Life Coaching

An Exercise in Curiosity

question marksIn the training program leading to my certification as a Coactive Coach, we completed numerous practical activities to build and hone our coaching skills. The other day I was reminded of one, that in the moment, seemed incredibly difficult. We were to spend thirty minutes looking under our kitchen sink. Yep. 30. Long. Interminable. Moments. And it wasn’t to be just a stream of observation and criticism, it was an exercise in curiosity. You see, we were specifically instructed to notice everything we could but without judgment. We were asked to get intentionally curious about what was under the cabinet, but not to say if it was good or bad. Thoughts of the disorder or stained cabinet flooring were steadily replaced with “I wonder why the pipes are bent that way”. Or, “what’s the story of the persona that installed this”.

In all the years that have followed, I return again and again to this exercise, both as a practical activity and a metaphor. It leads to the potent understanding of curiosity and how it suspends judgment. My role as a coach is to get curious and ask powerful questions that deepen each client’s understanding of themselves. The benefits are transformational.

  • Curiosity leads to an openness to what is present rather than the closure of judgment
  •  It inspires a willingness to learn rather than assume what is happening
  • Most of all, it suspends judgment, which stifles creativity and growth and puts us at odds with potential learning

Developing the skill of curiosity is a beautiful way to stretch and grow, often with surprising results. As you do, you may find the scope of your questions expanding and deepening into what moves and motivates you. So, try this: open your cabinet, find a spot in nature that captures your attention, notice a meaningful object on your shelf, or anything else that can gain your focus for 30 minutes. If you notice judgment creeping in, simply acknowledge it and return to asking questions.

When you are finished take time to reflect on the experience. What did you learn about the experience? How might you apply this learning to other parts of your life? Drop us a note to let us know!

A mindful approach to grief

words related to mindfulness under a magnifying glass

Tara Haelle’s interesting post introduces some important ideas about the intersections of grief and loss with the crises of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ambiguous grief is central to our current experience and she offers some good strategies for managing it, including acceptance, setting reasonable expectations, and finding fulfillment in familiar activities.

Another challenge of the pandemic is our need for the “long view” or life after the pandemic. So much of our attention can be directed to the point in time when the pandemic ends, but as Haelle correctly notes, we are nowhere near the end. So how can focusing on the present moment by adopting a mindful approach to grieving be helpful?

  • Mindfulness engages us in the present moment. Cultivating mindful awareness gives us a sense of time and place and amplifies our sense of control over our circumstance
  • Focusing on the present reduces the stress of looking ahead and the “what-if’s” that come along with it
  • Mindful awareness, when coupled with attention to the breath, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system or the part of our wiring that is responsible for rest and relaxation

Mindfulness as a practice of self-care was pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn who defines it as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. As I share this concept with my clients, I emphasize the non-judgmental nature of this focus. When we simply notice, rather than appraise what is happening and what we are feeling, we are better able to quiet the nervous chatter of the mind. Free from this distraction, we can then invest our energy in what is available in the present moment. 

Want to learn more? Join j for our Conversation Café on Monday September 21 at 7pm for a lively discussion about mindfulness and learn some practical applications for your daily life.

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Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coachingcareer coachinglife coachingtransitions coaching.

Why do today what you can do tomorrow?

a bulletin board with notes that say do itI am likely one of the world’s foremost experts in procrastination. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but my office is never cleaner than when I am putting off a major task. Believe me, I would much rather vacuum, dust, straighten, and do all the other parts of organizing than put my effort behind something I need to finish that I just don’t want to do.

The distance and lack of in-person engagement that is now a part of my work has somehow amplified this, too. Dealing with procrastination is a key piece of self-management. Poor time management, falling behind in tasks or projects, and working without a plan all contribute to procrastination. 

I regularly coach my clients through these hurdles. Fortunately, with a little bit of positive self-talk and the strategies that follow, each of us can successfully combat procrastination:

  1. Give it five minutes. Get your stuff together, decide your goal and set the timer for five minutes. You only have to work on the task for these few minutes, five earnest minutes in which you really make the effort to get started. If after that time, you still aren’t making progress, turn your attention to something else. Chances are that once you get going, five minutes will become fifty and you will be on your way to completing your bigger goal.
  2. Do the big task first. Put it on the calendar first thing in the morning or at a time when your energy is best and most focused. Get it out of the way so that you can get on to doing other things you enjoy more.
  3. Figure out why you don’t want to do it. Does the task at hand align with your skills and interests? Do you have the resources to complete it? If not, what will it take to get what you need? There might be times when you have the chance to delegate, ask for help, or find others who can help you kick-start your efforts. Knowing why you don’t want to do it is part of identifying what you need to overcome your procrastination. If you are a student, academic resource centers, tutors, and others can provide essential resources to help you get started.
  4. Break it into smaller chunks. Procrastination and the sense of overwhelm are best buddies and they want to keep you in a static place. What one or two sub-goals can you accomplish that will move you towards the big goal? Breaking the big task into smaller ones makes the final work seem less daunting.
  5. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!! Research shows that when we acknowledge our forward progress, we build patterns that support long-term success. I ask my clients to reflect on and journal about the small things. Whether the five minute investment, the paragraph written, or the business proposal completed; all of them are small steps toward building self confidence in a way that supports long term success.

Perhaps the best piece of advice, and the one that I try to remember most, is just do it. Do today what you can do today!

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Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coachingcareer coachinglife coachingtransitions coaching.

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