Imagine one of those times when you just finished dinner. You want to do the dishes and get the kitchen all cleaned up so that part of your evening is behind you.
Perhaps you start doing dishes, but then a child wants your attention.
On the one hand, you may decide to let the dishes wait…but then it’s hard to get back to them. And in your brain, you’re thinking it’s going to take forever. You feel like things take longer to do than you think they will. And you feel bad about not having things done.
On the other hand, you may want to keep doing the dishes and get them done…but then your child is unhappy and you feel bad about prioritizing the dishes over spending time with them.
It seems no matter what you choose, you can’t win. And you may feel a variety of emotions, like frustration, guilt, and overwhelm.
This is a real life scenario I coached a client a couple months ago. I want to share some of what we talked about with you so that you can benefit from the experience as well and perhaps learn a little bit more about what the coaching experience is like.
Once a client has descried a problem to me, we take a few minutes to separate the thoughts from the facts (AKA, circumstances). As humans, our brains provide a lot of thoughts, and we can cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary suffering in instances where we are thinking our thoughts are facts.
So, with that, let’s take just a moment to differentiate between the two.
Circumstances are things that happen in the world that we cannot control, like other people, our past, and the weather. Circumstances are factual – strictly the facts – with no drama or opinions or subjectivity. They are neutral.
Thoughts are what we THINK about the facts. They are things that happen in our minds. They are sentences in our brains. It is important to note here that the root cause of ANY problem is always our thinking (and this is where we coach!!).
In the particular scenario provided above, the facts were that my client was a wife and a mom. She had one young son. The time of day was after dinner. There were dishes in the sink. Her husband went outside. She started doing dishes when her son asked asked for her attention.
Those are the facts – stated very neutrally – and something everyone would agree to be true. These are the circumstances for our coaching.
My client had a lot of thoughts happening within these circumstances. Here were some of her thoughts:
- I can’t be in two places at once.
- I’m choosing dishes over him.
- I don’t want him to throw a tantrum.
- I’m worried about what my husband will think if dishes aren’t done.
In coaching, we look at just one thought at a time, with the intention of raising our awareness of how our thoughts are affecting us and creating results in our lives. There is no right or wrong here – we raise our awareness around what we are thinking and then we get to decide it that is what we want to continue thinking intentionally, on purpose.
Let’s look at the first thought above. That is, “I can’t be in two places at once.”
When my client thought this thought, she felt frustrated and overwhelmed. And, when she felt this way, she would start to spin in survival mode self-talk. For her, this meant thinking about how she has so much to get done and yet not enough time to do it, thinking about how she feels she needs big chunks of time to get things done, and thinking about how her child needed her, too. Then, she would typically choose to go be with her child and let the dishes sit. But, while she is sitting with him, she is spinning in her brain about what she has to do and wondering when she’ll get it done – feeling like its either/or.
Now, the fun part of these exercises is taking a look at the result that is being created, because this is the part that is often outside of our awareness, and it also brings it all together.
See, our results always prove our thoughts true, and our brains are always looking for evidence to support the way we are thinking (this is called confirmation bias). The Model is the math for our self-fulfilling prophecy works. That is, we think a thought, which creates a feeling, which drives an action, which creates a result. And, that result always provides evidence for the original thought.
In this model, my client’s result was that she actually was in two places at once. She was physically present with her child, but mentally with the dishes. And this provided evidence for her thought, because it gave her more reason to keep thinking, “I can’t be in 2 places at once.”
She gets a similar result if she attempts to keep doing the dishes. She thinks, “I’m choosing dishes over him.” She feels guilty, so she then still decides to go be with him. But, again, she is physically present but mentally spinning in dishes and to-dos. So, even though she chose physically to be with him, mentally, she is “choosing dishes over him.” Thereby creating evidence that supports her original thought.
When she thinks she doesn’t want him to throw a tantrum, she feels anxious. Then, she gets really frustrated prematurely cause she feels like that tantrum is coming. And in this case, again, she ends up physically with her child but then spinning in her find thinking about dishes and all her frustrations. The result, of course, is that she is throwing a tantrum.
So fascinating how our minds do this, right?!
I can tell you my brain does the same thing.
Regarding each of these thoughts, you might argue, “But it’s true!” We can often make a case for our thoughts being true, because we’ve created evidence that helps make them more true. So, even if it is true, we really have to pay attention to a few things – namely, “Is this serving me?” and “Do I want to keep thinking this way and creating this result for myself?”
See, even if something is true – doesn’t mean you ever want to think it. How we choose to think about something lays the blueprint for our future.
For example, in the example above with the tantrum – it could be proven true that she doesn’t want him to throw a tantrum. But, notice that “tantrum” is a subjective word, and there are other ways to interpret a child’s behavior. When she interprets his behavior (or anticipated behavior) as a tantrum, she ends up throwing a tantrum. In this case, we talked about why a tantrum is a problem and how else a tantrum might be defined, and I loved her response. That is, “He’s having some big feelings that he doesn’t know how to express with words, and that’s okay.”
Notice that nothing changed about the circumstances or the child’s behavior. And yet, when she thought this way about his behavior, she felt immediate understanding. From this place she was able to find other options for how she was able to access other thoughts. Like how she wanted to be a peaceful presence and safe place for him (not a whirlwind of emotion herself).
From a place of understanding, she felt she had many options she could take with her son. She could redirect him to playing with a toy or allow him to experience those emotions he’s feeling and let him work through it. She could respond calmly and unattached, “Mommy has some things to get done right now and it won’t take long” while telling herself, “He’s feeling big emotions right now and that’s okay.” Or, she could decide that leaving the dishes in the sink is fine and give her son her full attention. (This brought up more thoughts around what she feared her husband would think, but we’ll save that discussion for another post!)
Her take-away from this session was that other people might be upset and that can be okay. That other people can be upset and she doesn’t have to be. That she can hold space for what she needs as well without having to enter into their actual emotion. That she can show support and hold space and be there for them in their moments.
This is the work of coaching my friends! It is a practice – not a one-and-done experience. But it is life changing. It is the work of freeing yourself from the chains of your own mind that you don’t even realize you have because it just feels like “the way it is.”
And, it is the work coaches do, as well. Coaches need coaches just like doctors need doctors. A brain surgeon would never perform surgery on his own brain!
We all benefit from taking a look at what is happening inside the most powerful tool that exists – our brains. And mental and emotional health is for EVERYONE. At least, that’s my opinion. 😉
If you have any questions you would like to ask, please reach out – I’d love to help!!
P.S. If you’d like help raising awareness around what is happening in your own mind and taking this work to the next level, book a free session with me!!
The pilot program I’ve been doing is coming to an end next week, and I have spots opening starting the week after that. I’ll help you understand where you are now and where you want to go, including any obstacles that are in your way. We will talk about what your problem is and how to solve it.
Click here to book now; and if none of the available spots work for you, message me with your availability and I’ll do my best to find a time that works for both of us!