When people are asked to reflect on their experience of being coached, one thing that often crops up is the feeling that they could have taken the plunge and begun to invest in coaching much earlier. There are a number of reasons why we hesitate or defer making this step. To understand this we need to understand more about the nature of the change process, and the relationship it has with our identity.
Identity is a mental model that we create for ourselves to be able to function and make meaning of the world. It is an interface in a “constant and imperceptible gradual state of transformation”. (Damasio 2010) It defines and is emergent in the process of self-creation. The truism rings “the most sustainable way to change behaviours is to change identity” (Costa, Garmston. 2016)
For the majority opening ourselves up to others just isn’t easy. Without a good awareness of how our identity serves us, working on changing how we think naturally sets off internal alarm bells. Often the more coaching claims to be effective and transformational the more defensive feelings kick in within us.
The multi faceted interface system we experience as our identity detects risk. It usually favours the world we know over the world we don’t know. Even minor changes in the way we could view things can be interpreted as the ‘unknown’. This might be why getting to first base, enlisting help is probable the hardest step in the change process. The natural resistance we feel and reluctance we have is eased when surrounded by cultures of coaching or if previously coached but for the coaching virgin this can be a step indeed.
Getting to know more about the coaching process is a very good place to start. It raises our consciousness so we can arrest our natural defence responses to unreasonable and inhibiting fears.
Identity’s multi- faceted interface is usually so closely a part of us that we are unlikely to be aware of how it drives our behaviours. We are a complex interactive field of different identities. Some overlap whilst others hardly know one another. The identity we have as mother or father may work quite separately from our identity as associate or guild member. Some may oddly overlap such as our identities as friend or dog owner. Then there are seemingly peripheral identities such as learner or team member, good organiser or being ‘dependable’.
All these facets of our identity have more of less weight for us depending how they are connected with our values and beliefs and our needs for belonging. Generally speaking the more weight something has for us the more we are emotionally invested in the process of evolving it and guarding it.
So to answer the question “When does investing in coaching make sense? We could ask ourselves further questions like: How much weight does this issue have for me and how much would change in this area be worth to me?
Coaching works very well when the weight of an issue is high and change has a high worth because self motivation is key.
If we grasp that high weight and high worth activates a comparative high level of resistance and fearfulness we gain clarity. If we know our needs and fears are part of the same ‘us’ and this is natural we are more likely to arrest the difficult emotions that run from this question. When we understand that coaching is profoundly aligned to work with dissolving resistance and fears the step towards coaching can be made with confidence.
Effective coaching helps us to experience how we can learn to accept and work with the natural expressions of our identity. It is the embodiment of such key transferable life skills that cause us to wonder…. why didn’t I invest in coaching earlier?