Coaching addresses two questions:
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet, humankind has explored and returned to these questions again and again since the beginning of time. Why? Because they’re fundamental to understanding our purpose here on earth. Plato taught us centuries ago, “The life which is not examined is not worth living.”
Ultimately, these questions ask, Why am I here? However, “why” is a loaded question. It puts us on the defensive immediately, seeking to justify whatever position we hold on the question. “Who” and “What” are softer and give us room to examine ourselves in a gentler light.
Who am I?
When I strip away all my accomplishments (think “resumé”) and roles (mother, HR Director), what’s left? In other words, when I no longer have external markers defining me, how do I define myself? This can be a tough question.
We live in a community, which means we are always interacting with others, which of course shapes who we are. By default, we allow how others perceive us to affect how we perceive ourselves. In coaching, we gradually turn from an external to internal orientation. We ask ourselves, Who do you [your inner being] think you are? No reference, of course, to my favourite short story writer, Alice Munro!
We discover who we are by identifying our personal values, which are distinct from morals and ethics, although they are often lumped together. Values are unique to you. What you value and the combination of those values form your unique blueprint. By knowing your values, you recognize when you’re working with them or against them.
What do I want?
Many struggle with this question. They feel stuck, have allowed themselves to be defined by others, or haven’t answered the first question, Who am I?
The good news is, once you know who you are, figuring out what you want is much easier. Align yourself to what feels good. Use the Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale I provided in my Heart-Based Presence blog as help.
Feeling stuck is another challenge. When we’re stuck, it’s often because we have a particular view on a topic we can’t budge from. I quit talks about one way to see new perspectives.
Moving away from being defined by others requires a shift from the external to internal. This often naturally occurs in middle age but can occur at any point in life, usually when there’s upheaval. My blog on Perfectionism talks about this transition and the result – personal and professional growth.
I chose career coaching because it’s the outcome in Western culture of “who I am” and “what do I want.” In our culture, we define ourselves by what we do. I think that’s why so many wrestle with middle age. The choices we made when we were younger no longer reflect who we are or what we want. We’ve grown/evolved but we haven’t acknowledged it.
What we do is important because it reflects who we are. When we live our values, we feel good. Our lives feel purposeful. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s important. We want to know our lives have meaning. Isn’t it fascinating how we are asking the same questions Plato did in Ancient Greece?