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3 Things I Learned From Coaching People

I went into psychology to help people, only to find out that it deals with one, out of many layers, of the human experience. So I pivoted into coaching where I spent the next 3 years of my career.

This is what I learned 👇

Everybody Thinks They’re Special

Most clients seemed to think that they were the only person having that issue. But most of our problems are very common and stem from similar roots.

It’s a version of

  • I’m not enough/worthy/loveable when it comes to Self.
  • People are untrustworthy/better/luckier than me when it comes to others.
  • The World is set up against me/unfair/not safe when it comes to circumstances.

Heck, I would listen to people talk about their issues, tell them they’re not alone and still fall for one of these beliefs.

If only we realised that everyone’s struggling, most people don’t know what they’re doing and we’re just figuring this thing called Life out, we would immediately feel less alone.

My advice:

  • Choose group coaching before you pay for 1–1 sessions if you don’t have a very specific problem in mind.
  • Remember, you’re special but your problems are not.

Everybody Thinks They’re A Self

You have a story of who you are that is influenced by your childhood and formative years — adolescence and early twenties.

Relationships with caregivers create beliefs about the Self and the world. Whereas formative years help us find our place in groups and society.

Aside from some life-changing experiences that happen in adulthood, the rest of the time people live recreating the story of Self they learned early on.

That is dangerous for 2 reasons:

1.Who you are is not static even if it feels like it. Without thought, the Self doesn’t exist. The conception of Self is an illusion held together by unconsciously choosing which parts of the story to reinforce.

Do you ever walk around thinking that you are someone who poops their pants? I’ll bet you don’t even though you did when you were little. Why did you omit this part of the story? We selectively (yet unconsciously) forget thousands of such events to pick out the ones that fit our current story of Self.

As Daniel Dennett says, our conception of a self is an illusion created by our experience of the world, just like an object’s centre of gravity. The centre of gravity is an abstraction, a concept we share but it’s not an actual thing in the world, even though we treat it as real.

2. If you keep thinking the same thoughts, you fire and wire the same neural pathways. In time, your sense of Self gets cemented in your brain. It doesn’t make Self any more real, but it automates it.

Meaning you’re now a person who thinks, feels, behaves and responds in the same way. We’ve all been around people (usually older) whose beliefs about Self, others and the World are deeply ingrained. They’re not fun to be with.

  1. They know everything, they’re right about everything and they’re in a perpetual victim state.
  2. Having a cemented sense of Self is antithetical to openness, wisdom, exploration and new experiences. If you already know who you are, you won’t seek or even have the capacity to see anything new.

My advice:

  • Meditate and engage in mindfulness.
  • Never stop growing. If you do, you die. Or as Benjamin Franklin said, you become a person who dies at 25 but won’t be buried until 75.

There Is Little Space For being Human

The XXI century is the century of the mind. Body, emotions and more subtle aspects of human existence are secondary. The mind is everything.

  • Most therapy is talk therapy aka thinking about your experience.
  • Science objectifies humans to measure experience.
  • Most people believe they’re rational beings and any sign of not being one creates stress.
  • Self-development space has been reduced to “life-hacking” advice.

Optimise this, automate that, use this decision-making matrix, biohack your way to looking like a 10-year-old, save time by eating once a month, these 3 steps will make you a millionaire, this morning routine made Elon Musk a billionaire, this one secret will unlock your full potential…

This is what everyone’s trying to do

This is what everyone’s trying to do

Bigger, faster, better, stronger, MORE. Don’t stop or you’ll find that your life is a meaningless empty pit.

What are we optimising for? The typical answer is ‘time freedom’ aka more life.

But I think this optimisation palaver is a collective manifestation of fear of death.

People came to me hoping to be fixed. To get better. In a 24/7 world, they feel they have to change fast or they’ll fall behind.

But no one gets to just be human any more.

I would hear a version of:

  • Help me get over this feeling fast.
  • I don’t like this about me, how can I change it?
  • What I feel is wrong, help me fix it.
  • I have panic attacks, help me get over this fast.

Taking the time is seen as bad. Not being able to become a perfectly automated machine is bad. Struggling to adjust to society is seen as bad. Feeling bad is bad. Not being a perfectly adjustable robot as transhumanism advertises is bad.

But the truth is 👇

  • There’s no magic pill. No matter what the gurus or marketing promise you, there’s no secret formula. And you know that.
  • The world is not set up for you to thrive. You’re a cog in a machine and the machine will be just fine without you. But you won’t be fine without the machine. Or so you’re led to believe. Krishnamurti once said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
  • Your body holds more than you could imagine. There are traumas, emotions, stories, beliefs and layers that are waiting to come to the surface. Stop suppressing them.
  • What you resist, grows. If you have a feeling but you don’t like it or think it means something bad about you, or try to shove it away, that feeling will get stronger. There’s a deeper reason for it.
  • You can’t fully experience life if you don’t delve beneath the surface. It’s not a quick fix though. It takes time, effort and willingness to unravel. Slowness is OKAY.

My advice:

BEING HUMAN IS OKAY. You’re fine. Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re not perfect and you’ll never be. And, you’re going to die no matter what you do. Slow down and enjoy the ride.