A lot of things happen when you start doing a ‘social impact project’. I did a few and experienced a lot of personal and practical challenges. It calls upon strengths like perseverance, flexibility, asking for help and sometimes letting go of initial ideas. It is also a challenge to implement a project next to other daily obligations like school, a study or a job. And on top of all that, most of the project starters are really emotionally involved with the issue their project is about. This is why we support our NOWers with a personal coach during the online phase of the NOW Journey.
A coach is someone to turn to with questions or stories you would not ask or tell your friends or parents, because they are just way too close or too involved. A coach is like a sparring partner, someone who is not too involved and therefore able to see things from a different perspective. You can share your story and feel relieved afterwards. And… coaches are also there to lovingly confront you with a part of your behaviour that is not helping you or others. They can ask you questions you will not ask yourself and yes, sometimes this can be confronting.
Coaching is a balancing act between being a partner or a friend and having enough distance to confront the coachee when needed. It requires empathy, awareness, open mindedness, a safe environment, and a good choice of words. As a coach, you do not tell your coachee what to do, we do not offer solutions and we are not the ones to help. We do give advice sometimes, but mostly, we help coachees discover how they can find solutions themselves.
You might ask yourself: “What? Then why do I need a coach?” I hear you. Coaching is a personal process, a process of personal development. A coach cannot decide for you what is best. You can trust yourself best on what it is that you need. Coaches assist you in finding the answer for your questions yourself. Why try to do it on your own, if there are other people willing to assist you?
An important lesson I learned while I was coached myself is that if you can’t think of an answer to your issue, you can try to feel the answer. We are feeling and thinking beings but we live in a world where the rational is predominant. We tend to favour ratio over feeling, as if thoughts are better or more right than feelings. When we do not know what to do, we tend to think of a solution. And if that doesn’t work, we think even harder…
Sometimes we can get lost in this way and are getting caught up in our heads. Then it is helpful to stop thinking and just sit and feel. It sounds kind of ironic to solve a problem by doing nothing, right? But to me, that is exactly what needs to be done at times. We are more than our thoughts and feelings. So you should not let them control you. Take control of them. Our thoughts are just as whimsical and numerous as our feelings, they come and go, like clouds in the sky. If you feed bad thoughts, if you give them attention, they will grow and bother you even more. If you stop feeding them they will disappear.
Once you made contact with your feelings you can start coordinating thoughts and feelings. Take notice of both, but let your heart have the final say. The heart, your loving and caring self, is the best decision maker. Your heart can make sense of the numerous thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. I realise that this is a lifelong exercise. This is why I meditate and it is one of the reasons why I practise Aikido, the only martial art that is not about fighting. Because it is a lifelong practise I like to be coached myself, it helps me to make sense of my feelings and thoughts.
If you’d like to receive coaching you’ll need to be able to show your vulnerable side. Which is not really what we mostly like to show. Because, obviously, it makes us vulnerable.But we have to remind ourselves that being vulnerable is not the same as being weak. Showing your sensitive sides takes guts. I think we all have experienced that people who make themselves vulnerable easily gain our respect, provided they do it in a way that is free of any other intentions than just showing who they are. People who are this authentic have a real strong effect on others. With other words: vulnerability can be truly powerful. To me, this what it takes to be a changemaker: The guts to show yourself for who you are. The guts to have no false intentions, personal strategies or hidden agendas, to just be yourself and to do what you think, and feel, needs to be done. Every time my coachees open up to me and show me who they are, I am humbled and thankful.
Being authentic in this world, where we have learned to be strong and project ourselves is really not an easy task. But once you have experienced the strength that comes with it, there is something awakening inside of you. Some might say that it is your soul calling upon you to be listened to. It’s soft voice can lead you.
It is not easy to listen free of judgement and help people discover their own solutions and their own self. This is why I try to always remember that soft voice inside of me that helps me free myself from judgement. I do not always manage though, but it is this ongoing challenge that I appreciate. I enjoy to work on myself and to share the experience, empowering others. All this is why I love coaching.