What needs to happen for you to … ?

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear”  ~  Buddha

The number of times each week I encounter the thoughts behind this famous quote must run into hundreds – from catching sounds of random conversations in the street, to comments made by family, friends, coachees and clients.
Yesterday, in particular, it paid me a visit in a number of contexts – the last of which appeared as I was watching BBC Questiontime late evening. I have an enduring image of two panellists (both politicians, one Labour and one Conservative) concurrently making points AT each other, with wagging finger-pointing, as the programme Chairman, David Dimbleby, sat sandwiched between them looking down at his running order sheet and probably wishing he had earplugs in.

Now I can’t say which one of these two barking dogs was student or teacher – perhaps they might both have been – except that neither was receptive to the other. And therein lies the clue to why us ordinary people have a growing cynical indifference to politicians. Each of these two had an unreceptive and belligerent behaviour towards the other, and (of course) the unwavering certainty that their worldview was the right one. Had they been squabbling dogs, the best remedy would have been to throw water over them both!

Also yesterday afternoon I talked with a client who I had seen perhaps two years previously. She’d spoken of her journey, since we’d last met, and how she’d been inspired to study and qualify in NLP and Hypnotherapy. However, she said, she was still doing just her “main job” because she didn’t yet feel confident of her abilities as a therapist and this was holding her back.

Now this may well be a situation that applies for many of us, who although having learnt and qualified to ‘practice’ within a particular domain – whether as a therapist, lawyer, accountant, teacher, sports coach, chef, plumber etc – still have misgivings (or worse) about our obvious abilities.

“Am I ready?” is the Big Ask and I guess the Big Answer is “Are we ever ready?”
Are we ever ready to be parents, are children ever ready to go to school, are babies ever ready to learn to walk and talk?

The thing is with parents, babies and children there’s a constant feedback TOTE model running on a never-ending loop and after every action (operate) there is a discovery (learning) and an adaptation of the next action and more discovery.

We call this learning by experience.

And the more we know about our own particular learning processes, the more and better we can get to learn – and that is, to learn anything!

Now historically I was very much like my client – I would need to be ‘masterfully confident’ before I’d ever set out to do something, utilise some learnt skill. This was particularly debilitating, and it was a wonder that I’d ever got to be any good at anything, to be fair!
I was lucky in my early days of NLP knowledge, because I was a voluntary sports coach and had an available outlet for practising my usage – starting with myself. I had a simple formula – if it worked I used it.

However, a sea change would have had to have taken place in ‘my view of the world’ in order for this to have happened. At some point I became ready to receive.

In 2008 I wrote a book about NLP and how I’d got started with using the various ‘tools in the kitbag’. This was well before I’d studied it formally.
The ‘Conclusion’ chapter of this book, “Don’t Think of a Black Cat”, summed up how I’d started throwing off the shackles of procrastinatory perfectionism:-

The writing of this book has been driven forward on the principle of “if I wait for perfection I’ll wait forever”. Rather, it has been more written on the argument “you don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it GOING”, a motivational catch-phrase of well-known success coach, Mike Litman. So I’ve not strived for perfection, being safe in the knowledge that there will be bigger and better opuses to follow as I gain more experience and further my knowledge of the subjects. The pursuit of excellence knows no bounds and my own quote might relate to sport but is transferable for any performance, any discipline and indeed life.

My own quote being referred to here is thus:
“Excellence in sport has no beginning and no end – it IS merely about developing … No-one can ever know it all – but you can always progress – there is no such thing as the ultimate victory; everything is just a step along the way.”

The Client and the Pivotal Moment

To get back to my client, she said that in spite of knowing all the things necessary to help her get started as a therapist, she just couldn’t take the plunge. She’d done all the ‘apply to self’ stuff and that hadn’t worked.

We explored this and that, and I asked her a range of questions wearing a variety of coaching, mentoring and changework hats. She told me she’d even signed up for a couple of intervention-specific workshops just to cement her skills in these areas, by way of self-reassurance.

Then came a moment where I became ‘the student’ and she became ‘the teacher’. It was one of those moments one gets through trusting the unconscious – where the ideas presented seem so right and straightforward that one wonders how one hasn’t seen them before. Truth was, I’d opened up and allowed myself to accept the role of ‘student’ and receive.

I asked her what advice she would give me if I had come to see her with this problem.

Her first answer was disengaged and still somewhat ‘on the surface’, so I asked her again, “What would you say to me if I came to you with your problem like that?”

As her unconscious went and assembled the answer, I could tell from her physiology that somewhere – deep within – a connection was made, for her.

We kicked things around for a bit longer and I ran a few checks to see how the connection, for her, was holding up.
“No I’m done – I’m ready now. Everything’s in place.”
She had her action plan, oriented in time, and her whole demeanour when now discussing the issue, going forward, had completely changed. She was well and truly ready to get it going!

There is another quote I used in this section of “Don’t Think of a Black Cat” which might serve as a good conclusion here:-

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”  ~  Jack Dixon