top of page
  • Sara Johnson

The rules we make, the rules we break

The tension between what is possible and what is here now has always fascinated me.

As a coach I think about my role to amplify what clients want for themselves – what might be on the other side of what currently feels impossible – while simultaneously honoring the barriers and big feelings including fear, doubt, and scarcity that often pop up when we are in the process of changing.

As a coach I often ask myself: How can I support this human towards believing in what they want without gaslighting or diminishing what is keeping them from it? This is an interesting dance: to empower and stoke the fires of self-belief while also validating what's getting in the way.

In fact it’s often when someone gets most clear on what they want that resistance shows up stronger and louder. The precipice of change can, naturally, bring up a self-preservation and protective instinct. The voice inside might sound like: I better maintain the status quo even if it’s not quite working for me anymore!

Things that are no longer working for us did work for us at some point. Staying away from a sharp right/wrong binary is important to me as a coach and I am curious about the question: What about this thing that is no longer working does support or has at some point supported you? Beyond the comfort and familiarity of the things we want to change (about ourselves or our circumstances), there are valid reasons we made those choices for ourselves. I’m really starting to wonder if it’s only by overcoming the alluring binary of wrong and right that we start to move ourselves into bravery, experimentation, and willingness to move towards change.

When we are clear about what needs shifting it can be supportive to give the desired shift some tangible shape and detail. One coaching exercise that is easy and accessible for this purpose – and that also makes a fantastic self-coaching practice – is getting super clear on your YES and NO.

Phrased as questions:

For this change to become real, what do you have to say yes to?

For this change to become real, what do you have to say no to?

Many folks seem to be talking about the theme of this month being NOvember – which makes me smile and clap in a stereotypically life coach way 😅 – but let’s not forget that every NO leads to a powerful YES and that every YES requires a brave NO. They need each other! Making room for both yes and no is a transformative practice. (I accept that No-and-yes-vember does not have the same flow to it.)

As one example (for a hypothetical change):

Perhaps for this change to become real, you need to say yes to going beyond your comfort zone, yes to an earlier bedtime, yes to FOMO, yes to fear, yes to the possibility of failure, yes to being kind to yourself as you navigate change.

Perhaps for this change to become real, you need to say no to a false sense of security, no to self doubt, no to listening to everyone else’s opinion over your own, no to late night Netflix binges, no to talking about yourself in any ways other than as a beloved.

We get clear about our actions – what we do – and we get specific about how we show up in the change process – our being. Honoring doing and being acknowledges the holistic nature of transformation. And by listing yes' and no's at various scales we remember that all shifts are valid and to not overlook the impact of gradual, micro changes. Small steps are as important as huge leaps and grand gestures of change. In fact, it is often the small shifts that increase our capacity towards more. (Which – and this is a very amateur, cliff notes version – is actually the neuroscience of coaching and change: we create new neural pathways in our brain that get stronger, easier and more familiar as we practice them more!)

Also interesting to reflect that in one season of your life your YES could be what is a NO in another time of your life. This is part of why I love revisiting this exercise at different moments of discomfort and growth. Are the things I was saying yes to last year/month/week still in alignment with my values? Do I need to reexamine where my energy is flowing? No surprise here: probably the answer is yes in some ways and no in other ways.

The examination of yes and no brings us to something at the heart of Growing Home Coaching: the rules we make and the rules we break.

In coaching we question the things we haven't questioned before, the things said and unsaid that we readily accept as true, noble, and right for our lives. We are curious about what happens when we pause and examine our everyday actions and beliefs. Are there unsaid rules you’ve chosen for yourself that are no longer supporting you? Who is the author of the rules and expectations you follow (spurring the beloved coaching question: "according to who?")

My rule-breaking coaching values statement is:

Break the Rules value statement

As I reflect on my coaching values and my love of this yes-no exercise I also think of artist, educator and advocate Corita Kent’s "Ten Rules" (aka: "Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules") which I first saw in a Lettie Jane Makes newsletter. Try, experiment, trust, there are no mistakes: sweet, life-giving words! While these rules were originally written to reimagine the learning environment, it's energizing to think of our lives as a sort of classroom. Though sometimes the classroom is a playground! And that’s a fun thought too!

Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules

What are your NOvember No’s telling you about your Yes'? What are your no's and yes' telling you about what you are longing for in this season of your life?

If the little voice inside is keeping you firmly planted in the familiar and keeping what you desire just out of reach, remember:

You have permission to rewrite the rules you live by again and again.

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page