Our guest blogger, Janet Harvey offered this all to important commentary that is still very valid today.
What do you know about your personal potency to invite clients into an explicit exploration of potential?
The idea for this topic comes from hours of discussion with coaches at every stage of development wondering about the path to mastery.
Sometimes the quest is to earn the next ICF credential. For others, the question arises from a driven desire for excellence that borders on perfection, an end state that is perceived as elusive and unattainable no matter how hard we work.
In my view, the journey toward mastery, in all its forms and definitions, is personal, unique and defies formulaic answers.
Let us then begin a journey together of exploring and in the words of Dr. Seuss, oh, the places we will go.
Potential, by ICF definition, is the focus of a coaching relationship.
As coaches, we are to maximize personal and professional potential.
We do this through a thought-provoking and creative process with our clients. The implied core purpose of a coach then is to generate an experience with the positive effect that facilitates desired “Begin to experiment with clients, inviting exploration of the same vulnerable territory in order to open conscious awareness of potential.” change for clients. That change, in all forms, is recognized as maximizing potential.
What do clients know, or better yet, care about potential? The language used with clients rarely includes the term potential. I am curious about why and invite you to explore this topic first conceptually and then very practical in terms of what we do with clients in being a coach that is effective.
Let’s start with language and what potential means. The Latin root of the word potential is a combination of potis (able) plus esse (to be): to be able. Most dictionaries and discussion of potential go on to say that potential is: to have authority and power to be effective in action. From this we learn that potential is a condition of having power that is potent and has not yet come into being; it is possible, latent, unrealized and/or underdeveloped.
Clients usually share that potential is stifled by the circumstance or context, “so-and-so won’t give me the authority” or, “the climate isn’t right for a promotion” or, “it will be perceived as unfair if I am given the opportunity I want and have earned.” All of these examples, and others I’m sure to spring to mind, are beliefs about what is accept- able behavior so that we achieve a sense of belonging and respect. What we know from the viewpoint of coaching is that any belief adopted may also be transformed, in the same way, a belief originates. It’s a wonderful example of a parallel process bursting into awareness.
Imagine what opens with clients when we boldly engage in an exploration of what created our beliefs. For a client to witness that he or she invented what is believed means at that moment he or she has the power to change what is believed. As Dr. Carl Rogers explored in person-centered psychology, we understand that values – and our choices in life that honor or dishonor those values – are a primary influence over our beliefs. Further, those beliefs are a primary influence over behavior choices.
Autopilot in an airplane is a good metaphor for creating habitual behaviors. We set a course for life that seems useful based on the conditions in a moment of time and then give our attention to something else. In changing our attention we stop noticing the conditions and as the wind and temperature shift, we drift off course. The impact of being off course brings our attention back to the course and we make some new choices. The power, the potential, is in every one of us to be free and at choice about our relationship to life in any moment. To be aware of our vulnerability is the stimulus to choose something new. The question then is this, “What is it that stops us from naturally expressing our full potency?” Ah, now that is the sweet spot I find inspiring to explore with clients!
In order to fully explore potential with a client, it is important for each of us as coaches to explore the same question: What stops us from naturally expressing our full potency? Self-reflection generates perspective, understanding, and compassion for the journey we invite clients to take with us. Taking the risk to express our potent essential self freely in any relationship is a state of wholeness and that state includes allowing for our vulnerability to be transparent. When we courageously choose to embody wholeness our energy is contagious, fuelling inspiration and reciprocal exchange with clients. Being self-reflective about our potency is a practice that broadens and deepens awareness while with others.
Be a Conscious Observer of Self
Being a student of our powerful coaching modality maximizes our potential as coaches and reminds us that it is our responsibility to express potency, fully and freely, as a role model and inspiration for our clients. The self-development goals offered below support understanding the journey of maximizing potential first hand. Bringing our compassion to clients helps us to invite clients to engage in the same journey. Together we experience vitality and inspiration to be the cause of positive transformation in the world. Coaching purposefully is therefore incredibly important for the environment to welcome vulnerability and activate choices that maximize potential.
Be Conscious of Potential
Everything in life is energy. Recall a moment in your life when you stood by a waterfall or maybe a rushing river in the spring or at the edge of the ocean on a stormy day. We experience nature’s energy and realize that energy lives inside each of us as well. The energy with a certain magnitude is at the root of understanding potential. Imagine a state of being in which our ultimate potential is available and realized by us; energy flows like a spectacular waterfall. The potency of our highest truth is eternal; it will always be, regardless of our degree of awareness of it. The first step then toward realizing our essence is to purposefully direct our energy to open awareness. It is a vulnerable moment, of course, which is rewarded by access to our potency and the choice to “own” it, live it and purposefully choose moment to moment.
There is an interesting paradox about realizing essence. Living from an externally proscribed set of rules and expectations demands energy. When this way of being is our primary mode, especially as an unconscious habit, it’s like having a small hole in our gas tank. No matter how much energy we put into our tank in the form of rest, healthy eating, exercise, learning and fun, we never seem to sustain our fuel. By contrast, living from essence, from inside out instead of outside in, is replenishing and doesn’t wear a hole in our tank. Our gas tank is always flush with plenty of fuel flowing through our bodies.
Consider another metaphor from nature that we often use with clients. Visualize a warm summer day and with eyes closed pay attention to the light and temperature of the sun shining on your body until you experience being the sun, shining brightly from the center of your body out to everything around you. Visualizing being the sun, radiating care, love, compassion, power, and strength allows us to metaphorically realize our potential. If we can imagine it, we can create it, learn how to continuously access it and generate results in life that activate our unique essential potential.
When we attempt to make changes from the outside it is similar to depending on the advice of others versus trusting the answers from within. It also calls for being someone we are not and that requires extra energy, lowering the magnitude of the energy available for expression. For example, when we recognize that we consistently accommodate what others want or expect of us, we are living from the outside in, and that’s exhausting.
When we live, choose and act from the inside out it’s energizing.
While it is true that outside circumstances may be beyond our control, we are in charge of how we relate to circumstances.
When we choose from our essence, life is easier and more satisfying. Focusing our energy in this way is central to sustaining conscious awareness of our potency.
Here are four practical reflection questions to engage with individually:
- What do I imagine is available if I make life choices based upon my essence?
- What choices and actions empower me to wake up and embody my full potency?
- What intentions sustain consistent, conscious choice from inside out?
- What will generate more consciousness in sessions and invite clients to create and develop essence-based habits of expression?
These are central questions to answer, consciously and daily, in order to maximize our potential. And because this is an internal process, we must find these answers for ourselves and act accordingly. Pay attention to your process and begin to experiment with clients, inviting exploration of the same vulnerable territory in order to open conscious awareness of potential.
Professional coaches care deeply about people, so much so that we habitually extend our caring beyond what clients require. This can tip the balance from being partners to being an expert. At this moment we limit rather than maximize potential and the energy flow to vulnerability slows down. Invite discovery of essence in coaching sessions and notice what happens to client energy and most important, client leadership within the coaching partnership.
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