The choice that isn't a choice - choosing inside your context

IMG_2261As a coach, I am often checking in with people to see how things are going with them.  I love hearing about what people are up to - it can be inspiring, humbling and encouraging in my own process. One of the things that I notice, time and again, is people, including myself, describing what has happened in the past and how they are fixing it this time.  The bad news is that they don't realize they're actually just cementing the same pattern.

We've talked about contexts in a number of different scenarios before.  One of my contexts is the story that I'm never doing enough.  If I'm operating from within this context, regardless of the actual problem, my default will be to do more.  Take action!

Because any perceived lack of success on my part shows up in my world as a symptom of not having done enough, it is predictable that I will always focus on what else I can do.

I'm not getting enough response when I ask for referrals?  Maybe I better ask even more people.  Up the number of people that I'm reaching out to.  Maybe I'm not making the progress in my relationship with Bay that I want to - then I better take even more action.  Maybe if I get her flowers three times a week, that will be sufficient.

Can you see how this context plays out?  Take a look and see if you can notice how my underlying context of "Never doing enough" shows up in each of these different places.

Before we go any further, take a look for yourself.  What underlying context can you see playing out in various parts of your life?  We create patterns everywhere in our life, and it is generally a sign of some context driving our behaviour.

Coaching is all about being at choice.  I get clear on what I am choosing between, and then I make a choice from that distinguished place.

Here's the punchline: until I've been able to distinguish what is going on, any choice I make will likely be inside that same context.  Even more frustrating, my default, even after I've distinguished, is going to be to choose inside that same thing.

If I know that my context is I'm never doing enough, the answer to create something different seems easy, right?  STOP DOING THINGS.  Do less things and be satisfied with what I actually do accomplish.

This, I assert, is generally how we deliver advice to our friends.  "Well, if the problem is that you're taking on too much, just stop taking on so many things".  While well-meaning, it is unfortunately just more of the same.

If I have a story that I am never doing enough, and I try to tackle this story by cutting back on what I am doing deliberately, can you see how that is actually reinforcing the story?  In fact, there is nothing there that I need to fix.  I'm not broken, and I'm not at risk of never doing enough.  That's just a story that I'm managing.  When I try to fix it by doing the opposite, I'm actively resisting that story.  And guess what happens when we actively resist something?  That's right - it strengthens it.  It keeps it even more firmly rooted.

Annoying right?

And this is the choice that isn't a choice.  We truly believe that we're choosing something different, all the while choosing the exact same thing we've chosen in the past.

This isn't to say that that action isn't the right one.  But again, it's not what you're doing it's how you're being as you do it.

This is can cause what I call "Coach's heartbreak".  I hear and listen to people describing what they're up to, what they're trying to overcome, and how they're going to have it go differently this time.  All the while, I can see that they're actually choosing the exact same thing.  The choice they are making resides inside that same context.  It will create temporary change, but is ultimately doomed to fall back into what is predictable.  (Dietary cleanses are often a great place to see people making choices inside their current context).

It's not because they're broken - it's just because they've got a blindspot.  Just like you do, and just like I do.

So what is there for me to do in my own work?  Well, first, get clear on what I really want to generate in terms of my being.  With my practice, I really want to create impact, power, leadership and connection.  And from that place, what actions can I take?  What is available for me outside of either doing enough, or not doing enough?

Identify an area in your life where you have continually struggled to create something different.  What contexts might be underpinning the pattern that is playing out?  How are you choosing the same thing inside your context, rather than something outside of it?