When I was learning to be a coach, one of the things we were taught was to allow space for clients to celebrate successes. I often invite clients to do this but I’m never surprised when, somewhat embarrassed, they hurry off this topic so that we may focus most of our session on what’s wrong. [Here’s a question for our international readers: is this a peculiarly British phenomenon or does your nation do it too?]
In Britain, modesty is a very attractive quality and blowing your own trumpet is discouraged, often with good reason. But how quick are we to dismiss what goes well and pour all our energies into fixing our perception of what’s still “wrong”?
A woman I know, who has come a very long way in her life in recent years, casually dropped into the conversation “oh, and the book” when we were reviewing the last three years of our lives. And the book? You wrote a book?? Which sold in large numbers??? Blimey! How awesome are you!! Yes, there are millions of books in the world but you wrote one which has sold in its thousands, you wrote it brilliantly, and with apparent ease, in a short time frame, and it looks beautiful and readers all over the world love it. Why is that a throwaway line?
This isn’t right. We must afford our achievements due ceremony and celebrate them so that we can climb on their building blocks and create more, not focus instead exclusively on what we still wrangle with. Yes, I’m totally cool with not living in past glories but did you ever make the appropriate space to fully celebrate your achievements?
This puts me in mind of birthdays. I don’t celebrate them every year, but every now and again there’s one we want to push the boat out for, isn’t there? A colleague of mine told me of a friend whose birthdays were not celebrated when he was a child. Apparently, this is tantamount to child abuse. It is only one day a year when we get to commemorate your incarnation, your uniqueness, with a card, a cake and candles. I feel this falls into the same category. I know the lustre of yet another birthday fades with the years, and living itself isn’t an achievement most of the time, but your being here is and I, for one, am up for a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday and a Many Happy Returns. Your birthday will not pass unmarked, especially if it’s been a while since you were last minded to be happy and cheery about it.
Your achievements are even more important. Don’t brush off our compliments and plaudits. Let’s sit awhile and round up all the things about you we have to be grateful for. We did this together in a group recently, as one of my projects came to the end of its first chapter and we were deciding to take a breather. I think we each amazed ourselves when we looked at all we had achieved independently and enjoyed and created together, and for all the reasons to be cheerful and grateful that we could muster when we went looking for them.
This morning I was talking to a lucky man who set out to tell me what he wasn’t achieving in his life and before he’d finished, we were both noticing what was going right in his world. It was he who inspired me come up with the idea of Start With The Good Stuff as an indicator of reviewing progress to date and as a stepping stone to creating more of that. What we focus on increases, and I am available to sit with anyone who wants to tell me how happy and fortunate they are in their family, friends, health, work, finances, book projects, business successes and more.
I could listen endlessly to my clients tell me about things going well, but they don’t feel comfortable doing it nearly enough, so I resolve to encourage a lot more of it. I wonder what we can learn from examining in greater detail what went right as well as what went wrong and give equal time and attention to each instead of rushing off the first in favour of the latter? Tell me what’s well in your world right now and let’s raise a cheer.
So, as you begin each new day and each new week…start by acknowledging the good stuff.