Nuggets August 2020
I’ve just realized that my laptop refused to switch over from UK to French time. That means you’re gonna have to jump straight in without a considered, witty and inspiring intro, which I usually write at the end. Our AirBnB host has been AMAZING and a 3pm checkout is more than nice, so let me honour my Germaness and stick to our “3pm we’ll be leaving promise” 🙂
Nevertheless, as always, here are a few Nuggets of what’s been going on for me this month, bits and pieces that I’ve come across or thoughts that have been on my mind, as well as a few fruits of that energy. If any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
Where’s your line?
I’ve always been triggered by manipulation, sales tactics and any form of influence that takes away people’s conscious choice. Autonomy and freedom are a core part of my value system. But where’s the line? Everyday we make choices underneath the surface of what we’re aware of. It’s impossible to be aware of all the messages that influence our opinion. We may overhear a conversation without paying much attention but some of it sticks. We start whistling a tune but don’t realize we picked it up in the shop where it was almost inaudible in the background. A bus rushes past imprinting, for a split second, an image of “success” onto our psyche – probably something we can buy… Are we really free? Can we learn to become aware of all the messages in order to be able to process the information and make our own choices? May some manipulation be valuable or even “good”?
Having just returned from a day trip to Paris and being impressed with how many people wore masks outside in the street at scorging hot temperatures (I’d say about 80%), I saw a post by a friend about a segment of “news” that they witnessed being filmed in a busy street in Paris. The producers made sure that only people with masks were allowed to pass the cameras so that it looked like everybody in Paris was wearing masks. Now he was somewhat outraged at the “lies of the mainstream media” while I could help but think that 1) that’s not too far off the reality that I had just witnessed and 2) I’m actually quite grateful for what was clearly some level of manipulation (portraying an arguably false image that everybody without exception was wearing masks).
The stories we tell often create our reality. If we hear that everybody in Paris is wearing masks, we’re much more likely to also do this. If a teacher is being told that the class he is about to take over is full of super intelligent kids, they will do better academically (and vice versa, as is well-documented by a series of social psychology research). If we tell our kids that they’re stupid, the story often sticks. If we create a positive narrative, it’s much mroe likely that they will live up to their story. Now, is it manipulation to re-frame an experience as something positive in order to change someone’s reality or reaction? And if it is, is it necessarily “bad”?
Last week I taught a session on NLP to students of the MA in Existential Coaching. One of the techniques NLP practitioners use is called “pacing and leading”. You’d strategically create trust and rapport very quickly (pacing) and then model the kind of behaviour that you’d want to create (leading). You can observe this in parenting all the time. The difference is (or may be) about being aware of these processes and to use them strategically. Conditioning through reward and punishment are similar matters. If we use them strategically and with the intent to create or change particular behaviours, are we not manipulating? Does it matter if it’s for better or for worse?
My friend made a point that he’s against any form of manipulation, even if it’s for a valuable outcome (I appreciate that’s a question of definition). Me, I wish it was enough to educate the masses and let them make informed decisions. The problem is that too many actors with questionable agendas do their own “education” in their favour and just not that ethically minded when it comes to respecting people’s autonomy and have no issue with influencing them in their “favour” (and often paired with a strong belief that this is indeed for the better).
Now, who decides what’s good? Who has the “right” to manipulate (if anybody)? And can you even imagine a world where nobody is trying to influence others without them necessarily being aware of it? Is it our job to be aware or do others need to stop influencing us against our will (or underneath our level of perception)?
Where’s the line?
Or rather: where’s your line?
Years ago I had connected a friend of mine with one of my coaching students. To be honest, I had no idea how much he drew from coaching and personal development and little did I know what was sparked in the process.
Several years of dreaming, planning and action later, along with a rollercoaster ride of not-knowing whether we were going to be able to pull it off in the face of recent global events, on the first weekend of August I did travel out to the middle of Herefordshire to spend a weekend with a group of amazing people keen to learn about all things wellbeing.
Initially I had orchestrated the programme to be delivered by a whole team of facilitators and coaches in line with the strong vision of the organiser. Given the social distancing rules for events though, we spend the weekend in a much more intimate setting, which turned out to be an incredible treat for everybody who made it out to the serene settings of such a beautiful campsite to learn from meditation teachers, yoga instructors, nutritionists and to cook and exercise together.
But what warmed my heart the most was to see the glow on Jon’s face when his dream became a reality, the start of something beautiful, and the first of many Evolve Wellbeing Retreats
The feedback was powerful and we’ve had everything from breakthroughs on how to navigate life to much-needed resets in times of global strangeness. If you’re keen on joining next year, why not get on their mailing list? We’ll follow up on our vision to book a juicy and relaxing retreat in the country side along with wellbeing and wellness classes and your personal coach for the afternoon if you fancy deepening and integrating your learning and experiences.
I could write a few pages on this, but I’m still sitting in this stunning little house in the Normandy and while I’m still contempating whether any of this is real, my wife insists that the lake we’ve been recommended by our amazing host to take a swim in before we leave back to the UK to qurantine for the next two weeks, is indeed real enough to hurry the fuck up, so I’ll keep the rest of my musings short and shall leave you with Daniel Hoffman’s TED talk and this podcast with Tom Bilyeu (don’t mind the horrible click-bait title of the latter please, it’s good). I just leave you with one of Daniel’s questions:
“Does evolution really favour seeing reality as it is?”
Or has evolution given us merely an interface that hides reality from us so that we are able to survive?
The answer somewhat unsettled me as someone who aspires to live with both eyes wide open and to see the world as it is, rather than as I’d like it to be…
What I can’t stop talking about
I’ve first listened to this episode of the Tim Ferriss Show with Jim Dethmer in early June, but parts of it just keep popping up. First repeatedly during the two weekend coach training events and then continuously in conversations with friends and family. It’s just so full of nuggets (yes, that was intended) and if you haven’t endulged yet, I’d recommend it.
Quote I loved
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.” (Kitty O’Meara)
I know, this is not everybody’s reality, but as part of my coaching work in recent months I can’t deny the reality of so many people who have benefitted from this forced pause, which created plenty of time to think, question, ponder or do things differently. To those of you who are suffering, I feel for you and there is help out there. Talk about what’s going on for you. You’re not alone! And to those of you who have some time on your hands, or who would like to use these strange times productively, consider coaching. I’ve seen some people truly transform and others to begin to think differently. It all starts with awareness.
My intern is taking a break (bless you, Melanie!), so there’s not a lot of new content that’s been edited. Some interesting things on the horizon are my recent talk on “Coaching during CoViD-19” at the IMEC International Meaning Conference that took place online at the end of July, a really interesting interview with The Weekend University’s Niall McKeever and a new series of Talking about Coaching: “Talking about Coaching & Psychedelics”. I’ve also got a mention in Niall’s blog on exploring values recently.
- 18th August: Coaching Lab Social – Free meetup of the Talking about Coaching community
- 20th August: Pub Psychology – The Psychology of the Unconscious (£5)
- 24th August: WTF is going on? The podcast with Gwyneth Jones
- 1st September: Yannick’s Coaching Lab with 6-figure strengths coach Catherine Bell
That’s it. If you’re reading this, I appreciate that you’re still with me and I hope you enjoyed reading my Nuggets. If you can’t get enough, I sporadically upload past editions to my website’s blog. As always, if any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂