Building Competence in the Integrating Stream of Development

One new concept with which we’re working now is how to build a client’s competence around integrating all aspects of her/his life as the primary way to catalyze development. Here is an example of how that might look with a client.

Joan works for a high-tech company in a very competitive environment. She feels a constant pull to respond quickly to e-mails and texts, even late at night, on weekends and on vacation. She is married and has three young children who are all involved in sports and other activities. Her husband has an equally busy and challenging job. She lives in an expensive neighborhood in Palo Alto because it’s close to work and the schools are good.

Joan is dedicated to her exercise program and to keeping up with the latest developments in her industry. Even though she can afford a nanny and other support people, the relationships and the personalities involved add to the emotional and cognitive complexity of her life. Fully one-third of her energy is spent on coordination between all these elements in her life.

She has the latest software and portable tools to keep track of her schedule and priorities. She well understands putting first things first but her life seems to be made up of a moving puzzle with ever-changing parts being added and taken away—and she does not know what the final picture is supposed to be, so how can she know how the pieces fit together?

She’s barely keeping her head above water and finds herself being impatient with her most important relationships. On many days her life feels like she is being pulled rapidly along a piece of coarse sandpaper. Her friends at work and in the community feel the same way. They seem to make the best of it through drinking wine, going on expensive trips and imagining how wonderful the world will be when all the stock options are fully vested.

Besides the external daily friction she also feels as if she is being hollowed out from the inside, though she rarely talks about this as she never wants to appear weak or needy,  especially at work.

Joan’s story is a common one these days and Integral Coaching has a way to work with it. In our method, attending to the integrating stream gives clients confidence and competence to reposition themselves in their lives, greatly reducing daily friction.

Joan and her coach did this by eliminating the view she had of her life as composed of many roles—mother, wife, executive, friend, sister, daughter, go-to person on her team, main breadwinner in her family and so on—and integrated them into a single identity that of creative innovative chef: someone who listens to what people want and knows the inventory of current ingredients and blends these together into a dish that’s possible at this moment—not an idealized one requiring lots of time, perfect ingredients and endless patience, but the possible one.

Over a series of meetings, conversations and exercises Joan internalized this new identity, new narrative, and it relieved her from many of her perfectionist tendencies and still allowed her to maintain her feeling of high standards and taking care of people. Fully 40% of the friction dropped out of her life.

Once we have one thing that we are up to nearly all the time, the effort, mental, emotional and physical, required to switch from role to role is eliminated.

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