Replacing Should with Good

August 10, 2022

By Allison Iantosca

There is no shortage of conversation on burnout these days. Even our own Boston Executive Coaches Blog has taken to writing about varieties of burn out, acknowledging the continued requirement to carry the weight of a world that simply can’t seem to calm itself down.

The horizon is filled with headlines of inflation, recession, pandemic, and unsettling impacts to the basics of our human spirit.

Alas. We need a day off, eh?

In a recent coaching session, a client and I got to riffing off this idea of temporary weightlessness from her busy world. What would it be like to relax the grinding gears deep inside her gut? The twenty-four-hour churning; deposits of worry compounding into only a deeper sense of tortured anxiety.

We played around with the times we have felt free – like the sense of freedom reminiscent of handing in the final paper on the last day of the college semester. Done. Complete. With three weeks before anything else will get piled back on the plate. An innate sense of downtime, comfort, and relief.

“What is this churning doing for you?” I softly inquired. “Is it helping you somehow?”

What a thought for me to bring up – that feelings or behavior that we don’t like and don’t want are somehow… helpful?

“NO!” she said without a pause. “It’s not helping me at all! I should get rid of it!”

And I didn’t disagree. But I did ask her to sit with it for a few more minutes and, in fact to allow it to actually envelop her, in all its goodness.

I know. Wait. What? It’s good?!

Here’s the deal. In our normal every day, we don’t tend to do things that aren’t “useful” to us. We are energetically evolved enough as a species to not waste time, or in fact, even bother to think about an act or behavior that doesn’t serve an in the moment need. This is good news. First, it’s terribly efficient in our busy lives and second, it offers a wonderful threshold to explore ways we might change.

With this in mind, I asked my client again if she would stand on that threshold with me.

“Are you willing to explore how your churning may be of use to you?”

Yes, she was willing, and after a few moments of quiet breathing, she said:

“It keeps me going. I’m afraid if I am not pushing myself, I will fall behind. I’m afraid if I stop or sit still, I will be forgotten. And besides, my workplace praises hard work and long hours. I might lose my chance at promotion.”

“That sounds pretty useful” I offered.

“It sure does” she said softly.

In a time of constant change and upheaval, she realized, her churning pushed her survival and sense of a belonging. It told her how to behave and maintain a foothold in a shifting landscape. It was there to, actually, care for her. And this sense of care allowed her relationship with her churning to soften, her stomach to unclench, her body to feel free of stress for a moment.

In our following sessions we were able to explore what parts of churning supported her and what parts she might release. We laughed a bit at its impetuousness, how readily it took over, and she agreed with experimenting to notice its telltale triggers. She began to live in acceptance of its presence; it almost felt like a day off.

We even pretended it was the final paper she could choose to hand in whenever she wanted to, releasing her into a mid-semester break.

Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.

*Photo Credit Mauro Tandoi                                                                     

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