Monday, November 15, 2010

What Are You Feeding On?

This post is written with Professional Bi-cultural women in mind.  The “she” in the article is anyone and everyone I have coached.

I keep on ending up where I started with my coaching conversations.  It goes something like this: “so what do you really want?”  Rarely do I get a straight answer.  Most of the time she goes on explaining something that happened or is happening, hoping that I can infer what it is that she wants.  I’ll listen and go back to the same question.  She gets frustrated, she says she doesn’t know, or she comes up with another story.

We walk together to the same place, the place we started.  Sometimes I am the provocateur, sometimes a teacher, a companion, a friend, and most of the time she knows that I have walked in those exact same steps.  She trusts that I won’t belittle the pain, frustration or exhaustion she is feeling.  In fact, I won’t even pretend to take it away.  She knows that I honor her journey, her choices, and her experience.  I have nothing to gain or lose regardless of what she does or doesn’t do.
We sometimes gently and other times, not so gently investigate her food source.  What has she been feeding on I ask.  Sometimes it is an old memory, the way things used to be, a fantasy, or a dream.  Sometimes it is her work, she likes being busy, it numbs the feelings.  Sometimes it is her children or her family.  Sometimes it is an ex-husband who just won’t go away.  Sometimes it is worry about the future, what will happen to her or her children.  Sometimes it is the fear of the “what ifs”, her ending up in a situation she had worked so hard not to end up in.  Sometimes it is her addiction to control and to perfect.  Sometimes it is the drama in her life, her work, or on TV.  And sometimes it is food, when she isn’t even hungry.
Once we know what she is really hungry for, then we ask the question again: what do you really want?  From this place, abstaining from the junk she really doesn’t want to be feeding on anymore, she can go within and embrace who she truly is and then the real journey begins. 

This is why I love what I do.  I get to walk with amazing women who inspire me with their courage, honesty and a desire to change every day. 

Questions to Ponder:
1)    What have you been feeding on?
2)    What are you really hungry for?
3)    How will you know you’ve found what you’ve really wanted?

Spiritual life coaching is a process that helps clarify your real wants and desires in life.  Without the filters and feeding tubes, you can now make conscious choices about where you want to go and how you want to get there.  If you’d like to investigate if spiritual life coaching might help you on your journey, please contact me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Inner and Outer Values

As a bi-cultural woman I shouldn’t be surprised that most of my clients are other professional bi-cultural women.  I have observed what I’d like to call a challenge of inner vs. outer values.  This is not limited to bi-cultural women, but they are the ones who have brought this to my attention.

I’d like to think of inner values as those we’ve had for what may seem forever.  For example, take Jane, when asked, “What are your top 3 values?”  She mentions: freedom, courage, and justice.  Based on my interactions with her, it was obvious that honesty was high up there.  So I asked her why she didn’t choose honesty, and she was puzzled herself.  She said, “I guess it’s just the way I am, so I don’t even think about it”.   Inner values are those you don’t have to think about, they are part of who you inherently are.  You would possess and express those values regardless of your circumstances.  You might not even notice it in someone else unless of course they weren’t.  But, that’s another discussion.

Jane is a bi-cultural woman who is a first generation American.  Her parents moved to the U.S. when she was only 10.  She had to quickly adapt to a new environment, language, etc.  She had to go through being the new kid in school, the new kid who dressed and spoke differently.  She had to adjust quickly and learn to be tough so she could survive the challenge of being the different one.  She developed the outer values of freedom, courage and justice during this time and she has applied it in her life and career since.
Outer values are developed through challenges and difficult situations that provide the right circumstances.  Whether these were always Jane’s values and had been sitting in a dormant state until she moved to another country, we’ll never know and is irrelevant to this discussion.
Outer values are the ones my clients use to navigate through life and challenges.  It’s what is at the top of their mind, and consciousness.  It’s what they rely on when things go wrong.  Ironically, it is also what they struggle with. 

For example, Jane’s outer value of freedom is something she talks about all the time.  She sees herself free from what other people think, not afraid to push the envelope, a daring to be different quality.  However, in her professional life, she is very careful with how she presents herself.  She appears to those she works with as a very professional and conservative person.  Freedom is a selected value that she uses when she wants to, it is not an inherent inner value.  She likes to please authority, and her bosses.  However, if something goes wrong at work, if her bosses expect her to lie for example, and her inner value is honesty, she will use freedom, her outer value to get out of that situation.  This of course comes across to her bosses as something unexpected.  They might even think of her as someone impulsive or erratic because they never saw it coming.  When we don’t express all of our values consistently, we can be misunderstood.

What if Jane felt truly free?  What if she showed up at work the same way she shows up with her friends or family?  What if she allowed her creativity and unconventionality to be expressed at work?  Would she still use freedom as a crutch to rely on when things got bad?  Or would freedom be something she’d be known for like her honesty? 

I’d like to think of our outer values as opportunities for development or conversion into inner values.  It takes practice, a mirror and a coach to help us strengthen and consistently use those values so that they become part of our inner or core self if we so choose.

Questions to Ponder:
1)    What are your top 3 inner values?
2)    What are your top 3 outer values?
3)    When do you use your outer values and with whom?

Spiritual life coaching is a client driven process where you can explore your values and determine how you express them in your life and/or work.  If you are interested in learning about how you could be consistently in congruence with your own values, please contact me for a complimentary 30 minute consultation.