Many coaching clients come to me feeling stuck.
Maybe they’re not satisfied in their career, or they’re not satisfied with their relationships. They may feel stuck around the issues of weight loss and health, or money or their lack of spiritual connection with God.
They may feel stuck being single, like a label they never asked for and can’t seem to escape. But no matter what the “surface issue” is, all of these clients share one common trait: They’ve stopped being genuinely curious about their situation … or themselves.
That’s not to say they don’t ask a lot of questions. Why is this happening? What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? How do I solve this? When will this madness end? But these sorts of questions don’t come from curiosity so much as from frustration, anger, bitterness, fear and doubt. It’s not like they’re genuinely curious about what’s really going on in their hearts and lives; they just want the struggle to go away.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. But as you’ve probably experienced, “I just want it to go away” is not a very powerful or effective perspective for overcoming much of anything. It’s sort of like trying to get rid of chronic back pain just by angrily wishing it were gone. That’s why curiosity is such a powerful tool, because it allows you to examine the “stuck” places in your life in ways that frustration and anger cannot see.
But just don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Think about an area of your life where you currently feel stuck or unsatisfied. Now, instead of slipping into that comfortable jacket of frustration or confusion you usually wear when you think about this struggle, put on the jacket of a curious observer — like the white jacket of a research scientist, perhaps. Look at your situation as if you were observing it from a neutral place of curiosity. What do you see from this perspective that you didn’t see before? What questions come up for you here that you hadn’t previously considered?
When I approach a client’s struggle from this curious place, here are some of the questions I often find myself asking:
What are you telling yourself about this struggle?
Why do you suppose this struggle is such a big deal in your life?
If this struggle really did go away, what do you imagine you would have that you don’t have now?
What’s the deep truth here?
What is this struggle asking you to let go of?
What is this struggle asking you to say yes to?
What will you do?
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul admonishes Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” I believe a part of being “watchful” is to stay curious about yourself. Make a habit of being your own observer — notice how you respond to the events and seasons of your life. What are those responses telling you about your beliefs, your passions, your needs and desires?
And when you feel stuck, go ahead and get angry if you want. But then, get curious. Question. Ponder. Be the neutral, curious observer of your own situation. You’ll find it’s a powerful way not just to understand your struggles, but to move past them.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning,” wrote Albert Einstein. “Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
Well said, Albert. But I would add, let that “holy curiosity” encompass not only the world around you, but also your own heart. Stay curious about yourself.
Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally certified through the Coaches Training Institute, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life—to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at www.michaelwarden.com.