Coaching Philosophy, Buddhism and making Career Choices
Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Martin Goodyer (United Kingdom).
I’m fifty-four and could never have predicted my career path at any point along the journey and so am unlikely to know what the rest of my life has in store. However, I have learned that if I’m smart and use a coaching philosophy I can be pretty sure I’ll end up experiencing what I’d hope a career would give me. How? By using the same approach that has been espoused for thousands of years by, among others, Buddha himself.
What if a job that looks great ends up tearing our family apart, or taking one that gives you time to live does not deliver on the satisfaction front? How might coaching help a person get to the root of a career issue and avoid being superficial or perfunctory? Perhaps thinking about ancient philosophies like Buddhism in conjunction with coaching might offer an insight.
Buddhism derives most of its fundamental philosophy from Ancient Hinduism. ‘The mind is the slayer of the real’ is a Hindu classical saying and as pertinent today as it ever was. There is no way we can grasp the mind’s proportions without its own use and hence this saying is true — It’s a circular system run by a biological machine in command of the senses that in turn are commanding our actions.
Science demonstrates that the common belief that intellect drives behaviour is simply not true. That could present a bit of a problem when it comes to career coaching. A simple ‘GROW’ session based on the goal being a desire for a particular job might be a bit of a waste of time if the underlying mental position of the coachee is not in alignment with achieving that goal. Working on an action plan to be ready for an interview will lead to nought if the heart and mind are not ‘as one’, so to speak. Consciousness in the moment does not respond to such intellectual preparation, it responds to emotions. These emotions are in turn stimulated by the complex processing of information taken in from our senses. Buddha called it “the machine of the six sensory perceptions”. Curiously there were no machines as we know them at that time, nor were there complex tools like the computers we take for granted today. He was clearly a clever bloke with an eye to the future and would have made a terrific career coach.
The truth is that the ‘mind’ is a biological machine and not ‘the self’. The mind is not in charge but is the processing function to deliver interpretation, emotion and then action. This is as true for making career decisions as it is for anything else. The unconscious interpretation of sensory stimulation is actually what’s in charge. If we don’t interfere with the way we are stimulated then we have no control on how we will eventually respond. We will be hoodwinked into believing that we are in control. Your career coaching clients are not as consciously in charge of their actions as they might like to believe.
Now imagine that somebody else knows this but would rather most people did not know. Imagine if this person decided to try and manipulate lots of other people to think they were voluntarily doing things that were not in their own interest but in his? Hmm… Buddha apparently said “Genuine sincerity opens people’s hearts, while manipulation causes them to close” and so might have recognised even then the cold insincerity of people using others for their own benefit. It really is quite frightening. Wars manipulated to generate billions in profit, politics manipulated to keep millions mentally sedated, economies manipulated to distract whole populations by collapsing means of survival. “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Buddha was right; lose control of what we think and we lose control of what we become. If the world can be shaped by feeding minds with garbage as a means of control then what rubbish might be clogging up the mind of your career coaching client?
This biological machine can however be disciplined if the operator knows what he is doing, but the trouble we struggle with is that of a computer attempting to programme itself. The computer must have an operator. Now remember you the coach are not the operator — please don’t start getting god delusions! However you do have the potential to make it much easier for your client to access their own ‘operator’ and hence cut through the experiential nonsense that’s been getting in their way. As Tim Gallwey famously put it; the performance of any person is directly equal to their personal potential minus whatever interference is getting in its way.
Tim managed to put into simple words the problem that has faced mankind since our records began. We struggle to understand what the operator might be and what ‘attempting to programme ourselves’ might mean for us, and it hence has become the foundation of religious thought and doctrine for thousands of years. The level of awareness we are able to achieve and the distinctions and discriminations we make are the only way in which we can come closer to perhaps understanding what, who or how an operator might be determined. Without figuring this out we remain at the mercy of those who seek to manipulate the reality we exist in. It certainly makes it difficult to figure out exactly what career path to follow.
The computer that diverts its attention to trying to determine its operator might be considered as errant or a threat to the productive operation of the machine collective. If there were computers programmed to keep computing power focused on processing only and away from any extraneous activity, then might these attempt to control and direct the functioning of all computers? Hmm…
It is a conundrum that great thinkers over the ages have struggled with.
Coaches and coaching is by definition a philosophy of mind development and questioning. There may be a battle going on that we can’t see. At a very superficial level the coach has a conversation to help another person see more clearly their potential and what might be getting in the way. However, there is much more at stake than achieving a goal. Moral and material wealth are not necessary distinct, hence not particularly questioned and anything which is beyond the physical is something we all (coaches included) are encouraged to dismiss. Yet the compass setting programmed by an operator becomes the target destination and therefore the destiny of the person concerned.
Like many before and after, Buddha tried to teach us how to override the programme keeping people virtually enslaved, but the mechanisms to reach enlightenment were accessed by so few it has never been enough to generate permanent change.
The strategy (if indeed that’s what it is), to create a religious implosion has been largely successful. Christians are subtly encouraged to distrust Muslims, Hindus to distrust Seeks and so on. The war on terrorism is actually a war on the human computers that might have been inclined to question their programming if they had listened and been encouraged to interpret the words and meanings of the great prophets of all religions. Instead the general populous have been subtly steered to ignore or dismiss the intellectual heart of any religion and instead become wrapped in materialism. The meaning of ‘Life and Liberty’ have been warped to mean having more things the your neighbour, being ‘successful’ as an employee or business person by making more and having more. The values of life as proposed by the ancient Hindu classics, the Buddhist teachings, the Christian Bible, the Koran and so on teach us the same things; the achievement of moral success as opposed to material success are universally proposed as the true meanings of life and the real way to escape the personal prison of a life of imposition.
Coaching philosophy is so close to the Neo-Platonist teachings as to be almost indistinguishable. In turn great scholars have determined that Neo-Platonism is very close to most religious philosophies, including much of Buddhism, if the spiritual element of religion is removed. Coaching has nothing to say about who, what or how the ‘operator’ comes about, acts or was determined; merely a recognition that the mind must be brought under control and focused on a desired outcome, rather than left to simply process whatever it is fed by the environment.
In effect coaching proposes that there is an operator within us and that by accessing the wisdom of the operator we all have the potential to re-programme ourselves to focus on the true meanings of life and liberty, and our true values; and so break free from the prison of conformity to the controlling material influencers. A good career decision must match a person’s intrinsic values or it will be a bad one.
The coach makes it easier for the coachee to find their happiness in all areas of their life and work. The coach supports the coachee in determining their own potential by helping them clarify their strengths that may be developed and their weaknesses that might be addressed; but to a level consistent with their own requirements for fulfilment and not an externally imposed set of materialistic standards. A good coach will recognise the wisdom of those who have travelled this path before and will have learned from it.
I do not know if coaching can change the world or the world of those being coach around their career aspirations, but I do know it has changed mine. I am just intrigued to find out what comes next!
Author of ‘How to be a Great Coach’
Martin is an Executive Coach of outstanding quality, skill and experience; his 30 years of combined business management, consulting and coaching experience have helped many clients achieve significant improvements in business performance and profitability. Highly skilled as a 1–2–1 coach and coach trainer Martin also uses a facilitative coaching approach in the following specialism’s: Key Note Coach; Radio Coach; T.V Coach; Workshop Coach; Group Coach; Team Coach
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