Who in the world am I?
By Meridee Walter
Identity is a fascinating topic to consider in both life and coaching. As a coach I believe establishing it in life and as a professional goes hand in hand.
This is a topic I’ve been thrown head first into considering over the last 16 months or so. After a pretty dramatic cancer diagnosis in January 2017 I felt like my identity was ripped from me with no warning and I was left searching. Going from an independent, strong, learning and development professional who specialised in travelling and socialising I was literally having to ask for help to get out of a chair at one point. I had long hair, long eyelashes and was reasonably active. After two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation the only constant in my physical appearance was the unknown. I was now scarred, losing my hair, losing and gaining weight and most definitely losing muscle definition. Feeling a bit like I was drifting at one point I decided the only way to pull myself out of this was to choose what I wanted my identity to be and understand what I had control over.
I believe this experience gives me a pretty good standing to discuss finding your identity in coaching.
It may seem like a funny thing as really we are the facilitators in the coaching situation and we may consider that those we are coaching are the ones looking to establish their identity however knowing who we are and what we stand for is crucial to being a genuine and effective coach.
In my experience of establishing identity I considered what my current identity was, both as I saw it and how it came across to others. Essentially we are the person we want to be, but it’s so important to have the behaviours to match that so how people see us is important to consider too even if we don’t identify with it.
After understanding what your current identity is, consider what of it you like and what you want to adjust. Ask yourself if this part of your identity serves a purpose to you, do you benefit by ‘being’ this? Also, do you benefit to the greatest extent or could you improve on this? For example I considered myself to be a good and loyal friend but on consideration realised that I could be more than that. I also had the ability coach and support my friends even during my own challenges, so I started to work on this and found myself having more meaningful conversations which gave me the ability to be supportive.
While training in NLP I learnt that if a behaviour doesn’t serve you a purpose then it’s time to change it. Therefore, if you identify aspects of your identity you want to adjust consider how you can remove or change these. This may even just involve controlling them in certain situations. An example I’ve found is that, beyond my control, I have become more emotional and at times grumpy. I don’t want this to be a part of my overall identity so I make a huge effort to avoid this being present when I leave the house and to give myself time alone to deal with these feelings as they crop up. In coaching it is extremely important to be able to hold our own emotional reaction to a situation as our role is to be the impartial figure for the person being coached. It is this experience that I believe has helped me in this strategy.
Identify the steps needed to take to make changes to your identity. As coaches we often work to help those we are coaching to set their own goals and this is essentially the same idea. If you want change you need a structured route to achieve this or it will just be a constant I would like… or I hope….
Set yourself SMART goals, don’t be vague (I doubt any of us would want those we are coaching to be vague). I found writing down my goals very helpful and set a time for them to be achieved. As I realised that being social and taking time out for myself were important parts of establishing my identity I started putting the, on my “to-do” list. I would write “catch up with so and so” or “go to the beach” as part of my things to achieve in a day. Not only did it give me encouragement to do these things, it made me feel like I’d achieved when I did them too.
Finally, carry through. Nothing is more important than being the person you want to be. It is the very foundation for everything else you want to achieve in life. It is the foundation for you as a professional and the work that you do so invest in it just as you have made the choice to invest in others.
And in answer to that great puzzle….I would say, you are absolutely anybody you want to be. The choice is yours.
Meridee Walter qualified from AUT with a Degree in Communication. She has put this to good use working with people in primarily training and development roles in the UK. Meridee now resides back in her native New Zealand. Meridee believes “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.” You can follow Meridee at thrillspillsandaheadscarf.blogspot.com