Week 6 explores the difference between the Ideal Self and the Ought Self. The Ideal Self is our vision, our image of ourselves in the future and is shaped by our core identity, desired legacy, dreams, and aspirations. It is a deeply personal image we draw of ourselves and we keep in a safe place within our hearts. This is the person we envision and the person we see when we close our eyes. The Ideal Self is the person we unconsciously talk to when we dream out loud and share our deepest passion and desires for ourselves. We trust our Ideal Self and we do not feel threatened or intimated by it.
The Ought Self, on the other hand, is the green eyed monster of our Ideal Self. It is who others want us to be or to achieve and often pushes us to towards Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA). For example, when the media promotes celebrity moms back in their pre-baby sizes weeks postpartum, our ought self is being chided for our inability to lose weight months after birth. Or when Mrs. Smith’s son got into an Ivy League, our ought self suddenly feels small and inadequate for getting into a smaller, lesser known institution. Or how about the time Jim landed a big account, and our ought self is fuming for being by-passed yet again?
I recently raged a battle with my Ought Self, when I almost succumbed to its impossible demands and ideals. I felt worn down, beaten and down right worthless. Somewhere between talking to people I love and trust, and prayer and reflection, I had a moment of reckoning. This moment allowed me the courage to tell my Ought Self to leave me alone. When I fought off my Ought Self, I regained a clearer focus of my personal vision and my Ideal Self became sharpened and I felt renewed. Once again, I was in the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), a space where my mind became more open to new ideas, learning and change and resulted in a very important decision about my career and future.
Looking back, I am deeply grateful for the experience of seeing who I want to be and the person others want me to be (or who I thought other people want me to become). I realize that living the life of the Ought Self is physically and emotionally exhausting. I choose to live the life of my Ideal Self and work towards my vision of who I want to be, craft my life and career around my core values and beliefs and build a future for myself and my family in a way that is aligned with my dreams and aspiration.
Week 5 talks about coaching with compassion (CWC) in contrast to coaching for compliance. In coaching for compassion, we move a person into Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA) by initiating dialogues about hope, compassion, mindfulness, or even playfulness. On the other hand, coaching for compliance is consciously or unconsciously leading someone over to Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA) and this occurs when we tell someone what to do, how to do things, and how to feel. In short, coaching for compliance begins with the assumption that something is not right and therefore is in need of “fixing”. While the underlying intention is good, by asserting our view of how someone should act or how he or she should be pushes them towards NEA. And as soon as they go into the NEA mode, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is triggered and they become defensive and begin to shut down cognitively, perceptually and emotionally.
Interestingly enough, movement from PEA to NEA and vice-versa has been visually captured through fMRI scans. Dr. Boyatzis presented examples of how coaching with compassion (CWC) is key to leadership development and in creating resonant relationships. He described recent fMRI studies on coaching to the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA) versus the Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA). For example, patients who experienced shared Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA) with their physicians showed increased treatment adherence for Type II Diabetics. In family businesses, a shared vision is also seen as key to predicting long term success and the same is true for IT managers and professionals where arousal of PEA (shared vision and positive mood) predicts effectiveness. It is also interesting to note that, fMRI studies show spending even just 30 minutes in a conversation about the PEA (i.e. talking about one’s vision or dream), activates regions of the brain associated with the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which promotes renewal and relaxation.
In small manageable amount, stress is beneficial to us because it can help us overcome daily challenges by giving us little boosts of energy and memory; it keeps us motivated and helps us accomplish tasks; physiologically, it can help protect our bodies from infection, and it is critical in arousing the fight-or-flight response necessary for survival. While we need a healthy dose of stress, modern life has afforded us more way more stress than necessary and we find ourselves overwhelmed which leads us to experiencing cognitive, emotional, perceptual and even physical impairment. The key then is for us to balance PEA and NEA in order to “survive and thrive”.
After learning the difference between coaching with compassion and coaching for compliance, I am struck at how much of the skills in CWC are transferrable in our daily lives, like a conversation to motivate someone to learn and change, or to get someone to do something or to influence another person’s thinking or action. In parenting for example, I tend to focus on the problem (i.e. Who made a mess? Why are all these books on the floor?) and less on the process (i.e. Where you playing with the toy house, cars, stuffed animals all the same time? Are you imagining that this is your castle?). Perhaps this is a ripe area where I can tap on the wisdom of CWC and motivate my kids towards PEA and then to a positive desirable behavior (i.e. cleaning up their toys). In coaching relationships, I could see CWC being used as a way to encourage reflection of how they envision their future career, rather than getting seeped into long discussions about one’s discontent and unhappiness in their jobs and trying to problem solve. I think the shift from the need to step in and resolve things to focusing on the process and the person is an important cognitive and emotional exercise particularly when our default seems to be “the fixer”.
Posted in Adult Development, Adult Learning, Leadership, Organizational Learning, Workplace Learning
Tagged Boyatzis, coaching, coaching for compliance, coaching with compassion, compassion, NEA, PEA, stress