Self-Coaching Tip #1
CHALLENGING OUR PERSONAL STORIES
Recently, I had an opportunity to do something new. Something that had been on my wish list for a long time. Something that would open lots of new doors for my business. Something exciting but also something that scared me to death. The fear outweighed the excitement and I found myself typing a regretful email turning down the offer of a speaking opportunity at a prestigious conference.
I was about to hit “send” when a recent session with a coachee popped into my head. He too had been offered an opportunity: a big promotion at work. It was exactly what he wanted, he had planned and worked hard for it, but now that it had materialised, he had created all sorts of reasons why he couldn’t accept it. We worked through his catastrophising thinking until we found the root cause. Unexpectedly, the promotion required a relocation and he had a back story to relocating. As a child, he and his family had moved house and consequently he had changed schools. He described himself as “utterly miserable for three years”. This memory was getting in the way of this great opportunity that had been offered to him.
We all have personal stories that inform our belief system and impact our decision making throughout our lives. It’s when they assume such negative proportions that they get in the way of us moving forward, that we need to pay attention and investigate our thinking. In my case although I really wanted to speak at the conference, I knew that one of my fellow speakers was a boss that I had had an unhappy relationship in my past.
Now, that was fifteen years earlier, but I couldn’t get past the conversation in my head reminding me of the past. I forgot that I was successful and respected in my field. I didn’t allow for the possibility that our working together was much less significant for him than it had been for me. I imagined him sitting in the front row, waiting for me to make a mistake. I imagined him challenging the facts in my presentation when we got to Q&A. I imagined him saying to himself “I always said she’d never be successful – they must have been stuck for a speaker at the last minute here.”
Here I was catastrophising away in order to justify to myself why I was walking away from the opportunity rather than embracing it
I deleted the regretful email and proceeded to take some of my own medicine.
- I sent a delighted acceptance to the conference organiser. I’d removed any possibility of rejecting the opportunity.
- I asked whether a pre- conference speaker session was planned – it was. The video conference format gave me a less intimidating situation in which to meet my old boss again for the first time.
- I researched my old boss and brought myself up to date with his career. Now I was dealing with facts rather than outdated assumptions.
- I reached out to him personally, saying that I was looking forward to meeting him again and being part of a Q&A panel with him. I had communicated with him as a peer.
- I planned for the video call. I expected him to ask some tough questions about my content and sources and he did. But they were reasonable questions that enhanced my thinking.
- I asked him to attend my presentation run through and give me any tips on how to optimise it. He agreed and as he is an extremely good speaker, his tips were very helpful.
By the time of my speaker spot his ogre like status had diminished to such an extent that I wasn’t even phased by the fact that he was indeed sitting in the front row or that he frowned deeply all the way through my session (he had told me that this was a sign of concentration from him).
On my journey home, I reflected on the day and how I had very nearly not been there. There’s some excuse for us all when we are fearful; our survival instinct likes fear – it keep us safe – but as Mark Twain famously said: “I’ve known a great many troubles but most of them never happened”. I’d had the courage to take hold of my catastrophising and that allowed me to craft strategies that minimised the likelihood of those catastrophes happening.
And in case you were wondering, yes, my coachee also found the courage to do so and he and his young family are now living happily in their new home, enjoying his new job and their new life.