Aligning Thoughts and Actions: a 2 Part Exercise
By Joy Reichart, New Ventures West, guest contributor
The “Integral” in Integral Coaching has a few different meanings. It points to the multiple traditions and disciplines that weave together to form the method itself. It indicates the ways that coaches synthesize all they know and are learning to support their clients. Perhaps most importantly, it names how we are supporting our clients to integrate themselves so that they are bringing their full aliveness to all domains of life.
In this last sense, integration is the opposite of compartmentalization (e.g., the self I bring to work, the self that parents, the self I am with my friends, etc.). When we are integrated, we don’t have to cut any pieces of ourselves off to meet a given scenario. We are moving from being fragmented to being whole.
Ideas versus actions
One way we can fragment ourselves is through our notions of what we are up to being out of alignment with our actions in the world.
As a very simple example, how often have you left a conversation with an acquaintance by saying something like, “let’s definitely get together soon,” knowing in the moment how unlikely that actually is? (I know I’ve done this a lot!)
The interesting thing about this very common scenario is that, in naming the desire to meet up, we have actually made a kind of commitment: a light one, but a commitment nonetheless. Unfulfilled, it occupies a quiet corner of our psyche. We may not be consciously aware of it, but it nonetheless holds an iota of our attention.
How many commitments like that are we carrying around? Events we sign up for but don’t attend, ideas we have for projects or trips that we’ve taken no steps toward (or that were thwarted long ago, say, by a global pandemic), weekly meetups we make it to maybe once a month… Each of these is taking up space in our subconscious, draining a tiny bit of wherewithal. It’s like a plugged-in appliance we haven’t used in months: drawing energy from the power grid, but largely inert.
Of course, part of being human is having big dreams and plans—by no means is this meant to discourage that! Nor is it an admonishment for laziness or lack of follow-through (heaven forbid we are perceived as either in this culture). Rather, this is an invitation to examine what might be taking up space in our minds and hearts in this moment, and that might unconsciously be occupying energy that can be freed up to apply toward what is in front of us.
Beginning the exploration
Here are some exercises to support you in starting to distinguish what would benefit from our full attention versus what is splitting it. The first exercise invites us to rummage through the deep closets of our mind, finding the objects we’re not using, and, in the act of writing them down, releasing them. Marie Kondo-ing our psychic space, if you will. The second practice supports us in connecting to ideas of what we might do with that freed-up energy.
Exercise: Never-ending list of notions (ongoing)
- Start by listing down all of the open plans and commitments that are unlikely to come to pass in the next six months (e.g., memberships you’re paying for and not using, a trip to Costa Rica that simply isn’t possible right now, the great-sounding seminar invite that’s been sitting in your inbox for three weeks, etc).
- Next, write all the things you feel you “should” be doing but can’t seem to get to. Notice any judgments that come up around this—what part of you believes this stuff “should” be happening?
- Finally, note down all the “somedays:” long-held or recently surfaced ideas of what you’ll get up to when all the circumstances are just so.
Keep this list and add to it as more information surfaces in any of these categories.
Self-reflection: connecting to what is central (daily)
At the end of each day, reflect on the following. You may wish to write your answers down so you can start to notice patterns.
- What did I do today that felt fulfilling or meaningful? (Scan your day carefully and be open to being surprised by the answer—it could have been changing a diaper or preparing a meal or walking a dog or playing a game or sharing a laugh during a business meeting.)
- What was the feeling of that activity? How did I know it was meaningful?
- Did any thoughts arise that I “should” be doing something other than what I was up to? What? Why do I think that is important?
- What would it feel like to pour even more attention and care into the activity that felt meaningful or fulfilling?
This is a big project, so take it in pieces… no need to add it to the list of good ideas that won’t come to pass! But gently beginning this exploration can be very useful in examining where our energy, attention, and power are leaking. It exploration can help us stop the gaps, gather ourselves up, and reappropriate our resources to our central commitments.
The Free Integral Learning Lab is an experiential half-day workshop where, supported by NVW faculty and your peers, you can further explore how Integral Coaching supports us in unifying our lives. The next event is on November 21. Learn more and register here.
Joy Reichart is the Communications Director at New Ventures West in San Francisco.
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