I was recently asked to write an article for a coaching community I’m involved with on what I have in place to help me learn. It was an interesting question – I’m certainly learning a lot just now, and making some big personal breakthroughs, so a dear friend offered up a metaphor which helped me understand just why it’s all working so well. It’s just like pitching a tent – you need good secure support in all directions to help you stay upright whatever the weather. I’ve managed to build a personal support system, with no significant gaps which could leave me flapping in the wind!
So I offer here a sharing of what I have in place, not necessarily as a ‘how to’, or to claim I’ve got everything right, but to help you reflect where you draw your own personal support system from too:
I’m blessed with loving, supportive friends and family who provide me with safety, security, comfort and love (particularly my husband and 3 beautiful daughters). I have professional support and development through supervision, professional learning days and events, and I also commit to one significant external formal learning intervention linked to coaching a year. I put in place something where I feel I am contributing, connected and part of something bigger than just myself, both inside and outside of work. I get this by being actively involved with the larger coaching organisation I do associate work for, and through other groups I’m active in such as my contribution as a School Governor. My next intention, following an inspiring meeting last night, is a five year commitment for us to be a host family for a month each year through Friends of Chernobyl’s Children. My Action for Happiness pledge also is part of this ‘tent peg’. I learn so much from all my wonderful clients – their wisdom and experience. I find each session holds a mirror up to me, as much as I hold one up to them to them. I’ve really noticed, when I write up my notes to reflect the insights my client got, the takeway for me can be as profound as the one my client took away. I’ve been going through a development course with a number of other coaches and have been playing with what we’ve been learning with a ‘practice partner’. Our energies and approaches as coaches are very different, but perfectly complementary. It provides me with a safe place to experiment and play, without judgement or pressure of ‘getting it right’. I also work with a friend who acts as my ‘Mindfulness buddy’. We speak fortnightly, without fail, and check in by email in between. We are able to confide in each other, notice what’s been happening for us emotionally as well as mentally and physically. It feels like a blessed sharing of journey and deep friendship. This relationship has helped me keep my attention on what matters, and makes the difference, and I speak to her in my head every day. A treasured gift. Again, it’s safe and without judgement. And of course, I have my own coach, the witness to my journey who regularly re-opens the door for me to access the Bigger Me. A fragile, vulnerable exploration of my more ‘spiritual self’, held with tenderness, wisdom and deep insight. I find every 6 weeks between my coaching sessions is a pace that gives life time to happen without me losing sight of ‘the golden thread’ of the development I’m working on. I suppose I speak to myself as well – I journal (sporadically), but now I’m blogging and writing more here I’m finding the structured written articulation of what’s running round in my head is a powerful sense-making tool. I try to resist the lure of too many online blogs and forums, or Facebook and LinkedIn feeds and groups; they are too seductive to my unfocussed procrastinating self. I’m lost before I know it and the day slips away with nothing tangible to me achieved. However, there’s blog I do allow regularly because I find it aligned and a useful reminder delivered to my inbox: Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits, and associated Sea Change Programme. My final tent peg of support is quite new, but making a MASSIVE difference. I’ve invested in paying a virtual digital marketing manager – I decided I needed to walk the talk and focus on my strengths and use the strengths of others in areas I struggle more. She holds me accountable, gives me focus, is a bouncing board for ideas and is a strong practical implementer. Together I feel we’re making a good team, and I’m astonished at the difference it’s made to me as a ‘one man band’ company. The responsibility and accountability is still mine, but the burden feels shared. I worried for years I couldn’t afford it, but it’s been worth every penny and frees my time to do what I’m good at. Through this I’m learning about focus, leverage and self acceptance. So these are some of the pegs that hold my tent securely in place through the fiercest of storms! What are yours?