It is hard to know where to begin a message in the midst of this unprecedented crisis — one that is touching us all and will leave us forever changed. That said — it is also a time for getting “comfortable” with uncertainty, and paradox. One paradox, which comes immediately to mind as I write this: now is a time to hunker down, stay safe, follow health experts precautions and simultaneously, not isolate.
I have been privileged to connect virtually in the past week with a number of our Fellows from around the world — and we have been brainstorming ways to navigate the disruption, stay resilient — and even create opportunities — for our businesses.
Many of us have clients who feel overwhelmed (especially in the health care sector), who have cancelled in-person group programs, and may likely cut back on expenditures for what may be considered “non-essentials” like coaching.
On the other hand, some of us have been successful at increasing our connections with current clients — and new ones — by learning the ins and outs of video connectivity and convincing clients of the value of staying connected, getting support, and maintaining virtual team engagement, all online.
With this in mind, I want to share what one of our new Fellows brought up, with humility and vulnerability (signs that he is likely an amazing coach!), that we are all dealing with one way or another: fear.
Fear touches us all at times like this — and as my colleague Susan David writes in her book Emotional Agility, it does not serve us to deny or try to push it away with stimulants, distractions or acting out. On the contrary, what works — and is restorative — is to simply embrace, recognize and accept fear as a natural human emotion, not good or bad but a normal, usually temporary, response to a lack of control.
Of course, the deeper truth is that “control” is an illusion even in the best of times — so as we brainstormed ways to support this new Fellow, I was reminded of the three C’s that I fall back on — and share with anxious clients — in times when waves of fear crash in:
Courage — as Susan reminds us is not blindly taking risks but “fear walking” — recognizing that anxiety is normal and may “feel” debilitating in times of disruption — but is almost always fleeting. When we stop, breathe, accept our emotions “as they are,” and re-focus on what is right in front of us—a flower, a song, a pet, a loved one—they often miraculously shift. Our internal narrative or story (what I sometimes call the “monkey mind”) of worst case scenarios gives way to what’s possible — and in its place the next “C” on my list arises: compassion.
Compassion starts at home — with self. Now is a time for being gentle with ourselves, for re-upping our commitment to self-care: meditation, exercise, sleep, healthy nutrition and so on (a walk in the woods, a bubble bath, a good book). These help to ground and fortify us in ways that enable us to model and demonstrate compassion for others. Once we make that powerful shift – away from self-concern towards helping others—the negative spiral of fear turns positive. Compassion, grounded in self-care, becomes a contagion of positivity and a pillar of support stronger than any virus.
Community, as the last of my core C’s is a natural outgrowth of compassion. There are many ways that we as coaches — trained to serve clients in the midst of change — can reach out to provide emotional support, virtual connection, volunteer time and where possible, financial support, to communities in need.
Here at the IOC, in this spirit of community, we are creating multiple ways for us to stay connected — to “see” each other, to share stories of grief and loss but also of humor and strength, and to engage in learning and personal growth.
Having dedicated our organization to educating and building the profession of coaching with best-in-class scientific underpinnings, over the next two months we will double our offerings of webinars, offer multiple research “doses” on topics related to resilience, wellness, positive psychology, neuroscience, even business building, and make ourselves available to our Fellows, Sponsors and affiliates in as many ways as we can think of.
We hope you will take this period of home time, not to isolate but to “ground,” to grow yourself and your practice by partaking in these offerings. Check out the many practical and evidence-based webinar offerings noted here, the research “doses” — especially those that educate us on the complex nuances of resilience (for example: research shows that resilience is as much about context, community and culture as it is about the individual) and the proven efficacy of coaching support in the midst of adversity—which may come in handy if a client believes coaching is “dispensable”.
Also below is a quick review of the books we suggested in our newsletters over the past year – as now may be a perfect time to turn off the TV and catch up on your reading!
In closing, I want to share with you one positive shift that this pandemic may bring, on a global scale: an awareness that our planet is small. The very idea of separate “countries” is artificial, and no culture, gender, race, political or physical “wall” can truly separate us: we are all human, all one family.
Let’s take care of each other.
Jeff Hull, PhD
Director of Education and Business Development, Institute of Coaching
The IOC is a global community of coaches.