The saying goes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” As a professional coach, I am wary of making this bold, blanket statement. In coaching, the role of the coach is often to hold an objective, supportive space that is difficult for individuals to find on their own.
Yet, the current demands and uncertainty in our lives put us in a position where we are learning all sorts of things to help manage through difficulty and uncertainty. Think haircuts, sewing projects, vegetable gardens and other lost arts that we may have relied on others for and now must do ourselves. The prevailing idea is that it is better when we work with a professional, but for now, this approach will work.
While there is no substitute for the supportive, transformative conversations and personal relationships that come from coaching, there are some techniques that can be helpful while we are in the throes of a pandemic. Now is a time for reflection, centering, refocusing on priorities, and acting with intention and commitment. The following exercises will help you do just that.
Focus on What Is Most Important
Every great coaching engagement starts with clarifying what you want and articulating how you will know you were successful in achieving your goal. Try this exercise on your own:
Close your eyes. Visualize yourself at a time in the future when the current circumstance is but a memory. Imagine yourself looking back on this time. Who were you? How did you show up? What values were you most focused on? Spend a few minutes in this visualization, and then use those images and thoughts to align with your present-day actions.
Build Your Motivation
Many of us are having trouble sticking with good habits and focusing on the things we say are important. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself, “What do I need right now that would make me feel better?” For me, sometimes, the answer is a nap, some reading time or a good snack. I give myself permission to enjoy that small indulgence (aka self-care), and it is enough to help me return to the important things at hand. In this way, I can reenergize and muster the motivation to keep going.
Another approach is to create a mantra for yourself that you can fall back on when you’re feeling defeated, unsure and stuck. You can tie this mantra back to the visualization exercise, when you identified what is important to you about how you get through your current circumstance. If you said you want to be flexible, confident and calm (for example), use those words to create your mantra: “I am confident. I am flexible. I am calm” or, “I am able to ride the wave with confidence and ease.”
Get to Know Yourself
I have spoken to countless people who say they have spent more time with themselves during this pandemic than ever before. While I know this comment was not meant entirely as a positive, I am thrilled.
Reflection is the basis of growth and development. We need to understand how we operate, why and whether it demonstrates who we want to be. A simple and effective way to develop this understanding is to build a daily reflection practice. Ask yourself two simple questions at the close of every day:
- How did I show up as my best today?
- How could I have shown up even better?
Answers to both of these questions will help you make substantial progress and improvement in your life, including in your level of happiness and satisfaction. And you can do it in as little as two minutes.
Support Others With Your Natural Gifts
Research shows that when we focus on helping others, we are less inclined to dwell on our own challenges and issues. But in a time when so many are suffering, many people feel ill equipped or unable to help.
Now is the time to be creative. Pull out some paper, and jot down your strengths. What are you good at? In another column, make a list of what the people around you need. Think of them in groups: First, consider the people who are closest to you, like your family or your co-workers. Then, think about your friends and neighbors. Lastly, think about your local and professional communities.
Look at both lists, and see if you can make any connections between your skills and strengths and the needs of others. If you are artistic, can you brighten the day of family members with custom doodles sent by mail? Can you lead a drawing session with friends on a virtual meeting platform or offer the same service to your child’s teacher? Think through different ways you can give back, from your closest circle to the furthest, and choose an action that feels good for you.
We are living in unprecedented and challenging times, but you can choose who are, what you do and who you will become. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” If ever there were a time for creation, that time is now.