A fond desire for most of us is to spend our days, work and life, performing well. We have clear intentions, goals and even a higher purpose. We know what we are doing and why. We do it well. We finish our days warmed by the glow of a day well spent, a to-do list checked off. Then a good night’s sleep and off we go again.
But that’s only part of the day. The other part is populated by agitations about the things that aren't going quite right. Their energy may even get in the way of our best performance, or attempts at equanimity, lively creativity, and genuine gratitude. Difficult conversations, moments of distraction or overwhelm, a sting of impatience or irritation, or ripples of doubt of self or others - all are common agitations in our full lives. Maybe we focus on tasks and miss connections, make some unhealthy choices, forgo exercise or healthy food, or miss out on some deep breaths or a short meditation to calm down.
These agitations are our growth edges. They are messengers telling us we have a blind spot. The blind spot eclipses the wisdom and insights that are on the other side. When the wisdom or insight appears, there is growth, one little shift at a time.
While the art and science of coaching has a large and expanding toolbox, the common denominator is that coaching helps people transcend their growth edges, get around their blind spots to access ah-hahs, new insights and perspectives. Then a little agitation settles. Examples of shifts:
“I don’t have time for self-care” shifts to “an investment in self-care delivers a good return.” “I don’t have time to empathize with others’ messy emotions” shifts to “a few moments in sync or empathy gets more done more quickly.” “I don’t have time to transcend growth edges” shifts to “my focus and creativity keep getting better as I grow.”
Psychiatrist Dan Siegel describes the neurobiological process of settling negative emotions as integration, as small increases in consciousness. The mind and the brain naturally seek to settle and integrate negativity; that’s one reason why it’s good advice to “sleep on it” when emotions are roused.
Here's the metaphor that emerges from my coaching experience of first helping people see their growth edges, and second witnessing the moment when the strain on a client’s face lifts:
It’s as if a “particle” of agitation dissolves, settling into a wave of integration and balance. Ahh…that feels good.
Navigating growth edges isn’t only an individual process. Growth edges turn up every day at home, in teams, organizations, systems and cultures. Let’s look at the healthcare industry as an example. Today’s big growth edges, well reported in public forums, each of which can be broken down into dozens of small ones at every level, include:
technology first shifts to humans first
rigid processes shift to creative designs and innovation
authoritative leadership shifts to bottom up reinvention and self-determination by everyone
conflicts among tribes shift to collaborative brilliance
reluctance to change shifts to surfing on the growth edge
burnout shifts to resilience, even thriving
A perspective offered by Greek Stoics was to view the obstacle as the way. What that means for coaching and self-coaching? The growth edges are the way. And, the potency of their agitation is their way of showing us our growth priorities.
Hello. I am your growth edge. Please find my wisdom.
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