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Coaching to Flourish #079: Expanding Capacity for Dreaming and Doing

June 30, 2023 by Coach Training EDU

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Be Curious!

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

In Coaching to Flourish #079, Raj Anderson and John Andrew Williams explore many rich concepts, such as methods of behavior change, capacity for failure and curiosity, the dynamic of our ‘doing’ self versus our ‘dreaming’ self, and how to create space for experimentation for our clients.

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[Raj Anderson] Welcome everyone to the Coaching to Flourish podcast. I am your host, Raj Anderson, executive life coach and coach assessor, and I'm really excited today to be here with John Andrew Williams, the founder of Coach Training EDU. What is happening in your world this week John? 

[John Andrew Williams] I feel like a lot of growth, a lot of business growth.

Anytime you're entrepreneur, in business and doing these things, there's definitely a cost to doing business, where there are business lessons that you have to learn. Sometimes you learn the hard way. Sometimes you learn through stories, or through just being really on top of it. So there's a little bit of that going on. 

And at the same time, there's a lot of projects that we have been putting all this energy and work into that are coming to fruition this month. And it's amazing. It's dreamy, and not in the sense of oh, a dream that's always out there, but dreamy in the sense of - it's a remarkable experience to have a dream of something in your mind that you want to have accomplished, and then have it accomplished. That's a lot of the state that I feel like I've been playing in both of those spaces in the last couple weeks. 

[Raj Anderson] That's exciting, John. What should we be looking out for then from Coach Training EDU? 

[John Andrew Williams] The coach client marketplace app is near completion. When that comes out, I will be shouting from the rooftops and doing all those kinds of things. So that's there. We have a rebrand, a slight rebrand on the Coach Training EDU website. That will also happen on the academic life coaching website. And a lot of media things too. Diving back into the research, which is a good space for me to play in. I just have so many ideas that I've been playing with recently. Yeah. So all these things have contributed to a foundation of extreme excitement. 

[Raj Anderson] So watch this space, coaches. Let see what's coming.

And this has been an inspiration for me, John, as well. Even the last few months as we've been talking about, you talked about doing and dreaming, it's helped me to shift my mindset around doing, I've been doing a lot, but just actively creating that space to dream. And some of the things I've been talking to other people about and thinking about as well is that intentionality piece. So we talked briefly, or you talked last session when we met, around learning loops. So I have some curious questions today around behavior change. 

And I saw this great quote from Megan Galloway, who's from Campfire, and she says, ‘behavior change doesn't happen without intentionality.’ And then she went on to share a model, which was teach, experiment, and coach, And it made me think about the work that we do at Coach Training EDU and my experience of that. So how does Coach Training EDU implement that type of methodology into the programs? 

[John Andrew Williams] I'm gonna riff for a little bit. I've been in it with reading at nighttime, reading the little ones to sleep. I have a routine, the usual nighttime, bedtime books. And then there's been a couple, I'll call 'em science, physics books that I've been into. And I've also been listening to an audio book, Algorithms to Live By, by Brian Christian and - I forget his co-author, but okay. 

So basically how this works, and I'll start with Algorithms to Live By, what computer scientists are finding out is there is a link between space and time, which physics says yes, Einstein's theory of relativity, space and time are connected. Time, space can be warped, depending on gravity. The insight that I've been playing with a ton is what computer science says, is that there's also, certainty is related to space and time. 

So how this would look is, let's say that you are starting a business. You have a new website, you have calls to action, you have word copy. You wanna be certain about, how many people are going to respond, how many new inquiries are you going to get? So the idea is you can spend time, and you can have basically space, energy, and go into finding out with more certainty how many leads you're actually going to get. And when you start to think of certainty in relationship to time and space, then all - I've been playing with this idea for the last two weeks. 

And so the idea is, planning out the perfect vacation. What is the optimal vacation? How certain can you be your plan that you're putting into it, how much time and energy you're putting into the planning of it, is actually gonna be certain that you're gonna have the experience that you want to have?

And so this idea of certainty, in business and all of this, is the question then that's posed to us is when you're looking to establish something or start a business. How much energy, time, and space do you wanna put into the pre-process - the market research, the analysis, like all of those kinds of things. It's all guessing, but how much time and energy do you wanna put into that versus just simply trying stuff out? And measuring it and doing sampling, and playing in life, but then looking at, what are we learning about ourselves? What's the next insight from here?

And so it's a balance point between those two. And I think for myself, when you're looking at business from this perspective, I've always built this business, built this organization, from a standpoint of, let's try it. Let's put this out there, let's do the thing, get the feedback and make it better. So the feedback loops become - you're looking to create those feedback loops to be as small as possible. And this is basically baked into the philosophy of our training. Our whole organization is, let's try something out, measure it, and make it better. 

So we're very much into that, let's dive in. And I have always thought from my mind that that is a suboptimal strategy. Because in my mind I have elevated the, no, let's do market analysis, let's do all the research, let's try to make educated guesses, let's try to figure this thing out before we even roll anything out. Now I'm seeing no. 

There's a balance for sure. But all of those coaches, all of the people who are trying something and are open to feedback and willing to make it better, that's actually an extremely optimal strategy for long-term success. What it requires is an appetite to absorb failure and to embrace failure.

But when you look at flow, being in a state of flow - in a state of flow, you have to have opportunities for failure, or else flow doesn't happen. If you know for sure you're gonna get the thing, then you take it for granted, you don't get the same feels, you can't get that same level of intense focus. You could only get that if you're giving yourself opportunities for failure. 

So this is all baked in. And what's wild to me is, reading little ones to bed at 10 o'clock at night, I'm reading this book going, oh my gosh, there is scientific, mathematical equations, that link this all together. Wow. And here we are as coaches, experiencing this theoretical in the very real conversation between people. That's what I've been playing with the last couple weeks. 

[Raj Anderson] I love your energy on this, John. It's just this energy around also playing and experimentation. I know you talk about that a lot. How do you embrace that experimentation mindset? Because you're not really taught that in schools and things are we, or to embrace failure? 

[John Andrew Williams] It's a learned thing. A dear high school buddy, we were friends since, basically middle school. We were in our early twenties, I was visiting him and I left my favorite jacket, my favorite blazer at this other friend's house. It was a party and it was gone, and I was just feeling super sad about it. And this is a time when like, every $20 mattered. And this thing was more than that. And I remember feeling so bad about it. 

And then, his name is Greg, and Greg said, you know what, that's just the cost of doing business. Cost of doing business. And it really struck me. Like, he's right. And the idea is, if you're in business, there has to be an element of being comfortable with waste, being comfortable with suboptimal things, being comfortable with some significant setbacks, thinking - that's a setback, but it's the cost of doing business. And you learn from it, you move on from it. 

From a standpoint of school, what would happen in school is, that would be an F. You got an F. And to recover from that, you have to do all sorts of things. And you might not be able to recover from that to get to an A. But if you go back to sports psychology, if you look at some of the professional athletes, what they talk about on the field, they often talk about having a very short memory as a competitive advantage. Thinking, okay, if I failed, if I did something really bad, I need to forget about it and start over. Rinse, rinse, and repeat.

So it's developing that sense of rinse and repeat that, it's just the cost of doing business. Something didn't go my way, and you know, can we absorb the loss? Absolutely. Am I happy about it? Mehh. At the time I was less happy. And then as we're moving forward I'm like, meh. The capacity to absorb loss becomes a lot bigger, and it becomes a quicker kind of emotional processing. 

Also because of that, you're also focused on, these things are happening in the future. This dream is coming into reality. If this dream comes into reality, the past disappointments are not even a speed bump. They're just like a buckle in the road, you know, that's it. There it is behind you. So why are you focusing on the little bip when there's this amazing vista in front of you?

That's where a lot of this comes into play. But you use the bips, you use the little bumps to learn from, and play with it. And if you approach it from a growth mindset, you can even still mess with it a little bit. But it's all growth mindset. 

[Raj Anderson] And it sounds like that capacity to absorb loss is what helps us to build resilience as well, doesn't it? What's the connection there for you? 

[John Andrew Williams] Right. So getting back to intentionality. This is the space I've been playing in. So let's say time, space and certainty are, are linked, right? They're mathematically linked, from a computer science, quantum physics, even Newtonian physics, they're linked. 

And if you're also looking at the idea of intentionality - our consciousness, our ability to think, to put things together, to imagine something that has not yet existed, I feel like that's the fourth element of now, what do you want? What is it you want to be certain of? So there's an intentionality there. And now you're looking at growth mindset, how do you implement that? The intention is to learn. The intention is to become better. The intention is to continually put in the work of what needs to happen. This is the space. That's when you know you're really embracing a growth mindset. It's when you have an intention to create certainty, to spend your time and space and energy towards a certain direction for the sake of learning. I feel like that's the golden space. 

[Raj Anderson] And what practical tips would you give people to be more intentional? Because people get very busy, or there's so much pressure, and there's so much comparison out there. I know you've done social media detox and all the rest of it before. 

[John Andrew Williams] I'm probably the worst person to talk to right now. I give myself a year, a whole year. I'm in month four of no infinite scroll, and it feels so clear. 

There's definitely a capacity - I know I'm pushing and working as hard as I possibly can. And given challenges in the past, I think my past self when I had a habit of infinite scroll, would have found refuge in that infinite scroll, would have spent, I don’t know how many minutes of each day in the past months in that space. When I really think about it, it would add up. And I think that it would enable me to avoid things that would only have made it worse. You know, the whole shame cycle of why did I waste that 10 minutes, that 20 minutes, that hour in that space, all of that shame energy just doesn't exist. And instead, I allow myself to just stare out the window, and drop notes in my note thing. 

But I also have a very strong buddy system where I have people who, they tell me if something big happens. I think you can only do this if you have like a buddy who you trust to tell you what's happening in the world. And I know it's only for a short period of time. I'm really curious and then designing intentionally when I get back into it, how I get back into it, what structures put in place to act as guardrails for it. I'll be curious.

From a standpoint of intentionality, how to do this, people during the day, this is the work with of coaching. Creating structures, mental-emotional structures, mental, emotional, physical structures. So that you can do this consistently on a daily basis.

[Raj Anderson] And getting curious, isn't it, in terms of, why am I seeking refuge in the infinite scroll? I heard you say, what am I avoiding when I'm in this space? For me in the past it’s been, what fear is showing up? There was a fear of actually playing big or stepping forward. I see you gazing out the window, John.

[John Andrew Williams] I know. I'm trying not to. There's just a huge flock of pelicans that fly through here once a year and they just arrived. We're talking maybe 300 pelicans are outside the window, maybe 50 right there. I'm pretty sure if I go out the front door, I'll see 200 pelicans out there. It's one of the most amazing - I remember seeing it the first time three years ago. It was one of the most amazing sites of nature I've seen for in real time. 

[Raj Anderson] There's always birds out there. 

[John Andrew Williams] What's Pelican? What's Pelican Energy? I don't know. 

[Raj Anderson] Yeah. What does that represent for you?

[John Andrew Williams] I mean, it’s just amazing watching a flock of birds that all move in unison, they all move in sync in. How are they communicating? I just was talking to someone today about mirror neurons, the research around mirror neurons, and the idea that we all have to create a mental map of the other person's emotion.

When we're talking in this space, we're all creating mental maps, we're doing the action ourselves in our minds to make sense of what's happening externally. This is why, one of the things, that's why watching amazing athletes is so fulfilling, because in our own bodies we're mimicking the motion of what we're seeing. And how that shows up in coaching on a practical level, that when we're working with clients, everyone, myself included, has so much judgment on ourselves. There's a constant judgment. 

If you go to Timothy Gallwey's book, The Inner Game of Tennis, he calls himself one. The self that is telling us what to do, the commentator self - could be inner critic, could be inner champion, the one that's the dreamer, and could be the dreamer self. The one that says, Hey, it'd be really cool if this happens. And then you look at self two, which is the doer self, the self that actually has to do the work ff self one's dreaming, or cajoling, or being mean. The interaction between that, self one and two, shows up very starkly on an athletic field. 

And what coaching does is it takes all the judgment that self one places on self two, and replaces it with curiosity. Replaces it with this idea of, what's it like to be your doing self right now? If you're doing self were to change places with your judgment self, with your dreaming self, what request would your doer self have of your dreaming self? These are really interesting questions. These are questions that people might live their whole lifetimes never consciously thinking about.

And on a practical level, this is what coaching does. This is basically the value proposition of coaching, is you will consider questions like this that you never have ever considered. And the implications of that will filter through all the other areas of your life. 

[Raj Anderson] And I would suggest people press pause there and note those down as journaling questions, cause I'm gonna go back to those, and note them as journaling questions. I will be doing that self exploration. 

[John Andrew Williams] This is 1977. Wow. This is, this is how old and new these ideas are. 

[Raj Anderson] The year I was ,1977. Give my age away in there. So how does this impact this experimentation, intentionality? How does this impact longer-term behavior change? 

[John Andrew Williams] I've seen it in a couple ways. When I work with clients, I've seen it on myself too. I think long-term change happens, in my experience, as a series of short-term changes. Like for instance, the infinite scroll, letting that go came from a frustration of realizing, I'm gonna try it for one day. Try it for one day, then I'm gonna try it for two days. And then those two days became three and four, and then it became a week. And then it became, well, lemme try another week. 

In my experience, my best behavior changes are, let me try this for this short period of time. That's been one strategy that I've used fairly successfully, in a couple different areas. And I've seen it work with clients too. 

There was one client I was working with, really frustrated with the cleanliness of his dorm room, and we came up with a system of spending, let's say, I think it was two hours on a Saturday. He had specific time once a week that he would basically spend his time intentionally cleaning. And he started to look forward to it. Having a coach to hold him accountable to it as well was extremely valuable, because you say it out loud, you commit to it. You say, yeah, I'm going to be doing this. 

And that's the other thing I've seen work, is some sort of outside commitment. The research backs this up too, that if you have a specific action step, time and space, that you're going to do it. It's on the calendar, you've told someone you're gonna do it, someone's gonna ask you if you did it, and it's something that you are doing from the standpoint of, let me do this action step so I can learn more about myself. Most likely that's going to lead to a long-term change.

[Raj Anderson] It's a great message there for coaches to think about, isn't there, our role as coaches - yes, is that accountability. Yet we’re also creating spaces for experimentation for our clients. 

I know that working with my own coach, things have changed. Either the goals I had initially set, the things that I thought that I wanted. I went away and experimented and learned about myself, understood myself better, and thought, it's not really what I wanted anyway. But I experimented with it and now I've learnt from it, and now I've shifted direction. Have a deeper understanding of who I am as a result of experimentation. Some epic failure that I have had, that I can laugh about, which actually has redirected me in my path and my business as well, as a result of that. 

So I think sometimes coaches feel such a pressure to help their clients get an answer really quickly, or fix a problem really quickly. Yet here we’re talking about the benefit and the impact of experimentation, and seeing what works for you or what doesn't. 

[John Andrew Williams] Absolutely. At what point in time did you feel like you trusted the insight to carry the water of behavior change?

[Raj Anderson] That's a great question. I think it was understanding myself at that deeper, deeper level, you know. One also for me is acknowledgement of what I've achieved, my strengths. I've overcome a lot of adversity, and I've built up that resilience model. As I said, I've talked about epic failures, like losing a business and partnering with people, and lost a nonprofit organization, and didn't know anyone when I moved to the US. And I figured out ways out of that. 

So I think that acknowledgement and recognizing that I've overcome adversity many, many times before. And what was it about that, and what was it about me, that helped me to overcome that adversity and that resilience? 

And then I think the other thing for me is just being really true to myself. I know that if I put my head on the pillow at night and I know that I have done my best, whatever that looks like - I've not intentionally gone out my way to hurt anyone, being honorable and having that impact, I can trust me. The most important thing that I've learned has helped me so much in all of this is knowing that I've got my own back.

I have my own back. I'm not gonna let myself down. 

[John Andrew Williams] So looking at the self one, self two model, it's basically your self one has learned to trust your self two. And that's a really powerful place to be. 

[Raj Anderson] It is. Absolutely. A whole team, you get a whole team of internal selves, don't you? To help and support you.

[John Andrew Williams] It's amazing, and there's so much literature even throughout the ages that, that support this kind of work. From Marcus Aurelius, looking at the idea of building up an internal fire, that is able to take setbacks and obstacles. And instead of having that setback and obstacle smothered the fire, but to have the fire roaring so big that it uses setbacks and obstacles as fuel. What a super cool concept. 

And then you have the idea even like, dark night of the soul, looking at the process of going into the unknown, going into that uncertainty, trusting that certainty will happen. Having, you know, increased trust in self. It's such a beautiful process. 

I feel like what coaching does is it honors, it doesn't try to judge it. It approaches it with honor and curiosity, which, I just love this field. 

[Raj Anderson] Me too. Thank you, John. And that's what I'm taking away, there's that message there, trusting that certainty will happen. Even if it's not happening right now in this moment, or you've had to course correct, or you know, I've talked about failures. You know that one way or another, you are gonna figure out a path or a route. And sometimes that experimentation can hurt, can't it? And sometimes it's filled with joy, but it's part of the process. 

Thank you so much, John. 

[John Andrew Williams] Thanks for creating the space. Thanks for everyone listening.

[Raj Anderson] Absolutely. Thank you for everyone. To everyone listening, send in your questions. We won't be here next week, it's July the fourth, but we look forward to seeing you the week after for sure. Thanks a lot John, bye.

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