While considering the notion of success and achievement and what that means for me, I’ve been reflecting upon my state of ennui and not doing the past month. My thoughts consistently return to the mystery of “Who I am is How I …(coach; supervise; colleague; parent; grandparent; friend) - this core question from CSA.
So today I came across the poet’s view of this state of not doing - in the words of the American poet, critic, essayist, and short story writer Laura Riding (January 16, 1901–September 2, 1991) in her letters to 8-year-old Catherine Graves, daughter of poet Robert Graves. In these letters, Riding addresses some of the most elemental questions of existence — how to live a life of creativity and integrity, why praise and prestige are corrosive objects of success, and above all what it means to be oneself.
“People who for some reason find it impossible to think about themselves, and so really be themselves, try to make up for not thinking with doing.”
It’s a comfort to read her words, given that as a child of introverted habits, I was consistently exhorted to “hurry up – stop dawdling/day dreaming/being lazy”. I can vividly remember at primary school not at all minding when lessons were boring and meaningless, for this gave ample opportunity for my favourite pastime - gazing out the window at trees and sky, immersed in my own thoughts - yes day dreaming in class. (I managed to remain academically at the top of the class, so clearly no harm was done :)
Riding urges Catherine not to worry about being accused of laziness and considers the basic goodness of simply being oneself:
“…You seem to spend a lot of time dreaming about nothing at all. And yet you are, as the few people who really know you recognise, a perfect child… This is because when you seem to be dreaming about nothing at all you are not being lazy but thinking about yourself. One doesn’t say you are lazy or selfish. If a person is herself she can’t be a bad person in any way; she is always a good person in her own way. …. You are yourself, and whatever you do is sure to be good.”
Now I just happen to be at a stage in my life where I have the luxury of being able to make some space and take a generous amount of time for review, reflection and recalibration. Thinking about myself. There is an element of reinvention occurring which is deeply intriguing and not a little confronting. So to be reassured by Laura Riding that “I am myself, and whatever I do is sure to be good” is inspiring, as October arrives and I feel the pull of activation returning.
Coaching Question: For your coachees…How could you create space and time for regular self-reflection – for idle thought and free thinking, for re-connecting with yourself, for journaling and capturing your great ideas, for wandering aimlessly (which may look like you’re doing nothing at all for an hour or two). Hint – your calendar could help you with this.
For one breath be still.
Nowhere to go…Nothing to do…
For one breath…be FREE.
Something the River Says. Gordon Burnham
Supervision Question: For you as coach…how much of yourself are you bringing to your coaching conversations? Which parts of yourself are you sensing, listening to and drawing upon as you explore the coachees’ world? Have you tuned your ears to your inner voice?
Laura Riding – from Brain Pickings
Gordon Burnham - Something the River Says
Sandy May is a Sydney based Executive Coach, Coach Mentor and Coach Supervisor, interested in uplifting the human spirit through meaningful dialogue and collaborative reflection.