Some people turn to coaching because they are in the middle of a breakdown, and are having trouble moving past it. Others turn to coaching because they simply want more growth in their lives. The idea of growth is a slippery one. Stop and take a minute to actually think about what growth means to you. When you hear someone saying "I've really grown a lot this year", how would you interpret what they mean?
Here's the definition that ontological coaches use: Growth is expanding our capacity to be with whatever shows up.
Let's unpack the statement. First, what does it mean to be with what has shown up? In simplest terms, it means staying in our essence (vulnerable, free and open), rather than turning to our survival mechanism (protected, restricted and closed).
For a detailed breakdown of those two terms, click the links; for a quick idea of what I'm talking about, here's an example. Think of someone that really triggers you. Someone that you simply cannot be with. Maybe they always speak in a condescending voice. Or perhaps they're just trying way too hard to fit in. Whatever it is, there's something about them that you find uncompromisingly obnoxious. Imagine yourself in conversation with this person. How are you showing up? You might be putting on a good show, but I assert that your way of being is pretty predictable and automatic. Maybe you're angry and aggressive. Maybe you're condescending yourself. Maybe you're righteous and closed to what they have to say.
You aren't able to just be with this person - instead, you go to your own survival mechanism. There is no right or wrong here. This person simply represents a place for you to grow (for bonus points think about what your automatic way of being is costing you in those moments - what is not possible from that place).
Now imagine the opposite kind of person. Your spouse, someone in your family, or a friend that you trust deeply. Think of how you are able to be with this person. Your truest self probably comes out. No charades, no masks - just you, being who you are. You are simply able to be with them.
Growth in the most general sense is not so much about developing new skills as it is expanding our capacity to simply be with whatever shows up.
What do I mean by "what shows up"? Literally anything. That's the way the world works. We don't get to choose how the people around us show up. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we don't get to choose whether or not that is how they are showing up - they do. The only thing we have a choice in is how we show up once they've done that. For many of us, being with other people in traffic (or, for something a little more topical, while Christmas shopping) is a big "be with".
Life is actually very simple. We need only be our truest self with whatever shows up. From this place, everything else can flow with ease. In practice, we make things incredibly complicated. We create rules based on our interpretations of how things should go. We develop schemes and plans that will ensure people show up the way we want them to (eg, they won't say no to our request, won't or can't hurt us, or won't tell us why we're wrong), and how we should act in a given situation.
At the end of the day, there is always one fundamental choice you get to make: a decision that is empowered, or one that is disempowered. The more you grow, the more you are able to make the empowered decision and the more you source yourself.
So put this into practice: Go out and be with the person that you cannot be with. Spend time with them. Acknowledge their being - find something about them that you can truthfully acknowledge them for, and do it. (Underneath their delivery, are they actually brilliant? Acknowledge them for their brilliance. Is it compassion for everyone else that causes them to attempt to use control to stop everyone from making mistakes? Acknowledge them for their compassion).
Practice being with.