I’ve recently been inspired by this question asked of me by a colleague, “What is the one word that best describes the outcome of coaching and development for you?”. Dozens of words come to mind! In my inspiration, I posed the same question to other coaching colleagues. It seems they too were challenged to select just one word for the array of benefits that arise as a result of the coaching process. Still searching for my one word, my truth, I grabbed a copy of Mark Forstater’s book ’The living Wisdom of Socrates’, and found myself deep in the musings of one of the world’s most celebrated philosophers (dare I call him a Coach?) for over 2300 years.
Socrates, claims Fostater, was a revolutionary exerciser of the mind. Just as the body needs exercise, so too does the mind, to keep it in a state of fitness, active and lively. An unexercised mind is a conditioned mind in which ideas and opinions, taken in without examination from outside sources like parents, teachers and the media, will laze around like mental couch potatoes. In Socrates’ concept of the examined life the mind is exercised, and ideas and opinions are roused, and taken out for a daily workout to see if they are actually fit for the job they are intended to do. And the good thing is that to take part in this exercise there are no machines to buy or fitness centres to join.
Socrates’ mind exercise, his method of question and answer, the dialectic, requires only two people who will sincerely and honestly discuss an issue together, and by this co-operative intellectual effort discover a level of knowledge and wisdom that neither could reach on their own. The issues and opinions discussed are usually important concepts and the exercises help to disperse confusion and ignorance and lead to greater knowledge and clarity of these concepts. By working in careful question-and-answer through the ideas that hold you back, you are able to rid yourself of the mistaken opinions, replacing ignorance with knowledge. It is an educational project with the aim of changing one’s life for the better by having a clearer view of one’s own mind.
Socrates never draws sceptical or negative conclusions about arriving at the truth. Instead, each new discussion represents a fresh start which will have unanticipated twists and turns depending on the unique minds, ideas and opinions of the people engaged in the discussion, and will arrive at different end-points from all previous discussions.
Socrates methods underpin almost all coaching models in use today. And the outcomes of the process are many. Here are some of the ’one words’ shared by coaches:
* Insight *
* Presence *
* Overcome *
* Discover *
* Awareness *
* Interdependence *
* Empowerment *
* Brilliance *
What is your one word?
Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach based in Cape Town. She works locally and internationally with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership. To learn more about her work please visit her website www.motivcoach.com, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates.
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