By: Jennifer Hall, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Certified CEO Effectiveness Executive Coach
Ah, National Lazy Day. For me, the name of the holiday evokes an image of lounging by the water with a good book. Add the sound of crashing waves and some soft steel drum music and the picture is complete. But perhaps, Dr. Bill Anton suggests, National Lazy Day should not necessarily be all about relaxation and self-indulgence. Rather, he suggests, given a rare day free of responsibilities, we might be better served by pausing to reflect on our pain. Huh?
While the suggestion may sound counterintuitive, it is based on our very solid understanding of human’s tendency to run from pain. We may focus on the symptoms or manifestations of that pain, such as anxiety, depression, or difficulties with our personal relationship, but rarely on the deep and true roots of the pain. While the fundamental experience of sitting with one’s pain may or may not be healing in itself, it’s a starting point. True healing—and the resulting unlocking of one’s true potential—may be accelerated through mindfulness training and/or through working with a trained therapist or executive coach.
Professionals in clinical fields such as medicine and psychology learn a great deal from textbooks and published research, but also via their professors and clinical supervisors through what is sometimes referred to as “clinical lore,” or widely held beliefs that are based on years of experience working with patients or clients. Such lore may not be published in professional texts but may have tremendous practical utility for the practitioner.
One of my mentors, who is both a highly skilled therapist and a phenomenal executive coach, shared with me some years ago a piece of wisdom that falls into the category of clinical lore. Most of us, she told me, fear one of two things: that we are unlovable or that we are incompetent. After hearing this, I checked it out with some of my coaching clients and friends. Does that sound right to you, I asked? Can you identify with one of those fears yourself? For almost every one of the individuals I surveyed, the idea immediately resonated.
A coaching client I worked with this week described to me an untraditional leadership training he attended once. It was a meditation retreat in which he and all of his colleagues at the training were to spend an entire day in silence. They could not speak, obviously, but they also could not read or turn on the TV or check email or surf the Web or even listen to music. They had to be alone with their thoughts—in the silent company of other people—all day long. Can you imagine the thoughts you would have if you spent the entire day in your own company? What pain might come up for you? What insight? What potential for learning and growth? For most of us, even an hour of silent reflection—an hour without spoken or written words and without outside stimulation—could prove instructive and valuable; perhaps, in giving us the opportunity to experience and better understand the source of our pain, it could bring us a step closer to our truer selves.