Proactive-Coach: a larger sense of self

coaching, phil jackson and the journey into self


As I sit down to write this, two headlines from today’s New York Times come to my mind. Not front-page stuff, softer news.

One of them is a review of the new Batman movie - - something about it being a “long journey into self”.

Not only do I like the phrase “journey into self”, I especially enjoy seeing it used in the context of an action movie based on a cartoon character. In this context, “journey into self” evokes how we are shaped both by the events of our life, and by the actions we take (or do not take) in response to these events.

Many people come to coaching to deal with very specific issues, or work toward very concrete goals. In the process of coaching, we don’t necessarily even allude to things psychological, philosophical, or spiritual. And yet, something goes on in the background. As the coach, I pay attention to this, even when we don’t talk about it. And it feels wonderful to observe how making things happen in your life does not just affect the concrete issues you’re dealing with. It also deeply impacts on your sense of who you are.

In other words, what makes coaching different from just talking to a friend is that it is a deeper process, a journey into becoming more of who you really are.

I intentionally used a mystical-sounding phrase in the last sentence, because it gives me a good transition into the other headline (if you remember the beginning of this article, I alluded to two headlines that had inspired this writing). It was about Phil Jackson returning as the Lakers coach.

What does this have to do with becoming more of who you are? Well, this is a Zen-like phrase, and Phil Jackson’s approach is very influenced by Zen.

One does not normally associate Zen’s quietness with the fast-paced world of professional sports. And, certainly, Phil Jackson’s role is not to turn very brash, very competitive athletes into self-effacing Zen monks. Far from that. The Lakers hired him, not because of his interest in Zen, but because of his track record in bringing teams to victory.

The point is that, in order to do achieve the very specific goals of winning basketball games, Jackson believes it is useful to pay attention to more than just basketball skills.

What, then, am I saying in this article? That the process of coaching, like life itself, is multi-dimensional. One the one hand, as we focus on making concrete changes, we develop our sense of self. On the other hand, as we grow into our self, we are better able to get more of what we want out of life and work.


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