Mentoring Yourself with a Coach

When you’re looking for career advice, one thing you’re often told is to find a mentor. This is easier said than done, however. People who seem to be making the right decisions will naturally attract mentors who can help them go from good to great. But that may not be you. The good news is you know more than you think. You just need a way to be honest with yourself in making sense of it.

What does coaching have to do with this?

When you get a mentor, they may bring a lot of knowledge to the table about how to succeed in an industry or position. But that knowledge is particular to them. They didn’t get where they are on knowledge alone. There are other variables like education, the people they’ve met by chance, the interests that have given them different ways of looking at things. A good mentor will also have a knowledge of people that lets them advise you as you, not as a junior version of themselves. Not all mentors can do that though.

A coach does not bring the industry-specific expertise of a mentor. But they are an expert in a different area: understanding what makes people tick, and helping you understand how you tick. This can include identifying emotional blind-spots, saboteur behaviors and things that you’re good at. But there’s another element: In a coaching session focused on you, there is a place to draw out the things that you know, make sense of them and decide what to do about it. Even if you’re not succeeding at work, you know who is and what their interactions with other look like. Even if you have a coworker you clash with, if you stop and think about it you can probably predict how they’ll react to certain situations or things you might say. By taking the time to learn about you, about your environment and about the feedback your environment is giving you, a coach can help you figure out things you might not have realized, or might not have wanted to admit.

If you need a mentor, but can’t find a mentor who’s right for you, who gets you or, let’s be honest, you can’t find anyone who wants to take you on as a “mentee” that you would want to be mentored by, a life coach or career coach may be the way to go. Even if you do have a mentor, a coach can be good because their only focus in your coaching session is you. They help you mentor yourself.

Part of a successful coaching relationship is finding someone you’re comfortable with. I am a certified life coach, and I would be glad to meet with you for a short consultation to see if coaching – and coaching with me – is right for you. You can set up a free consultation at the main page. Think someone else may be a better fit? Visit this LinkedIn page to request proposals from other coaches on LinkedIn.

How are you stopping yourself?

The other day, I was talking to my life coach (most life coaches have their own coach, because they know the value of coaching) and she mentioned something she’d been learning about, Positive Intelligence. This is a little different from plain old intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) because it’s main focus is resiliency. The idea was formulated by Shirzad Charmine. Like many such ideas, there’s an element of marketing and an element of truth here. Good PQ will not necessarily make you rich, powerful, healthy or good looking. What it will do is give you an element of balance or equanimity so you can take life’s challenges as they come.

The evangelist, D L Moody, once noted:

I have never met a man who has given me as much trouble as myself.

D L Moody

As it turns out, one of the keys to dealing with life is getting out of your own way. And that means letting go of thought patterns (and their attendant actions) that developed as coping mechanisms that no longer serve us. Charmine refers to these patterns as Saboteurs, and knowing your Saboteurs can help you keep an eye on when you’re on emotional autopilot instead of thinking things through.

My two favorite Saboteurs are the Pleaser, and the Avoider. I like giving good news and I don’t like giving bad news. Sometimes this focuses the mind on ways to creatively serve in tricky situations. But it can also lead to the sales phenomenon known as over-promising and under-delivering. Good intentions can’t change reality, and words and deeds intended to protect our inner child can make things worse.

One of the reasons I focus so much on empathy in my communication and coaching is that when we see things only from our own perspective, we don’t just miss the opportunity to communicate and work with people more effectively; we also discount the possibility that our own perspective may be off. Knowing what really serves you, and thinking through what will serve the other person, can help you find win-win situations that lead to mutual benefit and growth.

You can learn more about your Saboteurs by taking the free quiz at Charmine’s site. The quiz is here. (There are, obviously, follow up e-mails that will try to sell you things.) Even if you don’t take the quiz, though, when you find yourself upset or frustrated, you should take a deep breath, pause for a few minutes, and then ask yourself if any elements of your emotion are coming from a desire to shield yourself from your fears or weaknesses, rather than from logical analysis. This is almost always the case.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am a life coach, and I’m glad to help you work through communication issues, including the non-verbal elements, that may be holding you back. My fees are pretty reasonable, but if you’ve been knocked on your bottom by COVID and the economic ripples it has created, let me know and we’ll see if we can arrange something. Go to my main page to book a free first consultation.

New Year’s Resolutions

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant, summarizing Aristotle

When the New Year dawns, to mix metaphors, it is common to set resolutions for the new year. It is just as common to break most of them by February. We blame our lack of willpower, or attention span, or the demands of life, when this happens. But there’s really a different problem: The coming of the new year does not add to the hours in a day. When something new is added, something old has to give. When some new course is chosen, and old course must give way. When the time comes to make resolutions, though, we give to little thought to how we are going to make room for them in our lives.

When I became a certified Smoking Cessation therapist, a key lesson from the course was that substitution beats willpower. Finding out why a person smokes – physical sensation, boredom or maybe just an excuse to leave the office for a few minutes – gives you a clue as to what routine or substitution can allow the smoker to capture what they were getting out of smoking in a different way.

One of the most common people promise themselves to do at the new year is to lose weight. But why do people gain weight? Comfort food calms when we’re stressed. Fast food lets us eat now when we’re tired. Snacks in front of the television give us something to do with our hands when our bodies are still, and it may remind us of getting out to the movies. These are, of course, just a few of the reasons we don’t eat as well as we should. And as for exercise, that requires time, time that is getting shorter and shorter as we spend more time on our smart phones with Facebook friends we didn’t actually talk to in real life and with work that used to end when we left the office. So eating right and exercising more to lose weight doesn’t just require motivation, it requires changing a lot of things that have crept into ever busier lives without our intending it.

In the past several years, I’ve seen a lot of useful books about habits and habit formation. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, comes to mind. We know you need to replace bad habits with good ones. And we know a little bit about how. But still you must ask yourself, Why do we form bad habits in the first place? Understanding what you get from your bad habits is the first key to changing them. Because otherwise, when you find yourself in those situations where the bad habit gave you comfort, satisfaction, or maybe a feeling of control, you will need to find willpower to resist temptation. By knowing what’s going on, you can redirect it.

So, if you want a new year’s resolution, I would suggest one, and only one: Be conscious of what you’re doing, saying and thinking. Ask yourself if you would like for things to be different. And if you would, instead of beating yourself up, understand that you were trying to take care of yourself and look for a better way to do so.