This morning the temperature has dropped to a cool 75° Fahrenheit and the humidity has dropped to a pleasant level. I’m planning to spend part of the early afternoon in Central Park, perhaps reading, perhaps listening to music. It’s been a busy few weeks, paired with very intense weather — temperatures soaring to triple digits alternating with flooding rain and thunderstorms. After spending so much time indoors, I am taking care of myself by enjoying the temperate day.
How are you taking care of yourself? As coaches, we are in a profession that is most often exhilarating yet also demanding and draining. How many times, after a very full day of appointments, do you want to both dance in the sheer joy of your clients’ gains and collapse in a little heap from exhaustion? How many days do you crowd in just one more thing?
This month, I’m suggesting that you turn to Mastery #9: Helping the client create and use supportive systems and structures to support yourself. What supportive structures have you built into your own life?
Time for Yourself
Beyond the basics like good nutrition, exercise, and health maintenance routines, self-care involves making time for yourself. Years ago, my coach taught me to build personal time into my schedule. Are you doing this? I take one workday a week off and put it on my calendar. On that day, I put my coaching and consulting work aside and get out into the world. Because I’m sometimes so immersed in our practice that I forget about socializing, I try to schedule time with family or friends on those days. I’ve also started using a different color on my calendar to denote personal appointments. It may sound silly, but sometimes it’s just nice to look at the month and see how much time I’ve reserved for myself.
Something for Your Spirit
Whatever you may call it – spirit, soul, heart – find a few minutes every day for some kind of peaceful reflection. Read something that moves you, find a little time to sit quietly and enjoy your surroundings, pray, meditate. There’s something that works for everyone. This time devoted to your inner self is another way of continuing to grow and remain centered.
Maintain Your Support Network
For the past fifteen or twenty years, I’ve been using a four-quadrant framework with my clients and in my own life. It’s changed over time, and I no longer even remember the source of the original version. The four components of this support system are: Cheerleader, Comforter, Clarifier and Confronter.
Everyone should have a Cheerleader. A cheerleader offers unconditional support all the time. Cheerleaders will tell you how great you are even if all you did was get out of bed in the morning. Cheerleaders are relentlessly enthusiastic about even your smallest accomplishment. They urge you to do whatever you want to do; not by pushing, but by applauding every effort and reminding you just how wonderful you are.
Your Comforter is the second source of non-judgmental, unconditional support. A comforter is the first person you call when things aren’t going well. Comforters give you all the sympathy you need — and nothing but sympathy. They make a pot of tea or open a bottle of wine or find some chocolate and sit down to listen and listen and listen. They offer you words of comfort. They are willing to hear the same story hundreds of times if that’s what it takes. A comforter will not try to fix things or offer advice. They just offer you all the unconditional support you need whenever you need it.
One thing that I’ve observed over the years is that, while almost everyone understands the need for Comforters, there is often resistance to the notion of having Cheerleaders. Many of us think that we ought to be able to give ourselves positive reinforcement — and to a certain extent, that’s true. But a little external reinforcement couldn’t hurt. I have a colleague who every so often starts off a text message with “hi, gorgeous.” I walk a little taller and my smile is a little bigger the rest of the day. Of course, there’s more to support than unconditional positive regard. The remaining two roles are people who help you buckle down and accomplish great things.
A Clarifier is an expert at sorting things out. Clarifiers help you get at what is going on beneath the surface. They probe to find the real problem and help you get a clear idea of what you want to do about it. You can bring any situation to clarifiers and they will ask you questions, listen, ask more questions, pose hypothetical situations, help develop solutions, and, finally, help you pick the solution that will work best for you. When you can’t figure out what went wrong (or right) or what to do next, sit down with a clarifier and work through the situation.
Despite the name, this is a supportive role. I’ve stayed with this name to balance out the four C’s, but you may want to substitute another, gentler word for Confronter. A Confronter will not let you get away with a thing. Confronters remind you of your commitments and push and push until you meet them. If you mention a goal to them, they will ask for a progress report every time you see them. You may not always appreciate your confronters, but they are essential for all of us who have a tendency to procrastinate. They don’t accept excuses and they don’t give up until you finish what you started.
At the last Conversation Among Masters, Maria Nemeth gave a wonderful example of the role of good confronters. When she was writing The Energy of Money, she had three friends who fulfilled this role. She asked for their support in making sure she wrote three pages a day. Every morning, one of them would call Maria and ask three questions: Are you sitting at your computer? Is it turned on? How many pages are you going to write today? If Maria said “three,” the conversation was over. But some mornings, she, like all of us, had a whole litany of excuses. The friend would listen patiently and without judgment and, when Maria wound down, would ask, “Maria, how many pages are you going to write today?” I’ve adopted that technique myself to keep me on track with my book.
Make a grid. Put at least one name in each quadrant. Make a second grid. Fill this one in with the names of people you support. That’s your support network. I revisit mine every six months to be sure it’s current.
Find a Coach
I’m a firm believer in the notion that every coach needs a coach and I often have more than one. My coaches serve as sounding boards. They support me in achieving my own goals and in supporting my clients in meeting their goals. They offer marketing advice. They share their new ideas and listen to mine. Some are paid coaches; some are buddy coaches. Each relationship enriches my life and I know I enrich their lives as well.
This quote from George Bernard Shaw is the tag line in my coach’s email signature: "…we don't stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing."
I’m seeing more and more studies suggesting that lifelong learning is even more important than diet and exercise in longevity. Interesting! Have you completed your Learning Agreement? Read this article in the July VOICE.
We’ve got a wonderful collection of interviews with masterful coaches for you to listen to. The latest interview, conducted by Kristi Arndt, is with Julia Stewart, lifetime member and Director of the School of Coaching Mastery. There’s also a new teleseminar on the Masteries, presented by Natalie Tucker Miller and facilitated by Krishna Kumar. Finally, the slides from last year’s and this year’s WBECS presentations are available.
Well, this has been a long message. I hope it helps support you on your path to coaching mastery.
Dr. Susan R. Meyer, MMC is President of Susan R. Meyer, Coaching and Consulting. As a Life Architect, she helps wise and wild women construct a joyful life, provides executive coaching and instills a coaching approach to leadership for organizational success. www.susanrmeyer.com.
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