Can You Make the Constructive Shift?

by Chris Chittenden

"Coaching is more concerned with blindness than with ignorance”

… Julio Olalla, Master Coach

You may find this rather strange coming from a coach, but in the past I have struggled to articulate in simple fashion just what I do. When she was young, my daughter developed the quaint notion that my work was to chat with people in coffee shops. I suppose I do a lot of that (he says with a grin!) but over time I came to the conclusion that at the heart of my work lies helping people create a "constructive shift". Let me explain.

You may have heard of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). One of their meta-programs is the idea "moving away and moving towards" which speaks people seeking to avoid pain (moving away) and gain pleasure (moving towards). This concept is also well known in the field of neuro-science and coaching and can also be seen in various profiles that distinguish between a defensive and a constructive stance in life.

My experience is that a much larger proportion of people take more of a moving away than moving towards stance in life. In many ways this observation is unsurprising. We have all had experiences in life we do not want to repeat and those memories often trigger a defensive response. As a result, people can easily tell you what they don't want in life. They have experienced it or observed someone else experiencing it. However, it can be a much greater challenge for them to tell you what they do want. Often this is because they cannot clearly imagine something they have not experienced or they may just be too focused on what they seek to avoid for any constructive view to surface.

This transition from moving away to moving towards is a "constructive shift". It is the process of constructing a desirable outcome rather than just seeking to avoid something. I am not only speaking about practical outcomes in life such as avoiding being retrenched. I am also speaking about who we want to be in life and how we want to relate to others.

This difference may seem to be just a matter of semantics but it is far more than that. Here is just one example of the impact. If I take a moving away stance to a situation, in many ways it doesn't matter which direction I take to avoid that situation as long as it is to move away. My energy is focused on getting away and once away that energy will dissipate. However, when we create a moving towards stance our energy is focused in a desired direction and is likely to strengthen as we get closer to achieving what we desire. It is likely to lead to a more fulfilling experience of life.

The role of a coach is to work with people to make that constructive shift and seek to create a more desirable future. In many ways, it is as simple as asking the question, "What do you want?" However, there is obviously more to it than that as we start to explore what barriers exist to create that shift and how to overcome them.

At least, I can now explain to my daughter just what I do!

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© 2015 Chris Chittenden