I was inspired to write about the following after I listened to double Gold Paralympian Medallist Jonnie Peacock MBE being interviewed on BBC Breakfast this morning. I am in awe of these athletes who battle against the odds to achieve their dreams. He spoke of having a second where he lost his focus. He went on to win the race anyway, the T44 men’s 100 metres. He gained focus and looked ahead. How?
The challenge of the focus.
Coaching is in many ways like running in a race. It is however not a competition. It is about setting a goal and moving steadfastly towards it. It’s hard not to be distracted by people around you, to have to focus on your goals. There are so many distractions out there, so many people that appear to have it sorted. Jonnie Peacock is one such example. His smile as he crosses the finishing line hides the hours, days, weeks and years of hard work required to make it there.
How do you move towards your goals? How do I move towards mine?
The photography term ‘focal length’ describes the distance between the lens and the image sensor. The higher the number the larger the zoom; you can see farther and pull distant images in closer. The smaller the number would indicate a wide angle lens that does what it says on the tin, namely you see more to the sides but not so far ahead.
I believe that in coaching it is important to select the correct lenses. It is important to have more than one up your sleeve but only to use certain ones occasionally.
The metaphor of the lens.
Choosing the correct lens to use is important. Initially, it is useful to use a wide angle lens to understand the present situation that they are found in, to set the scene and take in everything. That would include possible hazards that could trip them up, if that is not taking the metaphor too far?
We need to use a zoom to look far ahead, to focus on the goal, but it takes determination to stay focused on the finish line with so many distractions. If you are always looking to your right and left when you are supposed to be focusing on your goal then you are possibly being distracted, and using a wide angle lens. Comparison, looking at what others are doing, minimises your ability to see the finishing line, the goal.
So what can sabotage our coaching journey? Using the wrong lens for sure, and:
Comparison: can limit success as we never have the entire picture and often make judgements based on limited information.
Not feeling good enough: basing our view of ourselves on past events or comments.
Being driven rather than paced: we are more likely to stumble and fall if we run headlong into the future.
So as a coach what do I need to be aware of and how do I challenge it?
The client who is so busy talking about others rather than focusing on the issue at hand. Gently bring the client back to the matter in hand and wonder aloud maybe, as to the reason for the distraction. What would it be like if they were to succeed?
The negative language about themselves that compromises the engagement of the client. Ask where the language comes from, do they recognise the voice? Once again, what would it be like if they were to succeed?
The client who is appearing to burn themselves out with targets and challenges. Ask what does rest look like for the client? It is sitting reading, or even bizarrely, going for a run? Rest does not necessarily mean being still, it is about restoration. What would happen if they stopped focusing on work for one day, how would they use the time? What are the worries with regard to stopping?
So back to Jonnie Peacock MBE. I have not spoken to Jonnie about how he achieved his goals, but this I know for sure. He did not do it alone. He used different metaphorical lenses to look at any difficulty, and I am sure he managed to succeed by being balanced in his approach.
As I continue to journey in coaching I am shaking off the ties that bind, turning away from comparison and building balance in my life too.
Will you join me?