Lifting the mask

By Gareth Lewis
It’s 7 am and I’m starting the day the way I love to, getting a hit of endorphin early. Whether it’s a run or the gym, it sets me up for the day, it’s my time, time to think and plan the day.

This morning, deciding I need a change from my workout playlists I’m listening to Steven Bartletts Steven Bartlett - Entrepreneur, Speaker, Investor, BBC Dragon Podcast series, The Diary of a CEO which has been on my “listen to” list for weeks. As I listen to the first episode, I realise how much his descriptions and the dialogue he has with his guest remind me of my profession as a coach and the conversations I have with my clients.

For those of you who don’t know him, Steven is 29, at 21 having dropped out of university he founded the now listed, social media marketing agency @SocialChain, currently valued at over $600m. He has also recently become the newest dragon on the UK Dragon’s Den (the UK's version of Shark Tank for those of you reading this elsewhere in the world) a show I am without shame hooked on.

In Bartletts own words “in each episode, I sit down with some of the world’s most influential people, experts and thinkers and embark on a curiosity-driven journey to discover untold truths, unlearned lessons and important insights that will make me, and the audience’s lives more enjoyable, more successful and more fulfilled “.

It’s the focus of the conversation and the descriptions he uses that resonate with me, they show up as a parallel with the work we coaches do with our clients. In that one sentence, Steven has encapsulated what and why coaches do what they do.

Clients show up at our door with a host of goals, aspirations, challenges, and unanswered questions. Often, they’ve tried everything to advance their cause or answer their questions but failed. The promotion passes them by, sales continue to slip through their fingers, they remain paralyzed by fear every time they’re required to speak publicly, and confidence continues to allude them.

When clients contract with a coach, they extend to us an invitation to “lift the mask”—subtly, skilfully and in a safe and unjudgmental space. We help our clients understand why they are the way they are and why they behave the way they do. The journey to this understanding confronts their internal dialogues and the restricting narratives that control every aspect of their lives; the long-time written stories that hold them back. We challenge them to write a new narrative; one that creates a platform for sustained personal growth and learning. Ultimately, this new narrative,sets them on a course for “more enjoyable, more successful and more fulfilled lives”.

I’m acutely aware of how Bartlett and his guests are “lifting their masks” as I listen this morning. Theirs is a journey of joint discovery as they peel back the layers of their professional and personal experiences and explore the insights they unearth. It’s a powerful mix of personal acknowledgement and inspiration to anyone listening.

It is always true that a coach can only lead a client on a parallel journey of discovery if they have already availed themselves of the work they propose to their clients. As I listen in the gym this morning, I’m keenly aware again of my mask, of those limiting narratives that creep back into my consciousness, diluting my focus and dampening my potential. Leaving the gym and stepping out into the bright light of the winter morning, I am challenged again to create my narrative for the day, one that ushers in possibilities and action.

So now I turn my gaze to you. As you read this, I challenge you to stop for a moment, to listen again to your internal narrative. What's it telling you?

Is it forward-looking, inspiring, and propelling you towards your goals? Or is it focused on the past, limiting your growth, diluting your focus, and dampening your potential?

If that’s your story, perhaps it is time to consider lifting your mask.

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