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Taking the Plunge – or not!

As a coachee or supervisee we can think we are ready to take a metaphorical plunge into a professional or personal issue with our coach or supervisor. We may even arrive in the session with great intention. And then find the water is just too cold and painfully uncomfortable to take the next step. Remembering a cold morning swim, Doug explores how we can create the right conditions for us to ‘take the plunge’.

Doug Montgomery
15th October 2020

A few weeks ago I found myself standing waist deep in a beautiful fresh water swimming pond – it was very cold, in fact it was bitterly cold, and I had volunteered to go for a morning swim before our retreat day started.

What seemed like a great idea the evening before over a glass of red, now seemed deeply uncomfortable and even dangerous. My fellow swimmer, Rachel, was already in and swimming, and the rest of our small band of intrepid volunteers were getting into the water.   

To swim or not to swim?

My ego was screaming… “don’t wimp out now!”  “A real man would be swimming by now!” “What will others think if you get out without getting under the water?” 

However, what I did was to tell Rachel and the others that I’d had enough for today and got out, dried off and walked back to my room with a sense of achievement. I’d gone into the water, I’d not been able to get my breathing settled in the cold water, I’d decided that I was not ready to go further, and I’d found the courage to get out of the water.  It was still an exhilarating feeling and my skin tingled from the cold. 

My ego was screaming… “don’t wimp out now!”

Why am I sharing this with you?   As a coach or a coach supervisor it is easy to get ahead of our clients, to have great ideas of how we can create a great experience and make a marvellous difference for them.   We can have lots of great plans and ideas.

As a coachee or supervisee we can think we are ready to take a metaphorical plunge into a professional or personal issue with our coach or supervisor. We may even arrive in the session with great intention… And then find the water is just too cold and painfully uncomfortable to take the next step.

It is so important to create the conditions in which our clients can pause and, in the moment, decide whether to proceed and which path to go down. And we need to be alongside them, non-judgemental, encouraging their autonomy and supporting their choices.

It is so important to create the conditions in which our clients can pause and, in the moment, decide whether to proceed and which path to go down.

Co-creating the safe, trusting, non-judgemental container for coaching and supervision clients is the foundation for our Coach Supervision, HR Super-Vision groups and Leaders’ Pause and Reflection Super-Vision groups. Contact us to learn more.

To complete the story… the next day we went to the pond again and I got in again and this time swam in its fresh clear and still cold water.   The safety of my group of friends holding no judgement of me the previous day, the new familiarity of being in the water and on the brink of swimming, and knowing it was my choice all allowed me to get my breathing under control and take the plunge.

Wow, it was exhilarating!

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