"There must be a higher love/Without it life is wasted time." Those are the opening words to one of my favorite Steve Winwood songs. What could a higher love mean in your life - in the life of your clients?
Often, during a speaking engagement, I include a potent and important word that has people flinch -- "Love." They try to manage their flinching by adjusting their seats so that their neighbor or I won't notice. But, however subtle the movement, there it is. I'm not sure what all that flinching is about, but it makes me smile and piques my curiosity.
I've always been interested in what we are afraid of when it comes to love -- be it love of self or other. Certainly it is what we all desire, right? Now I'm talking real brotherly/sisterly love --universal love --not that acting like you care, "has a nice day" kind of sentimental formality. Why does the act of sharing love beyond the parameters of family and friends make us shift in our seats? Is it that we don't believe in it? Don't know how to attain it?
Bringing a higher love to coaching and any other relationship for me means letting it all go. All those wonderful mechanics we put in place to make us feel safe have to go. "Letting go" means taking off the armor and putting down the shield -- in whatever form it takes --that we use to defend ourselves should love be used against us or withdrawn from us at some future date. Letting go means putting aside those mental structures, such as judgment and comparison, which act as filters when we decide how to present ourselves to the world. It means not checking to see if we are safe enough to be ourselves or don one of our many personas. When we filter our interactions with the world in this manner, we remain cut off from ourselves, our source, our heart. The problem with letting go is that we have nothing to hang onto when we do so. It can feel like going into free fall without a parachute.
Our parachutes are the relationships we invest in, which include the relationship with ourselves. True investment, on the other hand, means we stack up the chips of love against all else, and we bet it all on love. Sure, it's risky, but playing it safe doesn't really make us feel safe anyway. So what are we really risking? When we orient ourselves from Love, what we are risking doesn't feel so scary because the focus is on who we are being in each moment -- no conditions, no pretenses, no strings attached. When we orient ourselves from fear, then each moment is a calculated, high-risk venture because so much of what we are betting on with fear has to do with our perception of "the other." And so we hedge our bets; we lock and load our filters.
In the space of unconditional love, a coach's hearing is fine tuned to hear beyond the words of the client to hearing the energy of them - a much richer space to be in. We are no longer listening for the love we need or the attack we expect. Our listening moves from the ego's power-hungry center to the heart's welcoming center. In love, there are no boundaries regarding what we would risk saying, asking or telling in the interest of our clients' well being. From the space of Love, I will risk sounding unprofessional, like a judging machine or even vulnerable. You name it; I'd risk it. In my experience, mistakes made out of love have had far more success then any hard wired, logical sequence of inquiries my mind could create. Love is illogical to the mind and thus follows a more fluid, intuitive, divine pattern. It gets into places the mind hasn't even imagined let alone conceptualized. Sometimes I'm even afraid of what Love asks me to say to my client. I often refer to this type of interaction as "Coaching with Pampers."
I had been coaching one client for over a year and we were getting nowhere very slowly. While coaching him, I found myself multitasking: making grocery lists, counting lint and wanting to read my e-mail when Love pulled on my earlobe and whispered, "Tell him the truth." My face froze at the nudging and my heart rate increased. How could I tell him what I truly thought? It was too rude, crude and he'd hate me for sure. And Love responded cheekily, "Good thing this isn't about you then." So I took a deep breath, envisioned pampers where my underwear should be and said, "You know I love you, and I've got to tell you that you are a man without a spine; and a man without a spine will never move forward." I continued, "I don't think this is how you meant to be living your life, and I know inside of you lives a man of great courage. Can I coach him now?" Then I shut up, and the line went silent. After a month of being really angry with me he called and said, "I have been really mad at you and really grateful. You were the only one to tell me what I've known about myself for years. I'm ready to grow a spine and live my dreams. Will you help me?" I'm not sure how long we cried together. The moment transcended time. I guess that's the power of Love.
When I allow Love to lead the way in my coaching, I am w-a-y over there with my client -- my agenda, my great ideas and my inhibitions long forgotten. For the love of my client's dreams, visions, goals and success I'd risk it all -- even being wrong or offensive. When the coaching is tempered with Love clients can hear anything and everything a coach has to say because they can feel that you are in it for them. In fact, you may be the first person they feel is really in it for them without any hidden agendas!
As our clients come to understand that their coaches are not just another professional with strategies and techniques but, instead, are allies in their lives, they come to trust that, regardless of what they reveal to us, we will hold that space for them and still love them. By teaching our clients that judgment cannot reside in the space of loving connection, we free them -- and ourselves -- from the fear of rejection. Love literally helps shift us from a perspective of suffocation and limitation to embracing liberation. When clients shift their perspective, their worlds change. And life flows easily once the passageway is cleared. Once they are released from withholding all of whom they are and from fear of rejection and shame, clients become more available to themselves. Eventually their negative mental chatter quiets.
Have you ever seen a child who has not been loved? There is a deep pain where love never goes much less lives. If that child doesn't receive love, he or she is never quite right. And, through that pain, suffering builds a stronghold in his or her spirit. Whenever we are in pain and there is no love to comfort us, we are suffering and alone. What an unbearable existence! We were meant to thrive not exist. Sure, some pain is part of living, but so is comfort and loving kindness, and that comes in the form of the human exchange of love.