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Coaching to Flourish #077: Doom, Disappointment, and the Power of Cycles

June 09, 2023 by Coach Training EDU

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Raj Anderson and guest experts answer your coaching questions each week!

 In Coaching to Flourish #077, Raj Anderson and John Andrew Williams explore John’s framework of the 4-D cycle, coaching perspectives on how to be with doom and disappointment, and how to build stamina in our lives.

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Live Transcript (Edited for clarity)

[Raj Anderson] Hello everyone and welcome to the Coaching to Flourish podcast. It's great to be back. I am your host, Raj Anderson, executive life coach and coach assessor. As always I'm delighted to be here with John Andrew Williams, the founder of Coach Training EDU. How has your week been since we last met John?

John: It's been good. It's been a lot. We've had birthday parties, seems like May through July is our birthday season. So those things have been happening, and yet here we are, at the end of another school year. The summer's coming around, curriculum development gets back on the table, things like that. But it's been good. And how are you, Raj? How's your week been? 

Raj: I'm good, I'm good. I had a week off, and I hadn’t realized how much I needed that week off for a mental recharge. And a week off seems like a luxury now, whereas when you're in Europe, I lived in the UK, nobody thinks that much of having a week off, you would take a couple of weeks off.

So I’m needing to reminding myself a bit about cultural differences in different places that you live. I became a bit of a workaholic when I moved to the US. And sometimes that's fine, you know, I do love what I do. I think it's tuning in, isn't it, connecting with self and remembering how important a recharge actually is.

John: Sounds lovely. I would love to do that too. Maybe someday, someday over the rainbow. 

Raj: So I was listening to you last week, John, and I was curious, because you were talking last week about strategies, tactics, and plans, and I loved what you were saying about the 4D cycle that you have. Disappointment, doom, determination, and then doing something. And I do have some questions that have come in around business practices and niches. As you talk about your own business, where would you say you are at in the 4D cycle at the moment? 

John: Well, I really mean it to be something that honors each of the stages. I think that there is an honoring of feeling down. There's an honoring of things not going the way that we want them to go. I think there is an element of, when you're really honoring each stage in the cycle, and knowing that sitting with doom doesn't mean you have to interact with it or go deeper into it, or dwell in it. It just means to be with it. 

And I think that's one of the biggest things that I personally and professionally got from coach training, was this idea of being with is enough. Being with is remarkable, in the sense of just being present and aware and trusting. There's a trust in our natural process that if we're with an emotion, that emotion will shift. 

And then there are all sorts of tools, like how do you get from doom to determination? There are lots of pathways with that. One of my favorite that I've been playing with lately is Yes questions. I do this with people who are getting ready for athletic events, especially like when you're nervous for something or you have a speaking gig, or you're gonna give a workshop or you're talking to a potential client, or whatever. You can ask yourself a lot of questions like, have you prepared for this? Yes. Do you have the skillsets? Yes. Are you naturally creative and resourceful? Yes. Have I put in the work to prepare myself in order to accomplish this? Yes. You start asking yourself these questions. It's a bridge from doom to determination. 

So the cycle, I'd say like in terms of business things, this is a cycle that's almost a daily thing. To go through the, okay, there's a disappointment. All right, feel that disappointment, go into doom, go into determination, go back to do. It's a very quick cycle, and the point isn't to always stay in determination, in doing, but it's to speed the cycle up. Same with core motivation. When something knocks us out of our most brilliant self, it's not about always staying in the most brilliant self. It's about recovering back to your brilliant self when something knocks you out. 

So in terms of business cycle, it sounds odd, but I hope to go through this cycle thousands of times, and to expect to go through it thousands of times. If you're doing something new, if you're doing something that no one has done before, or you've never done before, it's not realistic to think that there's never gonna be a disappointment. So why not just embrace disappointment? 

Raj: It sounds like it could be a really great tool to actually use in a coaching session, couldn't it? I have heard coaches before, perhaps be wary or wanna shy away, say doom kind of emotions show up with a client. You and I have talked before around toxic positivity, or what are these emotions telling us, what is the purpose and use of the doom? So what guidance would you give to coaches who may feel wary when these kinds of emotions show up for their client?

John: I think some coaches seek out problems. You seek out something to solve or something that proves that the coaching session is worth the time and energy and effort that you put into that coaching session. And sometimes I feel this, even now. When I'm working with someone I think, Okay, what are we doing here? What's the point? Like, what are you hoping to get out of this session? And sometimes a client will say, everything is going great and there's not no problem here, and that's fine.

But looking at where their disappointments are, where they go into doom, where they go into those not so great places. In a coaching session, coaches go there to extract insight and learning, not to solve it. And that's an interesting, that's a fascinating thing. It's a subtle difference, but it's a very important difference when you're looking at the coaching process. 

And when coaches feel like their clients are just in that doom, they can't get out of the determination, when it just feels like, okay, now we're stuck here. You have listening sections where it feels like there's like a gasp or almost an incessant solution-offering, that advice giving, like, have you tried this? What about that? Well, it's not so bad. And that's where you get into that toxic positivity of not allowing this, not honoring the doom, not honoring the feeling. And I think that's what people are talking about in toxic positivity. 

You hear sometimes in parenting too, when a parent will tell a child, oh, it's not okay to feel this way. Let's say that a child is upset because their shoes are on the wrong feet and it's uncomfortable to them, and they're throwing a massive fit. You're like, well this is not a fair situation. You just switch the shoes, you know. But to not allow them to feel that massive disappointment, no matter what it is - we've all been taught that that massive disappointment is not okay for us to feel, or many of us have been taught this. And we carry it on to our adult lives, where disappointments are not okay. So we do everything we can to try to avoid them, but when we're in them, then we try to offer advice cause it's uncomfortable when someone else is in that space. 

So I think what coaching does on a deep level, what coach training does, is it trains people to be simply with whatever is happening. And that being with is so powerful. It's transformative. Because you don't have to do much else. You can really, truly trust that natural instinct. Once you're being with something, a solution arrives, learning happens, the shoes get on the right feet, you know. That's where we're at.

Raj: It definitely sounds like you're talking from experience. I know you’ve got a kid.

John: He's just now understanding - you know, it just feels uncomfortable. So he course corrects on his own. And it's a barometer for how you're doing in some way, your emotion sense. It's a barometer, it's a measurement tool for trying to figure out, how are you, what tolerance level do you have when the shoes are on the wrong feet? And sometimes it's low. Sometimes it's low and that's okay too. 

Raj: So observing yourself as well, isn't it? There's lots of lessons here from kids. You talked about tolerance levels, and there is learning here, and feedback. And switching gear just a little bit. We're talking about learning and thinking about feedback, and we had a question in. What are your thoughts? Do coaches use performance reviews in their own practice? 

John: They are required to, but it is best practice. I think the certification process requires it. So in certification, you have to go through performance reviews. Which I never thought of it in that sense, as an annual thing. Certification, especially going through PCC level or MCC level, are somewhat like performance reviews. I mean, you just went through the MCC level, Raj. As a performance review, how was that?

Raj: Frightening. Personally, when you want something and you've been practicing and working towards it. Yet aside from that, it was great to get back into that space actually, of self-assessing. And I think it's so important to listen to yourself, and record your recordings as much as you can. I don't get to as much cause I work with a lot of leaders in corporations, so I don't always get the permission to do that. So it was good to get some permission, and in preparation for that performance review, revisiting that self-assessment. 

So aside from fears, pleasant surprises as well. Oh wow, okay, I'm doing better than maybe I thought I was in some spaces. And also good reflection of, some bad habits potentially may have crept in here, because I think it can be easy to lose that as well if you wear a number of different hats. If you are a consultant and a mentor, for example, or you are a trainer, and if you are doing coaching but also part of your role might be that you had some consulting in there. So I loved listening to myself again, I love pushing myself. But I love learning, so it's great to have a look at the competencies again and challenge myself. Great challenge. 

John: I think when coaches are out in getting client mode, in business building mode, the performance review really is, are you retaining your clients? Are your clients referring you to other people? Are you starting to gain the momentum of having a current client base to help get new people into your client base? I think that's a very natural performance review. 

And I think there is nothing better than recording your sessions periodically and listening to them. You will get so much from it, especially if you have another coach who can also listen at the same time, listen to your recordings as well. There's so much value in learning from watching yourself, no matter what it is. You could be riding a mountain bike and you see a video of yourself and go, oh, that's what I'm doing. Okay, let me fix that. But someone could describe it to you forever. 

We have this tool, and it's amazing if you think about it. It’s unbelievable. We have the ability to record ourselves and watch it. It's almost like we have the ability to be - have you ever wondered like how other people see you? Like really, truly, how do other people see me kind of thing? Well, you can do that. You can totally do that. You can get a video camera and do it. We're doing it right now. This is amazing. Mind blowing. It's an amazing tool. It's uncomfortable, sure, but it's an amazing tool. 

Raj: And the more you do it the easier it becomes, doesn't it? People may be, oh, I don't know. I hear all the time when I'm doing overviews, I don't like listening to myself. And then by the third overview they've listened to themselves that much, that it becomes a lot easier. So the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

John: Even with that beautiful British accent, you're nah, I can't do it. Really? I sound like that? 

Raj: I used to, years ago, I actually was lucky enough to go on a leadership program where part of it was speech coaching. So they recorded you, and then you had to listen back and watch yourself, and look at your body language, and tone, and how you were pronouncing things. And I'd never done that before and it was so daunting at the time. And now I just think, well you've got to be courageous, haven't you? And there are still times I listen back to myself and I think, maybe I could have done that differently, yet I'd rather take the risk than not take the risk to put myself out there. It doesn't have to be perfect. Yeah. I learned that from John. Cause John goes for it and he takes action, and he doesn't worry about perfection. I have been inspired by that, John. 

John: Perfection, I trust perfection comes later. Let's put it that way.

Raj: Yet you are courageous though, aren’t you? You will take the leap. 

John: I'll leap. I will, I will. I think there is an element of trust, trust in my ability to figure it out. Like, let me jump in there and figure it out. And there is frustration involved when it doesn't happen right away, or I do things and it actually makes the situation worse.

One of the things that really helps me, professionally, is thinking alright, if you're doing something that you've never done before, there's going to be an element of learning. There has to be. So if you build that into the cost of doing business, it's more about refining the structures and systems around the actual work that you do on a weekly basis. And if those things are strong and you're getting solid feedback from the world, then you're gonna be okay. And it feels like there's safety in the work, and everyone has their own answer. Where do you find your safety? Is it safety in the morning routine? 

There's this one song I’ve been really into lately by Amos Lee, Over the Rainbow, where he talks about this idea that people think that if you're rich and have all this money and fame, you're somehow made it, you're over the rainbow. He's talking about no, everyone has the same blood flow. It's all about, we're all similar, we're all the same. We have similar hopes, dreams, and fears. And the idea is, where's your over the rainbow? How do you find your over the rainbow on a daily basis? And once you're there, can you bring it back? Can you go and roll your sleeves up and do the work?

And sometimes it's not glamorous. Like, we had a sprinkler break and an hour before this, I'm there with my gloves fixing the sprinkler .You know what I mean? Getting cleaned up to go do a Facebook live, here we are. It's the willingness to do whatever is necessary so things thrive. 

And I feel like, if I could go back to my old self who is just starting out, 10, 15 clients, but had a belief in a dream that this is gonna be possible, if I could see where I am now, it's unbelievable. It's really unbelievable, the body of work that goes in from here to there, but is it worth it? Absolutely, 100%, knowing that the impact that we’re having on the world. And it takes all of it. It takes the work, it takes you, it takes a very clear vision of the impact you want on the world. Because it will get tough. And when it gets tough, if you have that vision, it will pull you through. 

Raj: So what could be a question that people can ask themselves when it is tough, or when it's not glamorous?

John: I've been really leaning into this idea of building stamina. If it's not going well, am I still doing the actions? So it's almost like a training session. Okay, I'm just doing this so I can get, when the tide does turn, I have the stamina to be able to hang and do like a two hour working meeting and really pound it out. Or sit with something when it's really hard, and do these things that are challenging, you know, back to back meetings. Can I still row this boat? I think that's a really powerful perspective to be in. Not necessarily externally referenced, you know, are things going the way they need to go externally, but internally referenced. Am I doing meaningful work on a daily basis? Yes or no? I think that's where I go to. 

Raj: It reminds me what you talked about a few weeks back, around, in one day alone there is that mixture of the dreaming and the doing, and the things that you have to do. I came back from vacation even this morning, I was like, I don't feel like adulting today. There's tax returns to do and forms to fill in, and bank was requesting certain information, and new systems to put in for new contracts that I'm looking at. Which the work will be great once I start it, yet some of it's boring to me. I'm not going to lie. 

And I thought, I don't feel like adulting. Yet what is the bigger vision and the bigger why here? And these things must be done, really. They have to be put into place in business, and to grow your business as well. But focusing on, okay, I'm gonna sit outside with a cup of tea a bit later today, and sit into some of that dreaming. Because it makes then the doing, or those pieces that don't excite me - not bearable, but I can accept them. 

John: Right. And what coaching does is it allows you to dream. It really does. It allows you to clarify that dream, say that dream out loud, talk about that dream. And talking about it, really clarifying it, saying things out loud, sharing it with other people, it's very valuable. When things aren't going the way you want them to, the dream becomes more real than the present negative circumstances. 

And when the dream, the vision becomes something that, yeah, that's what we're going for, that's it. I want to develop my own successful, financially sustainable practice. I want to have this impact on the world. I believe in this value set, and I really want to make sure that other people can see the benefit and the value of this profession. That leads to a very fulfilling daily experience. 

That doesn't mean that there's not disappointment or doom, or there's not that cycle, that cycle's part of it. But the level of fulfillment starts to provide a momentum that when things get challenging, you then know, you can trust that that level of fulfillment is going to come back relatively soon.

Raj: And what tips do you have for continuing to build stamina?

John: I think an awareness of it is probably the biggest. Even an awareness of, okay, let's say that there's a certain number you want to see in your bank account where you don't have to put in energy to prop up your emotion. And there's that number, and if you see it, you go, yay, we're doing great. Good. You don't need to put in active energy, you just feel it. So there's zero effort. 

And then there's numbers and bank accounts that go, oh my goodness, now I have to put in all this effort. I have to prop myself up, I have to lean into that dream, I have to row, I have to row in order to bring my emotion back. It's an understanding and awareness that yes, of course, that is what you're signing up for. If you're entrepreneuring, if you're building your own thing, that's the work. That's that inner work that you have to get comfortable. 

I mean, I've seen it. Coaches, you know, who are just starting out, you can almost feel the financial stress and pressure of what they're dealing with. I was there too. At a certain point in time you have to make friends with that stress and pressure and use it. Use it and say, yeah, I feel this pressure, I'm going to take this action step. Building stamina. And it's not just action stamina. There's that propping up emotion stamina. 

And is it toxic positivity? Not really. I mean, toxic positivity would say don't feel disappointment, or don't feel doom, don't feel the emotion of it. It's more like a strategic positivity or tactical positivity. Like, we are not allowing ourselves to dwell in this any longer because it's no longer practically useful. I've sat with this enough. I'm here, I'm with it. Now I feel like I'm going back. You can almost feel the determination just naturally want to come.

And so then the question is, okay, does it naturally come or am I pushing it too much? It's about stamina. Like, how much can you be with it stamina, and then how much can you move it forward stamina? Stamina, it's a beautiful word. It's a Greek word, basically means stem, something that holds something up. It's something that when you're oriented towards stamina versus results, that's where you find, that's the over the rainbow. Are you just putting in the work? Yes. Good. You're gonna be okay. 

Raj: It makes me think of, you can go into the gym. You would not go to the gym once and expect to be in great shape. Working out, whatever it is, however that looks for you, it's the more you go, the more you do it, you build those muscles and you break them down. 

And sometimes it hurts, doesn't it? And it hurts in business. I've been there and had many things that failed, but for me there's no failure, there's only feedback. You know, those things that didn't work out have led me to here right now. But there have been times when it's been the stretch and the push and the pull, and it's been painful. And sometimes, like going to the gym when I had a spin class, and the next day it’s that good pain and I feel it. I've worked out.

Any final words or wisdom from you, John, before we close out today? 

John: I just really appreciate the space you create, Raj, and letting me riff a little bit, thinking about these ideas. I've been reading a science book at bedtime, mostly to put myself and the boys to sleep. This idea of weather pressures is like, it's just mind boggling. It's just mind blowing. Just to think of the number of inventions that have happened since the beginning of humanity to now, that have allowed us to live and be in this space where we have all this technology and knowledge at our fingertips, is absolutely mind boggling. 

And I think that what this requires, what I'm seeing and feeling, is with the computer revolution, with the information revolution, with so much noise, with even our ability to do this and we're 3000 miles away, that internal space is the next frontier. And I think what coaching does is get an awareness of, okay, what's your internal cycle? What are your cycles? 

And that's what I would encourage you, if you're in this entrepreneurship, coaching, bringing it into organizations, in the coaching space, becoming aware of your own cycles is even that much more important. And we help other people do it all day, every day too. So yeah. Define yours. It's unique to you. No one can find it except you. And this is what coaching is uniquely designed for. Go for it. 

Raj: Well, thank you John. Grateful for you. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. Thank you everyone for listening. Please send us your questions. We look forward to answering them next time. Thank you. Bye.

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