Do you have the right experience?

In JL Carr’s “The Harpole Report”, one character (a teacher) is incensed when challenged by the acting headmaster, asking how he dares to speak to her like that when she has had 30 years’ experience. He retorts “You haven’t had 30 years’ experience! You’ve had 1 year’s experience 30 times!”

When you do work that repeats some, if not all, aspects, it’s a challenge to come up with fresh approaches. After all, if you’ve found a way that works and within the time available, it could be risky to go down a different route.

Is it a worse risk than that of becoming a virtual automaton, so programmed that you just need to hear a certain phrase or encounter a certain problem and you click into automatic delivery?

How do you get different insights?

You can try a little role reversal, perhaps. Sit on the other side of your desk (literally and metaphorically) and see what being on the receiving end is like.

Or you could ask yourself what you would do if you wanted to make things go badly – and then do the opposite.

How about explaining what you do to someone who doesn’t know the job at all – can you gain any fresh insights from their reactions?

Maybe it’s possible to do a job swap and broaden your range.

I don’t want to disparage experience – far from it.

It enriches our lives and enables us to help ourselves and others out of difficult situations. It should also make us more caring and tolerant beings.

Tip: When you get into the habit of spending a few minutes each day putting what’s in your head down on paper, it clears your mind and it’s also handy for looking back and seeing what you did last time something happened – should you need either to repeat or avoid the strategy.

Designing your future

Why is the name of my coaching practice Design the Future?

Partly because designing the future is what coaching is about and partly to remind myself and others how important it is to plan actively for our futures and not just let someone else send us in whatever direction best fits their agenda.

I look back and think what a tragically amenable child I was (and that’s me putting a good spin on it!), always taking it that adults and teachers knew best. Just one example: I wanted to spend some of my 6th-form “free” periods learning to type. The Senior Mistress looked witheringly at me and said, “You don’t need to type – you’re going to university.”

Well, quite apart from the fact that, at university, I had to produce my dissertation in German and typed which was difficult and expensive, as we all now know the world is centred around the keyboard.

And what business of hers was it to direct my life based on her academic snobbery rather than what interested me?

We owe it to ourselves to pursue our own happiness: however well-meaning other peoples’ advice might be, they aren’t the ones who are going to have to live the consequences of it on a daily basis.

You don’t have to do it with a coach – although, of course, I think coaching gives you advantages it’s hard to find in any one other place.

If you’re going to make the best choices, you need someone who will really listen to you, someone to give you objective feedback on your ideas and someone who can lead you to insights you might otherwise have missed while focussing on you as a talented and capable individual.

With coaching or without, plan for your success and take action to achieve it.

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