Lynn Schoener 
July 11th, 2013 
Lynn Schoener
As a
coach and consultant to organizations in transition, I work with leaders to develop coaching cultures and  improve employee satisfaction, team performance, and engagement.  My coaching work with individuals is designed to help them through...Read More

Competing Commitment/Big Assumption:

Martian Amused & Confused


Thank you for your responses to the question I posed in the last coachNote. I asked you to think about what your Martian would report as your true purpose, your actual mission, based on the facts in evidence. It's tricky, isn't it, to get to the truth? Let's rejoin my Martian as he concludes his report:

"The apparent mission of this middle-aged earthling," reasoned my Martian, "is to function as a librarian, e-mail archivist, and curator of a vast greeting card inventory. Although her stated purpose is to provide informational and emotional support to other humans in her database, my observations clearly indicate a stronger desire to collect rather than to distribute. Curiously, despite her discussion of "decluttering" intentions on a daily basis, there is no evidence to support that this human has, or will, initiate any action related to what she claims is a goal."

My conscious commitment is to decluttering. I believe it, I declare it, and I defend it when people question my sincerity. It isn't a "should" that someone else has imposed on me. I am acutely aware of the price I pay to remain in this morass of information. I can envision a number of compelling benefits to paring down the files and stacks. So what's the problem?

The problem is my unconscious and Competing Commitment to a vision I hold of what a perfect coach would be and do for people. In that vision, I provide exactly what someone needs to have an "a-ha," at the very moment they need it: an inspirational quote, a spot-on article that instantly solves their problem, an encouraging card that feels tailor-made for them. In my fantasy, they marvel at my insight, empathy, and resourcefulness. In the acknowledgement section of their memoirs, I am hailed as the proverbial "wind beneath their wings."

What fuels this grandiose vision? An inflated ego? A power complex? What is behind my need to be "the answer"?

Fear. Fear, hiding behind the skirts of a Big Assumption: that my value is attached to what information I can provide, not to who I am. If I am not experienced as smart and caring, a valued resource with a treasure trove of helpful, timely tips, then I assume that I will not be needed. And if I'm not needed, then I'm inches away from being marginalized and rejected. If I throw things out, am I setting myself up to be thrown out? I am putting my very purpose in jeopardy. And if my purpose, my supposed reason for being is irrelevant, then why am I here?

If this sounds dramatic, trust me, I have coached hundreds of successful, well-adjusted people who report similar versions of my Big Assumption. When we trace their actions back to their Competing Commitment, and uproot the Big Assumption that festers underneath it, a deeply buried fear of change thrives. The "I am not enough" assumption, untested, will trump any efforts to do or be different.

To help a coachee break through to change, their Big Assumption must be revealed, spoken aloud, and reality tested. In my case, all the decluttering strategies in the world will fall flat if I can't first clearly see my Competing Commitment to, well, clutter. Until I can consciously challenge my own beliefs about how clutter adds value, and how I've connected it to my mission and purpose, I will stay stuck.

Will I really be seen as stupid, careless, and uncaring if I can't provide the perfect piece of data? If I am seen as less than helpful by some people, will it ruin me? And if I am, in truth, not as smart or caring as I'd like to think, will I be banished from the kingdom? The executive center of my brain says "No, no, no," but my limbic system says, "Yes, absolutely, without a doubt--so don't make a move!" So it is not enough just to challenge my beliefs by hosting an internal dialogue--I have to make a move and experience what happens.

As I test my Big Assumption in small ways, I am realizing that nobody counts on me to send them awesome articles, earth-moving e-mails, or frame-worthy cards. My experiments with self-reliance--not reliance on hoards of resources to shore up my worth--are proving that people want my presence, not my old PowerPoint presentations or white papers. I am slowly getting it, as I release more and more stuff, that my crazy vision of being the "go-to" gal has a better chance of happening when I operate from a decluttered state. Since I usually can't find the gems I've collected, they don't get shared anyway! I can hear you thinking, "Duhhhh!!" but my psyche is screaming, "Who knew?!"

What is the Big Assumption underlying your actions--those actions you take which are in direct conflict with what you say you want? What do you worry will happen if you do the opposite of what you habitually do? How could you test your Big Assumption? In the next coachNote I'll formally introduce you to the process my Martian and I have been referencing--a powerful coaching approach known as "Immunity to Change."

All for now...I'm back to the stacks! 



Copyright 2013 by Lynn Schoener



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