Focus on the now

Why we get stuck and what to do about it

When I started coaching, I set out to help leaders find out what they wanted and how to get there. I also wanted to help them become who they really are. I know now that’s not what my coaching is about. I dare to say that’s not what life is about.

Why it is not about what you want

‘A goal is a place you are coming from, rather than a place you are going to.’ Rich Litvin.

My clients identified what they wanted early in the coaching process. Coaching helped admit to themselves what they already knew. The surprising thing was that through our work, they became less and less preoccupied with achieving it. They started being a lot happier in the present moment.

They were still pursuing that new job, business or promotion. But, they trusted that their journey was going well, and they enjoyed life in the meantime. Many of their goals became a reality. But, they no longer needed to achieve a particular goal to feel fulfilled.

Psychologists rave about the value of living in the present and experiencing gratitude. Buddhists say that the cause of all dissatisfaction is desire. Meditation experts teach you to accept what is without judgment.

Pursuing worthwhile goals is great. By all means, if something is not working in your life, let’s fix it. However, by focusing obsessively on what you want, you do not enjoy what you have. Once you achieve a goal, another one takes its place, and you never feel you have accomplished enough. You sacrifice the present for an always elusive future.

You will always have goals you have not achieved yet. And while coaching can help you reach them easier and faster, a more worthwhile outcome could be to help you find irrespective of your goals. A sense of being 'at home' with who you are, where you are and what you do.

‘Change expectation appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.’ Tony Robbins.

Why it is not about becoming who you really are

‘Everything Flows’ Heraclitus

Unlike common belief, the self is not something fixed. Both the West and the East agree on this. Scientists talk about and growth mindsets. Buddhists talk about the impermanence of self.

As a coach, I cannot be helping you become who you really are. The ‘really’ implies that who you are is fixed.

It is more about helping you get to know who you are in this moment. Integrate your different parts. Your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Your ‘ugly’ and ‘unlovable’ bits. Your conflicts and complexities.

Only by fully embracing who you are now, you can change. This last concept is called the paradoxical theory of change in Gestalt Psychotherapy. I will repeat it because it is so powerful. The only way to change is by fully accepting who you are now.

Why do you get stuck?

People often come to me because they feel stuck. Usually, at least one of these two conditions is true:

  • They have outgrown their environment

  • Their environment has outgrown them

Let’s talk about the first one. Sometimes you do not change your environment because you have not realized you have changed. Imagine a caterpillar who has not realized that it has become a butterfly and stays in the cocoon. Or a seed that has not recognized that it has sprouted and remains entirely under the ground.

The cocoon and the soil were the perfect nurturing and safe environments before. But now they have become . In this case, you need to create awareness of the situation for what it is. Part of growing is letting go of what no longer serves you. This could be a job, a relationship or anything else.

Sometimes, though, it is the environment that has outgrown you. You have not adapted your old patterns of behavior to the current situation. Many examples from my coaching practice come to mind.

The Director who keeps everyone at work at a distance. This strategy worked well to avoid mockery when he was at an all-boys boarding school. The Leader who constantly chooses terrible bosses. As a child, she derived her sense of achievement from managing her demanding father. The Sales Executive who avoids senior male clients. Hiding from her angry brother was smart when she was young.

Once you become aware of these antiquated behaviors, a big part of the work is done. Your stale beliefs, once acknowledged, cannot stand the light of the current reality. You realize that you are not a child anymore. Your current work environment is not your previous company, your family or your school. New beliefs and behaviors emerge aligned to the here and now.

What can you do to feel at home with yourself and your environment?

You constantly shape and are being shaped by your environment. When things go well, there is flow. Like the river which flows between its banks. The water and the earth mutually co-create each other. Sometimes, though, something stops the river’s flow, and the water becomes stagnant.

The sooner you realize you got stuck and you attend to it, the easier it will be to reinstate the flow. The best way is to tune in at the present moment and look both internally and externally:

  • Increase your self-awareness. Meditate, journal, reflective conversations with a professional or a friend.

  • Understand your environment. Sometimes failure or conflict are signals that you need to change course.

  • Decide what needs to change and take action. It could be your mindset, attitude or behavior. Or it could be your role, partner, employee, boss, or anything else.

Achieving what you want becomes a lot easier when you increase your awareness and acceptance of the present moment. I would love to hear your experience. What is your best way of achieving that?

Caterina is an Executive Coach and Founder of Before, she was a Global Business Leader at Google. You can sign up to Caterina’s monthly newsletter with coaching tips and follow her on LinkedIn, Medium or Facebook.

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