The Guru who did not believe in Gurus – A Coaches Perspective
I read an article recently by a writer that I have become very fond of, Oliver Burkeman. Being someone that gets engaged by looking at popular beliefs from other perspectives, his book “Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” really grabbed my attention. As so many of our coaching clients set goals around happiness, I thought it might contain some useful ideas for working with clients. The book is an excellent read, and for me was very much in line with my experience and beliefs. I felt as if I had read a book written by a close friend, a kindred spirit. However, for today’s post, I want to comment on an article Oliver wrote this fall regarding Krishnamurti.
Krishnamurti was one of my gurus from the late 70’s while I was still a student at Juilliard. I read all of his books and also saw him when he came to New York to meet with his followers. At that time of my life, I was desperately searching for some meaning and purpose for my life. Somehow if I had that magic answer, I would have something to hold on to, something to make sense of my life.
What I enjoyed from Oliver Burkemans article is I can now clearly see where I was in my development, wanting a guru, wanting someone to tell me what to do, but because of this stance, was blind to the message Krishnamurti was conveying. He was a truth seeker, a person that accepted the realities of life, who did not look for a positive or negative spin.
For us coaches, this is also our real gift and value to our clients. It is from this place of honesty, reality, and maturity that we can be the mirrors that reflect back to our clients where they are, and then for them to discover what choices they have.
Oliver states; “To accept” the way things are is to stop resisting reality; to stop using positive thinking to try to pretend things are different. Put like that; acceptance seems like a precondition for change, not an obstacle to it.
So as we are working with our coaching clients we want to observe and question our own motives. Do we want to explore the reality of a situation with our client or could you be trying to sugar coat or put a positive spin on a difficult issue? For some coaches, you may even be doing this unconsciously. One common example can be when feeling uncomfortable with a client’s particular issue or emotions. While coaching is a “helping profession” we want to be aware of our personal motives. Do we want to “feel better” or more comfortable ourselves? Is “feeling better” the best state for the client or could some dissonance or uncomfortableness actually be an ally for our client?
Our clients do not need another guru. Respecting our clients and embracing them as the leaders of their lives means also viewing them as people capable of seeing the truth of a situation. With the truth as a starting point, clients can then see the options and directions they can go in.
Our coaching clients deserve a clear mirror. They do not need another Guru, parent or authority figure telling them what to do.
Steven H. Kiges
Master Coach & Coach Trainer