transition coach

The Key to Change? Turn Off to Turn On

A nutritionist, a lactation consultant and a life coach were chatting at a holiday party. They were lamenting their clients’ biggest challenge: the ability to focus.

The nutritionist said that she was going to stop offering home visits for her clients, because the clients couldn’t focus when she was with them in their homes. “I just see them looking past me, nodding, and I know they aren’t hearing a word I say. They just can’t focus.”

The lactation consultant shared how bad she felt that she had to ask her clients to come into her office with babies just one or two months old. “But if I go to their house, a 90-minute consultation becomes a 3-hour endeavor! They just can’t focus.”

The life coach (me) shared that although she coaches clients via Skype and on the phone, it’s becoming harder to do so. “Ten years ago, I’d ask them to sit in a quiet room, with paper and a pad, away from media. And they would do it. Now, they tell me they’re doing it, but I can hear them checking email, going online, and answering the door while they’re in the middle of a session. I can just feel it when they check out. Which is wild to me — because after all, this is their time for themselves.”

We three agreed that although we are in a culture of time poverty, much of it seems to be self-inflicted. Can you step away from media for an hour? Of course you can. Focus is the key to change. And we agreed that when their clients get a chance to step away, take a quiet moment from themselves and be present, the health effects are tangible.

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

We sighed and walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, where we met a yoga instructor. We explained our frustration, and she told us about a NPR story she was listening to recently about an artist (Marina Abramovic) who was asking all patrons to “check in” for half an hour before they could engage in her latest performance. She requires the audience to remove all devices (including watches), and wear noise canceling headsets for half an hour before a pianist performs the Goldberg Variations (by memory). This brings the audience and the artists into a collective present, from which they are better prepared to engage with the music.

(If you’re interested in attending, the performance is continuing through tomorrow, December 19, at The Armory in NYC.)

Turning off to turn in, and ultimately on is the very baseline of coaching. In fact, I had one client who preferred to work on the phone (versus in person) because she found that while speaking to me in person, she would say certain things to elicit a response from me — a positive look or a smile. She was less true to herself and her own thoughts in the social setting of my office.

When coaching clients, I am not imparting wisdom, or sharing information they need to retain. I am asking you to clear your space, and clear your head to allow yourself to think.

It is amazing how difficult that can be to just clear the space (and trust me, I get it — there’s a lot of comfort in “doing” — just ask anyone trying to meditate for the first time).

Life coach

Be present.

But clearing the space, or turning off to turn on is a most important thing. Without it, you’ll be stuck in the rut of your current thoughts, unable to move up, out, and ultimately on.

One of the best part of being a coach is giving someone else your complete and total focus — meditating on another, if you will. It’s why my husband likes to watch sports; he can get completely engrossed in something inconsequential (my words), and relax.

And yes, cell phones and ubiquitous availability are at the heart of this problem. But there’s another way; and this article offers 9 good reasons to turn off your smart phone.

Just a couple helpful reminders from me, Marina, and Inc. magazine in this togetherness time of year.

1 reply
  1. Paul Ward says:

    An important topic. Even with devices turned off, the quieting of the mind is the next step. And I think the turning in and then turning on are two steps beyond that. It’s either a ladder up, or perhaps a set of steps down into a pool.

    CS Lewis had an interesting phrase when it comes to loving well: Don’t bring your public face to a private space. I wonder if the goal here — the pool we’re stepping down into — is getting to a private space, seeing what’s there, and building back up and into the world in a less cluttered way.

    Hmm.

    Reply

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