One thing I quickly realized was that it was not about more information, a trapping of our consumerist culture. Rather, it seems to require a re-orientation of our personal and collective compass. One resource I've found helpful is a fascinating new book by William Martin called, "The Activist's Tao Te Ching". He has spent the past forty years studying this ancient text of wisdom, and offers a fresh and timely interpretation. He writes:
We don't know what the future looks like.
Transformation will surprise us with its form.
If we knew what it would look like,
our vision would be limited
and our efforts would be futile.
We act in service to the formless Tao,
not to the forms and functions of our restless minds.
So we let the tensions recede,
our bodies relax,
and our minds open
to the future.
It is an invitation to be of the highest service in any moment or encounter. It is about connecting more deeply as the world seems to fracture more quickly. It is about sensing patterns not staring at pixels. It is beyond hope and fear, each of which is fed by our illusion of control. It mirrors the work of my friend Gregory Kramer who invites us to pause, relax and open. Where will transformation surprise you today? Where can you nourish its potential? I will share more reflections on this book in the weeks ahead . . .
If you want to spend time with others like you who are seeking new ways of living and working, I invite you to come to one of our retreats. They are designed for practitioners who are ready to leave behind an old narrative and step fully into what is calling them in their life or work. The retreats lead into our new mastermind groups for practitioners who work with people at thresholds of change. These times call for a new level of maturity and mastery. Interested?
Crossing Your Next Threshold Retreats
In the process of guiding each person, it was clear yet again that the power of these processes begins in our power to notice. Pivotal moments for people included: a stiffened upper lip holding back grief, a missing arm on a figurine, a carried chair, an empty chair, a childhood memory, a look in the eye, and more. Each one, out of context, means little—but in that moment for that person it was an opening to their transformation. In a world that often feels like it is rushing along at a maddening pace, one of our greatest gifts to the people we work with and live with is to notice what may otherwise be overlooked. We are more likely to notice the often subtle openings for change when you allow ourselves to be radically present. In those moments, you can set yourselves free to explore what else is possible and make new choices. Where can you invite more freedom today?
You may be interested to know:
You may be able to help:
I am looking for a stellar person with strong organizational and marketing skills to work with me on the launch of the new Institute. The initial contract will be for 20 hours a week starting January 1st, but will likely grow by the end of 2018. If you know of someone exemplary in your network who is seriously interested, please have them contact me.
NOTICE: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
There was much talk at the SIOP Conference about the increasingly disruptive nature of our lives and workplaces—and the need for coaches and coaching to evolve in response. What was missing in some important ways was just how we were supposed to make this happen. In part, I would argue there is a call for coaches to be proactive in shaping the future not just respond to it. Narrative coaching is an excellent resource for this because it focuses on the maturation of coaches more than an adherence to methodology, and it openly addresses the impact of collective narratives not just personal stories. In addition, it can be readily applied to disciplines beyond coaching because it is based in the human process of change.
The photo comes for our recent retreat near Amsterdam and shows the participants (and yours truly) after they each crossed their threshold and stepped into what is next for them. The smiles on their faces reflect the genuine sense of freedom they now feel and the embodiment of real change in real time. Part of what makes this possible is the fascinating combination of what we know about personal growth with what we know from design thinking. This unlikely pairing has given rise to one of the most striking characteristics of our retreats and this work in general: the MVI or Minimum Viable Intervention.
What we are finding is that this work is most respectful and powerful when we take the smallest possible action to support the unfolding process and the person's progress. For example, it means placing an empty chair next to the person as part of their work—without naming what it is—as a conduit for what wants to happen next. It offers the scaffolding they need to support their proximal learning and development (Vygotsky). Deepening our understanding of how to use MVIs will be an area of keen interest for the Moment Institute in 2018 as we support practitioners to bring healing and wholeness to our world in new ways.
Two of the key elements: (1) pausing in order to act from a proactive rather than a reactive state and (2) co-creating healthier collective narratives not just healing personal stories. This requires developing our abilities to self and mutually regulate, be generative not just palliative with our mindfulness, and be more authentic and agile in our narration. We can see all around us the consequences of immature narratives in which we are often pitted against one another rather than rising up to work on solutions together. A lot of this comes down to our inability to work at a higher narrative level. At the heart of my mission with narrative coaching over the last 15 years has been to develop people who facilitate transformation through narratives and stories. Our new Institute will focus on this even more, particularly in applying coaching in new ways to address larger issues.
Life is meant to be lived fully not hacked efficiently.
Four levels of narrative maturity framework
It is based in the extensive work I've done in recent years to bring attachment theory into coaching and to extend how we think about and practice mindfulness.
In coaching yourself or someone else in a given situation:
Level 1: To what degree am I accountable as the Author of my stories and able to Cope well?
Level 2: To what degree am I authentic as an Actor in others' stories and able to Connect more deeply?
Level 3: To what degree am I agile as an Agent in the larger narratives and able to Create new options?
Level 4: To what degree am I adept as an Activist for new narratives and able to Contribute to better outcomes?
There are strong links between greater attachment security and greater narrative maturity. How would this work enable you to make more of a real difference in the relationships in your life and/or work?
THRESHOLD RETREATS ARE HERE!
Would like to experience this for yourself and learn more about how to use this frame with your clients? If so, join us for our new Threshold retreats in either Seattle, New York or Amsterdam. Please note: There are only a few spots left for Seattle and the registration closes September 25th. To find out more, go to: http://www.narrativecoaching.com/crossing-the-next-threshold-retreat.html
Over the past decade, I’ve written a lot about what creates mastery in coaches and how a narrative approach enriches that process. A key piece of that work was identifying four eras of professional practice, the last of which coaching represented as the first post-professional practice. I have continued to teach coaching and leadership around the world using this frame.
SO, WHAT IS A POSTPROFESSIONAL PRACTITIONER?
They are more interested in:
Sound like you?
I initially write a lot about the four types of knowledge and the four roles related to evidence, but in recent years my attention has been on the need for artistry that is often overlooked. As post-professionals, our aim is to become master craftspeople who can adapt, as necessary, the mediums through which we deliver our work.
In developing our new retreat and mastermind, I recognized that many of us have plenty of knowledge and are adept with evidence. What we hunger for are deeper ways of working, greater freedom to draw from a wider palette to meet our clients’ needs, and the sense that we are making more of a meaningful impact.
The retreat is a unique opportunity to satisfy your hunger for a better way, tap into your experience, and use your wisdom (and that of others) at full strength. It is about hope not hype. We will dive deeper into some of our core practices and experience some new ones to enable participants to cross their next threshold—and discover what wants to emerge in their practice and life on the other side. You will leave with a greater sense of what is next for you and a greater ability to create real change in real time--in any moment.
The first retreat is in Seattle on September 29-October 1, followed by Amsterdam, New York and Melbourne. You can check it out at http://www.narrativecoaching.com/narrative-coaching-for-practitioners.html.
Hope you see you there. It will be an amazing experience you don’t want to miss!
I want my daughter to be discerning and exercising good judgment as a driver, but not get caught up in reacting to and judging others. It echoes a key agreement with my partner, in which she and I speak up for what we need rather than judge what we don’t like about the other person in the moment. It is about attending to the present more than assessing the person; about honing our wisdom more than honing our criticism.
This stance has a lot in common with narrative coaching and design, bodies of work that are often described as the intersection of East and West. We teach practitioners how to be radically present to what IS without judgment (East). This enables them—and those they work with— to connect more honestly with themselves, each other and the stories in play. This based in our experience that people learn and develop best when they can first notice, without judgment, the stories they are currently telling and living. This gives them a more accurate point of reference for exploring what IF so they can achieve new results (West).
In working narratively, we refrain from making normative judgments such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Instead, we work with a nonjudgmental openness and a trust in the potential usability of all experience in the service of growth. It is about working with compassionate candor (East + West) so that we can have real conversations in real time. If you favor one, do you coach more for the East or the West? How might you develop the other stance to grow as a practitioner, particularly in releasing your judgments?
Thinking about judgment this way reflects three of the paradoxes in working with people’s stories:
Would you like to learn to coach like this?
Next online narrative coaching course starts June 6th!
This is the last chance to take the course as part of a smaller group. ONLY FIVE SPACES LEFT! It is a wonderful and intimate opportunity to learn the essential elements of this work with colleagues from around the world. It gives you plenty of opportunities to work closely on issues that matter to you in your life and work. This is based in our core belief that it is developing ourselves as an instrument that we can do our most powerful work for others. The course includes over 200 pages of material, over 20 tools, and coaching by David and your peers. You can find out more and register at http://www.narrativecoaching.com/narrative-coaching-for-practitioners.html.
To meaningfully engage with change, people need to see themselves as an:
The photo above from the Wizard of Oz offers two important insights to guide us in approaching change in a new way: (1) We don't have to wait for burning platforms (or wicked witches) to bring about change—but can trust that we have the capacity for choice within us at all times; and (2) meaningful and sustainable change cannot be forced from the outside or 'managed'—it can only be engaged from the inside and leveraged.
This feels particularly relevant in these turbulent times. As Václav Havel writes, the main question before us is whether or not we can succeed in "making human community meaningful, in returning content to human speech, in reconstituting, as the focus of all social action, the autonomous, integral, and dignified human ‘I.’ ”
Would you like to learn how to help people move through change like this?
Next online narrative coaching course starts June 6th
This is the last chance to take the course as part of a smaller group. It is a wonderful and intimate opportunity to learn the essential elements of this work with colleagues from around the world. It gives you plenty of opportunities to work closely on issues that matter to you in your life and work. The course includes over 200 pages of material, over 20 tools, and coaching by David and your peers. You can find out more and register at http://www.narrativecoaching.com/narrative-coaching-for-practitioners.html.
In thinking about hope, I came back to the paradox from eastern traditions that nothing matters and everything matters. I find it liberating when I can release my attachment to and dependencies on outcomes (over which I often have little control). Across our lives and careers, some 'wins' vanish as a result of changing circumstances and some 'losses' become our finest hour as a result of changing perspectives. Hope, then, is more about how we live in the present than about how the future turns out. Hope is more about spaciousness for our full humanity than certainty about our final impact.
When we allow ourselves to truly be accountable in the moment, we can often make better decisions and take more courageous actions. This enables us to do the same for our clients. For example, we can pull ourselves and others out of the trance of busyness to focus on what is essential. We can pull ourselves and others out of analyzing whether something is good or bad to get on with learning from and making the most of what is.
As Viktor Frankl noted, “Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”
What is ours to do?
• Be more courageous with our questions: Be willing to ask, "Is this the conversation we need to be having?"
• Be more compassionate with our presence: Be willing to notice, "What does this person need most right now?"
• Be more conscious with our time and energy: Be willing to discern, "What is mine to do in this situation?"
Want to learn how to work this way?
The work by Angela Duckworth and her colleagues on grit is useful here. They define it as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals." People with high grit are characterized by a loyal determination and a focused direction; they are able to sustain their motivation and effort despite experiences with failure and adversity. These attributes are particularly important for people when they are going through a big change.
So what might this mean in terms of how we work with our clients (either a person or an organization) as guardians at their proverbial gates? It means recasting resistance as a resource that reminds us to pause at the threshold to ensure we are prepared (without getting stuck in the trap of 'enough'), to discipline ourselves to remain present to what is unfolding (so we can make finer distinctions), and strengthen ourselves with the grit to stay focused on (and adapt to) the new course ahead.
Tips for each phase of the threshold process:
What do you need most right now? How about your client?
In the News
Next online narrative coaching course starts June 6th!
This is the last chance to take the course in its current form. It is a wonderful and intimate opportunity to learn the essential elements of this work with colleagues from around the world. The course includes over 200 pages of material, over 20 tools, and opportunities for coaching by David and your peers. You can find out more and register at http://www.narrativecoaching.com/narrative-coaching-for-practitioners.html.
I was reminded of an important book I read long ago, which seems even more timely now. In Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm distinguished between two kinds of freedom: negative freedom, casting off the shackles of social, political, and cultural restrictions; and positive freedom, finding a truer expression of self and identity. When the former occurs without the letter, the newly won freedom appears as a curse; people are free from the sweet bondage of paradise, but are not free to govern themselves, to realize their individuality [or their collective responsibility].
It seems to me that we are called to resist the current rush to put the shackles back on out of fear. For those of us who coach, it is no longer enough to help our clients cope with their lives and workplaces. We need to find more ways to help them create and contribute to better lives and workplaces for us all. We need to enable people to be free from but also inspire them to be free for. It is about purpose not just perseverance. It is about building more windows through which we can see more clearly not more walls that only cast our Shadows onto others.
What do you want to free yourself for? Here are three tips:
In the News
Dr David Drake is the founder of the field of Narrative Coaching.