I sit here at my local coffee shop and, admittedly, listening to a couple beside me getting to know each other. They’re talking about their struggles and successes with weight, her struggle, his success. She just finished sharing how she had just signed up for a workout class and, after watching the introduction video, is afraid she’s “going to be the fat girl in the back who won’t be able to keep up”.
His response was to tell her that he has trouble remembering those days. And then went on to explain his beginnings with running and what supplements helped him, since he had a different challenge with food than she.
He missed it. In the moment she opened her closet and showed her boogieman, he responded with a story of his own. But he focused the mirror on his story, not hers. I guarantee her fears became larger, and her real need left unknown, even to herself.
As a coach, part of my job is to listen. But not just listen with a nod and “I understand” because, honestly, I probably don’t understand exactly what you’re going through. But you do. And that’s what matters. Listening, real listening, is about having another reflect back to you your own voice, so you can hear your truth.
So often, we reach out to another, and, with the best of intentions, they tell us what they think we should do based on the research, experts, or their own dogma. Sometimes, they question our path and choices, voicing our own fears aloud (and theirs), and we walk away more confused and discouraged than when we first sat down.
The interesting thing about the heart is it can be hard to hear when the voices in our head, or from other people, get in its way. Its whisper is difficult to hear over the din of fear’s shouting. What am I going to do? How am I going to handle this? I need to decide this NOW! And, God forbid, what if I never find that love, gain the success, lose the weight, get the right job, know my purpose? …You fill in the blank.
To be truly helpful, we will find someone who will listen and reflect back what they hear in our voice and not their own. Because something magical happens when any of us have a blessed witness in our life – we get answers. We discover our real needs and wants. It may not be the final answer we’d hoped for, but it is the answer we need in this moment.
I tell my clients, “This is simply the next step of your journey. That’s all you’re privileged to know at this time. If it were more, we might try to do more and take back control, and really, isn’t it our control that got us here in the first place?” I can say this because out of all the people I know, I, personally, desperately, want to know “the plan”, so I can move forward, lest I be left behind.
But I’m not given such a plan, I’m not even given a map. Instead I’m given tears, fears, walks in nature, desperate prayers, and, blessedly, grace in the form of unexpected words, unexpected friends, unexpected moments of peace, and sometimes, even unexpected clarity. The key here is the word unexpected. I didn’t create these moments, nor plan them. But it’s in these unexpected moments, I am reminded there is a plan, even if I only know my next step.
And maybe, just maybe, that is the plan. To listen to the next step. To listen with our hearts and follow what feels right and kind and true for us today, and trust that.
You’re right on track.
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