At the start of every coaching session I do, I offer my client a moment of mindfulness. We both sit, if they want to, concentrate on our breathing, and I lead them through a short exercise to get them ‘into the room’ and leaving aside, for the duration of the session, any worries or interrupting thoughts that may be plaguing them.
To be honest, people are rarely unwilling to give it a go. I think this is a testament to how accepted mindfulness and meditation now are in the modern world. People are aware that it has become so easy to rush from place to place, constantly bombarded by information and notifications on our phones, emails on our computers, that stepping back can be very hard. For some, the experience of sitting without a computer and ignoring their phone for ninety minutes is an unusual experience in itself – and it frequently comes as a great relief.
So engrained is this diet of constant adrenaline that some wonder, with mindfulness, how we can let go of worry without becoming bad at our jobs.
“I’m paid to worry about this event turning out perfect. There’s no room for me to shrug my shoulders and say ‘I’m sure it’ll all be fine'”
The same applies to relaxing into a coaching session: if we’re trying to solve difficulties, can we really leave them at the door?
Dr Russ Harris puts it nicely in The Happiness Trap: we can get stuck ‘reliving the past and pre-living the future’. Of course I want clients to bring their concerns and issues to the session – but that means stepping back and looking at them dispassionately, rather than continuing to stew over what’s happened, or going over and over something you can’t yet fix.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and the mindful exercise is just one way to help on this path.
I help my clients to leave the session with a plan of action or a change they want to implement. But these actions or changes have to happen ‘out there’ in the real world, not inside the safe environment of the coaching session. It’s no use a client being able to compose civil email to that infuriating colleague when sat next to their coach, but losing this ability when back at their desk. So we don’t ‘live’ the issue, and deal with it there and then in most cases, but instead raise the client’s awareness and grow their capacity for action in future.
This means the client is now able to take the action at the appropriate time, and leave behind those worries when it’s not the moment to tackle it. Suddenly the middle of the night becomes for sleeping, not worrying about what you’re going to do tomorrow. Mindful and calm!