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Context, context, context.

This week, I am delighted to hand over the blog space to Aboodi Shabi whose Weekly Coaching Reflections arrived in my inbox this morning.  I love what he wrote and wanted to share it with you. Edna Murdoch
“As I write the draft for this newsletter, I am preparing my keynote speech for the EuroCoachList conference at the weekend (it will have happened by the time you read this).My theme for this presentation is “The world beyond coaching” – for a long time, I have been concerned that the coaching profession could be seen as simply helping the relatively wealthy – coaching isn’t cheap – have more comfortable lives. Frankly, if that’s all that coaching is, I would have given up years ago.

What makes coaching more than that for me is context – context is that which gives meaning to the context. Without a wider context, without paying attention to the world in which we live, with all of its challenges and concerns, coaching would simply be a selfish and meaningless conversation (I’m sure that not all coaches are going to agree with me about this).

We live in an age when we are bombarded with content – with information, with stuff, with material goods, but one of the issues I often see in my work is that the more we consume content, the more we struggle with questions of meaning.

One of the biggest changes in society in the last fifty years has been the decline of organised religions. Whilst I consider myself an atheist, I would agree with the British atheist philosopher Alain de Botton that this change has left us somewhat stranded – we have thrown the baby out with the bath-water. At the same time, people have generally become more cynical about politics. Without a spiritual or religious framework to our lives, or without political convictions, we are left rich with content (or at least some of us), but empty of a context that gives what we do and have a sense of purpose or meaning. That often leaves people pursuing goals that might look good on the outside, but empty and meaningless on the inside.

I still remember coaching a movie actor a few years ago – he was a young man in his twenties, and told me that he’d suddenly found himself “with millions in the bank; I can do whatever I want, and sleep with pretty much any woman I want to, but I feel totally empty” – I’ve often thought about that conversation. Of course, my first thoughts were “lucky you – I would have liked to have some of that in my twenties!”, but what I also saw in him was an extreme example of someone whose life was filled with riches but who had no context to give his wealth any meaning – he’d even lost interest in the acting which at one time had been his greatest passion.

When I am training coaches, I ask them to consider that wider context, and get them to explore the question of where they come from when they coach – out of what concerns or care do they do the work they do? The question is designed to be provocative and often produces strong emotions. It is, of course, a question for all of us – why do we do what we do? Are we getting out of bed in the mornings because the alarm clock rings or because what we do in the day has some meaning for us?

I don’t want to be grandiose about this – this isn’t about saving the world – we can get a sense of meaning from taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, from a connection with nature, or simply from a practice of mindfulness.

Take a moment to reflect. 

Take time to reflect on the question – why do you what you do?Notice what comes up for you as you engage in this – is it easy for you to identify a context that gives meaning to what you do? Do you notice any resistance to the question?  ”

Quote of the week

Act as if the future of the universe depends on everything you do. And then laugh at yourself for thinking that anything you do makes any difference anyway.


Buddhist Wisdom


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