Insights

From My Coaching Archives – Chuck The Template!

July 15, 2022
Be spontaneous. Chuck the template

Chuck the template!

I had been coaching a very senior professional, Jay (name changed), from the ITES  industry.

What you are here, you are everywhere!

Although Jay had approached me for Career Coaching, it turned out to be a combination of Career Coaching & Life Coaching.

I have observed that with many long-term Coaching assignments such as Jay’s, what begins as Career Coaching morphs into Life Coaching over time. I am not surprised. At a fundamental level, one can’t create watertight compartments between the two. What you are here, you are everywhere! A career, after all, is a subset of Life.

Coming back to Jay’s case, one of his principal disappointments in Life was that things were not going as planned. This disappointment showed up in different forms for him.

Disappointments!

By now, he should have gotten his promotion but it was on hold. In Jay’s opinion, he had fulfilled all the conditions for the promotion, yet it was not coming through.

At home, there were many serious differences of opinion between him and his spouse. She ought to understand him but didn’t.

His teenage son was expected to abide by the family rules but he didn’t.

The relationship between his parents on the one side and his spouse on the other was not good. In his view, his parents should have a better understanding of the evolved setting but they didn’t. His spouse also should have had a better appreciation of his parents’ context but she didn’t.

Recently, the family had gone overseas on vacation. He was narrating his disappointments from the vacation – the insensitive airline, the rude staff, the unconcerned hotel, and the poor arrangements by the travel agent. Towards the end, he also added that there was too much rain. Honestly, he appeared quite stressed after – or from – the vacation.

In all our discussions, one aspect stood out very clearly.

Jay had very clear expectations from people and situations and when his expectations were not fulfilled, there was a disappointment.

Quite normal, you’d say!

Life doesn’t follow a template

However, in Jay’s case, the expectations seemed to be cast in stone – rigid and non-negotiable. Also, he had rigid expectations from every aspect of his life. His expectations were like a template created in advance by him in which people’s behaviors and his life situations were to fit in. Whenever he used the words – and he used these words quite often – ‘should’, ‘shouldn’t’, ‘ought’, ‘expected’, ‘rules’, it was clear to me that these words represented his template. His many disappointments stemmed from the deviations from the template.

In one of our conversations, he insisted on knowing from me how I manage my expectations and disappointments.

My approach

I spoke about 3 aspects:

  1. To me, Life is like travel. Just as in travel, we make our plans and we are also prepared for eventualities. The plans are necessary because they provide a framework within which the travel happens. However, I deliberately keep it loose and flexible. By doing so, I am inviting other unplanned experiences to be part of the itinerary, thereby enriching my travel experience. My Quote #59 says, ‘Surrender to Life’s spontaneity. Life’s unpredictability can also be understood as adventure.’
  2. Nowhere is it written that Life has to be fair. My Quote #105 says, ‘Whoever said Life has to be fair spoke too soon. Life guarantees nothing.’ Life is what it is. It is a series of events and experiences. To expect that such events and experiences have to be fair to us is a myth and a king-size one at that.
  3. We always have a choice. Leading from the above 2 points, when things do not go as per plan, we have a choice. We can treat it like adventure or complain about it. My Quote #290 says: ‘Whether you enjoy it or complain about it, Life just goes on.’

Life is not stopping to check how we are feeling about an event or experience. Honestly, it doesn’t care.

Read here about my time-tested strategy of ‘Let a night pass!’

Jay seems to be coming to terms with this new approach. It has taken a few sessions of insightful conversations. His latest ‘accomplishment’ by his own admission was to let his son attend a party with his friends while the teenager’s exams are coming up in the following week. In the normal course, he said he wouldn’t have let him. I could see that he was loosening up by chucking the template. Small but directional changes, I’d say!

Chuck the template!

If you are in the habit of getting upset with Life’s deviations, here are some suggestions:

Chuck the template. By template, here I mean a rigid set of expectations. Instead of such templates, have a flexible plan and keep things open to change. Will this mean that disappointments will not ever happen? Absolutely no! But you will have raised the tolerance threshold for deviations.

Develop your capability to create a Plan B. Travelers always have alternate plans. If you come across an unfavorable eventuality, move on to your Plan B. If Plan B does not work, create a Plan C…and so on. What I mean is, never get bogged down.

Move from ‘Why Me?’ to ‘What Next?’. If you are faced with an unfavorable situation, you could feel like a victim – Why Me? After all, we are human. But as long as you are able to move quickly from ‘what happened’ (Past) to ‘what could happen’ (Future), it’s progress.

My Quote #321 says, ‘We can stand either facing the past or facing the future. The choice is ours.’

 

What about you? If you are like Jay, may I help you chuck your template? If yes, do reach out to me at [email protected]

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