We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. – Kurt Vonnegut

Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self indulgence. – Tom Robbins

Last year I worked with a client who wanted clarity about her future, focusing particularly on her career. She saw her choices as “stay in the same type of job, seek promotion or have a baby”.
We worked through these options and although she said that she found the coaching useful, she always seemed half-hearted and shied away from any kind of stretch. At the end of the coaching programme (by which time she was pregnant) we reviewed our work together. She said that whilst she had enjoyed the experience and raised her self awareness in the process, she felt uncomfortable about coaching. She felt that it was self indulgent.

It was an Aha! moment for me. It explained the behaviour I had observed during our coaching work together, but I had never really got to the bottom of.

A dictionary definition of self indulgence is the act or an instance of allowing yourself to have
or do things you enjoy very much, but which are not essential eg “a bit of self indulgence never did anyone any harm”, “going to the movies is one of my big self indulgences”, which fits with the quote above from Angelina Jolie.

Maybe the definition that my client was giving meaning to lies more with the synonyms I found, like extravagance, excess, self gratification or intemperance.

Tim Gallwey, author of the Inner Game books, describes potential using this equation:
Potential = Performance – Interference

Interference, which affects your performance and therefore limits your potential, shows up in different forms such as lack of clarity or confidence, self sabotage, fear of taking action or concern about how you will be perceived by others.

What does it cost you not to fulfil your potential? Unrealised dreams, regrets, “if onlys”, selling yourself short, lack of fulfilment all find a way of diminishing your perception of yourself and your impact in the world.

Twenty years ago, after spending time volunteering at her children’s school, a good friend of mine was considering retraining as a teacher (potential). She is a selfless person who always puts other people before herself and her own needs. After thinking about it for a while she chose not to do so (performance). Her reasons (interference) included the impact on her family life, her husband’s opinion, she was too old to change career. She experienced a period of depression shortly afterwards, which may or not be connected to her decision, yet with hindsight seems rather a coincidence.

I asked her recently what she now thought of that decision. I was surprised how vehemently she expressed her regret of the opportunity she had denied herself.

And that’s where coaching can serve you well – by reducing the interference. Rather than self indulgence, it’s self investment.

Doing something in your life that fits with your desires, your goals and your ambitions brings happiness and fulfilment. Whilst you may not realise your ultimate dream if you don’t take even small steps to explore your potential you face a life ruminating over missed opportunities and regret. If you deny yourself the opportunities you most want, you never discover what you’re capable of.

Investment in yourself always pays off in terms of your performance – and gives you the opportunity to follow your path and fulfil your potential (whether it’s the one you always envisaged… or not). Surely that’s what everyone wants for themselves? “

Hilary Jeanes is Director of PurpleLine Consulting Limited, a consultancy which helps organisations realise the potential of their people.

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