“A man [sic] does what he can until his destiny is revealed.”
The first time I heard Tom Cruise utter that line in The Last Samurai I cried and cried. He’d found his thing, his raison d’etre. He’d gone from being a violent alcoholic American soldier to learning the way of the Samurai: he’d found his tribe and an honourable way of life. Just before going into battle against the American trained Japanese army, who were intent on destroying the Samurai, he said that line to the Samurai leader who asked him why he was fighting with them. “A man does what he can until his destiny is revealed.” Destiny: a path with heart. With integrity. That’s how coaching felt to me.
So, what is coaching? My experience of it was this enriching warm conversation that was directed by my desire for self awareness. We’d begin by closing our eyes and Alma would remind us of the floor beneath our feet, the chairs supporting our bodies, and the breath flowing in and out constantly. When I opened my eyes I’d feel calm and able to articulate clearly what I wanted from the conversation that week. Alma coached me for over a year as I completed the Newcastle College course in Life Coaching, followed by the experiential Coaching Development course. And then I was ready to coach. Wasn’t I?
I quit my job. I decided to give coaching my all. I didn’t know how I was going to get clients but that didn’t matter. I’d signed up for a course: Core Success For Your Coaching Business. And I was on track to applying for my accreditation at the International Coach Federation. A professional accreditation. Everything would be alright. It would unfold magically. It didn’t, of course. I didn’t realise it at the time but a lot of my energy was tied up in keeping bad childhood memories suppressed. As these came closer to the surface I scrambled around, clutching at straws, trying to keep a lid on my feelings. I used tobacco, alcohol, food and drugs to numb the crazy badness, feeling guilty and “uncoach-like” after. I tried really hard to be more wholesome after a binge but that just put more pressure on the memories. After a year and nine months of seesawing I saw what I’d been repressing and began the long, hard slog of recovery.
Someone once said to me, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” He said it a lot. It seems applicable here. It would be very easy for me to associate coaching with that painful time of avoiding and recovering some truly awful memories. But really most of my adult life has been about coping with the fallout from these memories without knowing what it was about. Coaching provided me with some tools that helped me through that painful process. I use coaching questions on myself when I write in my journal. One of the things that was hidden to me in my subconscious thinking about coaching was an ideal I created: if I become a successful coach I will be a wholesome person and, therefore, worthwhile. It was a way for me to tell myself indirectly that I was worthless. Which is not true.
So, what does coaching mean to me now? It’s a way of being with another human being that honours us both. It’s an appreciation of who we are right now as we form this relationship that holds the space for awareness. It’s a shared responsibility for a conversation that leads us to somewhere new, somewhere glimpsed at the start of the session but not understood until the end. It’s elegant and rich, scary and uncomfortable. An accompanied journey into the depths of your soul. It’s challenging and rewarding and must not be clung to. There is a constant letting go. That’s what coaching is.