17 May WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY CLIENTS OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS
I feel very blessed and honored to coach those who choose to coach with me! It is a gift to hold space for their learning, self-reflections, and self-challenging. While coaches are obviously not perfect and have not mastered work and life, coaching does hold coaches to a higher bar. You can’t really encourage great time management, environments, and leadership when you are breaking all the foundational principles yourself. This is a common struggle for coaches as they grapple with their own deficits while championing and encouraging clients to close gaps, grow and advance. A coach must be willing to do their own self-reflections and continuous growth. A coach knows that you start with where you are and then work to build a skill or area of life. So, after 20 years, there have been a lot of opportunities to be walking my talk and practicing what I study and preach. In addition to just being a student of personal growth and habits of high performance, getting to hang out with AMAZING, TALENTED, and MASTERFUL people every day creates a pretty motivating and compelling lens for life and work.
I wanted to share a few reflections of what my clients bring to me, as they show up just being themselves but constantly inspire and press me to be better.
#1) HEALTH/FITNESS. I played volleyball through Jr. College and loved working out this way. Working out by myself felt boring and I am rather uncoordinated for fitness classes. The books all say it and top-achieving clients work out. They invest and protect time to take care of their bodies. It inspires me to make this a priority. I have learned everyone has to find what works for them. What does not work is just having it on the to-do list; it rarely happens that way. Having it in your schedule at a regular time with a plan of what you are doing is effective. Your body comes to depend on it. You sleep better. It detoxes your mind from stress. It builds your strength and sense of accomplishment. It is essential for high performance. I have watched clients struggle to find what, when, where, and how to exercise. Some have found something that worked only to have the routine fall apart with an injury or break for travel. Me too. It isn’t about being perfect, it is just knowing it matters and keeping it in your essential habits of health. It is about being relentless to restore the habit and get back to it when falling out of rhythm. Being healthy matters and reflects one’s discipline and determination. While I might not always be disciplined, I am determined and know it is a key to high performance.
#2) READING. My clients are readers. We talk often about the book they are reading and what they got out of it to deepen their learning, insights, and application. Clients look for books that support their learning. This holds me accountable to read. I read what they are reading, check out new books coming out, and dig into similar topics. I am dyslexic and a slow reader. I do not do well hacking through books, plus I don’t sit still well either (I have a standing desk too!). I do much better listening to books as I exercise on the elliptical. I also live by book summaries (on www.audible.com or www.summary.com) and other services like www.blinkist.com. These help me to cover a lot of books and information. I wish I could read more and faster. With these tools, however, a person can cover a lot of information and develop a well-rounded perspective of topics that equip them well in many areas.
#3) DAILY HABITS. This was already important to me as I began coaching. My first coach, Bea Fields, taught me daily habits as I transitioned from working in an office to working at home. I remember learning the AM routine and how part of mine was lighting a mulberry candle. The routines seemed fine, and I didn’t realize how powerful they were until the week I didn’t realize I had no backup candles. Not having that part of my routine, threw my week off! It was then I realized how important a regular AM routine is (doing a series of 4-7 things in the same order to set up your day and get focused). My clients have inspired me by what they do in their AM routines. From journaling, daily gratitude, reading, writing, meditation/mindfulness, and stretching, to implementing ideas from The Miracle Morning (a book by Hal Elrod). I have “always” (for as long as I can remember) had a daily to-do list and practiced AM/PM habits. However, over the years my habits have evolved as they have been inspired by brilliant clients who are also working to hone their routines and habits to maximize their day, mind, and performance.
#4) FAMILY/BALANCE. The elusive quest for balance is challenging. What really is balance anyway? I would say for many of my clients and myself, balance changes depending on what is needed. It is more defined by harmony and equity of time and energy in different important areas even though at some seasons an area might get more attention. It is not about a rigid structure or boundaries. It is about the ability to ebb and flow, to be nimble and dynamic, to give and refuel. Balance is understanding where your energy comes from to recharge and pour out so you can give time and attention to all the areas of life that matter to you. My clients inspire me by their commitments to their marriages, families, volunteer work, teams, and personal priorities (i.e., faith). While juggling many responsibilities, they care deeply for each and make each special and sacred. High-performing clients keep the “Wheel of Life” a subconscious reality. They give time and attention to goals and intentions within each category: family/relationship, finances, personal growth, faith, fun, friends, work/career, fitness/health, and space/environment. While the “Wheel of Life” (https://www.synergystrategies.com/wheel-of-life/) is a tool I learned in my first coach training course. What inspires me is how great leaders use coaching to be intentional and deliberate about growing and giving time and attention to all of these areas. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a focus; it means that they are constantly assessing and aware of balance or imbalance. They move each forward so that the imbalance or neglect of one does not put you out of balance. It is admirable and impressive how sage leaders have deep, rich hearts to grow themselves so that they can be their best for the world and those they serve.
#5) ASPIRATIONS. I once had a client who had a serious goal to be part of building a hotel on the moon. People who come to coaching think big. Some come to find direction, purpose, clarity and form solid, healthy, goals. Others come with BHAGs (“Big Hairy Audacious Goals”) that stun the common mind. What if? How much is possible? It isn’t about pushing one’s limits but about what a person dreams about and feels compelled to make happen. It reminds and encourages me to not settle for mediocre (that isn’t ever really a struggle, but it is easy to get on the treadmill of life and the day-in/day-out routine). It pushes me to think, “What am I striving for? What matters to me? What is possible with what I am working on?” It isn’t that I am not focused on them, but after being with incredible people who are out moving mountains, it is difficult to not join them! It is encouraging and inspiring to look up and out, to be reminded of your strengths, purpose, and potential, and to not settle for average. I look forward to the daily quest to always be your best and to bring excellence and the best to the world around you. I will note this is a special tribe. I have noticed this aspiring energy can wear some out and cause them to feel inadequate until they find their own voice and mission. This tribe that enjoys the quest for “next” is a group of movers and shakers I am proud to work with and inspired by each day.
There is more I could add to this list of reflections. These are a few things that I hold as important and see constantly as a priority for clients. We all have times of imbalance, stress, and the inability to do it all. Again, it is never about perfection, it is just about the journey. For the sake of giving our highest contribution and being our best selves, we strive to grow, learn, and be our best. These are little daily essentials and mindsets I have noticed in my clients who impress, encourage, and inspire me to be my best as well.