The Coach is In…
“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
As I recall, it was the late 80’s and I was teaching a high school Sunday school class. We were talking about getting to know ourselves when one person and then another and another recounted all the activities they were involved in. I was amazed at all the time they were busy. As the conversation continued, and became a little deeper, the genesis for many of these activities was their parents and started in middle school. “My parents want me to be well rounded and to be successful.”
As the conversation continued, I inquired if they were ever curious about ‘why they were born’ and what thoughts they may have had about that? A few ‘brave souls’ volunteered their thoughts. I remember one girl said that she found the questions ‘a little scary.’ I realized that although I had begun to explore these questions in high school, that this was a topic that wasn’t ‘natural’ for everyone.
I pivoted to a question about how they enjoyed all they were involved in. Many expressed that they wished they had more free time; sometimes they felt overwhelmed by their schedules. That was 30+ years ago.
A little over a week ago I was listening to a friend of mine who happens to be a client. The stress in his voice was palpable. I could tell that on that day he had very little energy for our conversation. He had hired me to help him ‘get to the next level.’ As we talked over a number of weeks the more ‘urgent’ of his needs was more about his being whelmed over with emails, projects, requests for research, the need to cut costs, to improve margins, improve analytics, etc. The list seemed to go on and on. Early in our coaching relationship I had asked him if he really wanted the job at the next level, and if so, did he want to do that job in the current organization. Over time we both realized that he was uncomfortable answering the question because the answer was “no,” but he ‘believed’ that he ‘should’ go for the next job. Toward the end of our recent conversation I shared with him that he would likely continue to be unhappy until he resolved the conflict he felt. It was draining him.
These two stories may seem unrelated. They connect for me in talking about the pace of our lives, and as part of the “me I want to be” I wrote about last month. I would love to be able to talk with the high schoolers. Many would be in their late 40’s. Did they find their purpose? Did they change anything about the ‘pace’ of their life? Did they parent any differently?
At so many levels life seems to be about pace. The ‘pace’ may resemble a ‘race’ in certain households with certain types of people, and at certain times of their lives. Some of us may believe that we are, or should be, capable of doing two things at once. We may also believe that a greater pace in our lives is what we want because it equals greater success – an indication of jobs with more responsibilities, having kids increases our pace, owning a home, volunteer activities, working out, etc. Does it translate to greater success? I guess it depends on what you value and at what point you take the snapshot of your life.
Our choices bring consequences. Sometimes, the consequences can be unintended. Choosing a certain line of work or taking a certain promotion. Choosing to get married. Choosing to have children. The list goes on. We may believe that these choices are part of the natural evolution of life. For many of those choices the benefits outweigh the impact on our lives. Watching my son and daughter-in-law raise a 5, 4 and 20-month-old I see the impact on their lives. They are surviving, with very little spare energy or time.
All of our choices may not be this extreme in terms of their impact, but there may be a cumulative affect we are not aware of. What happens to how we care for ourselves as the pace of our lives increases? Do we deplete ourselves more than we restore ourselves? What I observe is that many of us are better at depleting ourselves than we are restoring ourselves.
Some of this connects to how well we know ourselves. The journey to know ourselves often occurs over many years. Is it a journey that is crucial? It depends on what you want in your life. I submit that as we have ‘squeezed’ more and more of ‘our’ time from our lives there is an increased busyness that is not bringing value. As our rest and self-care are impacted we are seeing increased negative effects on our physical and mental health.
Knowing ourselves is a ‘lens’ for our lives. It helps inform us of those things that ‘fit’ who we are and help us discern what are better decisions. Knowing yourself helps weed out others’ opinions about you that may not be helpful. People who know themselves often have a peace about them because what they do is more aligned with who they are (they have answered some of life’s big questions – “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?”).
I have coached enough people to be part of several ‘know yourself’ discussions. They are often challenging as people explore parts of their life and personality that aren’t working as well, including things in their past. It can also be a transformative journey, as people open up and decide to take risk and make some changes that will bring greater alignment and greater reward. As Polonius says in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “This above all else: To thine own self be true.”
I believe that the choice we make about the pace of our life may not be as important as how we choose to care for ourselves. If we are willing to say ‘yes’ to ourselves we will be more willing to ‘protect’ our time as much as we can. We all have periods of time that we are just trying to get through that have a great impact on our time (e.g., certain stages of raising our children, projects at work, caring for elderly parents, a volunteer commitment). These times do require sacrifice of ‘our’ time. Know this, and keep looking for ways to get back the time you need for: working out, gardening, meditation, time with your partner, whatever brings you energy rather than depletes you. Understanding what is depleting you is valuable. That awareness allows for the choice of what you want to change, whether now, or at some point in the future.
What I have learned from my life, and from those who share their most intimate thoughts with me about their lives – continued depletion of ourselves deprives us of our best life, including with those we love the most doing the things we love the most.
What needs to change for you? If not now, when? Your choice.
To a better you…
P.S. If you could use some help with changes in your life, let me know. It’s what I do.