What are the Benefits of Asking for Guidance?

BL00 - The practicality of cultivating guidance-High-Quality (1)

By Joy Reichart, New Ventures West, guest contributor

Guidance is a concept that is easy to forget about, or dismiss altogether. It can be brushed aside as an ethereal, “woo-woo” concept that has no place in our contemporary western world, where will and self-determination are what lead to success. Actually, guidance is more readily available and far less mysterious than we might think. 

What might happen if we made room in our lives to more easily receive guidance? Mindfulness, of course, is a wonderful way to do this. Here are some ways how it shows up in Integral Coaching.

Whole-being guidance

Guidance is an essential aspect of our work. The Six Streams of Competence model—a foundational framework helps us support the cognitive, emotional, relational, spiritual, somatic and integral development of a client. It gives us one lens through which to observe how guidance works. 

Guidance in the Spiritual Stream

Integral Coaching doesn’t hold spirituality as religion. Religious practice is one way spirituality is expressed, but it is only one aspect of the robust connection with the wider web of life that signals spiritual intelligence.

When viewed this way, sure, we can ask for guidance from the greater mystery and receive it in ways we can’t necessarily trace or explain. But it can (and often does) just as easily come from a mentor, a teacher, a child, or anyone in our community. A healthy spiritual life has inherent in it all of these connections, each of which can offer guidance—either spontaneously or in response to a request. 

Guidance in the Relational Stream

Then there is the kind of guidance that is easier to point to - guidance from others in our lives. This happens in coaching, in healthy professional relationships between managers and their charges, between parents and children, teachers and students, friends … the possibilities are everywhere. The greater a person’s relational capacity, the likelier it is that they are in a place to receive guidance.

It’s all Integral

Yes, there is a lot of overlap between these two categories. This work is, after all, integral—as with human life, nothing lives in its own isolated bucket. The other four domains: Somatic, Cognitive, Emotional and Integrating are sources of guidance as well. The exercise at the end of this article invites you to explore this for yourself. You can read more about the Six Streams model here.

A client example

Jacqueline was very successful professionally but was feeling hollow. She came to coaching because she was questioning what meaning her life had. Though she was happily married with two grown daughters, surrounded by colleagues, friends, and social engagements, most of the time she felt profoundly alone and aimless.

After getting to know Jacqueline and attuning to where she had potential for growth, Jacqueline’s coach suggested she volunteer in the kitchen of a local homeless shelter. Her schedule was packed, so the ‘assignment’ began as a one-time exercise, just to check it out. She did. Two weeks later, she went back. Before long, she was showing up in that kitchen at 11 am every Saturday without fail. Somehow the tasks, errands and social events that normally filled that day gave way to this. She didn’t feel like anything was lost.

Jacqueline didn’t return to the kitchen because her coach told her to, or because she felt obligated in any way. Rather than feeling pushed to do this, she felt pulled by something larger, more mysterious. She met two other women who held similar positions to hers in their own companies. As they were cooking, they shared their stories, challenges, and successes. Organically it grew into a kind of mutual mentorship. 

As Jacqueline got to know the people they were serving, her heart began opening more and more with compassion and humility. Gratitude overflowed for how comparatively easy her own life had been. Gems of wisdom poured from the mouths of those she served, young and old. She started listening in new ways.

When she returned to work during the week, it was with a deep understanding that her professional life wasn’t the entire universe, nor was it entirely on her to keep the company running. She paid more attention to the social responsibility aspect of the business and listened more carefully to her employees. She found ways she could offload, delegate, and otherwise lean into her colleagues for support. Her conversations and visits with her daughters became slower paced, diving below the surface of what they usually spoke about. She brought cooking techniques she learned in the shelter kitchen back to her own, which had dinnertime with her husband feel adventurous again, sparking new conversations and enlivening their relationship.

Where is guidance in this scenario? 

We might flip the question on its head and ask: where was it not? 

There was the guidance Jacqueline received from her coach, who draws on her own wellspring of guidance. (Integral Coaches are never working alone. They’re a part of a worldwide community of folks who share the commitment of easing suffering in the world through deepening development.)

There was the mysterious draw Jacqueline felt after her first visit to the shelter. She and her peers offered and received guidance to and from one another. There was guidance in the relationships with those she served. The entire experience guided her into new places in her broader life.

All this is to say that we needn’t look far for the web of guidance that exists all around us. It isn’t all that mysterious, and it’s certainly not a matter of blind faith. If we simply plug ourselves into one node of available guidance (say, by asking a trusted colleague for advice) and pay attention, we might see the entire web light up. Before long we discover that we are part of a vast network of support—one that we both benefit from and contribute to.

Self-reflection exercise: cultivating guidance

As ubiquitous as guidance is, this one-time exercise may be sufficient to show you where you have access to guidance, and how you might lean into it to support you in living into what is most important to you.

Set aside a good chunk of time—maybe an hour—to journal on the following questions. Then, follow whatever threads feel most juicy. 

  1. What guidance is available in my relationships? Where does guidance show up in my spiritual life? 
  2. How else does guidance come through me? Somatically? Emotionally? Cognitively? 
  3. How might I better integrate these areas to make myself more receptive to guidance?
  4. What is a recent example of guidance in my life? Did I recognize it as such at the time? What happened? 
  5. What is a recent example of my offering guidance to someone else? Did I recognize it as such at the time? What happened?
  6. What is possible in my life if I embrace and cultivate guidance more consciously? 
  7. What practices might I take up or deepen to cultivate guidance? 
  8. What might I let go of so that guidance is more readily available to me? 

In Foundations of Coaching, our virtual introductory workshop on November 17-19, you will encounter a like-minded community and begin to trust what’s guiding you to support others. As always, readers of this blog are welcome to take $100 off tuition using coupon code MINDFULLEADER

When have you felt guided in your life? Please share below!

Joy Reichart is the Communications Director at New Ventures West in San Francisco.

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