Coaching is full of “what should I do?” decision problems. Perhaps choosing between jobs, whether to end a personal or professional relationship, or to embrace a fundamentally new life path. Whatever the specific thing in question, we tend to focus too much on “it” — the thing. And, this approach can keep you stuck on the surface of matters, when you really should be looking deeper. But, there is another way. Don’t focus on the thing, rather focus on what it is about the thing that draws/repels you. You will learn much more about yourself doing so.
Every moment in life is an experience. Everything we do with our time is therefore an experience. And, it is this experience of things that tends to get forgotten. What characteristics of the thing really attract you to it? What feeling are you looking for through the ‘thing’ that you do not already have today?
For example, people frequently approach career change using a sort of top-down menu approach that goes something like this. “Well, there are these jobs out there and I’ve got these qualifications, what should I go for?” A more fertile enquiry might involve really looking at what kind of experience you are looking for from your new job. What experience do you want to have in your role on a day-to-day basis? And, it is perfectly possible to get a very similar experience from two very different things. So, focusing on the thing limits you!
Learning about yourself
Even casual matters such as your favourite movie or your favourite music can teach you a lot about yourself, if you really go there. What is it about the them that attracts you so much? What deeper message or experience do these things satisfy for you? Similarly, the people that you admire in life is another such fertile area for self-understanding. We often project our greatest hopes, dreams and fears on to them. As such, they can be a gateway to deeper self-understanding.
The funny thing about experience
The more you go into the question of “experience” the more you will begin to realise that there exists a fundamental dichotomy around it. You are either doing something for its own sake, or because you want to get something out of it. And, that something is not the pleasure of doing it for its own sake!
Often, it is some external idea of status achievement that you put outside of you. An experience you hope to someday have when you reach the arbitrary mountain top where it is supposed to be. This is the common situation that many find themselves in — constantly chasing, but never finding. Of course, none of this is conscious. It typically happens outside of our conscious awareness and leaves us feeling confused. That is, until we open our eyes to what is going on!
Don’t focus on the thing
The reason we often only pay attention to the surface of things is because it feels easier. It can feel scary to look within and to ask fundamental questions about yourself and what you seek. But, it is precisely this enquiry into the nature of your own experience that can become a source of great wisdom and clarity within you.
Try it. Don’t focus on the thing, rather focus on what is about the thing that matters to you. Remember that behind everything is an experience. And, the experience of a thing for its own sake is priceless.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.