Traditional coaching focuses on working hard and achieving goals through determination and accountability. It emphasizes the importance of individual effort and sees success as being the result of labor expended. Consequently, lack of success would mean you didn’t work hard enough. There are a plethora of motivational quotes to support this perspective such as:
“Nothing worth having comes easy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.” — Tommy Lasorda
However, in these times of stressed out individuals working so very hard, but experiencing less quality of life, coaching would benefit from using a wider context. A coaching model based on personal will doesn’t make sense when we take into account that outcomes are not fully within our control.
From a Soul-Centered perspective there is no illusion of control. There is an understanding of an intelligence inside of each one of us that is unfolding and guiding us toward our potential. This is referred to in philosophy as entelechy. Google’s definition of entelechy is the vital principle that guides the development and functioning of an organism to it’s potential. For example, the entelechy of a caterpillar is to become a butterfly. Coaching someone from this perspective becomes about helping clients to ignore the voice of their insecure ego so they can align with and surrender to their innate wisdom. This alignment allows a greater level of discernment regarding where to invest their life force and creative energy rather than simply moving forward guns ablazing no matter what.
Dr. Ronald Hulnick from the University of Santa Monica discourages against using willpower to make things happen, and instead advises looking for the door with the open sign. That is what Soul-Centered coaching is. It is the practice of helping clients get quiet enough so they can see more clearly and be able to recognize the difference between a door that is open and one that is closed. It is an educational process of helping clients to see beyond the habit of their assumptions so they can be curious enough to run the hot cold experiment and look for the door that is going to open easily. It is not about supporting clients with learning techniques on how to bolster themselves and develop strategies so they can break down locked doors.
This may seem to some like a wimpy way forward. The path of weakness — working to help people find the open door. In one sense it is easy. It is extraordinarily simple to align with our innate intelligence, and work does become effortless. However, most of us have created and believe so many stories of self-limitation and self-condemnation that it isn’t simple. Many times people are so set in their ways that they aren’t willing to get quiet and listen to the still small voice within. They are too willful to let go of their preconceived notions and be curious about the potential for seeing new possibilities from a fresh perspective.
I know. I have certainly been there and done that. I remember when I wanted to buy a house. I wanted to buy it now. It didn’t matter to me that every bid we made we lost. Now looking back, the feedback was clear. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t matter how hard I pushed on that door or how exhausted I got. The door wasn’t open, but I was persistent. I was willful. “Okay,” I said. “It is not going to work to buy a house in California. Let’s try elsewhere.” So my husband and I bought a lovely home in Canada, but now we were living apart as a family because my husband was working in the U.S., and he could only spend a few days a month with us. Boy, I certainly beat down that door. I pulverized it, but what a miserable result I got.
This is an example of me being driven by the thinking of my ego rather than listening to my wisdom, noticing feedback, and moving into cooperation with it. If I had known I just needed to be patient and wait four more years, then I would buy a house I loved, in the perfect location that had everything I wanted, I would have known not to stress about it. I would have relaxed, but I didn’t.
I had at least two misunderstandings running that were driving my behavior. One was that I would have a greater experience of security if I owned a home. The second was that working hard is proof that I am a strong, and that in order to be a valuable human being I need to be strong. With these beliefs, I was invested in working hard. My ego thinking told me that if I worked hard I would eventually feel good enough. I had pride in my willingness to work hard, and I lacked trust in anything working out if I didn’t.
I probably drove my husband to distraction on my quest. I physically moved my family into a different country to get my way only to find out that our circumstances were untenable. Sure I got what I wanted, but the price was too high. So back to LA we went, back to renting, back to plan B. And of course, when the time was right, the house we bought fell into our lap. Yes we did have to put effort into the buying process. We needed to submit documents and sign paperwork, but the process was smooth and clear. It was an open door — we just needed to do our part and step through.
I realize that what held me back from a more graceful life in the past was fear. Fear that things wouldn’t work out my way, that I would suffer, and that my family would be destitute if I didn’t work hard. My husband, however, is cut from a different cloth than I. He is much more centered and calm. He becomes fully absorbed in work he enjoys and is interested in, but he has never pushed himself the way I used to . I now see the pathology in my behavior and the wisdom in his, but at the time, my behavior made complete sense to me based on my beliefs, and how I saw the world.
Now, as I look back on my life, it is clear to me that the most wonderful things I have accomplished and experienced have not come to me from hard work. They may have even happened in spite of my work. There have been fortuitous happenstances, synchronicities and serendipities that I could never have predicted or made happen entwined in all of my wins.
As I settle into this, I experience my internal pressure lifting. I feel a greater level of trust in allowing things to unfold rather than barging my way forward. I now notice when the door is shut more often, and I allow myself to be open to and curious about when I will find the next open door. It is a much more playful and fun way to live. I feel lighter and happier. My old self would have thought I wouldn’t get anything done living with this slacker mentality, but that is far from true. I am achieving more with less effort, and even if I wasn’t achieving more, the quality of my internal experience of trust, calm, and peace would be worth having less on the outside.
Funnily enough, that is what I had been working hard for all these years. I thought I could buy those qualities through financial security. I didn’t know I could have them no matter what. Once I experienced greater levels of peace and equanimity, I lost my interest in trying so hard. The suffering of the means no longer made sense when the end was already in hand.
The paradox is that I don’t have to give up doing to experience the qualities of being. I am simply doing with a different intention. I am no longer doing to prove I am worthy. I am doing because that is my natural inclination. It makes sense. I am not saying I don’t get caught up in the insecure thinking of my ego ever, and I know in a year’s time I will look back on myself today and ask myself what was I thinking, but I have experienced a qualitative shift in my life.
That is the essence of Soul-Centered coaching, helping clients have an understanding of where their experience comes from so they know they never need to have their outside circumstances be any specific way anyway in order to experience the sublime qualities of their True Nature. Once this is experienced and understood, the game is won. The pressure is off. It is then easy for clients to see their next steps without the obfuscation of their ego’s insecurities, and surprisingly enough they see there are doors with open signs everywhere. Doors they would never have imagined being open before.