Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Moment's Insight

While in graduate school, I awakened every morning to a large poster on my bedroom wall with the quote on the left. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was not the well-known poet of "Old Ironsides" and "The Chambered Nautilus" -- that was his father. Holmes Junior was an associate Supreme Court Justice and one of the most cited 20th century American legal scholars. 

True to what may have been his intended meaning, the poster mainly symbolized my many intellectual aha's as a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology.

But there's is a deeper and equally meaningful interpretation of the poster. 

The butterfly, of course, represents an obvious and compelling transformation in its metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to gorgeous flight. And the word "insight" means grasping the inward or hidden nature of things.

If I were limited to recommending only one skill to coaches, it would be to develop a finely honed intuition. There are many traditional approaches to intuition training, but my path has been a bit unconventional. I've written elsewhere about my insights using Silva methods. Later, inspired by Carl Jung, I began using the I Ching when feeling stuck on how to approach a client situation or consulting project.

For example, because of my work with a toy company's plant manager and his team, his boss (the parent company's VP) invited me to his annual retreat for all plant managers, to review the MBTI from their previous year's retreat and teach them the Enneagram. It is a BIG company. This was a MAJOR opportunity for me. Except for my client and his boss they were all STRANGERS to me. I only had ONE day to cover two complicated systems. Can you put yourself in my place, and feel the pressure to my ego, the anxiety rising?

I couldn't seem to focus on how to design the retreat, and was actually considering backing out. So I got out my I Ching workbook and threw the coins. I do not remember which hexagram resulted; it might have been #13. I was barely aware of it even then, because shifting my focus to invite my intuition freed me from logical attempts to understand, and I "heard" the clear message to quit worrying what they might think of me, and focus on their needs (yes, duh!).

I called the VP and asked for a thumbnail sketch of all the participants, made some educated guesses about their range of Enneagram styles, bought amusing t-shirts as prizes for "best in type" (on the perfectionist's t-shirt two buzzards sit on a branch, one telling the other "Patience my ass, I'm gonna kill somebody!") and created a client-centered design they appreciated and enjoyed.

You could argue that I might have designed an effective workshop using pure logic. Sure. But I was blocked and needed to get out of my head. Since then I've learned to tune in without props. Whenever I hear myself thinking "Yikes, not sure where to go with this..." I take a deep breath, imagine myself completely in tune and connected with my client(s), and picture (da dum) a butterfly.