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When starting a new Coaching assignment I am eager to learn what is hidden in the proverbial backpack of my Coaching client. Which past experiences have led or at least contributed to their perception of the world? You could say it is looking back – to understand why we behave the way we do today – with the intention to grow in the future. To grow as a person. Or as a leader. Or in most cases both. Especially when behaviour first seen as a strength became more or less a bad habit. I believe it is too much of our initial strength that is in fact the one thing holding us back the most.

As in why is it so important for us to win every game? Why do we need to maintain a non-stop feeling of control? Why do we want to keep everybody happy? Why don’t we delegate more? Why do we work day and night and still feel guilty when taking a “normal” lunch break? Or why do we avoid conflicts at all costs? Recognize something?

These are just a few examples of behaviours that may have brought you your success and the leadership position you are holding today. These are unfortunately also the behaviours that might eventually be holding you back to grow further as a leader (and human being) in the future. Sometimes we need to be able to lose in order to win. And the wider our span of control, the less control in fact we can have on all the details and operations. The higher our position in the organization, the less possible it is to keep everybody happy. Not delegating makes it impossible to lean back and focus on strategy. And there is simply no efficient decision making without allowing a little conflict left or right.

Read more : Identify and stop the behaviour that has been holding you back.


From past to present

We all have a backpack. Think about what’s in yours. With understanding it’s weight comes clarity and insight. As well for my Coaching client as for me. But it takes more than understanding the past to change the future. And believe me, even conscious coping strategies tend to be fought for by its owners. If we really want to make a change we simply have to “break up” with our past.

I am not saying we don’t have to acknowledge our feelings and just walk by them. Absolutely not. Unfortunately some backpacks are heavier than they should be. If there is one lesson I have learned from my own search for a healthy lifestyle, it is that we need to be kind to ourselves. There is nothing like “just do it”. It is a process. And we need to go through it. And maybe we even need the ups and downs to really decide on what is important. It takes time to heal. To forget. Or to forgive.

One of the most important things I have learned over the last years is how liberating it can be to just move into the present. No past. No future. Simply managing the moment. Nothing more. Nothing less. Reading. Painting. Sports. Horses. Music. A few examples of things that work well for me when I need to escape the overthinking. I can only encourage you to find your own exhaust valve. Simply allow yourself to lose track of time now and then. Be grateful for how your past contributed to your strenghts. Let go. And take the best version of you to the present time. Without worrying about what’s next. Take a break. And just be. Here and now.

Read here if you want to know more about living in the moment: This is it. You are already there.


The future is yours

Only when you find yourself at peace, you will be able to open yourself to new possibilities. Stress paralyzes. And if you keep doing what you always did, you will get what you always got. To free ourselves from backward thinking and focus on those things we proactively want to change, we need to consciously direct the mind to behave differently. This is key to any behavioural transformation.

Now, put your feet on your desk and take some time to look forward. What (leadership) behaviour do you want to grow? Which goals do you want to reach? What actions does it take to get there? Are you on the right track? Are your actions aligned with your values? Aligned with who you are? Or want to be? Whatever your goal or preferred area of growth, you simply can’t replace a life long coping strategy or eliminate a bad habit over night. And did I already mention how hard it is to change other peoples’ perception of you?

Read here: Perception is Reality


It takes practice. And sometimes we unintentionally do dive back into the past. If you keep doing that, find yourself a firm but fair Mentor or Coach (or both) and work towards your goal. Plan for it. Evaluate your progress. Use your Mentor or Coach as an honest and objective soundboard to shortly reflect on a specific situation (not if but) when things go wrong. What happened? When did it happen? What triggered the old behaviour? How can I do different in the future? Be specific. Ask for suggestions. How can I get better in delegating more effectively? How can I find more balance? How can I successfully manage conflicts? Whatever it is. Ask for constructive feedback on your present behaviour. And keep looking forward.

I believe we all have at least one very big fish to catch. Personal. Professional. Or both. Depending on the fish, we need other fishing gear. A different hook. Or a different boat for all that matters. Whatever your big fish, you have to build on your own strengths to get there. You are the pilot (or should I say fisherman ;-))

What are you waiting for? Get started. And enjoy!

Should you be interested in a short and FREE consult to see how executive Coaching can help you catch your own big fish, contact me. I’ll be happy to talk to you (phone, face to face or Skype).


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About the author

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself