I lowered the hospital bed and pulled the sleep mask on hoping for a few hours of on-and-off, hospital-room sleep before I would be awakened in the middle of the night for a brain MRI and CT scan. I was scared to fall asleep. Would I wake up? I texted with my wife. We still didn’t know why I had fallen in the hallway at home that morning. I texted my son, who was scared by what he feared for me. He replied, reminding me I would be home soon and would see my grandchildren. Exhaustion eventually won out. I slept for a few hours.
The next afternoon I was headed home, so grateful to God. The 911 call, ambulance ride to the emergency room and overnight hospital stay with numerous tests were a result of a “stress-related event,” mimicking stroke symptoms. What a relief! I could breathe again. Still big, heavy questions remained. Change was needed.
My family encouraged me to be my whole self. No split Twitter accounts. No downplaying my faith in certain settings. My counselor encouraged me to recalibrate stress in my life. How? Be still, self-aware, reflective and OK with where I am. These invitations to BE have been freeing for me. I offer you the same invitation here along with three ideas from my journey.
1) BE Gracious with Yourself
On the first day of the 2019-2020 University of Wisconsin Certified Professional Coach (UW-CPC) program, the director encouraged us to be gracious with ourselves. The concept of being gracious with myself didn’t sit well. It didn’t fit how I viewed myself. My faith tells me grace is unmerited favor from God. In turn, I am to be gracious—i.e., kind and forgiving—with others. I never realized it was OK to be gracious with myself. I now know the power in being gracious with myself.
You might ask how this works. For me, self-talk is one signal. Am I quick with self-talk? Are my words filled with negativity and labels? Quick, negative, labeling self-talk is a sign I am not being gracious with myself. Slowing down, being quiet and thinking factually, while still respecting the emotions, is a sign I am being gracious with myself.
Being gracious with yourself may look different. It might include acknowledging where you are and being OK with it. You may want to explore what it would look like to be gracious with yourself in your next coaching session or with some trusted colleagues.
2) BE Whole
“Be whole” is not a command to be OK. Nor is it an expectation. ”Be whole” is an encouragement to allow yourself to be what you are, where you are. To be whole is to be undivided, not pretending to be one thing for some people and another thing for others.
To be whole meant embracing what my family offered: to be myself, my whole self. To be whole meant being broken, vulnerable and transparent around UW-CPC colleagues. Anyone who knows me knows my default escape is humor. My colleagues helped me be whole even when it was uncomfortable and unfinished.
I am not going to tell you how to be whole. No one but you knows what whole feels like for you. You define what whole is for you.
3) Stay in BE
I must add a warning. Beware the Do Default. Both BE and DO are important to real transformation. DO regularly gets priority, though, even in coaching engagements. DO is measurable. BE can be uncomfortable. That can lead to the Do Default, a tendency to hurry on to DO something, DO anything. But DO can distract. DO often sabotages BE. DO can be a defense mechanism to avoid the depth of BE.
The freedom to BE whole allowed me to stay in the uncomfortable depth of BE. I did my best to practice BE gracious with myself there. (Note the gracious wording!) I became more curious as I stayed in BE. That curiosity helped me get to a more courageous DO—going all-in on coaching.
As coaches, we know much learning is in the depth of BE. Avoid the Do Default. Stay in BE longer.
The Invitation: Permission to BE
We have all heard “Be safe” innumerable times in 2020. What may be meant as a well wish comes with expectations that you must DO to BE. Fellow coaches: Can I offer something different? Give yourself permission to BE.
My offer may sound incomplete. That is intentional. This is an open invitation. Reflect, journal, walk, talk, pray, rest or…You fill in the blank. Fill it in when you want to fill it in. Or don’t fill it in. Use my learning points if they serve you. Whatever you choose, I encourage you to prioritize BE, in service to yourself, then to your clients. However you choose, just BE.
First published in Coaching World in October 2020, published by the International Coaching Federation.