When clients first come to see me they often believe that to be happy there is at least one thing they need to change or improve about themselves or their life. It is a belief that stops many people from engaging a coach, out of the misguided fear they will somehow have to be better and in doing so examine all the ways they have failed. So it comes as a great relief when they find out it is possible to love their life without having to improve any aspect of it.
The pursuit of happiness through achievement and self-betterment is what keeps most of us stuck in a life that makes no sense. It is an approach that views happiness as outcome generated by our choices, will and life circumstances. If we make good choices and succeed materially, socially and spiritually we can be happy, however if we fail either professionally or personally we are doomed to life of unhappiness. It is a model of living that offers happiness as a reward available only to those who deserve it.
There has been a significant shift over the last decade in which happiness has moved away from an external to an internal pursuit. The message now is we can choose happiness as a mindset rather than chase status, people or things. It appears a far more reasonable approach and is an attractive selling point for wellbeing, yoga, mindfulness and self-improvement courses. The catch is however, that while beneficial for many aspects of our life it continues to ransom happiness as a result of doing the right thing.
Whether external or internal pursuing rather than experiencing happiness is what locks us in struggle and creates ongoing discontentment. Happiness is not goal to be achieved, rather it is and always will be, an emotional state. Emotions are energy in motion and work like the tides. We experience them momentarily and then let them go as new ones arrive. Trying to hold onto happiness is like trying to hold on to the perfect wave – it is simply impossible. Using your precious time and energy attempting to do so will certainly leave you stressed and unhappy.
It is worth considering whether happiness is really what we want or is it something we are conditioned to believe is necessary to be well in the world. The sophisticated marketing of positive emotions has been extremely successful in creating and sustaining the consumer culture we now live in. Everyday we make decisions driven by subtle powerful messages that tell us we will feel better if we have more, do more and try harder. Sadly such actions only serve to reinforce a false belief that we are somehow less than, in need of fixing or not enough.
So if it is not happiness we are seeking, then what is it? At our core what we all truly desire is to experience the power we all have to create and the joy that comes from being free to do so. We want to trust that life is on our side and always supporting our best self. That there is a force working towards our ultimate success and that holds no judgement over us. We wish to accept that everything is as it should be and to finally let go of the striving. Most importantly we crave to be truly OK in the moment and not need it to be different or better.
The truth is we are programmed to want more for ourselves and it is this primal urge that marketing so skilfully plays with. All of us are familiar with an inner restlessness driving us along, asking us to step up and take charge. But it it is not more wealth, status or stuff it craves. This is a pure creative energy with no interest in being better, changing or improving. Rather it is a force that seeks to expand our world by pushing us over edges, out into the unknown to discover whats possible when we apply our strengths and consider life in another way.
So when clients come to see me we do not spend precious time and energy examining all the ways they got it wrong or solving their problems. On the contrary, we let these limitations go and explore who they are beyond the noise of who they aren’t or who they should be. We work together to reveal the bigger picture of their life and how everything they have done until now fits in. Most importantly we shift their perspective from ‘not enough’ to ‘ready to expand’ where life in no longer a test but the ultimate playground inviting them in.
To work with a coach is to say NO to living in a box, to following rules that are not yours, to suppressing your voice and allowing the value others have given you to determine your worth. To engage a coach is to say YES to creativity, adventure, freedom and personal power. To build a life that makes sense to you and follow the rule book you created. To express your strengths and talents in every moment and to honour the person you already are without needing to be better, different or more.