Thursday 14 January 2016


I was listening to a podcast by a highly-successful (or so he told us) coach on how to be as successful as he was. His secret was to charge eye-wateringly high amounts of money for his coaching. That ensured that he only signed up people who were completely dedicated to achieving their dreams, and therefore made the chances of his coaching them successfully very high.

After the initial temptation passed (I mean, until I thought about it, naturally the idea of people paying eye-wateringly high amounts of money for my coaching was quite appealing), I then reacted the other way, and decided that what he was doing (at least in part) was teaching selfish people to be even more selfish. For example, he described how he helped people to realise that if they were really committed to their dreams, they could find the money - without consulting their partner, borrowing it if necessary, and so on...

Then at the other extreme, I was in a meeting where somebody declared that she needed to be more selfish - but by this she meant that she might occasionally have to say no to doing other people's work, if that meant that her own would suffer, or that she would have to work all weekend to accomplish it.  I did have the temerity to suggest that 'selfish' was not quite the right word in that context.

But the contrast set me thinking about selfishness. It is all the vogue, in many coaching circles, to encourage people to put themselves and their goals first, in pursuit of organisational or professional success. But the people who I know who have taken that approach to its limit, and achieved real success, often seem to regret it: the price is sometimes too high. And some of the ones who don't regret it seem to me to be deluding themselves.

Yet on the other hand, I repeatedly meet people, like the woman in the meeting the other day, who for fear of being 'selfish,' end up being so helpful and accommodating to others that their own work suffers, and eventually, they wind up stressed and unwell - which, of course, is not good for them, those they love or those they work with.

I think it is one of those tensions we have to live with: that tension between looking after ourselves and our own interests sufficiently that we maintain our health and (emotional and psychological) wellbeing; and giving sufficient attention to others and their interests. But it is easier to see when it is out of kilter in someone else than in oneself. Perhaps that's one reason why people find coaches helpful, to help them reflect on that balance - but maybe not the coaches who charge eye-wateringly high amounts of money for their coaching.

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