Coaching transforms people. People who are being coached are changed by the process and as part of that process, they often change the situations in which they find themselves.
However, sometimes a client doesn’t have sufficient control over a situation to be able to transform it. What happens then?
Take my client, Jenna (name has been changed), as an example. Her job requires that she frequently travels internationally. The last time we talked, she was just back from a trip to the States and was feeling rather jaded. ‘I love my job but I hate all this travel. This time last week, I’d already been up for six hours, the traffic was terrible so I was running late, I was charging through the airport dragging my wheely case and my carry on, and all I could think about was getting home again. There’s no way of getting around it – I have to travel so I guess I just have to suck it up and get on with it.’
‘That doesn’t sound very sustainable,’ I commented. ‘Can we try something? Can you list all the things you really hate about your work travel?’
Given we usually focus on the positive, this seemed like a strange request to Jenna but she started scribbling. She had quite a list.
‘We’ve established that you can’t change the business’s requirement for you to travel. We’ve listed all the individual things that bug you about the process of travelling – let’s go through the list and see if there is one thing, however tiny, we can change about each of these points to make them ever so slightly less irritating,’ I suggested.
We spent the rest of the session working through the list.
Some of the points were easily dealt with and only required a small tweak – ‘I end up eating unhealthy food on the plane and then I feel guilty’ was replaced with ‘I’ll buy something nutritious in the departures lounge and pack some healthy snacks’.
Some of them required more effort: Jenna did a bit of research and found a ‘stay and park’ option which will allow her to spend the night before the trip in a hotel near the airport and leave her car there for the duration which will cost only £12 more than the parking alone: money well spent for a reasonable night’s sleep and being close to the airport the next morning.
Not one of the changes was rocket science: anyone could have come up with them. The point is that previously, Jenna had seen all of the irritants as being just as unchangeable as the fact she had to travel. By breaking the nebulous ‘I hate travelling for work’ into its components, Jenna could in fact make some changes to ameliorate the situation.
You can apply this same process to any situation you can’t simply get rid of or ignore, whether it’s a work issue or something happening in your personal life. Remember, even if you do find a way of changing each of the irritating components, the situation itself may not suddenly become the best thing that’s ever happened to you! For Jenna, these changes she’s devised mean that she doesn’t hate work travel any more but it’s never going to be her favourite aspect of her job. They help her to improve her attitude about travelling for work.
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: what situation do you hate? Can you break it down and make some small changes to improve matters?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’re ready to transform your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.