Thursday 27 September 2012

De-mystifying coaching

I wouldn't have aligned myself with coaching five years ago. Even two years ago, I would have raised eyebrows if someone had suggested that I'd make a commitment to coaching. I rarely make commitments, since I don't identify with backing out of one. But I have had a career change.

I've changed track from formal education to non-formal education, and coaching is one of the better platforms for non-formal education. You want to learn something, you can be taught, you look for a teacher, you find one, you engage. You change. You like the change even though you experienced a demanding process.

Were you educated, coached, trained, inspired or impelled?

I've learned that the words of what you prefer seldom adequately reflect that which you really do prefer.

One of my favourite cinematic moments is when the Guarani man slices off Robert De Niro's burden of guilt after he's hauled it up the Iguassu (hope the spelling's right) Falls more than once. One man's unpardonable guilt is another man's utter irritation.

In Afrikaans they say "Ek sal jou help om reg te kom". In English this means "I'll help you to get it right". In Guarani, one sharp blade means instant freedom from guilt whether you like it or not.

I wouldn't say that the Guarani man coached Robert De Niro, necessarily. I would indeed say that he saved him. Coaching is intensely personal. That's why the activity defies words that would contain it. As I understand it, the basis of all coaching is NLP. The basis of NLP is establishing models of outstandingly effective psychotherapists, with prime examples of such people as Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls. My take on outstandingly effective psychotherapists is that they are people who engage with the souls of other people with the same integrity as they engage with their own souls.

During the last decade I reached a place of silence in my soul. I decided that words were so futile that they were hardly worth saying. This wasn't a bad place at which to arrive, although it was solitary. Travelling through this place led to a remarkable discovery: the silence communicated more than the noise of words. When people speak, they are actually throwing out strong signals from the place of silence. If you enagae with them at the level of verbalisation, you will miss what their silences are saying, and if you miss that, you miss the point of what's being communicated.

The label "coach" has a history of developmental progress. The activity of coaching is manifold, but I understand it's core to be not merely helpful but also corrective. C.S. Lewis pointed out that if you have made a mistake somewhere along the line, you have to go back to where you took the wrong turning, and correct the mistake there. And then the aspect of coaching that sets it free from pretentiousness is that it's a voluntary exchange that happens in the market-place. There's no point in trying to assist someone who doesn't want help. There's no point in trying to save someone who doesn't acknowledge dire circumstances. Not unless you're a Guarani with a sharp knife under the guidance of a brilliant movie director.

I encourage those who are still suspicious of coaching to take a closer look. I don't like the label myself. But I have found really brilliant cut-to-the-quick intellects, souls so sensitive that they have the ability to open doors without touching the handles, and minds decisive enough to make strong, fruitful commitments.

If you wanted to change your life, who would you go to? Priest, minister, therapist, doctor, friend? Never mind the label: the person that you go to, that's your coach. Never mind the label, again: if the roles overlap, and the friend is the coach, or the coach is the therapist, or the priest is still climbing the Iguassu Falls, the outcome will still be the same. By going to someone, you will have set the outcome in motion.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Common sense and deep appeal

What's the bottom line when you appeal for recognition that ought to be there when all games are called off? Fairness? Reasonability? Common sense? Or is it just a tone of voice that says "Come on!"?

I wear glasses, and have done so from a very tender age. I spent many school holidays with a particular family in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town, with Dutch parents and bilingual children with whom I was friends. Sometimes we got into arguments, and the bottom line, when my buddy deemed me to have crossed the line, was "Come on, Goggles, you know that's not right!".

Deep appeal connects with the sense of common identity. Using your common sense has meant to be alerted to a wake-up call, but I begin to think that what we have to watch out for is people who attempt to own common sense. South African politicians are a good example of this: on the one hand people burn tyres because of lack of delivery, and on the other, the dancing Prez says delivery here is the best in the world.

If you go to your own place of extreme dissatisfaction, and appeal to yourself, you may be surprised to experience a kind of mini-common-sense. You can persuade yourself to change your stance and move to a place of better balance. A vet that we used quite a lot had a way of rubbing the animal's head saying, "It's not so bad, Felix (or whatever name) it's not so bad". That was the standard call, no matter whether it was for treatment for worms or euthenasia.

Deep appeal is a human signal. More than a cry for fairness or common sense, it's a heart thing. When the games stop and reality bites, it's plain to observe. Not merely emotional, not intellectually containable, and not really open to decision as to whether it's there or not, it appears nakedly, and that's why we usually avoid it. It speaks of all the things of living that operate at that level, the one that everyday behaviour overrules until the strength of the appeal overrules everyday behaviour. We are encouraged to buy into everyday behaviour, because going to intense places is too weird to sustain. Good movies, gripping novels, magnetising dramas revolve around mere moments of deep appeal. More, and the audience will get confused. Me, I like it. Go straight to the moment of deep appeal, gently open it up and see where it goes to next. Keep going. Unimaginable adventures, emotionally very stretching, intellectually terrifying, and as for choosing, well, you soon find the imperative rather than the invitation.

Common sense invites us to a place of sincere connection. If you accept, better prepare for the turmoil that precedes truth bcause connection, once started, doesn't easily stop. Heaven is not a cosy place, and that's why the dream of a cosy earth is too precious. Someone has to uphold that which keeps everything going, whether it's money or meaning, and everyone's second name is Atlas because no-one is exempt from holding up the mirror that shows human expression to the watching crowd.

The difference between common sense and deep appeal is the difference between Facebook - one friend leads to another - and the Caps Lock key. Don't understand what I mean yet? Come on, what's not to understand? Are we all part of this or aren't we?

Wednesday 5 September 2012

No country for old teachers

If you're a teacher in the department of Basic Education in South Africa, and have pre-OBE experience, the department doesn't want you. It can't recognize you. It doesn't know how to speak to people who can do more than puppet-speak.

There's something very sad about wasting your life waiting for your pension which, when you get there, won't be worth as much as it is now.

One more time: education isn't about a system of schooling, it's about personal, social and economic growth. No fit between schooling and growth in South Africa.

A pre-OBE teacher should resign, take the pension pay-out, pay the immoral tax for doing so, read Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki, find a good entrepreneur coach, and go for it. You will soon learn how the puppets are manipulated, and why they speak in such funny voices.

There's a big difference between access to schooling and passing grade 12 (just)  and access to education. Access to education in South Africa is firmly denied to all, and at the moment only strenuous efforts by those who are in a position to rise above the puppet-speak are keeping education going (just).

The department of Basic Education will have none of that. Way back in the early twentieth century, for example, teachers generally were feared in respect of discipline. Today, our SA teachers are trained how to invigilate exams, and receive a certificate when they are competent to walk up and down a hall, and take in papers.

Not only is this no country for old teachers, it's also no country for unborn children if access to education dies permanently, and I don't think there's another kind of death. If the writing's on the wall, cynicism and clarity are the same thing. Here's what I mean: two desires are keeping South Africa going: the desire for a strong economy, and the desire to milk a strong economy. When the latter empties the former beyond the tipping point, we tip.

One more time: I recommend educational coaching. Coaching has arisen largely because of the popularisation of self-development, and has many, many advantages to offer young people who are intent on development. Find a reputable, trustworthy coach and pay the money. Many lessons have helped me to find a coaching platform, but what comes to mind every time I consider these lessons are the following: studying psychology, especially those psychotherapists whose work is the foundation for NLP, i.e. Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, and being taught by Dr John Gibbon in respect of educational leadership and management. I am most thankful for this.

I wish that the older, competent teachers who can't fit into the mindlessness, and who are not puppets would also do themselves the favour of following a course in NLP, or at least read a book. I recommend Joseph O'Connor's NLP Workbook.

It's never to late to develop and grow, and do something to move the tipping point further away.

And if any individual or group wants to approach me for assistance, you're welcome. Even the action of approach leads to fruitfulness: if you don't get up, you'll never walk.

Monday 3 September 2012

Managing emotions, spontaneity and the sense of self

We're emotional beings, and there's no getting out of it. Ioften found experience in a university context to be a bit bizarre: here we were, the intellectuals of the world, being erudite, wise and perspicacious, offering our learned informedness to whoever wanted or didn't want it, never admitting to the emotions that actually drove us: egotism, greed, competition and the need for recognition. Blatant and obvious non-communication between emotions and intellect. A model that many students followed, if they were to succeed. I once failed a student for getting 95%. He was obviously baffled and indignantly wanted to know what I meant. My answer was to the point: "You're more interested in the marks than the subject".

We're also creatures of context. Milieu therapy was once a fashion. We respond continuously to our environment, balancing, rebalancing and counter-balancing our internal harmony which is felt, although we take the base state for granted: this is the felt sense of "who I am". We expand some sensitivites, we diminsh others, and ignore more. The sense of  "who I am" is an emotional complex more than anything else. There, somewhere in your chest, throat and tummy, more than your head. If I say something to you that sounds soothing and sincere, your guts will calm, even though your thinking might go on alert,

E.Q. is a commonly used concept, now, yet is a very valuable tool in the coach's toolkit. There are quite a few kinds of intelligences to bring to daily awareness: I.Q. of the first kind, E.Q., spiritual intelligence, ecological intelligence. Let's simplify them, and say they're a sum total of how we respond to daily experience, which necessarily includes experience of the self. Do we experience the "self" or is the self that by which we experience? I have the idea that this is like asking if we side more with quarks, neutrons or charming, strange sub-particles, all going up, down, top and bottom at the same time.

Adept use of logic should blend into emotional dexterity and versatility. It's remarkable that some of the most closed-minded people are very clever scientists.

What's valuable to you is the survival skill you've chosen to keep close by. I was raised in an extremely judgemental context, and much, if not everything, depended on having the upper hand in being right. I learned to use reason and logic not so much for playing chess, but for the survival of my veriest self. I was delighted to discover that kindness, human kindness that brings the heart into the recipe for gracious consciousness, as a most basic ingredient, is even more crucial to the taste for truth than wit.

Biofocusing and spontaneity have much in common: we don't deliberate on seeing, our eyes go to the point of interest automatically. Our hearts recognize more than choose. The emotional knot that's the self will untie to an extent in the event of physical death. What's saved thereafter is what's worth saving. Survival in respect of physical life is bound to be more tricky than survival in respect of spiritual life, when basic fears are literally put to rest .

The problem of authentic living is that it involves a huge tension between the spontaneous self and the mananged self. Coaches who propound the enthusiasm and energy of authentic living mgiht find this to be a cul-de-sac. You can't create emotions to order. The fierce dog, the policeman waving you in, the advert flashing by, the strange cloud over the mountain: you can't predetermine the responses of your guts to these.

In the very gap between the managed self and the spontaneous self lies the way on. This is an educational path. NLP as I understand it, isn't a closed system. It's a strong yet open system, accepting of insights that provide growth and self-development. The model of the outstanding and excellent self can't be a static model. Tricks of shifting awareness and manipulation of consciousness are not the goal: The undiscovered self is essentially mysterious, spontaneous. The discovery of the undiscovered self can be both exciting and horrifying. Tight-rope. Can be fun if you have the guts for it.