Facing something so big and beyond your control can feel overwhelming
Whoa, this past month has been crazy! I hope you are taking care of yourself during this strange time.
In February, my family took a lovely trip to Montreal and the Berkshires. Unfortunately, my daughter was still getting over a cold during the first few days and I found myself joking to her to look more American and less “Coronavirus Asian.” My husband and I would laugh and whisper things like “speak English,” to the kids. My kids have never even been to Asia and sadly, they only speak English.
It’s a bad joke, I know, but when you can’t cry you have to laugh. My mother told me early on that people move their seats abruptly when she gets on the subway. There’s this terrible viral video of an Asian person being sprayed with disinfectant spray on the NYC subway. There has been discrimination against East Asians since the virus broke out. I know that for the most part, everyone is scared and trying to feel safe by exerting control and lashing out, but it can be super hurtful, and it doesn’t help with anything.
Photo of us trying to look like happy Americans
Of course the coronavirus, or more specifically the COVID-19 virus, began to blow up beyond Asia and moved onto the rest of the world by the end of our trip. Facing something so big and beyond your control can feel overwhelming. What you can do is stay centered, practice healthy habits, watch the changing environment and take timely, wise action as the situation changes.
For now, I’ve begged my kids to frequently wash their hands for 20 seconds, carry travel hand sanitizer and to please quit touching their mouths, noses and eyes. Sigh. You should do the same, please. I heard somewhere that “wash your hands” has become the new “thoughts and prayers” in response to the virus like thoughts and prayers are called for with gun violence. I’m also following a few select newsfeeds and health experts on Twitter while keeping my eyes on the latest developments locally and worldwide.
For work, I’ve started to make most of my sessions and meetings remote. Later this month, some of the group coaching sessions I’m facilitating will be done by ZOOM and not in person, which is a new thing for me. When I do meet folks in person, I’m trying to do the Wuhan footshake or elbow tap instead of shaking hands or hugging. These videos are actually joyful.
Joyful alternatives to handshaking
There will be a lot of discomfort, pain and disruption at every level of our society, and many people will feel threatened, unsafe, and scared. Some will be in denial, and some will rise above massive challenges to help lead us past this. We are also going to learn so much from this.
As part of that process, I’m working with a wonderful mentor coach who listens to my recorded coaching calls with client permission. My mentor coach gives me feedback on my coaching and where I excelled and where I missed certain things. I initially felt a bit annoyed to have to go through these “hoops” after having worked professionally as a certified coach for many years, but now I’m glad that this process exists to help me improve as a coach and level up in my practice.
Here are a couple of lessons I’m learning so far.
Coaches (in this case, me) can see a client’s coaching needs through the lenses of their own values and experiences. For example, if you have a value around financial security, you may unwittingly try to steer your client that way, even if you don’t mean to. It’s important to hold the space in coaching for the client and what’s important to them, not what’s important to you.
Another lesson is that it’s not always about trying to make your client feel comforted in difficult times. I have a tough time intruding when a client is being long winded and getting lost in their own story. It’s hard for me to stop the client and call out inconsistencies in their reasons for why a difficult situation must be that way, or simply ask them to get to the point. Listening to my clients for a long time may help them like me as a person, but that approach can be more self-serving than client-serving.
It’s been great to have someone not only highlight my strengths and be supportive, but also call out my blind spots in service of my learning and growth. I hope to do the same for my clients.
So far in 2020, each month I’ve been revisiting the questions I used to plan out the New Year. This month, I spent some time revisiting the following one:
Who were the people, and what were the opportunities and events that gave you the most return on your time and effort? How about money, joy, new opportunities or energy?
This question is really a variation in the Pareto’s 80/20 Rule. Who and what are the 20 percent of people or activities that give you the 80 percent of return in business opportunities and income? How about joy, fun, peace, or energy?
For me, most work opportunities have come from personal and professional contacts I’ve cultivated over the years, so time spent with friends tend to serve double duty for me. Writing this monthly note also helps me keep in touch with my friends and professional contacts, who have passed on important business opportunities to me.
Other activities that yield high returns for me are: audiobooks and podcasts (maximum learning opportunity while performing a mindless chore or commuting), great coaching sessions (so energizing!), quality time spent with my kids, dinner parties at home with friends, writing in my notebooks, and brisk walks between meetings in Manhattan.
Have you thought about the 20 percent of people and activities that produce 80 percent of the results in your life? Are you allotting enough time, space and energy to these people and activities? Conversely, what 20 percent of your life causes 80 percent of stress and problems for you? What can you do to release yourself from that 20 percent?
Please share your thoughts, and stay safe, healthy and have fun! I look forward to writing again in April when flowers are blooming outside.