Are You Fit For Purpose Today?

NLP teaches us that the person with the greatest flexibility [in their beliefs, thoughts, behaviour and expectations] is most likely to “control the system”.  And yet, we see ourselves as having a fixed identity which is separate from and independent of the environment and the relationships we are in at that time – I am who I am.

In reality, we are shaped by each and every situation we find ourselves in.  We are constantly responding to the needs of the environment and of others around us as our beliefs, thoughts and behaviours morph to best match the requirements of that situation.  It is this ability to flex and adapt to that moment that helps us be responsive, successful and happy –we become fit for purpose today.

Reflect for a moment on who you are when you are with your loved one and when you are with your work colleague.  Of course, you are different with each of these individuals.  Your thoughts and behaviours are shaped by the relationship you are in in that moment.  Indeed, your work colleague would see a “very different side of you” if he was sitting on your sofa whilst you were relaxing with your partner.  Imagine how either would respond if you behaved towards them as if they were the other.  And how strange you would feel!

Compare your ways of being when you are the boss with when you are with your boss.  Or when you are the parent with when you are the child.  Again, I am sure that you will see that you are two, quite different representations of yourself.  But both are perfectly true representations of who you are.  They are shaped by your beliefs, ideals and thoughts regarding the nature and requirements of that specific relationship, then and there.

The beliefs and values that sit behind each unique relationship are equally, and often subtly unique – so subtle that you may not be aware that you are bringing a different representation of yourself to each one.  At least, not until you consciously start to think about it, as I have invited you to do today; or you start to feel a lack of coherence, a feeling of not being “the real you” in that relationship.

Unfortunately, we may not always be this flexible.  We may transfer patterns of behaviour from one situation or relationship into another, often without knowing we are doing so.  The result is that we start to feel slightly, or very, out of place.  We feel disconnected, lacking coherence with the environment we are in and with ourselves.  And so, we try to be truer to our sense of self whereas, in fact, what we need is be more flexible.

I remember when my old boss left.  We had worked together for 4 years and had an established way of working that, I think, benefited us both.  However, I struggled to build a relationship with my new boss; I felt that she wanted me to be someone that I wasn’t.  I see now that I had a stuck pattern of belief, thought and behaviour that I was transferring from my old boss-report relationship, one that worked very well for me then but unfortunately was holding me back in this new situation.  I could not, would not bring the flexibility and adaptability that our new and still forming relationship required. The result – well, I’ll leave you to guess.

So, what is the solution?

Executive coaches frequently work with clients to uncover stuck patterns, as they are often at the heart of challenges that clients bring to the coaching room.  Through exploring the different ways clients represent themselves in various relationships, we build an awareness that we don’t have fixed and inflexible identities that limit us to one ‘authentic’* way of being.  We explore our ability to adapt to different relationships in a way that is informed by and addresses the needs of those relationships and we develop a new understanding of how this flexibility helps us flourish and succeed.  And then, by experimenting with alternative or new thought / behaviour patterns, we start to develop a sense of breadth and adaptability that builds our sense of coherence and togetherness as we move from situation to situation.

I hope that this piece has sparked some thoughts, some insights for you.

*I will be exploring authenticity further in a future blog.