Tuesday, 3 April 2012

When 140 Characters Just isn't Enough

"You're just never satisfied" My exH.

That observation/criticism from my exH, probably typifies the failure of our marriage. His frustration with me and vice versa. But then, he was talking to a young woman who ran away from her home and country at the ripe-old age of 18, to rock up to work in her father's pub. No, I'm not good with 'good enough'; I'm worse with 'status quo'; and my personal favourite, 'that's the way it is, that's the way we always do it', makes me grind my teeth to undo all the good dental work I've had done recently.

I have a short attention span. My employment, generally speaking lasts for 18 months to 2 years and there are very few instances of me lasting 2 years. I'll leave out details of my private life, because well, it's really no better. I used to believe my family when they said it's because I'm flaky. I now believe my Mentor when he says it's because I am a learning animal and I need the stimulation of new situations, new learnings. 

When we were having that conversation, he put to me a scenario that many people used to experience here in Norwich: leave school, get a job at Norwich Union, work there for 40 years, retire in a bungalow, die. I find even writing that, a deeply uncomfortable experience. My skin crawls and my shoulders start creeping up around my ears. Does. Not. Compute. He says I'm the kind of person who at 80 will be invited to a dinner party to regale the other guests with my latest adventure. I was much more engaged with that vision of myself. That was one of the two conversations that turned my internal world upside down to settle in a far better place.

I've been having a conversation on twitter. There was concern that Life Coaching was like air-freshner and that it promoted the view that people can't cope without it. Haven't we got along fine without it so far?

Now, I'm not a Life Coach. I am an NLP Practitioner. But I use life coaching strategies in my work, just as life coaches use NLP in theirs. But more than that, I believe in personal development, I believe it the same way I believe the sun rises in the East every morning. So for me not to engage in that conversation is like saying 'stop breathing'. But the great thing about it, is it's given me a chance to really consider the discussion. I've sat with it for a couple of days and here's what I think.

I believe there's always a better way of doing things. Life Coaching, is an exploration, an adventure. It's about finding out the clients' values, aims and Life goals, it's about lining everything up and discarding the self-sabotage that gets in the way. Ultimately, it's about enabling the client to achieve what they want in a way that is compatible with their values. The value of this was questioned - haven't people been getting along just fine without Coaching and Mentoring.

Yes and no. Yes, people have been perfectly successful without it. But no one achieves anything without a helping hand. I'd argue coaching and mentoring has always been there. In the days of manufacturing, there was the concept of apprenticeships: a lad started out at the bottom and learnt his trade from the people already doing the work. If he was good enough, he became a Master and took on his own apprentices. If you want to learn something, you find an expert in it and learn from them. When I worked in Economic Development, I used to arrange for business consultants to go into Small to Medium Enterprises to help the business owners grow their business. The criticism then was 'if the consultants were so successful in their field, why do consulting?' Often it was the case that the consultants were retired and so committed to entrepreneurship, that they wanted to pass on their skills to the next generation. And of course, some were better than others. Just like everything else.

Life Coaching is a particular version of this. Instead of looking at how to do something better in a business to achieve a better bottom line, it looks at what behaviours a person can change to do better in the facets of their life which are important to them. Life Coaching looks at all facets of a client's life: relationships, friendships, working life, career etc. If one facet is off, it tends to bleed into the rest of their lives.

Abraham Maslow created the Self-Actualisation Pyramid, whereby an individual sorted out the food, shelter, work, relationships facets before moving on to be self-actualised. NLP doesn't agree with that approach. We're an impatient lot. Why wait for self-actualisation? It's possible to work on all of these things together and frankly, you might as well enjoy the journey, because you're longer there than in the self-actualisation part! By lining all of these things up and getting everything working towards the same goal, it makes things more coherent, efficient and is a more fun experience.

One of the foundations of NLP is modelling. The co-founders broke away from the medicalised approach to mental health and studied people who succeeded. They studied people who got over phobias and then applied the model to people who struggled with them and taught them to get over it too. Think it sounds far fetched?

I've been in a room with a woman who was so terrified at the thought of snakes, her terror would manifest at a picture of a snake in a magazine. After 20 minutes, Richard Bandler taught her to overcome her fear, so that she was holding and stroking a boa constrictor and smiling. Boy did not like spiders, there would be many big, girlie screams at the sight of a spider, even in the bath and unable to get to him. I've got pictures of him holding Rosie, a tarantula after his session.

My boss in financial services over the last two years, has been mentored. He led his company through a very rocky patch last summer, where we all thought every day would be our last working there. Not 8 months later, the company is growing, taking on new staff and opening new offices around the country. All down to mentoring? No, but the mentoring helped him focus his concentration and energy to achieve his goal. Ultimately, a person has to put the theory into action. 

Life requires courage, compassion, perseverance, humour, creativity to survive it without going mad. Life Coaching offers one way of negotiating the mine field. It might not suit everyone. And that's fine. Like I said, I'm an NLP Practitioner, not a Life Coach, but I would not rule out it's usefulness to people who are struggling.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? What do you think? Self-indulgent waste of time, or useful? Tell me, tell me all!


  1. I like watching Mary Portas and Alex Polizzi turning around failing businesses. I think of them as Master organisers and prioritisers. Some people need this sort of help as some people can't see the wood from the trees. Actually, on occasion we can all benefit from a little outside focus.

    1. That's exactly what I think....

      But then I would say that. :-)

      Sometimes, it's all too easy to go round and round in your head over the same old things. Having someone give you a kick up the backside to get you out of that groove.

  2. Wise words Miss Scarlet! And as always another thought provoking read from you Roses. I once during my past career found myself being "Mentored" by the services senior officer. I was in a then very junior role. However over time I often found myself in a position where it felt like it was me providing the mentoring. This feeling, came about after several months when I suddenly found my ideas about service development and delivery that had been thrown about in these "Mentoring" sessions were suddenly being put into practice within the service. The process developed over several years as did the service. My career in the field took off and I think it was partly due to these sessions helping me to sort "the winnow from the chaff" and focus on issues with perspective and provide modelling through my practice for others in the team as to how my ideas could be put into demonstrable action.
    So I guess mentoring/ reverse mentoring worked for me!

    1. Great to hear of your experiences.

      And even better to hear how you were able to not only grow through it, but were then able to lead your team.


  3. I always fancied the idea of lying on a therapists couch talking all about me... and somehow all this just talking would sort out everything.
    NLP sounds like an aerobicised therapy....

    1. Shhh....don't mention NLP and therapy in the same sentence! Richard Bandler, the co-founder will come and thump you.

      NLP isn't about talking about your problems and then going out and carrying on as normal. It's giving you a chance to learn different strategies to make changes for the better.

      In therapy the client does all the talking, with NLP, the practitioner asks questions, listens to the answers and then does all the talking!

  4. My now business partner took me "in" 18 years ago and gave me just enough room to learn the business without losing it for him. Then, many years later I was able to offer to buy a part of it. I think the people who succeed in life are the ones who are open to guidance or mentoring. Not everyone can mentor and not everyone can be mentored, but if you're lucky enough to find that balance, it's really nice.

    1. Your business partner obviously saw you for who you are and knew how great it would be for you.

      I think having that faith in someone and seeing them flourish is a great as knowing that you've got someone looking out for you.

  5. Perhaps I could use this and get over my fear of becoming a published writer. :-)


    1. Pearl honey, is there anything you're really afraid of?

      Besides, you're already a published writer!



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