As I close an important chapter in my life, naturally I am reflecting back on the reason I started this whole journey in the first place. The other day I even asked out loud, “why did I do this again?” By “this” I was referring to a class/experiential learning practice that ultimately gave me much more than a foundation in the fundamentals of Ontological coaching (translation: the study of the nature of being). I was reminded that before I made this 7-month commitment, I sought new skills that might support my career and more superficially, an outlet for my free time. I imagined making new friends and stimulating my brain with something aside from being lazy on Saturday mornings. Ultimately, this experience did all of that and more. Most importantly, it gave me a fresh consciousness about my sense of self and purpose. My most cherished lesson from this class was that my highest value and contribution is just to be the best version of me that I can.
Like many others, I am seduced by the collection of possessions, accomplishments and accolades. After all, in general that is what our society deems important. I admit that I was even preoccupied with my performance in a class that was not graded! In actuality, my achievement was mostly self-measured – and surely I was harder on myself than my teacher. But what does it mean to just be? I question whether I can every fully embrace who I am separate from my results, and much less coach someone else to do the same. What would a world be like without an emphasis on achievement? As a businessperson and HR professional, I reinforce the importance of performance and results on a daily basis. Isn’t that what drives humanity forward? I guess if there is no foundation in the being there is no obtaining or doing anything. But what is the right mix of the three domains (to be, to have, and to do)? Is there really such a thing as a purpose without action?
My judgement is no, but the root of the issue is where and how we measure our value. Acting on goals and objectives in order to advance is part of human nature. But there will always be someone smarter, richer, prettier, and more successful. How much of our awareness of that reality is a productive motivator versus a destructive reminder of our own deficiencies? I know I have been caught up in the comparison game plenty of times in my thirty years where I have felt like my successes never measure up. At times it drives me forward, but on some occasions it paralyzes me.
In the last class of the Ontological Coaching Diploma, we closed with an exercise to define our mission as coaches. After answering a series of questions through a guided reflection, I composed the following:
“My mission is to serve human development through constant exploration of myself and my external world, in support of my central values of wellness and balance.”
After writing this, I realized that I actually do have a broader objective founded in my being. The accomplishment I feel is a sum of small actions on a day-to-day basis that support my principles. No Nobel Peace prize or Miss America crown required. I do not claim to know the meaning of life and the true purpose of our extraordinarily significant, yet minuscule existence considering the scope of the universe. Maybe its all a scientific miracle, maybe its divine intervention, and most likely I will never really know for sure. What I can appreciate is that as humans we have a unique capacity to observe ourselves and question our own emotions, judgements and beliefs. We can take action and learn from our mistakes in a very conscious and deliberate way. I cannot take that gift for granted and the power that it gives me to fulfill my mission, which extends beyond the realm of coaching and into that of just being.