Recently, I’ve been binging on Pilates. It’s long been my preferred way to keep my body strong and balanced, but a new studio with its package deals has enticed me in day after day. And there, along with core strengthening, I’ve found new insights into coaching. In one class, we were doing something involving legs, and mine were working hard, and the teacher said, “Your jaw isn’t involved in this, let it drop. And your shoulders don’t need to do anything either, rest them heavy.” I thought about how I unnecessarily tense up where I don’t need to. I relaxed my jaw.
When the teacher said, “Now, find the pleasure in these moves,” I had my a-ha moment. Find the pleasure? I wasn’t really in pain at that moment, but I was working hard. I work hard a lot. I concentrate. I exert effort and energy. In that moment, I was intently focused on my alignment and stability. When I coach, I think intently about what I’m hearing and what I say.
Finding the Pleasure in Coaching
I thought about that as I went into my day, into a coaching session where I worked hard. I listened hard. My coaching was good, but at one point, I wondered where there was pleasure in the moment.
I paused. I noticed how tight my coaching felt, how constricted my mind felt--as if it was struggling to find the “right answer,” to offer the “right” response. I felt comfortable with the person I was coaching--I know she trusts me and I love working with her--but I felt tense in a way that wasn’t necessary.
So I took a deep, slow breath. As I exhaled, I imagined a cognitive version of my tight jaw, and I imagined releasing the tension. I imagined shaking out my mind. And then I asked myself, “Where is the pleasure in this moment?”
And it was there. As I released some of the effort I thought I needed to exert, I noticed the joy in the moment. The coaching session was going well. My coachee was diving deep; I was nudging her along and then stepping back. The pleasure was in the micro-shifts I could hear in my coachee’s thinking and in the implications for the actions she would take. The pleasure was in the ease which was so accessible. Rather than exerting all that energy in one part of my mind, the energy was evenly spread and flowing. And I left the session feeling far more energized than I usually do.
Three Ways to Relax and Find the Joy
1. Bring awareness to your mind and feelings.
Next time you’re coaching, try this: do a mental scan and see if you notice any tension in your mind. If that suggestion sounds really bizarre, pause during a coaching session and ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What is my mind doing?” You may notice your mind running all over the place, or acting skittish--nervously saying to itself, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I asking the right questions? Am I a good coach?” You may notice a slight underlying anxiety. You might notice a feeling of discontent or aversion--perhaps you notice that you’re not feeling connected to your coachee or you wish he or she would do or say something different. Just notice.
2. Take three deep breaths.
While you’re breathing, imagine your mind relaxing. Picture it in cartoon form. Picture it exhaling. Picture it dancing. Just imagine there’s a decrease of the energy and tension in your mind. And while you’re at it, relax your jaw and shoulder also. Why not?
3. Ask yourself: Where’s the pleasure?
Now ask yourself where there might be some pleasure to experience in the moment. Maybe it’s physical: maybe you’re feeling comfortable and warm. Maybe it’s emotional: maybe you feel connected to your coachee or you feel your work is meaningful. If nothing feels pleasurable, that’s okay, just keep asking yourself, “Where might there be ease here?”
Tight Coaching Isn’t Transformational
When my coaching feels constricted and tight and tense, I don’t think it’s of the transformational variety. I aspire to engage in transformational endeavors and so often, it starts with me. See what happens if you breathe a little into your coaching moves. If you find the joy and pleasure. Just try it.
The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.