I’m going through 8 months of extensive life coach training with Martha Beck. My decision to become a life coach for creatives came from my own adventure in discovering the power of writing our own narrative and designing our own lives. But sometimes the stories we tell ourselves can hold us back or keep us feeling stuck. This column on & Kathleen will be exploring the lessons and concepts I am learning as I become a coach.
Fixing A Problem vs. Holding Space for It
As I started practicing life coaching on real clients I noticed an insane urge to FIX the problems they were having. With an education and career in graphic design and art direction my role has been primarily that as a resourceful problem solver. And now as a brand and creative business consultant I get paid good money to tell people what to do. But coaching is very different. My job as a coach isn’t to fix somebody’s problem or slap a band-aid over their insecurities. Through lots of questioning and a little bit of intuition, my job as a life coach is to help my client find a self-limiting belief and hold space around it. Identifying the negative thought alone can be powerful enough to bring an “ah-ha” kind of closure to it. Holding space around the self-limiting belief allows for a shift in perspective and a positive transformation to take place.
I’m finding that this very principle of holding space is changing the way I approach my relationships – both in business (with my co-workers and clients alike) and my personal life.
For example, last week Tara (my sister and business partner) and I were on a business trip to Houston. We were sitting poolside at Hotel Zaza, ready to chill with our Kindles in hand, and instead had some pretty serious conversation around the direction of our own thriving business and personal insecurities. We were discussing our dream customer* and who we’re able to help the most – it turns out “creative entrepreneur” is becoming pretty broad and the people we feel like we know inside and out around are designers (both freelance and at within 9-to-5 agency walls). We also talked about scarier and more vulnerable “what if” topics like “what if I decide to focus on my family and don’t want to work so hard anymore” and “what if I want to go back to the security and structure of a 9-to-5.” My instinct was to go into fix it mode. I immediately wanted to redesign, reposition, and restrategize our entire business model. I immediately wanted to find certainty in a future that just can’t be told. Instead I held space – for myself and my sister – to explore the what ifs. And you guys, I literally and intentionally had to say, out loud, “We don’t need to fix this right now. The conversation alone is working its magic.” At the end of our conversation we didn’t have answers but we definitely had a little less weight on our shoulders – we were also clear on the fact that we had time to figure it out.
Ego vs. Heart
I’m very certain that the part of me that wants to fix problems is my ego. Now, “ego” is a loaded word with negative connotations – but it’s not always a bad thing. My ego also gives me drive and is the part of me that gets shit done. My ego lives in my solar plexus – the soft space right above my stomach and just below my chest where my rib cages meet. I know my ego needs some checking when I feel tightness or fire in my solar plexus – and this often happens when I don’t have an answer. My ego can’t stand questions. So what do I do? I move north to my heart.
The heart finds answers in the questions. The heart holds space and endless amounts of compassion and forgiveness for uncertainty and the emotions that rise from insecurity. If I’m feeling like I don’t know the answer I direct the question to my heart – I literally move my thoughts and imagine that they’re coming from my heart rather than from my mind. And this doesn’t just happen during woo-woo meditation sessions – if I can manage to think from my heart when I’m doing everything from working to cooking I get a lot less wigged out about life.
The next time you feel stuck or come against uncertainty try holding space for the issue rather than trying to fix it. Get curious about it – ask more questions – feel free to have pen and paper handy to get some of those thoughts out. Then try holding the question in your heart (and I mean literally imagine it in your chest – wrapping itself around the chambers and valves of your heart) and see what comes from that. Try practicing holding space in your work – with your coworkers and clients – and see what it does for you.
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*P.S. If you’re interested in doing more work around your dream customer we have a Braid ECourse on the topic open for registration. Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attract What You Track is equal parts manifesting what you want paired with some really practical how-to. Our ECourses are loaded with worksheets and content that will get you thinking. This ECourse will be in-session from June 21 – 30th and is $75 – but you can take it for $50 using this discount code when you check out: ANDKATHLEEN50