When you’re looking to change something in your life, you have two very different options available to you. One is the choice that most of us make– to fix or improve ourselves so that we’re the way we think we’re supposed to be to achieve the goal. The other is a radically different approach – to come up with a creative strategy to achieve the goal, just as we are, using our natural skills and preferences.
When we succeed by being ourselves instead of changing ourselves, we don’t waste all that time and effort struggling to change who we are — a struggle that’s often fruitless. We hook into our inborn talents. Things tend to flow easily. We’re much more likely to succeed as ourselves than as a forced, watered-down version of some ideal.
Example: the introvert lawyer who needs to negotiate
Let’s take an introvert corporate lawyer in a major New York law firm. His job is to put together high-powered deals, which means he spends a lot of his time negotiating. On the other side of the negotiations table are generally hyper-aggressive, shark types, and they tend to stomp all over his gentle, sweet, diffident personality.
“Okay,” he says to himself. “I need some help here. I’ll go hire a negotations coach who can teach me how to be strong, confident, and aggressive, so opposing counsel stops eating me for lunch.”
Or our buddy, the introvert lawyer, can take an entirely different approach. He can work with a coach who understands and respects introverts and knows techniques to help introverts succeed using their gifts. The coach may show our lawyer how to use his quiet nature, listening skills, sincerity, and ability to ask deep questions to help both sides come together and craft a solution that works well for everyone.
The other attorneys may come in thinking negotiations are an antagonistic, zero-sum game, but he doesn’t have to buy into that. And he can quietly, gently shift the dynamic to a more cooperative one.
Note: You can read more about negotiating for introvert lawyers and get a ton of insights about introversion in Susan Cain’s incredible book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
Opportunity and challenge
As a coachee, you have a tremendous opportunity. You can work with a coach who understands you and can help you succeed by being yourself
You have to have the confidence and will to keep looking until you find someone who understands and appreciates you, just as you are. Someone who sees you as whole, perfect, beautiful. Not flawed, broken, and in need of being fixed.
The world of coaching is enormous and diverse. Coaches who’d like you and see the magic in you are likely out there. You just have to have the confidence to keep searching until you find them.
We’ve bought into the idea that we’re supposed to be a certain way
Why do so many people settle for working with someone who doesn’t understand them and wants to change them? Because almost all of us, to some degree, have bought into the idea that we’re supposed to be a certain way if we want to succeed in life. We absorb images of the way we’re supposed to be from family, friends, our education, religious and other groups, the media, and society ingeneral.
Different things appear on different people’s lists, but some common things people think they should be are: confident, sociable, positive, organized, goal-oriented, morning people, willing to work hard, well-liked, and thick-skinned. If we’re not the way we think we should be, we’ll generally keep struggling to change ourselves to be what we think we’re supposed to be. Even though the process is a real downer, takes a ton of energy, often doesn’t work, and, is almost impossible to sustain in the long run.
We’re perfect as we are
I believe the truth is that we’re all perfect, just as we are. We don’t need to change to be okay or to succeed in life. And it’s difficult or impossible to change fundamental things about ourselves, even if we wanted to.
The trick is to set up our lives so they truly work for us, so we succeed at whatever we care about, just as we are. It may take some creativity and involve some trial and error.
But this effort, in my view, is well worth it.
We’ll look at categories of wonderful coachees who may be mistreated and misunderstood by the wrong coaches for them, but who’d be appreciated and adored by the right ones.