“Gestalt” is described* as “a composition of elements that can only be appreciated as a whole rather than as a sum of its parts.”
As a Gestalt-trained coach, I am honored to work with clients to help them explore what “wholeness” means to them and how they can discover and then choose to use those parts of themselves that will effectively expand their range as human beings.
Part of that work is to engage with people about how they perceive their lives and their priorities. Through inquiry, I help my clients discover the “whole” they might not be able to see.
If a client says, “My work life situation is pretty well set, but my home life is struggling,” I might ask:
“Where does work life end and home life begin?”
“Well, you know, when I turn off the Zoom call or drive into the garage after my commute.”
“I’m curious, how can you live two or more lives at the same time?”
“Well, of course, it’s just one life, but I try to keep them separate. I work hard on work-life balance”
Sometimes I pause – for a long moment. It can be uncomfortable for clients. But in that silence, some fascinating perspectives emerge.
What can come out for clients – and sometimes it blurts out in unexpected ways – is an awareness that the separation they have created by even using the words “Work-Life” balance is an attempt to deny the “wholeness” of their lives. As a result, their life can seem fragmented or segmented in a way that does not support their wellbeing.
We only have one life – and the fullness of that life is both beautiful and daunting. By separating it into parts, we might seek protection from facing its realities and its challenges – and its joys and sadness. But by doing so, our perspective is skewed and our lives become compartmentalized. We might think protection makes it all more manageable. But that, in fact, can be limiting.
When we become aware of how we see our lives we can begin to make choices. For example, it can be about incorporating work into life and understanding its importance – and its cost.
We are complex creatures and that is such a beautiful – and challenging – part of our experience. What my clients discover is the integration of their complex “parts” that add up to the one life that has meaning and balance for each of us.
Think about this:
We can decide to play at work and – ask any golfer – we can choose to work at play.
We can laugh over a memory of a loved one while still mourning and crying during a memorial service that is called a “celebration.”
We can choose to allow our thoughts and conversation to join with loved ones even in the midst of the busiest day at work.
I invite you to make choices to allow your life to be the “whole” that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches is an ICF-certified coach who was trained at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC). He is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout the world.
*Textbooks have been written on the subject of Gestalt and this definition cited from “Grammarist” is only meant to convey the sense of a complex and highly useful school of psychology. It is taught extensively at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.