:
A minister is driving through the country when he comes across a truly glorious farm being tended to by a lone farmer.
Keen to remind the farmer of the source of his blessings, the minister pulls over to the side of the road and calls the farmer over.
‘The Lord has blessed you with a beautiful farm,’ said the minister.
After a few moments’ reflection, the farmer nodded his assent.
‘He certainly has, Reverend – but you should have seen it when he had it all to himself!’
Have fun, learn heaps, and if it feels like life is battering you, let it crack you up instead – because it’s through those cracks that your true self can most easily emerge!