While facilitating a dialogue coaching call today, I found further evidence that everyone struggles with who they are. People are caught between conflicting personalities, resulting in the occasional discomfort or confusion. After my coachee reflected on the question “Who is my self?” while taking a brief walk in the afternoon air, she identified an internal conflict: her authentic self and ideal self. While authentically loyal, goal-orientated, determined and sometimes selfish, she strives to strike a balance with her ideal self to ensure a meaningful yet altruistic life. “Ideally, we’re all here to serve each other for some sort of synergy,” she said.
As her coach, my job was to help her understand the act of presencing, the practice of coming into presence. To be present, we must be attentive and mindful of our distracting thoughts, such as our conditioned understandings. We must think, not thought. Feel, not felt. By listening, mirroring, summarizing, and questioning my coachees’ understanding of her self, I attempted to elevate her from the role of participant to bystander in her own life. I encouraged new perspectives. I provided opportunities for deeper reflections, and then catalyzed our experience by hinting areas for her personal growth.
My coachee is largely work driven, quickly answering “Who is my self?” with career ambitions. She’s currently focused on creating a more cohesive environment by identifying common goals among her employees. But the team atmosphere keeps dissolving within operational pressures. I asked where that pressure may originate from. She said it’s likely due to working with people who are passionate about their jobs and invested in their own ideas. Could passion cause the pressure? While passion often leads to great accomplishments, it can also create an Achilles’ heel, a weakness to overall cohesive strength. How do we ventilate that pressure? It takes a conscious effort by everyone to impart empathy. Great successes depend on more than one person. Everyone is part of everything. And a person’s actions may not affect just one system of beings, but the entire human experience.
Great successes depend on more than one person. Everyone is part of everything. And a person’s actions may not affect just one system of beings, but the entire human experience.
To build perspective, I turned to Nazi Germany. It offers an example of becoming a dangerous instrument to a will that’s not your own. People became robots incapable of a generative context; they were dehumanized. Just like Hitler’s secretary, people are easily snagged into situations where they justify their actions by a need to just keep things going, to protect what exists. We identified how many lives today serve something other than life. Corporations making money for the sake of making money. Political and religious organizations guarding their platforms by ignoring opposing views. Many people lose touch with their feelings, their senses. They just go through the motions, perfectly comfortable wrapping themselves in habit and predictability. Unfortunately, they often become highly confrontational when challenged to uncover their feelings and return to their senses.
That’s why, explained my coachee, I must always consider my ideal self, my more divergent and selfless part of everything. Am I being honest with myself and aware of my actions? How are others perceiving my actions? While struggling to maintain a balance between her actual and ideal self, she says it’s important to know where your heart is leading you. During periods of meditation, yoga and running, she routinely reflects on her authentic self, comparing it to her ideal. To ensure her peaks in passion aren’t blocking her ability to reason, she’ll try to remain more open to input form others. During our dialogue process, she identified three questions to consciously raise her self awareness and achieve balance in her life:
- Who do I think I am (authentic self)?
- Who do my actions represent (ideal self)?
- Who do my actions represent to others (perception)?