As humans, we have a limited capacity for recollection, especially in being able to remember what our feelings were like at a specific time. We often try to remember, and yet somehow such emotions are still like the wisps of a dream – as we reach for them, they seem to disappear.
I was speaking with a client the other day. She related that she truly felt confident in that moment and was happy that she had managed to define and find her “center.” That center, or what some call solid ground, was a recognition of her competence as a leader and a genuine feeling that she knew what she was doing, had a good handle on where she needed to learn and had achieved an equilibrium point in recognizing her well-developed skills and those that might be less developed.
She said, “I feel as if I’ve finally figured it out.”
Then she paused and quietly asked, “But what if I lose my “center”? How do I find my way back?”
We unpacked that idea together for several minutes – I interested in what she wanted – she curious about how to get there. She shared times with me of when uncertainty and doubt had crept into her deepest thoughts and caused her to question her actions as a leader. I listened attentively and asked her what that felt like and how it happened. The responses were rich and, at times, deeply emotional, as she reflected on losing something that was so real and yet so fleeting.
Then I asked, “What would you write to yourself in a letter about how you feel today?”
Her eyes lit up, “I suppose I’d tell myself that “You got it!”
“What else?” I asked.
“Well, I’d write what those feelings of centeredness are – the facets of who I am as a leader that make me successful.”
“Tell me more!” I said with obvious enthusiasm.
“I’d tell myself of my knowledge, my competence, my interpersonal skills, and my very real ability to grow as a leader.”
“And I’d write how I felt in this moment.”
“I’d also say, “When negative emotions and thoughts come to mind, remind yourself that you know how to weather the storm – you indeed know how to lead.”
She went on, “And I think I’d read that letter aloud in moments of crisis and indecision,” she laughed.
I smiled and saw a confidence in that young leader that was equal to her centeredness. She had devised a method to remind herself of her own skills and capabilities – and she was using those awesome abilities to talk to a future self to instill confidence. I had no doubt that she would compose that letter in the coming days.
Coaches get to ask questions. Clients come up with their own answers. I was fortunate to experience a client who knew herself so well that she was able to hold both the confidence and centeredness of today and the uncertainty and doubt of a future day in one crystalizing moment that will serve her for years to come.
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