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I have noticed that we human beings anguish much more about choice-making than situations that feel "choiceless." The times when we get to say, "You know, I really didn't have a choice in the matter." Sure we get to gnash away at that a little bit: how lousy it felt or how it came to this, but it still feels easier to wait for choicelessness than to make a decision when things haven't come to that point yet. When we still have a choice to make.
Often, as I work with clients I notice how they are enabling some situation to get really big rather than addressing the small items as they arise. You know, not having the difficult conversations that they should be having. Putting off the 'tough stuff' because it hasn't become a big enough problem yet; it is just at the "minor irritant" stage or at the "serious but not bad enough yet" stage. We would actually have to make it an issue to speak about it but we don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill and it is a hard conversation, after all. It would mean making a choice to disrupt the status quo and then taking responsibility for being in very difficult conversations. Initiating those conversations when they weren't at a crisis point yet. Putting ourselves directly in those situations while a choice was still present.
Instead, we allow things to grow, fester, or get worse. We allow our offices to get really, really messy before we sit down to tackle them because it is simply impossible to work in anymore (choiceless). We let relationships disintegrate piece by piece until the leaving feels necessary (choiceless). We allow conversations with our bosses or staff to not occur and not occur and not occur until we feel like things have gotten so bad that we need to either look for a new job or really let someone have it (choiceless).
It seems as though we are more able to make big changes in our lives when we have enabled the current situation to become untenable. Why is that?
I wrote an article a number of years ago about the dance of change and resistance. The article talked about the resistance that comes forward (with equal and opposing force) to any change that we attempt to bring about. And now I find myself wondering if we also have a need to create resistance (pain & suffering) large enough to warrant the size of change we are considering. That we have to make the RESISTANCE to the relationship or job or situation big enough and bad enough to support the size of CHANGE we want desperately to make anyway.
The dance of change and resistance continues.
Option 1: We try to bring about Change and get equal and opposing Resistance
Or the reverse:
Option 2: We create Resistance big enough to equal the size of the Change we are considering
Is this the law of nature? Equal and opposing forces. I have always thought that resistance was something that came about after change was introduced. But perhaps we will also create untenable situations so that we can feel our resistance to the scene growing big enough to finally force us bring about the change we wanted all along - now it feels choiceless. So, we have to act.
It is difficult to take responsibility for our lives. It is truly difficult to take full, conscious responsibility for this one joyous life we are given. It is truly difficult to stand in the midst of situations (or messy offices) that are not yet unsustainable and decide to change anyway. It is truly difficult to stand in the midst of work conflicts and before it has gotten out of hand have the tough chat.
We need to proactively step into those compassionate and direct conversations. And these are the really difficult situations….the ones where we actually have a choice, the ones where we can actually choose to not have "the talk" and instead skulk off hoping something changes. We need to gently step forward. It is a choice. It is always a choice when it hasn't gotten to the point of choicelessness. And quite frankly, it is a choice to let it get to that stage.
We need to also include the conversations we should be having with ourselves. The ones we don't have until they become too loud to ignore. We let our practices fall or our weight increase or our To Do lists pile up or bills go unpaid until something drops to untenable (our health, our disconnected phone line, no heat, no clothes that fit).
Ah, finally: choicelessness. Now I have to do something about this.
And we exhale (complaining aloud a little about the choicelessness of it all) and we attend. Giving it the time that we knew all along it needed. We attend.
How do we start recognizing those billowing growing patterns in ourselves and our clients before they spiral into choicelessness? How do we step up and take responsibility for our lives before it feels untenable? Is there such a thing as choice? Perhaps there is only choosing to consciously attend. Attending to this moment, observing, paying attention, noticing, doing what needs to be done as soon as it arises with skilful means.
And it means shifting the attending to a different scale: attending before things are untenable, attending to the small details, attending to completing the small items as they appear rather than letting the scorecard accumulate until the scorecard collapses under the weight of "now I have no choice."
Maybe the small Resistances we feel are calling for the small Changes we are wanting. Maybe we need to pay attention to where the resistance is for it is full of information. Small acts to support our small resistances which are speaking on behalf of these small yearnings…..
Have the conversation. Make it a conscious choice.
© Joanne Hunt