As a life coach, my job is to help people on their journey through self-development. This looks different for each individual person. And my mission is to help each person I work with clear what’s in the way of loving themselves and their life. At times, this may look like giving you suggestions to try, tools to use, or asking questions to help you unfold your own story.
One of my core beliefs is that my role as a life coach is not to tell you what to do, what to believe, or what to think. Rather, my role is to help you discover the answers for yourself.
It’s one of the reasons you’ll never see a post about politics from me. I believe it’s not in your best interest to be swayed by my opinion. Instead, I want you to form your own opinions based on your life experiences and education. Otherwise, I will have failed you as a coach because people have been telling you what you must do and think for years. And only when you can go off of your own knowledge and intuition can you grow in your self-development.
Yet, we live in challenging times. And everywhere I turn, I am being told I should share my opinions and take a stand. People who agree with me will applaud me. And people who might shift their beliefs and grow will click away because rather then kindly own their minds will feel they are being preached to. As a coach, I am not here to get anyone’s approval or applause. Nor am I here to preach to you.
Instead, my job means that I am here to help you become a better version of yourself.
And help you rise to the challenges you are grappling with so that you can grow as a human being. Sometimes these challenges are deeply personal and individual to you and your self-development. At other times, the challenges are due to what’s happening in society.
I believe that every human should be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect no matter their religion, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin. At this exact moment in time, we are being asked to consider the challenge of being Black in America. I can’t speak to that experience as I am not an African American.
So, rather than trying to convince you that you must think like me, my role is to help open your eyes and your mind. Because when you learn how to use discernment as a tool, you are learning how to not only think for yourself. You’re given the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the human condition.
My job is to help you find the stepping stones to learn to think in different ways. To provide you a spark of awareness and take that to the next level when it comes to disparities and serve to witness you as you grow in your self-development.
Now this is something I CAN speak to with experience. Because thought work and the tools for self-development – doing the work of growth – is something I am intimate with.
And before you click away from this, please know that this is something I am writing to each of you. Including those of you who are further along in your own work when it comes to racial and other social justice issue. Because if you can hear me from a place of compassion and grace, it allows you to find a loving path to help someone else grow. And more opportunities of opening the eyes and education others who aren’t quite as far along as you are.
When it comes to self-development in any area of your life, including social justice issues, it’s important to remember these eight things.
One – You don’t know what you don’t know.
Do you remember the first time you realized that blue and red were different colors? What about memorizing your address? Or learning five times five equals twenty-five? While these are simplistic examples of learning something new, remember that every day you are exposed to new ways of thought and living.
For many people, they are just beginning to see different ways of living.
This is why if we are to create change, the acknowledgement and understanding of this is crucial. Because it provides a richer environment for self-development when we recognize that not everyone has had the opportunity to be exposed to what you know yet. And flagellating yourself – or others – for not knowing something until now can halt and stunt growth rather than urge it forward.
This is an awakening. Awareness is always the first step to any change.
Two – Look at self-growth like you would progression through school.
One of the hardest concepts to grasp is that just because someone has reached a particular age, then they “should” know more. Yet, remember that not everyone began any kind of growth work at the same time. This is why I like to look at self-development in a way that compares it to going to school.
Someone that began working on themselves in their twenties will be further along in school than someone whose first foray into growth work started when they were fifty. So, some fifty-year-old folks are working on their Masters when it comes to their personal growth. While others are still in the elementary years of growth.
Imagine that you just learned about subtraction and addition. But suddenly, it’s as if you need to understand calculus. For anyone who is just beginning to understand what “privilege” means, it’s as if they are kindergarten students.
I firmly believe that wisdom and the quest for learning and growing has no age limit. And while I know that we can learn some lessons from our elders or our peers? This is a time when sometimes, we need to be open to learning from the younger generations.
Three – You can only begin where you are.
While some of us can progress quickly down the path of self-development, no one can jump ahead too far. I know this is frustrating. It’s frustrating for someone just beginning to understand this work. And it can be doubly irritating to someone who already grasps the concepts.
Like our math analogy, you begin with grasping how addition and subtraction works. Then you advance along to multiplication and division. Without an understanding of the addition, though, you’ll not truly understand the next phase.
Darling, you can’t skip ahead. I know we all want immediate gratification – most humans do. But real, lasting growth doesn’t work that way.
Four – You can’t drink from a fire hose.
Wow! There is so much information out there. And I applaud all the resources people are providing. However, it’s impossible to quench your thirst for knowledge if it’s coming at you faster than your brain can absorb.
I once had a client that asked if we could do half-hour calls. He was in a space of grasping entire new concepts of his approach to living a good life. Yet, he could only take so much in one sitting. And needed a break so that he could ponder what he was learning. And slip into processing, going into the next phase of deep thinking, and being able to take action. This is called integration.
With all the information, you will probably need to take this new knowledge in small doses. To give your brain – and soul – time to process and make this new knowledge a part of your being. Otherwise, you’ll still be thirsty for absorbing knowledge but unable to quench that thirst. (But wet!) And that means you probably won’t be able to create lasting change.
This is an important thing to consider for anyone longing to educate others. The human brain can only take so much new information. Don’t push too much information at one time, allow people you love to process, and then be there when they are ready for more. Otherwise, both the brain – and the heart – will shut.
Five – You must come approach this from a place of kindness and compassion.
Would you scream at a first grader for being unable to do algebra? Or spank a third grader for an inability to understand the themes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
Self-development is more successful when it’s done in a way that encourages even more growth. While some folks learn to be resilient after adversity, the real growth happens when they can be open to learning thanks to compassion. This is important for those on the journey through their own self-development. As well as people hoping to educate others.
If you want lasting changes, then you must lead with and be open to loving at each stage of development. Because demands and criticism sends most people into shutdown mode. Which often leads to the work feeling too hard and is abandoned. Or the rebel inside each of us says “Nope! I am done.”
I promise you that choosing to be kind – to yourself and others – will foster the ability to grow. Especially if you are asking someone to change long-held beliefs and thoughts.
Six – When you have education and compassion, it allows you to grow in empathy.
It’s can be hard to comprehend how challenging life is for others if you haven’t had those same experiences. However, I’ve learned that if you combine knowledge with compassion, it allows you to be more empathetic. So, even if you don’t have the experiences you’re learning about, you can more likely understand on the soul level why the system needs to change.
Because without empathy, everyone will backslide into old beliefs and actions.
Seven – Stop and take a breath before you speak.
Remember getting a gold star on a perfect spelling test? We all like to know we’re doing a good job at learning. And when you are growing as a human being, it’s tempting to tell everyone about your growth. The ego wants a pat on the back for learning new things.
One of the ways to stunt your own self-development work, though, is to share too much. Especially if you’re going to share with someone who isn’t “safe” to share with. Such as people who will try to ensure you that you’re wrong. Or that you’re wasting your time with too much “naval gazing”.
This is where having a coach to talk things through with is helpful. Or having a trusted friend that can help you unravel your thoughts and find your truth.
And when it comes to posting on the internet – be it a Facebook post, a comment, or a Tweet? Darling, not only may you need to take a breath before you hit enter. Sometimes you simply need to step away from the keyboard. Before you post anything online ask yourself: is this helpful or kind? Am I being compassionate and leading with love? Don’t be a troll and don’t share too much. And don’t write anything you can’t take back.
Self-development work is often fostered when writing. But when it comes to social justice issues, it’s often more helpful to go first to your journal so that you can figure out what you think. Rather than trying to figure it out in public.
Eight – Last but not least, don’t make assumptions about others.
Remember how you’ve been reminded not to compare your imperfect life with those Instagram perfect lives on the internet? This is especially something to remember when it comes to self-development work. You can’t see what someone is doing internally based on what they do – or do not – post.
Just because someone isn’t making posts on social media doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their work to grow. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there attending protests or writing letters to governors and senators. Changing beliefs and thought patterns often require hours and hours of internal work. Or work with a therapist before it shows on the outside.
And unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Just because someone is posting a lot on social media about Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean they’ve actually done the inner work. It could be that the posts come from a place of being a part of the popular crowd rather than what a person truly believes.
So remember: someone’s life on the internet is rarely the whole picture.
Growth work means nothing will ever be the same. And that’s a good thing.
Because self-development is about expanding who you, what you believe, and how you will act. That means the discomfort of the challenges, the uncertainty, and the wish that things felt like they used to be means that life will feel tough. At first. Yet, self-development work done from a place of love rather than fear opens your mind and heart further to even more growth.
This is perfectly normal. And whether you’re learning about privilege, shifting your views on social justice, or wanting to understand how to make lasting change, the time to begin is now.
Please don’t allow the fact that you may be a kindergartner stop you from progressing. And for those of you who already have a doctorate? If you help inform and educate from a place of kindness and compassion, there will be more people with open minds and broader beliefs.