The paradoxical theory of change

Coaches are not trained therapists.

We don’t have the skills or knowledge to work with someone who has lost their ability to be resourceful because of trauma, depression, anxiety, grief or chronic pain.

That said, we do borrow from the world of therapy and the paradoxical theory of change is one example of that.

The theory comes from Gestalt therapy and states that before you can change, you need to accept yourself as you are. In accepting yourself as you are, you inevitably grow and therefore change.

This theory works wonders when I share it with busy managers who are struggling with presentations.

You can probably relate to their feelings of overwhelming nerves and worry about what the audience will think.

I ask them:

“What would it be like to accept the feelings as simply part of your process?”

And I leave that question with them to percolate.

When you can accept something as it is, it doesn’t have as much power over you.

When I present, or facilitate a workshop, my knees start shaking and I need to go to the loo, a lot. It used to bother me but the paradoxical theory of change has helped me see it as a vital part of my process.

Bu tuning into what my feelings are telling me I know that my knees knocking are a reminder to take a moment to go over my check-list and make sure everything is ready.

Needing to go the loo so often is telling me this is important and I don’t want to have to leave the stage unexpectedly.

By embracing these things as part of my process their presence becomes reassuring rather than worrying. Instead of hijacking all the preparation I’ve done they remind me to rely on it.

What about you?

Where could you accept your feelings and behaviours as part of your process?

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