The self awareness and courage to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and then find the honest answers, is the basic skill required for self coaching as described by creativity expert Eric Maisel in his self-coaching creativity manual, Coaching the Artist Within.
Picture yourself moving back and forth between two chairs, one being the coach chair and the other being the struggling creative seat. Your self-coaching goal is to bring the current issue into the open and begin to untangle it with honesty and in a compassionate and constructive way, but at the same time to stop kidding yourself. As Maisel puts it, it’s time to take responsibility for your creativity, for yourself, it’s time to say to yourself:
“I love you, but no more bullshit.”
If you would like to try this type of self coaching discussion, Maisel recommends the following exercise.
Set out two chairs so they face each other.
Sit in one of these chairs and ask yourself: What seems to be the problem?
Now move to the second chair and answer the question. What creativity issue is most on your mind lately? What would you be asking a coach for help on?
(You know, the elephant in the room kind of thing that nags at you or pounds you over the head or is giving you stomach cramps: “I’m not working on project x.” “I can’t seem to finish project y.” “I don’t know what to do about z.”)
Now move back to the coach chair. Ask yourself: Why not? What’s going on? What’s up with that?
Move to the coachee hot seat and answer the question.
And so on.
OK. Honestly now. Have you tried this, with the two chairs? Or do you use another method? Have you mastered the skill of speaking to/with yourself in this way?
If you find this exercise difficult to do, you are not alone. It is hard to do this exercise without flinching, but to succeed with the self-coaching you have got to learn to do this for yourself. It’s probably better to ponder this kind of issue in a purposeful way than to let these thoughts bounce endlessly around in your head sucking time and energy or keeping you awake at three in the morning. You KNOW what I’m talking about.
What’s your most difficult question right now?
In future exercises, Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within offers some tools and techniques for helping yourself to energize and strengthen your creativity, as well as to recognize your (bad) habits and begin to understand and change them.
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