The Crone, when not in Itchy Ankle, provides executive coaching services in the US Capital for those who hanker after self-improvement. She finds herself suddenly fashionable and has more clients than she could shake a stick at–supposing stick-shaking was an approved coaching practice. Working this week with two people seeking wisdom from the wizened, the Crone was forced to wonder why she does not more often heed her own excellent advice.
“Nigel” (not his real name) is wearing out himself, his employer, his colleagues and his partner with his anxiety: concerned to show people he is good enough, he creates exactly the opposite impression by worrying things and people half to death. Emails are constantly reworked, questions are asked and re-asked and opinions and feedback are endlessly sought. No-one has time for it and Nigel himself is a nervous wreck. “What is in this for you?” asked the Crone, “or has a habit that once yielded good if short term results, gotten out of control? Nigel agreed that this could be the case and happily accepted the Crone’s suggestions, drawn largely from the book Feeling Good around breaking the spell.
Which got the Crone thinking about her own self-sabotage: after all, she likes it when people compliment her cheekbones or comment on her disappearing derriere and yet still she sneaks salty snacks and glasses of wine and more than the odd fried morsel, indulging a comfort-eating habit that has come to haunt her. The Crone suggested her client keep a notebook to monitor his progress towards his new goal of calm, confident, visible self-belief. Nigel turned up beaming, brandishing his notebook and proclaiming he’d had a breakthrough. He signed up with the Crone for three more sessions.
Now the Crone has been advised more than once by her weight loss doctor to keep a food diary. There are even websites that will help you keep an electronic log, making weight watching the work of a moment. The Crone has seen statistics to say that people lose more weight, and keep it off, when they do this. And yet the Crone does not. Or didn’t, much, until now, the day when she decided to start taking her own advice.
Another coachee, “Dolores” (not her real name) is trying to learn to stop talking herself out of opportunities for work. She can’t help herself saying too much, and always manages to end on a very negative note: she drains her listener with detail that diminishes. Conventional wisdom says ” learn to listen to yourself and stop and divert when you hear yourself adding in a ‘but’ or a sigh.” The Crone has little truck with this–it is the equivalent of saying “notice when you gravitate towards the fridge or the bar and stop and instead have a drink of water” It’s hard, it’s dispiriting and you beat yourself up when you fail. The Crone instead advised Dolores ” Play with this a little. Tell yourself you have a sunny disposition and imagine yourself into the role of a sanguine optimist. When a friend asks “How’s things?” answer ” I’ve decided that the things that make me happy are netball and swimming and foreign travel and I’m focusing on opportunities that allow me to do more of these” ” This would replace the answer ” The economy is so dreadful I don’t think I’ll ever work full time again” and, in the Crone’s humble opinion is more likely to keep the conversation going, and leave both parties feeling good. In time, quoth the Crone, and with practice, the roleplay will become a new reality and so second nature when it comes to job interviews. Dolores almost managed a smile, and agreed to give it a go.
All of which begs the question: why doesn’t the Crone tell herself and others that she is the kind of person who likes long walks and leafy green vegetables and why doesn’t she play-act that role until it becomes the real her? Today, she is giving it a go: “Want a potato chip?” ” I would, but really, I’m a baby carrot girl” “Glass of wine?” “No thanks–I hardly drink” New reality, here we come.