Are you stuck in the tyranny of “now”?

“I lack self-confidence!”, “I am an introvert, “She is a low performer” — All these statements support the “tyranny of now” and impede the liberating power of “yet”. As a coach and mentor coach I often hear self-descriptions or descriptions of others in such not very helpful terms.

When someone says that they “lack confidence”, the image of “a thing” called confidence comes to mind. You can have less or more of it, and abundance or lack of it. An interpretation of an experience or behavior is turned into a state or a thing. The same with “low performers” and “introverts”, where it’s implied that there is a thing called performance or introversion. In these two cases not only is behavior or experience phrased as if it was a thing but it is also used to define a class of human beings (with little hope that they can move out of that class).

“So how does this relate to the tyranny of now?”, you might ask. When we turn descriptions of current behavior or experience into things, we solidify them. We describe something that is by its nature changeable as fixed. We extrapolate from what we are observing “now”, pretend that it is always going to be like that, lock the door and throw away the key – that does sound like tyranny, doesn’t it?

When clients come to us, whether we are coaches, managers, HR-people or team coaches, we are tasked with helping people change. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for people to develop into the direction that they want to be developing in. One way of making things easier is by acting as a “solvent” for fixed descriptions, a liberator from the “tyranny of now”.

Here is an example:

Client:I would really love to present at this conference, but I lack self-confidence! It’s always been so hard for me to do anything in public, because of this lack of self-confidence. Can you help me gain more confidence?
You:Suppose you had more confidence, what would tell you that you suddenly had more confidence?
Client:I wouldn’t be so nervous before presentations, my hands wouldn’t be sweaty and I could sleep the night before.
You:And instead?
Client:I’d be sleeping the night before and I would be saying to myself that I am well prepared and that even though I’m a little bit nervous, things will probably go all right.
You:What would the audience notice about you that would tell them that you are saying to yourself that you are well prepared and you think things will probably go all right?
Client:They would see me smile at them and answering their questions without hesitation.
You:And how would the audience respond to that?
Client:They would smile back and feel relaxed, too.
You:And how would you respond to them?
Client:I would also feel relaxed and quite happy that I was there.

Maybe you have already observed how “having a lack of confidence” moves toward a description of a concrete experience or behavior. Where there was a fixed interpretation “lack of confidence”, a learning curve appears. It no longer is a matter of having or not having confidence, being or not being an introvert or a low performer but a matter of not being able to do or experience something yet and learning to do or experience it.

As a coach, manager, HR-person or any other type of helping individual we can facilitate growth by asking for the descriptions of what the client would like to be able to do or experience, of what the client cannot do or experience “just yet”. We help them move from the tyranny of now to the liberating power of “not yet”.

Carol Dweck, the author of “Mindset: The new psychology of success”, (from whom I stole the image of the tyranny) has a great talk about her research on the topic on YouTube which we have linked to on our SolutionsAcademy “Coaching Science” Playlist:

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