My favourite types of insight are those which come from my clients and go on to inspire some kind of new thinking within me. Bizarrely, it often happens that over the course of a few weeks a little theme will crop up that makes me realise “Hey, there’s definitely something in this” (cue my thinking face). And this post is all about one of those.
The place where I begin with all clients is providing a safe non-judgemental space in which they can have a bloody good download – sometimes they find themselves saying stuff that they’ve been wanting to say for years and sometimes they say stuff that they never knew they even thought.
The place we go to next is awareness. I think this is my favourite part of the coaching journey (not sure I’m allowed to have a favourite part, is that a bit like having a favourite child?) because it’s the time when I get to see the light bulb go off in your head when you first understand that the way that you think determines the way that you feel.
There are lots of wonderful things about awareness. It unlocks some, previously closed, doors in your mind (or as one of my clients said “It’s unlocked doors that I didn’t even know existed”) which give you access to a whole new world of thinking, feeling, being and doing. And the amazing things about awareness are that once you’ve got it, once you’ve spotted the unhelpful thinking habits that have been holding you back, you can never again ‘unknow’ them and no-one can ever take that awareness away from you.
But sitting in your newfound awareness can feel like a slightly scary and uncomfortable place. A bit like when the children opened the door at the back of the cupboard and discovered Narnia for the first time. It can be overwhelming in both its newness and its totally life-altering consequences.
And then you get bowled over by the realisation that:
“Holy shit, if the way I feel is determined by the way I think and not, as I’d previously thought, by all these things that the horrible world is doing TO me…..then I’M the only one who can change that. I’M in the driving seat. I get to make the choice. It’s up to ME, and only me, to take responsibility for the way I think and feel. Holy shit, that’s both amazing and horrendous all rolled into one.”
Basically, it’s a total gamechanger.
And because this space is so new and exciting (and because I like being in it, coachy eye roll) it would be really easy, now that we’ve got a nice rapport going, we’ve opened the pandora’s box and we’ve both survived the experience, to stay in this place. To chat about the way that you think for the remainder of the sessions. We’d have a lovely time, we’d find it fascinating, we’d bathe together in the golden light of your awareness (sorry, got a bit carried away there).
But would anything fundamentally change for you? Would you see any real transformation in your day to day life? Would any change be sustainable?
And this is what some of my clients were able to playback to me over the last few weeks.
“I totally get it. And yet, I don’t seem to have changed the way I act.”
What exists beyond awareness?
We’ve established three things.
1. That I’m a big fan of awareness.
2. That, as fascinating as it is, on its own awareness has proven itself to be innocuous and impotent (I just wanted to use those words).
3. That action seems to lag behind our awareness.
People come to me wanting change. Wanting something to change within themselves, something to change about the way they feel and/or something to change within their life. And they want that change to be palpable – to be able to see it, touch it, feel it.
So, what do we need to do in order to create a strong and speedy connection between awareness and action?
The strength of the connection
The strength of the bond between awareness and action is based on your brain’s ability to bridge the gap between the conceptual space of what’s going on in your head and your very real life.
We can have some wonderful conversations, for example, about the story that you tell yourself about not being good enough. But if you can’t clearly identify how this shows up in your life and what it’s triggered by, then it will just stay as it is – an interesting, but not useful, insight that neither translates into action nor to change.
You need to be able to notice those thinking habits as they pop up in your everyday life (you may find my handy ebook about stories useful at this point – #gratuitousplug). You won’t be able to catch them every time but, with practice, the words will become so familiar that you’ll be able to hear them as if they’re being shouted at you through a megaphone (and, often, the imaginary voice doing the shouting is mine, sorry about that).
If you can’t notice your thinking then you have no chance of changing it, and if you can’t change your thinking then you have very little chance of acting differently.
Once you’ve got the hang of noticing then you need to start challenging – asking yourself “Is it really true, is this thinking up to date?”. I guarantee your answer will be “No, it’s a load of b******s” and this will both take away some of the story’s power and create some space between you and your unhelpful thoughts.
After you’ve practised noticing and challenging your old stories, it’s time to start creating some new ones. New stories which serve you much better, which are truthful, which represent both who you are and what’s important to you right now.
You might be a bit sceptical about them at first. You might be reluctant to fully accept them. But you won’t be able to find any evidence that they’re not true. This part of the journey, I fondly describe as being in Joyful Discomfort.
Now, and only now, after all that thinking, now we’re finally ready for some action.
And the best place to start with getting into action is to start as small as you can and as soon as you can. I wrote this blog post some time ago which might help you with that. Decide on the one tiny thing that you could do today or tomorrow which will move you in the right direction and then…….just try it.
Treat it like an experiment. Don’t worry about whether it’s perfect. Don’t worry about whether it’s right. Don’t worry about whether it’s successful. Just try something out, be curious and see what happens.
The speed of the connection
Let’s start with one important point about the speedy bit.
Think about an unhelpful thinking habit that you have – yes, you definitely have at least one. We’re talking about those stories you tell yourself, the beliefs that you keep close or the fears that hold you back. How long have you been thinking that way? My guess is more than 10 years and, in all likelihood, most of your adult life.
So, just because you’ve started working with me and you’ve now got some juicy new awareness about those unhelpful thinking habits, that does not mean they’re going to go away overnight. You’ve been practising them for a really long time. The bad news is that it may take some time to upgrade your thinking. The good news is that it is totally possible to do that and you have complete control over how quickly it happens.
The speed of the connection is dependent on how much you’re willing to practice and how quickly and how often you’re willing to take tiny steps of action to move closer to the thing that you want, the way you want to feel or the person you want to be.
So here’s the chain of connection:
Awareness – Notice – Challenge – Create – Practice – Experiment/Act – Change
So if you have the Awareness but aren’t acting differently or witnessing any change then one of the previous steps in the process is not happening at all or, at least, is not happening often enough or is not fuelled by enough energy or purpose.
But once you’ve invested in all parts of the chain of connection, want to know the REALLY exciting bit?
Once your actions have caught up with your awareness, then you’ll find yourself in the wondrous place that is FEELING DIFFERENT.
And at this point, my work is done (for now).
You’re thinking differently. You’re behaving differently. You’re feeling differently. Transformation has happened. You and your experience of life have changed.
I’m Hana. I’m a recovering overthinker and depression survivor. I work as a Life & Mindset Coach to help women improve their experience of life. I love talking to women whose lives look great on the outside but that’s not how they feel on the inside.
The next intake of my group programme, Minty Fresh Thinking, is now open for registration. It’s a monthly online programme, run within a secret Facebook group and it’s perfect for women who either need a bit of a helping hand to get unstuck, to get a bit more clarity and focus, OR who want to do a more foundational awareness building programme before they move into 1-1 coaching or similar.
We start on 1 June, click here to book your place here.