Some people spend a lot of time and energy trying to work out just who they are.
In fact, for some, it’s a lifelong quest of reflective discovery; something they find both rewarding and life enhancing.
But, for others, it can develop into an obsession of navel-gazing that ends up with much time spent looking in the mirror and little spent looking out of the window.
The journey to self realization has many paths. There is, in fact, not one road, but a choice of many. Some will choose to take the slower scenic route, enjoying the view along the way but others want to go from A to B via the newly built super highway, get there faster and spend more time enjoying it once they have arrived at their destination.
Therapeutic Coaching represents the new super-highway to wellbeing. It begins with the end in mind and starts by posing the all important questions; ‘what is the goal? What is the destination? Where do you want to be?’
Arnie was a young man in a hurry, frustrated by his inability to structure his own thoughts and create a vision of his future.
He came to see me for some therapeutic coaching, sent by his mother to ‘sort himself out and get his life organised.’ He’d been previously assessed by the school psychologist as having dyspraxia or ‘clumsy child syndrome’, a condition which can make it hard to make decisions, amongst other challenges.
He had dropped out of school, unable to keep up with the written work. Exams were a particular problem.
When I first met Arnie, he looked tired and a bit dishevelled as though he’d just got out of bed. He told me he was currently working part time in a pub but felt his lifestyle was pretty unhealthy with all the late nights, alcohol and smoking having an impact on how he felt.
He told me he often felt tense, nervous and anxious and had very poor sleep.
Working with the life wheel highlighted his dissatisfaction with work, health and learning. On the other hand, it also revealed he had no big money worries and was very happy with his home, family and friends. Yet Arnie said he felt frustrated and confused about his lack of motivation about the future.
He was drawn towards several possibilities for a future career between pub management, accountancy, social work or nursing. Disorganised thinking and lack of motivation are part of the picture of dyspraxia and we discussed some strategies to manage this condition and take back control of his life so that he could be proactive about his future rather than reactive to events as they unfolded around him.
A SMART goals exercise proved particularly useful. I suggested we consider one of his career options and progressed through the questions, painting a picture of what life might be like if he chose to go down that particular path.
As it was something he was familiar with, we looked at pub management and began to work our way down the questionnaire, noticing the many talents and resources he brought to that role and looking closely at what his future life might look like. We had a bit of a breakthrough when Arnie talked about his negative feelings about the future.
‘I’m used to failure’ he said. ‘It’s like I’m trying to walk but somebody’s hanging onto my legs, holding me back.’
This kind of metaphorical insight is therapeutic gold and I did not miss the opportunity to develop the image.
I asked Arnie to close his eyes and see who it was that was holding on to his legs. He was quiet for a while and I thought he might need a bit of help with the visualisation, but suddenly he opened his eyes and said ‘It’s me. A part of me is trying to move forward and another part of me is lying on the ground, clinging onto my ankles and pulling me back.’
I asked Arnie to imagine a TV screen and to view himself on the screen being held back. I asked him to notice how he could free himself in some way from this other part so he could move forward more easily and notice how he might feel lighter or freer as a result. Arnie told me afterwards, he imagined kicking his shoes off and running barefoot across a field of green grass.
We did some other work around sleep, exercise and how to have a healthy lifestyle and Arnie said he intended to stop smoking for STOPtober on October 1st as he’d made a connection through our discussions between going outside for a smoke and having too much time for negative thinking. ‘Every time I take a cigarette break’, he said, it’s just another opportunity to beat myself up’. He spoke of ‘toxic thoughts’.
At the next session, Arnie arrived looking quite different. The shadows under his eyes had gone. He looked tidy and healthier.
I asked what had changed.
‘Everything’s changed’ said Arnie. ‘I enrolled on an accountancy course at college and I’ve already started’. There had been a timely offer of a job from a family friend after completion of the course which would last 12 months.
He’d already reduced his smoking from 25 cigarettes to just 5 a day, noticing the link with less opportunity for negative thinking as a result. He still intended to stop smoking completely by the end of October. His sleep was better. He felt he had finally taken charge of his life and was moving forward at last.
I asked whether the SMART goals exercise had influenced his decision and he said it painted such a clear picture of the future he did not want, it helped him decide the right direction to move in. Finally, I asked what had been most useful in our work together.
Think I’ve realised, it’s all about having a clear idea about who you want to be’ he said with a smile….