The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mind The Gap - #1

The train pulls in...the tannoy message booms out,
"Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge!"
People get off...people get on...The train pulls out.
Its a process that's taking place at every station along the journey.

One of the things I've encountered in all my activities this autumn is that processes of learning and change are best left "in progress" and at the unconscious level - rather like leaving a kettle to boil in its own time, or a laptop to boot up in its own time.

"OK - so how do I know if I've learned or changed something? By Testing it?" Is often one of the responses I get.

Evaluation, judgement is going on all around us and it is very difficult not to get drawn into what it is, what it means, and what it does both for and to us - directly and indirectly.

The things is - Educators, trainers and coaches are always looking for the positive information on the feedback loop, not just for the good of their pupils or clients - but also for themselves. Its part of their job satisfaction, or its one of the ongoing boxes they are required to tick in their job, or it is somehow linked to their perceived quality as a coach or trainer. Winning things, in a sporting context for sure, is a sure pathway to being deemed as a "good coach".

The key about 'testing' is to make it an integral part of the learning process, rather than the end goal of that process.
One of my mathematics teachers (admittedly years ago) would put a problem on the board for us to work through and when we'd completed it he'd work through its stages backwards to see where each of us matched his workings, or where we went wrong. Curiously though, by doing it back-to-front, answer-to-question, we all got the processes so much better. And since maths is all about processes, we got an inside-out understanding of those processes. For this particular teacher (the only one I ever had who could and would teach this way), the "testing" was an integral part of the learning.

I was chatting last evening to a guy who I first coached around 15 years ago. He is now interested in getting on the coaching ladder, "However," he said, "I feel a bit selfish because I only want to coach those who are good or who are showing potential."
"Oh they ALL show potential," I replied.
"Oh yea I know THAT," he said, "but you know what I mean."
"I think I do," I added, "and its in all our coaching natures to feel that way inclined. However, there's as much satisfaction to be gained with whoever you work with, regardless of age and ability. The keys are (a) that THEY want to change, learn, get better, (b) they are doing it for themselves and enjoy what they are doing, (c) they have the freedom to do it at their own pace."
I don't think I put him off wanting to enrol for some coach education, and I know that, if he allows it, his perception of coaching is already taking on a much broader base.

One of my tenets as a coach is around the whole area of results, both for individuals and teams. For me, a result is not so much their winning a contest against someone else - but is more in the area of winning the contest against themselves.
Our biggest competitor is ourself - and those that become succesful performers have defeated (and continue to defeat) the distractive parts of themselves that get in the way for many, many others.

This doesn't make them superhuman and the rest of us mere mortals. It just means that they've grasped the key to easy learning, accelerated learning, learning that works compared to learning that doesn't work.
And that key? Its allowing ourselves to engage the unconscious in this learning or change process and getting our thoughts well and truly out of the way of that.

"Mind The Gap between the Train of Thought and the Platform's Edge!"

So does the next station of life start at the Platform's Edge? And is our Mind the Gap, or is the Gap a danger, or is it a distraction?

Friday, October 21, 2011

"....And are you ready to make that change?" ~ Part 2

Clasp your hands together with interlocked fingers. Do you have left-over-right thumbs or right-over-left?
Whichever it is, now unclasp your hands and re-clasp them the other way. Notice what you feel, what that makes you feel and where you feel that particular feeling. Plus - how do you describe that feeling?
Responses tend to go from "nothing" to "horrible", with a mid point somewhere around the range from "different" to "weird".

How we measure up to the "unfamiliar" is something I like to invite everyone I work with to explore. The thing is - how we describe it through re-presentation gives quite a clue as to the way we confront sensations and feelings that are "different".

For us to accept "change" we have to be comfortable with the embodied feelings. If we want to step out of one behaviour, or way of thinking, into another then we have to totally embrace change for that step to be effective. Leaving a comfort zone is one of the hardest things for us to do, even if that comfort zone is populated by a behaviour we want to stop. Its in the very nature of what comfort is for us. Comfort is familiar, warm, reassuring, a "now" moment of pleasure, there's a certainty to it that 'all is well' - even though intellectually we know that may not necessarily be the case.

Noticing what we are telling ourselves

In order to be comfortable with change then we need to begin to look at how that impacts upon us in terms of embodiment. And this is where the clasped fingers play their part.
For the lady whose answer to what it felt like was "horrible", I took her on an exploration of what her language was (and wasn't) doing for her.
"So if that's horrible," I said, "then how would you describe cutting one of those fingers with a knife?" She smiled and realised what she was doing here. I went on, "Horrible is quite a powerful word, like Hate. Look at the way children use 'Hate', especially towards a parent or loved one. If they really DID hate them, then they'd find it hard to express themselves because their inappropriate usage of the word has devalued the real meaning of it."
The other thing for the lady who used "horrible", is that by associating anything different or unfamiliar with such a word, for her (internally) there is an undoubted link between CHANGE and HORRIBLE. She was, for sure, comfortable with the notion and process of No-CHANGE. And so if she can be guided to recognise a variety of softer ways to describe the unfamiliar, then she can enter a state of readiness to understand what Change can feel like.

For most of us, through becoming familiar with something new or different we eventually place it into a new comfort zone - it becomes habitual. The other thing is - the more we embrace change, the more we develop a curiosity for it as well. And curiosity has a tendency also to replace anxiety.

So there's a frame of mind, a mind-set, around the whole area of change, that is bound up with noticing what our bodies are telling us AND processing what we notice in the most useful way for us to take forward into the rest of our lives.

Spatial significance in embodied feelings

Moving on from the clasped fingers, once we are comfortable with the unfamiliar its really useful to start to notice the power of spatial location in terms of our own conscious-unconscious dialogue.

One of the most curious notions geographically is that of the person standing at the South Pole who is told to "Go North". It doesn't matter which way he steps, because every step will take him North.

Now the parallel I want to bring in here is that whatever changes anyone wants to make in their lives then this, too, will involve moving away from where they are NOW. The thing is we also have an embodied spatial sense of TIME, where the future and the past may be in front/behind us or off to the sides at some particular angle. This means that in terms of Change and moving on then we will, ideally, orient ourselves towards the future.
However, if we see ourselves at the South Pole, then there is something else we need to bring into play so that we "know" that when we take that step to go north we ARE actually oriented towards where we perceive our future is!

The Power of Geography

When I'm talking with clients about their making changes, unburdening themselves, or leaving certain things behind, then there is an enhanced effect upon the work we are doing when I also make changes in their geographical location in the room.
Ideally I would have a room containing a number of chairs, and when they come in I'd invite them to "take a moment to allow your body to consider where now might be the right place for you to sit in order for you to feel comfortable right now."
This can be as revealing as the clasped fingers - plus it calls upon them to search for their embodied feelings of comfort in a distracted current state.
At some stage in our session I would get them to walk around the room and stop at some representative point where they'd know and feel comfortable with all the changes they're wanting to make. Their body would give them the sign, through a feeling, maybe a 'stickiness' in the feet, maybe an inner word, maybe a 'flashed' vision, that this was the right place. It may be that there is the need to do this several times - meaning that each place needs to be marked and then they would need to make a final choice between those marked places. Everyone's perceptions are different - and they intuitively know which is THE right place.
Once our bodies know where our future comfort zone is, then the journey of change comes into view in a multi-dimensional way, and with a clearer understanding of what things we need to take on that journey and what we need to leave behind. And I will explore in the next part just how we might arrive at best judging what those things can be.


The journey from NOW to ME can be as short as the time it takes to unclasp and then re-clasp our fingers, or step towards north from the South Pole. Its all a matter of becoming comfortable with the unfamiliar, and first recognising the unfamiliar from the horrible. We are what we think and say to ourselves, and therein ourselves lie all the seeds for our change.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"....And are you ready to make that change?" ~ Part 1

"I want to, I must, I'll give it a go, I need to, I'll run through it and see what happens, I hope to, I'd love to be able to, I have to, I'll try to, I'm going to give it my best shot because if I don't..."

Whether its in coaching or changework these are the types of answers that wave a whole variety of flags - and none of them are green!
Even "I will" doesn't really fit the bill either. And its all down to the language that's being used and what's presupposed in the answers.

So what do I mean here about their language and what's presupposed?

The Archetypes

There's the "hopeful tryers" from semi-committed to assertive;
there's the "away froms" who are going to do it because of something else;
there's "future placers", ones who place it into the future with I will.

The hopeful tryers are good at employing the safety net of limiting belief - "Well it might work, but if it doesn't then I'll be able to say I told you so which'll prove I was right all along which says I haven't really failed because I know myself and what I'm capable of."

With the away froms there's an implication that by doing Y or making a change from X to Y is to choose the lesser of two evils, because if Y was a good and worthwile thing to do then they'd already be doing it. Committing to something we don't like doesn't really embrace compliance and can always lead us back to "better the devil you know..." plus we're seduced by the uncomfortable comfort zone merely because it is familiar to us.

The future placers are like the workmen who'll "be round Tuesday to fix it" but who never say which Tuesday that is. By placing their "commitment" into an unspecified place away from NOW there's built-in lack of commitment, uncertain doubts about doing it, pre-ordained failure, etc.

And there's a recurring theme with all these types and their answers which is this:-
They haven't listened to, and therefore totally understood the question! Its not a trick question either, and so its always useful to repeat the question several times since this is a question full of keywords and phrases!


The thing is, this is SUCH a loaded question!

A state of Readiness

When we're learning or practicing how to catch a ball there's a state of mind and body called "ready" or "the ready position". And readiness doesn't just apply to ball sports either, it's right across the sporting spectrum. And as in sport, so in life - there's a ready position for everything we do. This comes right down to being awake - which is a conscious state of readiness for thinking.

You ... Make That Change

Its you who's making it, and its something you are fashioning for your benefit. You are responsible for everything about it, so therefore it belongs to only you. Plus its not just an unspecified change either - its THAT one. Or it could imply that whatever you've been doing up to now, THAT is what you're changing.

Are ... Make ... Change

Everything in these words is in the present, the NOW. There's no ambiguous Tuesday here! It all about doing and doing now.

There's embedded commands such as are you ready, ready to make, make that change, ready to...change and more.

The other thing about asking the question several times is that you can place a different emphasis on different words and phrases each time using voice tone, tempo, pitch. The words are just the words and in the right order they are powerful enough - and when you enhance them with nuance they become enriched.
So - ARE you ready to make that change sounds different from are you ready to MAKE that change.

Whichever way you look at it, however it sounds, is nothing compared to how it feels - which is something I will be exploring in Part 2.