So here’s the thing. Last week was a complete shite. 110% shite.
We all have these weeks, we don’t often hear other people talking about them here, but I know we all have them, even me. Especially me.
In the biz I think we are supposed to say, ‘Last week was a growth opportunity’ or ‘lots of learning gained from some challenging situations’. But underneath my coaching qualifications, experience and lexicon, I am just like you. A human being trying very hard to stay on track and navigate the hurdles, potholes and false starts. Running on an uneven surface, unsure whether I’m competing, performing or training.
“Do I just keep going round and round or does this road actually go anywhere?”
When do we know when we’ve done enough? Know the feeling?
Last week made me stop. It stopped me full on in my tracks. And once stationary I was able to listen, to observe and to notice some of the conflicting rhetoric, messaging and ideology spinning around in both the coaching and personal development world, as well as in the more ‘motivational’ corners of Instagram and social media more broadly.
Be confident. Be healthy. Be well. Be creative. Be professional. Be authentic. Be brave. Be bold. Be your best. (Basically do more to better yourself).
You are enough. You are OK. Be as you are. Accept yourself (don’t repress yourself). Be yourself. (Basically you’re fine as you are).
Here in lies some tension. Tension that manifested itself in me both professionally and personally this week. The tension between showing up as you are, your beautiful ugly self and allowing your authentic, ‘in the moment’ You to express itself in a very Adult way, versus the expectations, synchronicity and conformity required of You by Us (society, culture, the group, the room, the family, the partnership, the organisation - delete as appropriate).
As coaches we are conducting a very delicate symphony within the hearts and minds of our clients. We enable an environment and attitude of curiosity, exploration and perhaps growth and personal/professional development, while also modeling a state of ‘OKness’. We intend to inspire a mindset of far reaching possibilities, stretches and goals, while also expressing a solid state of groundedness and real world objectivity. But I’m wondering, is one of these messages more important than the other? Or, how do we receive both messages in harmony?
A friend of mine, let’s call him Adam, is currently in full on training mode for the London marathon later this month. His first time doing it (and by the sounds of it, the last) he has put the hours in, and completed his longest training run of something like five thousand hours at the weekend. I’ve been watching on the sidelines in shock and awe, hopefully a supportive version of shock and awe. Shock and awe with pom poms.
Side note: This is a very different training experience to when another friend of mine, let’s call her Eve, completed it a few years back with a 4 pack of Special Brew, 20 Marlboro Lights and some cooks matches in her bum bag, and then when the same friend, Eve, did it again years later with her Mum who turned 60 that day. Not a step of training either time.
But here he goes, following the suggested training schedule to the minute, mile and stretch. Regular physio and plenty of pre-planned, prepped, and pre-portioned plastic pot gastronomy. I regular hear him mumbling, “I can’t wait for this to be over” “I never want to run again”. In all honesty he should win a Nobel Peace prize for inventing, what I assume to be, the world's hottest and reddest exponential energy source radiating from his cheeks at any given moment.
I’ve never ran the marathon (sciatica, you see) but I have trekked up mountains, cycled through London and spent a month on holiday with just my Mum, so I know that rewarding and energising, life affirming feeling in your body when you complete something that you never thought was possible. It's like ecstasy. You feel you have discovered the secret to life. You’ve pushed yourself to your limits, existed and flourished way way outside of your comfort zone. You have achieved something and now you are in an elite club of people who have achieved the same thing. You are elevated. You are never doing it again.
And then you go back to work. And then you post your winning photo on social. And then you buy a £10 M&S Dinner for 2 as a treat. And then you wonder whether you should switch to a cheaper energy supplier. And then you check how many likes your medal + rose tinted cheeks photo on Facebook has got. And then you go back to work. And then you wonder what happens now that you’ve ran a marathon.
So here I am thinking, should we push ourselves to be better, to do better, to get better? to challenge ourselves even through actual, real life, pain and misery? Or should we just accept our limitations and run around with a smile on our face laughing at the expectations other people set for us?
Who wins in the long run?
This week my partner told me that I could do with losing 2 stone (apparently, ‘with love’) and I, somehow, found myself standing up in front of a room full of people, that I respect and admire, and humiliating myself by talking utter nonsense.
For some reason, when I opened my mouth to speak, the spirit of Timmy Mallet entered my body. I was the last to realise this, with the penny only dropping once I sat back down. This unfortunate and spontaneous case of full mind, body and spirit possession also put me in the running for the Nobel prize for the exponential facial radiation source! And don’t forget, all this while being a little bit too heavy.
No level of exorcism could have saved me from this heavy sense of shame, but I smiled on, hoping just ever so ambitiously that noone noticed. Everyone noticed.
So what is the learning here? Where is the opportunity for growth? Well, it’s that I’m OK and I want to be more OK.
I’m OK and I want to be more OK.
And what exercise did I do to land upon this piece of oxymoronic wisdom? Well it’s quite simple really, I sat and put pen to paper. With only a slight intention, I wrote down what I was thinking, feeling and experiencing in my body: journaling.
Not so much of the details of Whos, Wheres and Whats, but more of the So Whats and Now Whats.
Give it a go. Next time life makes you feel like you’ve been running in ever decreasing circles, naked in front of your entire nearest and dearest. Stop, grab a pen and start with:
(maybe just one or two sentences of description)
(elaborate on what this means for you, what impact this had on you. What you thought, felt and did about it, in the moment)
(going into detail, bullet points and lists, if you like, what exactly are you going to do about it. Or, what are you going to do differently next time, or as a consequence of the What. How will you do it? When will you do it? How will you know when you’ve done it?)
My gift to you. See where the road takes you and go and find your own unique version of OK. I'm off to the gym. The steam room is lovely this time of year.