Where are you orienting from?
Thu, Jul 13 2017 02:30 | Adult Development, Developmental Coaching, Developmental Range, Dynamic Skill Theory, Personal Development, Professional Development
It’s 2001 and I’m standing on an elevated ridge in the White Mountains of Maine in the United States. My map is laid out in front of me on a flat rock, and with compass in hand I’m triangulating our group’s location. We are about to immerse our team into a thick deciduous forest for about 15 miles. The orienting calculations we make now have everything to do with our success of getting to our extraction point before we run out of food and fuel. It’s these fine measurements here on this ridge that will allow us to be successful later on. And with the right understanding of our location right now, we can calibrate each bearing, shoot from tree to tree, and plot an accurate course through the forest.
Fast forward, and today the terrain of exploration has shifted from that deciduous forest to the complex and beautiful landscape of my clients’ inner worlds. While mountaineering, coaching and leading all appear different enough on the surface, they all present similar challenges. One of the biggest similarities is the need to have an accurate understanding of where we are orienting from. Whether we are leading a team through the wilderness, leading an organization through challenging times, or scaffolding clients to achieve the most meaningful changes in their lives, our orienting reference points inform where we can ultimately go together.
To effectively move forward, we need to understand our present locations. To make progress we need to know where we are advancing from. And to expand or develop new abilities we need to understand what skills are already available.
Understanding our own developmental orientations is key for effectively navigating our lives, and it is critically important for coaches, because development is always powerfully influencing every facet of our lives. Within the territory of coaching, our developmental orientation is a prerequisite for how we coach our clients. And our understanding of our clients’ development is the foundation that our coaching is built on.
As a way to begin, try glimpsing into the complexity of your own development.
Now you’ll notice, I asked you to glimpse into the complexity of your development. I didn’t ask you about complicated developmental ideas. And I didn’t ask you to pin-point yourself on a developmental scale.
Many of us who are part of the conversation about development today make the mistake of too quickly classifying ourselves developmentally. In doing so, we miss complexity and instead engage with facets of ourselves that are complicated. Instead of relating from and with ourselves as fluid, dynamic and changing, we presume ourselves to be static and fixed, albeit complicated, human beings.
Many of us learned a developmental theory and tagged ourselves at a particular stage. Or we took an assessment delivering us a tidy developmental location that we’ve kept in mind ever since. It is true that rigorous developmental thinking must be grounded in sound research and robust models. However, all too often once we get a whiff of how to locate ourselves and others, we are off to the races cataloging and classifying the rest of the people, groups, teams, organizations, cultures and countries around us. It doesn’t take long before we believe we can see the entire world developmentally.
As a starting point, this can be a good thing; however, we must go further—especially if we’re interested in fulfilling our potential as coaches.
To go one step further, focus your attention into yourself. Get curious about yourself as a dynamic set of living developmental processes—not a location. Abide in the mysterious, profound and often humbling developmental nuances of who and what you are. Surprise yourself. Discover yourself anew, even in the everyday contours you enact day-in and day-out. Your investigations into your own living developments can up-level what you provide interpersonally with your coaching clients.
This is because masterful developmental coaching requires us to advance and evolve our relationship to development. We must penetrate the more static abstract ideas of development and get into relationship with the fluid, changing and living contours of development. Our view must go beyond fixed and firm developmental locations and participate with ongoing developmental processes. This breaks us free from the more abstract and conceptually rarefied developmental distinctions some of us get trapped in. When we do this, instead of the neat and conceptually tidy realm of development, we discover a mysterious living ecosystem with multilayered expressions of development in processes of ongoing change.
In the mastery end of developmental coaching spectrum, we no longer understand ourselves as inhabiting one location developmentally. Instead we are perceiving and participating with the living, uncertain, and dynamic variability of development. Skillfully operating on our client’s developmental complexity means that we’re able to see, hear, feel and think about developmental movements as they occur in real time—both in ourselves and our clients. We are attuned to experience our multiplicities, and theirs—which is to say, we experience how we’re inhabiting multiple developmental locations or aptitudes in every moment.
Put simply, you discover that you are not singular. You are plural. And this plurality becomes a living quality that guides how you relate with the complexity of your clients and yourself.
Developmental coaching at the mastery level has outgrown the comfort of static, firm and consistent ideas about ourselves and our clients. And this is what makes it masterful—it holds a higher resolution view (more accurate) perception of our clients as complex, living developmental processes.
To do this we as coaches must inhabit our own dynamism. Doing so is itself a participatory act of development that yolks us towards more complex aptitudes that we, our clients, and our world may very well need. Inhabiting our own mysterious dynamism we attain a more adequate vantage point on the immediate surrounding terrain of ourselves and our clients. With these more accurate perceptions, we can orient more effectively, understand what’s realistic and possible. We are more creative, and we are more fluid. This leads to more ingenious design, better planning, more robust strategies, and more vibrant and diverse expression of ourselves and the people around us. All of which ultimately supports better outcomes—not merely better tactical and strategic outcomes, but aesthetically enriching and ethically robust advances. All this goodness can flow organically from our intimate enactments with our own vibrant developmental processes.
So, as you finish this blog post, peer in. Where are you orienting from? How about now? Where are you headed right now? What are you in this moment? And, what capabilities are you enacting? If you look closely you’ll see all these are in flux, and that’s a good finding.
Rob McNamara is a faculty member of the Integral Facilitator Certificate program, a Leadership Coach and author of The Elegant Self. A leading expert on adult development and human performance, his coaching services help individuals increase their scope of influence where it matters most personally and professionally.
Developmental Coaching Mastermind, starting on October 5th, 2017. This is a rare opportunity for 15 coaches to be part of advanced professional coach training with Rob, where you will grow and refine your mastery as a coach, as well as focus on how you can provide rigorous, grounded and accurate developmental coaching with your clients. Click here for information and to register for the program.
The Lie of the New Year's Resolution
Fri, Jan 2 2015 11:38 | Adult Development, Change, Commitment, Habits, Intention, New Years Resolutions, Professional Development
It is that time of year.You know it—we are just around the corner from those good old New Year’s resolutions. Suddenly a new focus emerges. Ideals around getting “back into shape” emerge. Resolutions to cease bad habits strengthen. Maybe it’s to stop drinking or smoking. Maybe it is a firm resolution to spend more time with the family. Or a commitment to give yourself the time needed to nourish and replenish yourself captures your attention as January 1st brings in a new year.
Whatever it is, this year I urge us all to proceed with caution.
While our calendar has just made its new transition, the holidays have ended and the new year’s celebrations have come to a close, and we are all back inside the same lives. The same contours surround us. The same challenges and responsibilities push and pull on us. The same aspirations will draw us forward and the same unseen competing commitments are holding us back and they will continue to hold us back.
In this overarching reality, our new year’s resolutions don’t have much of a fighting chance. That’s just the honest truth. That’s why by the end of January, the gym will return to its normal volumes filled with the familiar faces of the regulars. Resolutions to cease bad habits flounder and eventually disappear into forgetfulness. The existing habits of our lives are likely to swallow us whole. This is the power of most new years resolutions:
In three weeks, the same behavioral patterns will enslave us.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love intentions. I love new resolutions to change ourselves and our life. I am all for them. My entire livelihood is built around helping people evolve themselves. I spend just about every day of my life focused on how to facilitate my clients’ development. Whether it is in their jobs, families, intimate relationships, company, community and/or in the realm of athletics, I’ve got my hands, head and heart fiercely engaged in improving how people perform in all walks of life to make their lives better.
And for adults attempting self-directed changes to improve their lives, these changes always originate in perspectives. Your vantage point or outlook is your most fundamental asset. Whether we call it perspective, vision or a new year’s resolution, inner directed change does stem from your insights and commitments to change. And, whether or not your intentions actually embed themselves into new mental, emotional and behavioral patterns rests on one major question:Is your vision, intention or perspective worthy?
New resolutions are a dime a dozen. They are cheap. Ideas for change are not by any means lacking. To recognize when your mind and efforts have been temporarily hijacked by a cheap insight is itself a dramatic move forward in clarity. This year, I encourage all of us to be suspicious of what resolutions tend to seduce us. The first and most important challenge in changing our lives for the better asks this all important question:
Is your perspective more worthy than the existing intelligence of your present life?
Most people look into their idealistic resolutions, aspirations and new intentions and instinctively say, “Yes, it’s totally better than my current life.” Don’t be seduced by these lies. Our more superficial assessments often fail to understand the broader implications of the intended changes we are envisioning. Intoxicated optimism does not understand the ingenuity and creative adaptation that is structuring, guiding and stabilizing our present lives into their current orbits.
So let’s ask ourselves, “Are my new resolutions for change truly worthy? Are they genuinely worthy of my life force? Is my intention valuable enough for me to, at least in some important ways, abandon part of the intelligence of my present life? Does this perspective provide greater value? And is this value more powerful than my existing habits to keep anxiety at a minimum?”
Most efforts at change fail here so straighten that spine, deepen your breath and sharpen your focus right here. Often the preference to not experience anxiety in change is greater than the desire for change. As such, visions are too small. Resolutions are too fleeting. Intentions are infused with wishful fantasies. Perspectives are less complex than the realities presently governing our lives.Regardless of how sincere, excited, determined and/or committed we may be, if our perspectives fail the value test, real sustainable change isn’t in our favor. A vision that is too small or a resolution that merely extends a few months (or even a couple of years) will fail most adults. Intentions fueled by or resting on hopeful fantasies fail. Visions holding less complexity than our present lives fail.
I often find myself repeating the saying, “Go big or go home!” Our perspective has to be bigger, more complex and hold greater continuity and endurance than our present lives. If we are not bold, we will likely fail. Our guiding perspectives must be born from courage. If it is weak at this this starting point, our minds and hearts will lack the ability to reshape the reality of our lives.
Reality rules, my friend. Our minds are either an early manifestation of a reality that is greater than our present life, or our minds are seduced into tinkering with shadows as they flicker on the wall pretending to be real.
Once our perspectives passes the value test, the next all-important question to ask ourselves is, “Can my desire for change conduct from intention to behavior?” With my clients, I use a proprietary system called Core Asset Management. It follows this critical thread from our perspectives down into our behavioral adaptations.
Without carefully following this sequence, ideas (regardless how valuable they are) remain as glimmers of possibility in our minds. Here now, gone in a short while. Meanwhile, the gravity of our habits powerfully cascade from one day to the next. From week to week, month to month and year to year, our life habits carry onward for better and for worse.
By adulthood, many decades of momentum are in full swing. When new year’s resolutions surface, the sheer force of life’s habituated intelligence dismantles even the most sincere attempts at positive change. Regardless of how painful or limiting habits may feel now, they are carried by a pragmatic tradition. They work. While we may be desiring to outgrow certain habits, they are still employed to fulfill a purpose.
Let’s save ourselves some frustration this year. Let’s not fall into the trap of wasting energy in efforts that may already be eroding our precious life force. Instead, focus intently on cultivating an intention, perspective and vantage point that is truly worthy.
Do not expect to discover it with a vision worksheet, in an hour’s conversation with a professional coach or over dinner with your partner. If we want real change, we have to give ourselves fully to this endeavor. Devote weeks to this endeavor. Apply the full intelligence of your life into this single inquiry.
Some of my clients spend months piercing through the entrenched limitations of their mind until finally something immeasurably precious occurs. A worthy resolution emerges. A new perspective captures them. They cannot forget about it because it is not merely an idea that comes and goes. Instead, it is an intention that permeates all that they are. It informs who and what they are at a fundamental level. When this foothold has taken shape, the flywheel of habit, its momentum and intelligence are but small pieces in a now larger, vaster and more capable self that is genuinely capable of life-altering and world-sculpting change.
This year, go big, my friends. Our world needs it and so does your heart.
Leadership and Performance Coach, Author of The Elegant Self and Strength To Awaken