“Do you think I should become a coach?” is a question I get asked pretty regularly. Becoming a coach, or at least training to be a coach, is an unstoppable trend. In the past, a life crisis would prompt people to get a new hairstyle, a Harley, or have an affair. Today, they train to be a coach. Can I recommend a particular training program? Unfortunately not. My own training was almost 25 years ago and I have no idea what is going on in the German coaching training market today.
I have been learning a lot from my coach Matt Griggs since 2019. He teaches Kelee meditation, which I have been practicing daily since then. This helps me immensely in finding answers to questions that affect me. Much of what I do in my coaching sessions today is built on this practice.
Twin pack on the path to enlightenment
I was delighted to learn that Matt was offering two of his retreats this summer, together with professional surfer Taylor Knox. Since my own development had come up a bit short in recent years, I booked the twin pack: 18 days of learning, meditating, and surfing together with an illustrious group of like-minded people on a very luxurious ship in the Maldives.
It rains a lot in the Maldives
I also allowed myself to disconnect from the online world for the entire period. Touch your mind, don’t touch your emails.More than two weeks without social networks and news from all over the world. Stillness is healing for the mind. Sounds like paradise, right? To make you less envious – it rains a lot in the Maldives in summer. In addition, a strong wind often chopped up the would-be perfect waves. Nevertheless, the atmosphere on board was good. Plenty of time to dig deep and reflect.
Letting go of self-created problems
Matt coaches according to the principle of non-interference. He doesn’t give advice, but asks questions candidly, to which you have to find answers yourself. After all, it’s about personal growth. Who else but yourself could provide the answer? Under Matt’s and Taylor’s guidance, we learned how to practice Kelee meditation to
- build conscious awareness, that is, noticing what we are doing while we are doing it,
- turn off brain chatter to be able to act efficiently,
- manage our energy wisely,
- let go of what we don’t need, in other words, detachment.
And what do we actually need? Not much. We especially don’t need anger, worries, or self-created problems. David, a movie producer from L.A., said how pleasant it was to think about nothing for a moment. You could see how much calmer, more sociable, and more present he became. He arrived in the here and now.
What do we want? – NOTHING!
Adam, a lawyer from a leading law firm in San Francisco said: imagine a group of enlightened people demonstrating with banners in front of the White House.
“What do you want?”
“When do you want it?”
The group burst out laughing and for a moment it felt as if we had found the formula for world peace. We developed a very harmonious and warm relationship with each other, during which small moments of enlightenment occurred again and again.
Stagnation in my own development
Nevertheless, I did not have the feeling that I was developing personally. Why should I? I am healthy, the children are practically out of the house, I have a wonderful man in my life, business is going well, and I love my work. I can’t imagine a better profession than being a coach. It’s okay to take a break from my own development, isn’t it?
Stop taking yourself so seriously
I wasn’t making any progress with my surfing either. Although I had improved since the first retreat, I was still the worst surfer on board. Instead of the cutback I was aiming for, I managed to have one bizarre wipeout after another, except that by now it wasn’t even bothering me anymore. I didn’t take myself so seriously anymore. Detachment is going great.
“Lara would go!”
The mood was light and cheerful. My fellow travelers looked on both in awe and with amusement at the consistency with which I paddled into waves, even when they were a size too big for me. I would always emerge with a laugh despite wiping out badly. Letting go is a really good thing and “Lara would go” became a popular catchphrase whenever a big wave was approaching. Maybe I was already really close to enlightenment?
15 unsurfed waves
Think again! The waves improved and the mood changed in the second retreat. There were a few men in the group with boundless energy. They spent every free minute in the water and surfed with concentration and ambition every wave they could get. I also had good waves but many, many times, when I was in a good position to catch the next wave, one of the Ironmen was already on it. I was getting increasingly frustrated and talked to Taylor about it. He reckoned – “As humans, we often follow the herd instinct. Everyone wants to catch the big waves. What about the medium-sized ones? At least 15 of those went unsurfed in the last session and they were much better in my opinion. Good surfers stay calm and find the hole in the lineup!” (=the place where they get their waves)
Familiar reflexes – while surfing and at work
I tried to put this into practice. Things went a little better and I did my first cutback – the life goal I had set for myself. Did that put me in a celebratory mood? No, my frustration overshadowed everything. My peers seemed selfish, uncaring, and aggressive. I mentally checked off a list of traits, which made me feel superior. Wait a minute, this seems familiar. This categorizing that does not feel harmonious. Stop! Not harmonious? Time to work on myself. I asked Matt for advice.
The intellect evaluates, the mind understands
Matt’s question – What is it about strength that fascinates you? I sat on deck meditating and contemplating, writing down what was going through my mind. The many times I filled out forms as a consultant in audits or Assessment Centers. The hundreds of reports I wrote that determined whether someone advanced in their career or not. The fact that this had given me a feeling of power and superiority for a long time. That one day, however, I started to feel sick at the thought of having to sit in front of another person with a black folder and check boxes on yellow slips of paper. And here I was sitting in the Maldives doing just that: evaluating, analyzing, categorizing, and feeling superior. The intellect evaluates. The ego makes sure I’m on the winning side. The mind does not evaluate, it understands. When I understand something, I don’t have to think about it anymore, it is a realization.
Lara did go
I made a conscious decision to leave diagnostics and focus on coaching many years ago. That meant saying “no” to time-consuming business trips and observer conferences, and initially to 50 percent of my revenue. At the same time, it was a “yes” to work that fulfills me because I can now meet people on an equal footing and with understanding, and support them in their development. My focus is on dealing with emotions. The diagnostic chapter in my life is probably not quite closed yet, when I unwittingly open the black folder and my ego convinces me that I am smarter than my counterpart. There is a difference between separation and detachment. But when I am present, I know what I have to do. Professionally, I’ve found my hole in the lineup. I surf waves that are good for me. And I did a cutback. Memories fade. Realizations remain. Lara would go and Lara did go.
Can I recommend the coaching profession? For me it is the right choice. For others too? No idea. When people ask me for professional orientation, I like to offer the four questions from the Ikigai for contemplation:
- What do you love (to do)?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for?
When contemplating these questions, do the answers point to a profession as a coach?
What if you worked on your inner attitude instead of changing profession?
What impact would changes on a small scale have?
Is it possible that you are exactly where you are meant to be?
If, for whatever reason, a fight-or-flight reflex kicks in, I echo Taylor’s advice: Stay calm and find your hole in the lineup.
Photos by Andy Potts