There are a few themes that come up in coaching conversations on a regular basis and one of these is about ‘being OK’.
Coaching, by its very nature can be quite searching, but talking about things which are difficult is cathartic: by ordering our thoughts to say them aloud we are already on the first step to identifying the crux of our problems.
One of the things which I miss by coaching virtually is the ability to share drawings and ideas on paper and it is this which has prompted me to create something that I can share.
If we’ve sat down to go through some of your challenges and map a way onwards, it is quite possible that we have already talked about my idea that we can narrow our ‘wobble-makers’ down to just three areas of our lives. It may be rather simplistic, but it has always served as a good starting point for identifying hotspots of trouble and where to start putting them right.
This graphic isn’t quite the same as the way that I have drawn it in the past, but I think it works better like this. So, what am I talking about?
First, let’s consider that we have three areas of our lives, Home, Work and Health. The three are inextricably linked and as such each one can affect the others. For example, Home includes such things as hobbies, family friends and so on, Work will be things like workload, change, dealing with people, specific projects and Health can be as small as a cold or as major as a life-changing diagnosis.
The next thing to bear in mind that this is all relative – coping and managing is not the same as feeling amazing and doing brilliantly, but we live on a continuum so it is really about managing to function effectively. After all, every one of us has good days and bad days, so expecting to feel good all the time isn’t reasonable. Not exactly a SMART objective, I suppose. Conversely, if we feel bad all the time, then that isn’t right either – something is out of balance.
Third, let’s try to make the graphic work for us. Imagine, if you will, that work is going smoothly,
things at home are swinging along in a nice routine and you are feeling well. Life is fine, isn’t it? The three elements are working together to keep you afloat and it’s all working as it should. We’ll make allowances for things that aren’t quite perfect, because we are in a good position to manage them and to maintain a good perspective.
If, however, something creates a bump in our road in one area, that immediately makes other things a bit more challenging. Consider a bad time at work because a client has complained and you have to deal with it over the next week. As long as you are feeling well and you can go home and enjoy going for a run, you will generally deal with the work challenge well enough. Agreed, it isn’t fun, but you’ll cope. Now add in a twisted ankle or a headache – nothing major, but suddenly you don’t have the facility to go and get your proper white space, your down time and the work problem may seem worse. We start to struggle; we don’t quite have the energy that we need to do things; that all important grip on perspective is slipping. Do you see what I mean? Things start to become more fragile altogether. A bad day can give you a headache which can make you irritable or withdrawn maybe – then all three areas start to be affected.
As I mentioned at the start, these things don’t have to be huge in themselves, but if other things are going wrong, they will probably feel much worse.
Of course, if the bump in the road turns out to be a major landslip, then this stability will become fragile more quickly and it will be much harder to reinstate a happy balance. This is why, for example, self-care is so important: if work is tough, then you need to guard family and health with vigour. If your home life is wobbly (children leaving home maybe? Missing GCSEs?) then work and your health are crucial areas to cherish. Draw your strength from the things that are going well.
Another important point is to remember that we cannot always change the things we want to. It could be a health issue, a lost job, difficulties at home – these could well initiate change that isn’t going away. This makes life hard, but to an extent accepting the change helps to improve things. Reduce friction by going along with what is happening so that you can mould something useful for yourself. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or pleasant, it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your own moral values or beliefs, but taking this constructive stance helps to give you back some element of control in your own life, and that is a big first step.
This simple idea has worked for many of my coaching clients and I’d be interested to see what you think and how it might work for you.
Oh, and as I write we are still in Coronavirus Lockdown in Wales, so this is very real for lots of us. Change in all three areas, all at once… Take care out there and look after yourselves.
I’ll post the graphic in the resources page of the website, so you can see it there too.