When we want to change, most of us start by thinking about what to change. But there’s actually another question that needs to be asked first:
What’s my current capacity for change?
I’ll be frank. Many of us do not currently have the capacity for change.
I know that sounds harsh, but stick with me. As James Flaherty defines it in Coaching To Excellence, “Being in condition to change means that clients have reserves of attention, physical and emotional energy, and social support.”(158)
These things can be hard to come by in our twenty-first century lives.
As Flaherty puts it:
“Many of us feel pressed in our personal, business, relational, and financial domains. When not pressed by external circumstances, we usually feel compelled to maximize our activities so that at the end of the week or the end of the month, nothing is left. Then something goes amiss, or a potential new possibility fascinates us, and we consider working with a coach. Somehow we imagine that the coach knows something that will make this unworkable situation turn out just fine.” (158, emphasis mine)
The wry point he’s making here is that a coach doesn’t have some secret mystery to the universe. You can’t buy a black Mercedes G-class SUV* if you have no money. You can’t make changes if have no reserves of attention, physical and emotional energy, and social support.
So you have to make space first. You’ll need some free time. You’ll need to take care of your emotional state and your physical body. You’ll need to get some support from people you care about, if you don’t have it yet.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t work with a coach if you don’t currently have these things in place! Coaches can be extremely helpful in creating this space, and then supporting you in the process of changing after.
But even if you never work with a coach: If you’re trying to change and have been going in circles, it’s worthwhile asking yourself, What’s my current capacity to change?
* I have no idea why that car appeals to me, but it really does. Feel free to share your favorite fuel-inefficient, luxury car fantasies :)