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Being ready to make the change you want: the importance of timing

By Lucinda Shaw, transformational coach.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

I’ve long held the view that timing is a critical factor in the success or failure of a relationship. You can be with the right person, in love and having a wonderful time and yet, if the time isn’t right, it may well not work.

I‘ve been with my husband for over 20 years but our story didn’t start 18 months before we got married. It started eight years earlier when we embarked on a heady relationship, full of love and romance and fun. Which I ended after two years. Why? Because this was in Italy, I was young and ambitious and couldn’t get a career off the ground there and it wasn’t the right time for him to move to the UK.

It happily worked out in the end, but it was a tough and painful lesson in the importance of timing.

I reflect on this a lot as I work with coaching clients who bring varying degrees of commitment and think that often, again, it’s down to timing.

Some people I work with are completely open, engaged and eager to do the work. The time is right. They know or identify with me what they want to achieve, and are prepared for whatever comes up along the way.

Coaching can be deep psychological work. It can bring up strong emotions, fears that have been well hidden and pain that needs to be looked at. It can also enable people to identify links with their past, understand the story that still plays out in their head but is no longer useful and, crucially, rewrite a new, true narrative that will serve them so much better as they look forward.

Some people start the work at the point in their lives when it feels necessary, they know they want to make change and they know that the moment is now. They trust the relationship with me, they trust the process and they get huge rewards for their investment of time, energy and money.

A few weeks ago, towards the end of her first session, I asked a client what she was taking from the session and she explained what had changed and how she now wanted to show up at work, saying: ‘Something shifted in my heart and in my head’.

She had been ready for whatever it took to start making the change she needed and she journeyed far.

Other people don’t know why the time is right, just that something is wrong.

I’m currently working with someone who I coached some years ago and who pops back every so often when she wants to grapple with something. She thought the issue this time was her negative attitude at work, and to an extent it is, but after 30 minutes she mentioned a painful family situation. We moved our focus there for a moment and suddenly this became the overwhelming stuff that she realised was demanding her attention.

She understood that this was dominating and affecting everything while lurking in a place called ‘I’ll just put this over there and pretend it doesn’t exist’. She was then able to admit her truth: that certain relationships needed to be renegotiated because she could no longer be the person she was expected to be.

Timing. So crucial. You may not be able to immediately answer the question I often ask, ‘What makes this important to you now?’ but deep down you know you have to look and deal with what you’ve been ignoring.

And then there are people who think they want and need coaching, but it becomes clear the time isn’t right to do the work and the coaching remains on an unsatisfying transactional level. Those clients walk away with a shrug and a ‘Meh, that was ok’ and nothing changes.

A few months ago I worked with a young CEO of a large global company based in America who was experiencing serious health issues that saw him regularly needing emergency hospital treatment.

What he said he wanted was greater balance in his life, to stop working crazy hours, spend more time with his girlfriend and, most of all, to reduce the risk to his health that petrified him. And yet I heard a myriad of reasons why it was all ok really, almost as if he hadn’t brought the issue to coaching in the first place. When I challenged him, asking when would he stop making excuses, he paused, his body visibly sagging perhaps with a sense of relief, and said, ‘You’re right. I’m kidding myself and I’ve got to change’.

Sadly, the time can’t have been right for him as he stopped the coaching soon after admitting that he wasn’t sufficiently committed to making the changes. I hope he finds his time soon.

We have a tendency to think that looking and understanding, and making the connections between feelings and behaviour, will hurt more than burying it all and pretending nothing’s there. I believe it’s the opposite: that we are liberated and renewed, and far more effective professionally, when we make the time and use it gently and wisely to explore what we want, how to get there and learn about ourselves along the way.

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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