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Coaching to a New York City State of Mind

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The second thing we can do as coaches is encourage our saturated clients to focus on the experiences they have been having in their New York City State of Mind. It is very easy when saturated to feel nothing and remember nothing. The impact of any one experience is diminished when we try to experience everything. There is no relishing, no time to reflect and no place to store the memory. The neuroscientists put it this way: we have only limited memory capacity; consequently, we must be vigilant about what we retain in short term memory and miserly about what we transfer at night from short term to long term memory. As a coach, we should encourage our client to slow down and spend a bit of time dwelling on a specific event that has occurred today: what makes it special? How do you feel? What are the implications? This period of reflection is followed up one day later by a phone call from the coach to the client. What do they now remember about yesterday? They will probably remember the coaching session and even more specifically they will remember the event on which they and the coach reflected. It was stored in memory rather than discarded. The client can now begin to recognize the value of not only reflection but also prioritization. What do I want to remember from today’s events? Practitioners of positive psychology (such as Martin Seligman) recommend that we identify and reflect on one or two positive events every day just before going to sleep. We now know that these positive events are likely to be the ones we store in long-term memory. The process of prioritization is not just about selective memory. It is also about selective action. What can I cut out of my daily routine that will enable me to spend more time on the important things and allow me to reflect on and retain the rich lessons to be learned from the events associated with these important things?

There is a second option. When we are overwhelmed and saturated, we can escape. Rather than trying to do everything, we can do very little or profoundly constrain ourselves. I wrote many years ago about my experiences in Eastern Europe during the collapse of the Soviet Union.  (Bergquist and Weiss, 1994) Citizens were suddenly confronted with many choices. They often felt overwhelmed and as a result fell back into old ideologies or were vulnerable to new ideologies that simplified their world and eliminated most options. I wrote about the “escape from freedom” that was chosen by many of these Eastern European citizens. As Erik Fromm noted in his analysis of Germany after World War I (Fromm,1941) and America during the 1950s (Fromm, 1955), there is an initial joy in being “free from” repression, poverty, war, etc. But then there is a frightening realization that the next step is “free to” do what is best or what is fulfilling. And this is scary. The New York City State of Mind can have a similar impact.

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