I am not a natural reflector, I never have been. I allow life to happen, often at pace, sometimes not, and then I move on. I know I should reflect on my experiences, glance back and assess. I've been told this for years, by many people, but I just cannot find the time, nor the desire. Occasionally, I'll make myself go back over something that went wrong, and I will learn from my mistakes. I do know that by actively thinking about a past experience it does ensure the learning is much more embedded in my psyche, than just acknowledging in the moment. But I rarely ever look back on the good things, the successes and achievements. I never really thought to question why, but this next experience was to make it very clear….
It was around the time we were exploring beliefs on the Barefoot coaching course, that we discussed states and how you show up as a person and coach. I had never really thought about the phrase "You're in a right state" until now, but of course realised that we do all 'arrive' in different states, and this usually depends on your mood or most recent experience at that moment of time. I was about to get a first-hand encounter of my 'state', as was a fellow student on the course….
It was a Wednesday morning in May and I needed to submit a presentation for a key-note speech I was giving in 9 days’ time. I had pulled together some slides but was really struggling to focus and finish with enough comfort that they were ready to use. Knowing my deadline was tight and I was about to start another day of Barefoot training, I was running out of time and so I made the rash decision to rapidly finish the slides, thinking they would be ‘good enough’ and fire them off to the production company.
All done and dusted before 9am, I should have been delighted, relieved, but I wasn’t. Something was sitting very uneasy in me, and I was feeling more anxious than usual. On reflection I had just seen the speaker list for the day and felt wholly inadequate beside the other speakers. They had all written books, were Dr's of something, had achieved great accolades in their field, and I was just me, however I wasn't aware how this was affecting me at the time. So, trying to switch my head into coach mode, ignore the unease and force myself ready for another module, I was feeling quite flustered as I zoomed into the session.
Soon we were in breakout rooms in pairs and we were to practice an exercise on beliefs. The poor guy I was partnered with really had the worst deal that day. I told him I was in a bit of a 'state', and rather wobbly, but to give it a go. He was first up to coach me.
It was a post-it exercise where we had to write down our beliefs in order to explore any self-limiting ones. I started jotting things down and very quickly filled the space in front of me. When my coach asked me to read them back, it was a really sorry reflection of my current state.
“I am not academic”
“I don’t have any technical skills”
“I am not an expert”
“No one wants to hear just ‘my opinion’”
“I am not important to these people”
It was ugly, there were many more, but you get the drift. Within minutes there were tears spilling out, 'catastrophised' stories I was regaling and throughout all of it, all these horrible self-limiting, doubtful voices were stampeding through my thoughts.
My coach was amazing, he listened intently until I had finished my destructive tirade, and then waited and listened some more. When all the fuel was expelled from the tank and I was exhausted, he calmly and quietly asked me to now reflect back and list all the professional successes in my life to date.
It started slowly but got there eventually. My coach then said to me,
“Do you realise after every success you told me about, you also explained why it was valueless?”
He read back something like this;
Head girl – Very small 6th form, teachers didn’t want the deputy head girl to be distracted from her exams, as she would do so well, whereas I probably wouldn’t.
Getting into Uni – went through clearing, rubbish Uni, was a polytechnic the month before. Also careers teacher told the class a year below, “If Claire can get in to Uni you all can”.
Received my degree – didn’t work hard for it, not a great degree, didn’t even attend graduation
First job at Coutts Cayman – In the interview they asked how my dad was then when can you start
Move to Coutts London – Boss put in a good word for me
Promotion - they need more women in senior roles
It went on and on….
Every single thing I had achieved right up to present day listed and then discounted. Umpteen qualifications, certifications, promotions - I had rapidly dismissed them with a good reason as to why they were valueless – it was horrible to hear my coach play this back to me, and he did so brilliantly. Those imposter syndrome voices being relayed to me like watching a silent movie of my life - so vivid and impactful.
Then, after giving me ample room to hear his ‘parrot-phrasing’, he asked me just one question, a killer;
“What badge would be good enough for you?”
Drop the mic coach! – it was a superb question. Stunned into silence, (which rarely happens) I sat and thought. I looked up, around, down, and then up again, the brain whirring, then I looked straight at him,
“There isn’t one” I concluded.
Suddenly, miraculously, as if by magic it all felt lighter. Like a ten-tonne weight had been removed from my shoulders. If there really wasn’t anything that I would deem good enough, then how ridiculous to continue stressing about needing to always achieve more.
My coach had taken each one of these horrible self-limiting beliefs and in a really short space of time, allowed me to acknowledge them, reflect on them and then with one swoop of a magical question, help me see them all as real personal successes. These were things I should have been proud of, they have made me who I am. And as I sat there with my coach, all the tears now dried up, and my new-found reflection, I felt first-hand the incredible power of a good coaching session, my state had thoroughly shifted, and my confidence restored.
I realised I didn't reflect on the good things because whenever I did the voice in my head would dismiss them as not good enough, but until this moment I had no idea that was what I was doing.
That brilliant coaching session brought me my next two lessons in becoming be a 'real' coach;
1. You need coaching and you cannot coach yourself even if you think you can. (Know and remember this!)
2. Reflecting is the absolute key to unlocking data in your clients - it can be incredibly valuable for both you and them.
Thank you Dom – you were just what I needed that day, you are a marvellous coach with killer questions.