Coaching has become increasingly popular over the years, and for good reason. It’s a powerful tool that helps us grow, realize our potential, and navigate through life with more clarity and confidence. However, there’s one important aspect of coaching that we must remember: we cannot use what we learn to make ourselves feel bad about our past or ourselves.
By the time we’ve reached our 30s and beyond, we’ve likely accumulated a lot of life experience. Life has brought us hurdles, challenges, and opportunities that have shaped us into the person we are today. It’s natural to reflect on our past and consider how we might have done things differently.
That being said, we might find ourselves looking back and using what we’ve learned in coaching to criticize ourselves. With coaching, as we learn new tools and skills, it’s easy to look back. We start to think about what we could have done differently. As we realise the power we have over how we show up in our lives and create the results that we want, we see what could have been “better”. It’s common to get caught up in the “what-ifs” and “should-haves,” but that only leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
The truth is, we can’t change the past, and we shouldn’t use our newfound knowledge to make ourselves feel bad. We also have no idea how situations would have played out. Even if we did know then what we know now.
Our power is not in dwelling on what we could have done differently. Rather we embrace the lessons we’ve learned from the past and apply them to better our future selves.
Coaching is all about self-awareness, and sometimes, that includes taking a hard look at our past behaviour and choices. It’s easy to get lost in regret and self-blame. But, as coach and psychologist Dr. John Duffy notes, “shame has no place in growth.” The key is to acknowledge the lessons we’ve learned and then move on. What’s done is done, and we can’t change that. But we can learn from our mistakes and use that knowledge to make better choices in the future. We use the knowledge and lessons we’ve gained to make positive changes in our lives that align with our values and goals.
One of the most important things we can do is to give ourselves grace. We need to remember that we were doing the best we could at the time with the resources we had. We didn’t have the benefit of coaching, or we were dealing with difficult circumstances that made it hard to see clearly. Whatever the case may be, we have to let go of the urge to beat ourselves up and instead focus on the positive steps we can take today. We start by acknowledging that we were doing the best we could at the time. There were likely factors beyond our control that influenced our decisions. We know we did not have the same knowledge or resources that we have today. It’s important to recognize that we did what we could with what we had, and that deserves recognition and praise.
Another way to avoid using our past against ourselves is to cultivate a growth mindset. Instead of seeing our mistakes as failures, we can look at them as opportunities for growth. In coaching, we learn to shift our mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We can embrace the power of yet, and recognize that we have the potential to keep growing and learning throughout our lives. In the words of psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” When we embrace the idea that we can always learn and improve, we free ourselves from the shackles of perfectionism and self-doubt. It can be helpful to remind ourselves that we have the power to rewrite our story. Just because things didn’t work out the way we hoped doesn’t mean we can’t pivot and create a new path.
It’s also crucial to remember that while we can’t change the past, but we can change our relationship with it. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, we can focus on what is. Our power lies in the present moment and in the choices we make moving forward. As life coach Martha Beck notes, “the past is a story we tell ourselves.” We have the power to rewrite that story and create a new narrative for our lives. Take some time to reflect on the lessons you’ve learned from the past. Next, start to tell yourself a story about the past that makes you the heroine and speaks of your strengths.
Lastly, it’s important to practice self-compassion. We wouldn’t be this hard on our friends or loved ones, so why do we do it to ourselves? Show yourself the kindness and understanding that you would offer to someone else. Recognize that you are human, and that means making mistakes and learning from them.
Coaching can be an incredibly valuable tool for personal growth and development. However, we must be careful not to use it against ourselves. We cannot use what we learn to beat ourselves up or dwell on past mistakes and feel regret and shame. Instead, we can choose to forgive ourselves, embrace the lessons we’ve learned, and move forward with grace and self-compassion. By doing so, we can create a future that aligns with our values and goals and live a fulfilling life in now and in the future. We use coaching to propel us forward on our journey of self-discovery and fulfilment.
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