My favorite metaphor for life’s journey is that of being a drift on a river. Everyday the water washes us further and further along to an unknown destination. Sometimes we float along in the sun and all is calm and easy. Sometimes we ride the rapids; that may be challenging or overwhelming as we feel like we might drown. Or it may be exhilarating or fun depending on our perspective. Some days we find ourselves swimming against the current to avoid the unknown. Some days we are swept away and go over the falls. We survive because we are stronger and more flexible than we thought we were. A lot of the time we find ourselves stuck or clinging to a rock unable to move forward. We need a push.
A coach is that push.
A good coach doesn’t offer opinions or advice. A coach doesn’t have the answers. A good coach knows that you have the answers and helps you find them within yourself. A coach doesn’t focus on the past or the future, but the right now, where you are at this very moment. While there are lessons, of course, that can be learned from that past, the past is gone. The future is yet to come. The only work that can be done is in this moment. We are called to be present at all times. A coach sees you as a whole person.You are not defined by anything that has happened to you or any of the roles you fill. You are creative, resourceful and whole, and therefore capable of growth. A coach evokes transformation by merely creating the circumstances and conditions for that growth.
In my journey to Certification as a Professional Co-Active Coach, I have to have a coach. I didn’t think I needed a coach. I feel like I’m living a fairly fulfilling life on the way to accomplishing my current goals. I spent two years in therapy following my cancer diagnosis and my husband’s death learning to manage stress and grief, and ultimately creating a plan for the next few years, of which my training and CPCC are a big part. It was time for me to graduate from therapy, although I think even my therapist would admit that once I got past the initial shock and grief, she was acting more like a coach.
Through one of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) instructors, I was referred to a coach that specializes in working with parents of challenging kids. Whenever I found myself playing the role of the client during our classes, I always brought up some issue involving my teenage daughter (one major part of my life over which I have really no control). So the instructor thought Elaine would be a good fit for me. I have a 45 minute coaching call with her twice a month. Through her coaching, I have found the parts of my relationship with my daughter I do have control over – mostly what I say and do and how I present myself in the relationship. I have explored why I have the concerns I do about the choices she’s making, what I fear most about her not taking a path that I consider to be “best.”
My coach has helped me change my perspective. She has helped me right-size my expectations of my daughter’s future and the role I play in it. She got me focusing my time on the things I can control – my communication style and maintaining a home environment with routine that’s free of clutter and chaos (now, as a single parent, working full-time, that’s not as easy as it used to be). While I came into coaching with some ideal that my goal was to help my daughter become a more serious student, I was reminded that I was one the one being coached. So my focal point for coaching became “embrace new expectations for (my daughter)’s future.” How will I know when I get there? When “I am satisfied with who my daughter is, and I embrace her strengths as well as her differences. I am in a good place with her journey, and feel proud that she is solidly on her path. I trust that she is capable of making good decisions for herself, and support her on that path whenever possible.”
Elaine is also coaching me on my journey as a professional coach or “deepening my understanding of coaching.” And ultimately launching my daughter out into her future and launching my career as a professional coach will get us both off the rocks and flowing down the river into a new adventure.
Coaches help us live the best life we can live. A life well-lived, in the middle of the river. All wet. Not clinging to a rock or a branch and definitely not sitting on the bank causiously watching everything float by.
Saddle River County Park, Saddle Brook, New Jersey. September 2016.