When you find yourself in a challenging situation, you don’t always have access to mentors or great advice when you need them most.
How can you become your own coach and shift from overwhelm to calm confidence?
There is a stigma to coaching that it’s only about giving people advice; while this is true to an extent, it isn’t the whole story. The foundation of coaching is about asking the right questions at the right moment to help a client become more resourceful.
This process enables clients to tap into their inner knowing and wisdom and learn to do this independently.
Allow me to be your virtual coach and provide you with some vital questions you can ask yourself to navigate those crucial moments:
Imagine you get to the stage you are aiming for. What will that look like?
It’s so easy to get lost in the pattern of running on the proverbial treadmill but don’t feel you are getting anywhere. You are pushing yourself and working harder than ever, but it doesn’t feel like you are moving forward in your life.
I know you want to achieve success but have you stopped to consider what it will look like when you arrive?
It will look different based on your current life stages, but perhaps you defined success at a different time in your life and are having trouble reconciling where you are now and where you think you should be.
Maybe in your twenties, success meant being able to work hard and play hard. In your thirties, it meant finding a partner and starting a family. In your forties, it is more about contribution and making a difference? As you progress through your life stages, success will take on a new meaning.
Success doesn’t always have to equate to titles and financial freedom; have you ever reframed success as mental freedom? Perhaps success means slowing down to focus on your highest contribution and doing less but better?
Success means allowing yourself to take regular strategic pauses throughout your workdays, rest on weekends and enjoy the time with your family without the mental tug of war about what you should be doing.
You need to define what your version of success looks like. Most people are working towards something in their future that they already have today.
Are you too harsh on yourself? Suffering is caused when your blueprint of the world doesn’t match your current reality. If you continue the inner chatter that you are not good enough because you should be further along by now, you will only make yourself miserable.
You can either rethink your blueprint or decide to take a different set of actions to help you move closer to your goal.
The starting point is to pause and reflect on what the endpoint looks like. Maybe you have arrived and didn’t realise it? As Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind.
What would I tell my best friend to do?
This is my default question when I feel stuck. When you think about advising your best friend on your problem, you begin to see the situation objectively because it isn’t so personal anymore.
Advising your best friend allows you to take an aerial view of the situation and look down on it. What can you see differently, or what haven’t you considered about the situation?
You could also write a letter to yourself from your mentor or someone you respect. If you have a work issue, you could write what Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would do — if they are people you admire. Author Derek Sivers suggests the following process:
“When I’m stuck on a problem and need their help, I take the time to write a good description of my dilemma before reaching out to them. I summarize the context, the problem, my options, and my thoughts on each. I make it as brief as possible so as not to waste their time.
Before sending it, I try to predict what they’ll say. Then I go back and update what I wrote to address these obvious points in advance. Finally, I try again to predict what they’ll say to this, based on what they’ve said in the past and what I know of their philosophy.
Then, after this whole process, I realize I don’t need to bother them because the answer is now clear”.
The truth is, you know the answer, and you know what to do. When you reframe the situation to someone else, it becomes easier to pull out the answers.
What’s missing in my life right now?
Have you ever had days where even though everything is fine, something feels off? You don’t truly have anything to complain about because you have your health, a job, a family and enough money to meet your monthly obligations, plus some spending money left over.
Despite this logic, it still feels like something is missing, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. When you look at what is missing, you gain insight into how to close the gap.
Maybe you are creative, but you don’t make time in your calendar because you feel it isn’t justified based on your workload or feel guilty about taking time for yourself. It could be something as simple as painting, baking, photography or a hobby you love.
Once you identify it, then take steps to schedule time in your calendar for this activity. You have to protect this time like a warrior and treat it with the same importance as anyone else you consider significant in your life.
Perhaps you are missing fun and adventure? How can you introduce this back into your world? Can it be as simple as playing board games with your family and friends on weekends or camping in your garden? Have you forgotten how to look forward to your weekends?
Maybe you crave novelty and a change of routine? Can this need be solved by taking yourself out for a special treat like your favourite coffee or walking with a friend?
In the hustle of the pandemic, it feels ludicrous to introduce more into your world. Sometimes, one missing ingredient can make the difference between a good dish and an unbelievable one. Don’t settle for good days; figure out your missing ingredient and take action.
What were your wins in the last 90 days?
You are probably so focused on the goal in front of you and the next big goal that you may have forgotten to acknowledge your previous wins. Take a pen and paper and write down your wins from the last 90 days.
I’m not suggesting you become complacent but celebrating your victories is precisely what will catapult you forward. Confidence comes from action, not thinking about taking action. When you acknowledge your wins, you are creating evidence that you are already successful in your life.
It is incremental nudges over time that moves you in the direction of your goals. You need to actively incorporate them into your toolkit so you can keep moving ahead.
You can either choose to be someone who has 20 years of experience or someone that repeats the same year 20 times.
Maybe you had some failures in the last 90 days; bring those in too. What lesson did you learn, and how did that experience set you up for what lies ahead?
Perhaps you fell into the micromanaging trap, and you lost one of your best employees. What did you learn from that? Maybe you learnt that doing too much without sufficient breaks will result in burnout and even more forced time off?
Celebration doesn’t mean you need to spend money although you can if you would like to. It can be a mental gesture like seeing fireworks go off in your head or doing cartwheels, the floss dance — anything to acknowledge the great work you have done and how far you have come.
If you don’t make time for reflection, your experience becomes wasted and perhaps why you repeat the same mistakes.
If you could change one habit now, what would it be?
Author of How to Live, Derek Sivers, reminds us that when you choose a behaviour, you choose its future consequences.
Is there a habit you may have outgrown but are still holding onto?
A typical example is drinking wine during the week. It’s been around for so long, it’s just something you do and don’t question it, but is it serving you now? Let’s imagine what would happen if you stopped this habit.
Firstly, you would fall asleep earlier with ease instead of tossing and turning. When you drink at night, you may fall asleep, but you don’t reach the deep levels of sleep your body requires for proper recovery. That’s why even though you may sleep for long, you still wake up feeling exhausted.
If you stopped drinking in the week, you could wake up earlier to exercise or make progress on a self-care goal. The list goes on — think about your equivalent habit that if you stopped it, it would allow you to make progress on so many other goals.
Once you identify it, use the concept of your future self to help you implement it. I decided to stop drinking alcohol altogether, which may sound a bit extreme. I never drank a lot but one or two glasses of wine on a Saturday night when I went out with friends.
My kids are young and wake up around 6 AM on a Sunday, and they aren’t interested that I may feel tired. I also stopped waking up at 5 AM on a Sunday because I found alcohol disrupted my sleep, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and leave my feeling exhausted on a Sunday morning. I lost my hour of quiet time to meditate, do yoga and journal while the rest of the family were asleep, which is my way of charging my internal battery.
My value of connection, health and vitality outweighed my value of a good bottle of wine and quite honestly caring what other people would think.
When I decided to drop this habit, I created a recurring entry in my calendar at 7 PM on a Saturday that said ‘Reminder — you don’t like drinking’. Change is hard, and by the end of the week, you quickly forget why you committed to stop a habit. When I saw the reminder pop up, I kept myself accountable and remembered what mattered more.
Now I have deleted the reminder because I have internalised it and love my weekends. I’m not suggesting you stop drinking or wake up at 5 AM on a Sunday, but I ask you to question if you have a habit that contradicts your values and what matters most to you?
If you value family and connection, stop the habit of checking emails at night. If you value creativity, stop the habit of binge-watching Netflix so you can make space for the activities that will bring you joy.
How can you replace that habit with something that will better serve you and keep you in alignment with your highest values?
You can’t always rely on other people to help you solve your problems and create better days. Knowing that the answers you need are already within you is such an empowering thought.
The practice is getting quiet to engage in a conversation with yourself and tap into your inner knowing.
It is also about trusting that you have the answer because advice always sounds better when it comes from somebody else.
I’m not saying you don’t reach out for advice; of course, you need to source alternative perspectives that you maybe didn’t consider.
When you feel stuck or overwhelmed and don’t have access to the people you need at that moment, remember these questions to become more resourceful:
· Imagine you get to the stage you are aiming for. What will that look like?
· What would my best friend tell me to do?
· What’s missing in my life right now?
· What were your wins in the last 90 days?
· If you could change one habit now, what would it be?
You’ll be surprised at the insightful answers that come to you at the moment you need them most.
Here’s to being your own coach,
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