In this blog, I will cover a theme that stays pretty constant for coaches : how to help a client during a significant period of life transition. To misquote Shakespeare (in Twelfth Night) — some are born to cope with change, some become able to cope with change and some have change thrust upon them.
This blog will discuss the latter — where a client seeks coaching to help them cope with a situation, ranging from personal tragedy to changes they find extremely difficult to accept.
Periods of Life Transition
However, for the most part, even though these periods of life transition may be extremely painful, they are far from unexpected in the course of a lifetime. Some examples are: redundancy, retirement, illness and personal loss. Perhaps most significantly, clients often reach a point in life when their success is not delivering the ‘promised happiness’. They feel bewildered and experience a sudden but profound sense of a lack of meaning. This, in itself, can spur a period of life transition.
Part of the role of coaching is provide a witnessing presence. But, without an underpinning philosophy by which to understand natural changes in life, a client will suffer. In this situation, the client needs to challenge their existing, limiting, beliefs. However, the very term “limiting beliefs”, implies a judgement — who gets to decide whether a belief is limiting or not?
In this blog, I want to talk about how adopting a basic life philosophy can help clients who are facing a period of life transition. I also want to provide clarity as to why a belief may be limiting.
What Is Your Philosophy?
Firstly, let’s consider some general philosophies of life, which I will group as: Materialism, Hedonism and Principle-based.
Speaking personally, I started out with some simple and probably common ambitions: to gain independence from my parents and become self-sufficient. That was a path of Materialism with Hedonism as a way of reward or relief.
My first major turning point was in my early 30s when success in business and an unhealthy lifestyle started to feel wrong. This understanding was intensified when my father died and my first child was born. I realised that I lacked meaning, and now also had the responsibilities of parenthood. This meant that hedonism was no longer practical for me, if I was to fulfil my new ambitions of being a good parent.
What Can You Control, And How Can That Help You?
I then read 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Stephen Covey. I now realise that this was underpinned by Stoic philosophy, especially Epictetus’s Dichotomy of Control . This theory advocates the breaking down of life into things you can control and things you can’t control.
Covey talked about two key phases:
1. You are the programmer
Limiting beliefs are when you want to have control over things you simply don’t have control over. For instance, you can’t control if other people will change. You certainly can’t control unpleasant things that happen to everyone. Everyone suffers loss — be that of your wealth, health and relationships.
When this happens, feeling that it is unfair and grieving beyond a reasonable period of time is simply going to make you more unhappy. The things you can control in life are your attitude and your principles. If you can shift these, you will be able to deal with life transitions much better.
A quote I heard from Robert Dilts was, “Geniuses have very few beliefs.” Beyond basic beliefs that protect you from injury, most of our beliefs probably do us more harm than good.
Believing that you are the programmer means changing your expectations. It means realising what you have control over and how to accept situations where you have no control. Bad things happen to everyone, but ongoing suffering happens when we don’t accept these things and don’t focus on moving forwards.
2. Now write the program
Once a client can embrace these ideas, they naturally want to develop a more coherent philosophy of life. For this, they can do well to develop what Covey called principles. There is an interesting difference between what Covey defines as values versus principles. He states that values are personal while principles are universal.
One might personally value competition and winning, but a principle of wanting to do your best is more useful than a value of winning.
Winning and losing is a part of life. But a focus on doing your best best increases your chances of winning, as it is something under your control. You will thereby be satisfied, even if you do in fact lose, as you achieved your goal of doing your best.
The program is then discovering a group of principles (which are likely to be universal) to guide your life, which you can construct into your own philosophy.
I hope this blog has given a flavour of the some of the ideas needed for NLP coaching — in order to help clients live a happy life, we ourselves need to formulate a practical philosophy. This will, in turn, enable us to help clients learn to accept the inevitable shifts that take place over the course of a life, and become better at dealing with life transition.