Several years ago I decided to take a “coaching course” via a website called wellcoaches.com, affiliated with Harvard and I believe reputed to be the top training site in North America. And why did I do this you might ask? Well, mostly because after countless hours at my bar, pouring wine and sorting through problems (my own and other’s) I kept hearing the same phrase over and over again – “You should be a life coach.”
So why not, thought I? I’ve already been a waitress, a singer, an actor, a public relations professional, a radio DJ, an author, a playwright and a mom. Let’s see what this is all about.
The entire course was facilitated through a weekly conference call with an instructor (and my classmates), a small practice group and lots of reading and homework. It was a bit daunting for a few reasons. 1) There was a 30 year gap between my last schooling (university) and this and 2) I learned on our first day that I was in the company of doctors, nurses, dieticians, psychologists, fitness professionals and one yogi. When my turn came to announce my profession it took all the guts I could muster to say “radio DJ and jazz singer”. Yeah, there was a bit of a stunned silence in the room.
What I learned very quickly though was that I was born to do this. It all made perfect sense to me. It was a lot of logic and even though I am blonde I will say with the utmost confidence I have a very logical brain. I loved every minute – the reading, the studying, the classes. Even the live participation. We were probably about 8 classes in when that day’s instructor (we had a different one almost every week) informed us it was the “day of reckoning!” The day that one of us virgins was going to actually have to coach someone live … and then get adjudicated by our peers. He then said that this was the toughest class of the course and, even though he would ask for a volunteer, he knew he wouldn’t get one and would ultimately be forced to randomly choose a victim.
Nope. Before anyone else could prove him wrong I raised my hand. I mean, I did it vocally since we were on the phone after all. I blurted out with all my radio-voice bravado – “I’ll do it!”
Again, stunned silence. And then from the good professor – “Wow. In all my years teaching I have never had someone volunteer period, much less so quickly.”
Take that all you doctors!
He assigned the role of my client randomly, gave her a problem which I would coach her through and then also assigned one of my other classmates to be my adjudicator. When the mock session was complete she would be called upon to assess my skills based on certain predetermined criteria before he would throw me to the lions.
Off we went. I was scared shitless but also exhilarated. The mock session finished. More silence. And then our instructor asked the adjudicator to weigh in. She began with “Before I say anything …”
Fuck. I thought that was it. I reckoned she was going to suggest I keep my day job. Keep on singing. Leaving coaching to the grownups. But what she did say was this – “Vickie is an absolute natural. I don’t know how else to say it but it’s like she’s been doing this for years.”
Well the truth is I had. Been doing it for years. Just in my kitchen with wine.
So today this all got me to thinking about coaching and if you could break it down into an easily understandable model, one that could be explained in a sentence or two, what would that look like. And then I remembered that time in Los Angeles when my son was finishing his course at The Musician’s Institute and he was having a tough time wrapping his head around what he needed to accomplish. His final few months in Tinseltown had been a challenge (he was only 18) and the poor boy was spinning. And that’s when it hit me.
We spin because we engage in circular thinking. We are so overwhelmed with so many thoughts or tasks or problems or goals that we allow them to overtake our brains and rotate willy-nilly like a whirlpool, eventually sucking us into a vortex from which there is no escape. At least that’s what we think. We think we are doomed because we feel doomed. And we feel doomed because we cannot abandon that circular thinking. We cannot move our doomed asses into …
Linear thinking. Going in a straight line. Handling one thought/crisis/task at a time and when that one is covered and only then, moving on to the next.
And so that is exactly what I did with my son. I asked him what the next thing was that had to be completed. Was it a project? Was it a test? And then I asked him not to think about anything else except that one thing. No listening to music, no looking in the mirror worrying about his complexion, no wondering about the rest of his life or the rest of this course or if he would even pass. Just finish the one immediate task. Then we’ll think about the next one.
So why I am telling you all of this?
I think because we all get sucked into that vortex on occasion, some more often than others. And if we remember this one trick, this one concept, those two words (circular and linear) then maybe when we feel that dastardly pull we can say NOOOOOOOOOO … I am not going down! I am going to concentrate on one thing and only one thing and I am not going to think about anything else until I get this one thing sorted and then and only then will I … move on to Thing #2.
My son did pass his course. So did I and not only did I finish that wellcoaches course I actually went on to coach one of my fellow coaches (from my study group) because she asked. And I was honoured. She wanted to self-publish a book and wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Neither was I but I figured I could help her sort it out. Can you imagined how delighted I was when she thanked me, in her book? Yes she got there and I was thrilled to be a part of her journey.
I am a total believer in getting help when you need it, whether at a kitchen counter or from a trained professional. But I am also a total believer in regulating your own thoughts which will in turn regulate your own actions which in turn will get you moving forward which in turn will save you from the vortex.
Onwards Linear Thinkers! You can do this!
And if you need help I am here … and by the way I am free.