Resilience – the word that is most searched & talked about in the last 18 months or so. Abraham Lincoln said, “It’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up”. The pandemic has not spared any individual or organization. Nevertheless, success narratives have emerged while people grew stronger (antifragility in action)

Courtesy of the ICF Coaching Conclave 2021, India, I got a chance to listen to the stellar thought leaders from the Coaching & Personal Development fraternity. One such session was by Dr. Srikumar Rao, CEO, The Rao Institute. He has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and executives achieve a Quantum breakthrough, reaching new orbits of success and rediscovering joy in life. Dr. Rao is a sought-after coach for persons seeking spiritual growth.

Coach – A Friend, Philosopher, and a Guide

I liked the way Dr. Rao announced that he has a different approach towards coaching rather than the conventional way of identifying the key traits in a person and coaching them accordingly. He believes in the concept of “Coach as a Friend, Philosopher, and Guide”. He recollects the relation between Alexander and Aristotle. While Alexander was a wilful child his father did not know how to deal with him. Aristotle was called upon and was requested to help Alexander. Aristotle did not teach him what was to be done to be a better king, he did not tutor him on the nuances of warfare or lecture him on politics. Instead, he spoke of humor, poetry, the meaning of life. At the end of the year, Alexander achieved all that we have heard of. Similarly, Dr. Rao believes in helping a person in creating an outlook that raises his consciousness rather than coaching him in a particular skill.

One thought that seeped deep into my consciousness was that

Internal problems cannot be solved by external actions.

Such a powerful thought! We see this manifesting every day in our mundane lives where individuals are battling to control the external actions while the problem is deeper, it’s internal. Coaching helps to treat the root cause (internal) than providing a bandaid to the symptoms alone.

Flashlight of Awareness

Dr. Rao points out an interesting concept of what he calls, “Flashlight of Awareness”. When we consider our life, we focus this flashlight on what we think are problems in our lives. Since we have focused the flashlight of awareness on them, they gather our attention and emotional energy. Instead, we must shift the focus onto many beautiful things in life and we eventually get to the emotional state of gratitude and appreciation. 

Dr. Rao narrated an enlightening story whose moral was that, when some incident occurs in our life, we do not know whether it was for good or bad. Only with the passage of time, will we know the real reason for its occurrence. When this kind of attitude is developed, “We move from the realm of despair to the realm of gratitude”.

“No incident is Good-Bad unless we put a label on it. The label we ascribe to the incident defines the nature of the incident.”

He emphasizes while we strive to be the best in various roles that we play in our life, we become better individuals. While a person is helping another, in the process the person is working on himself as well. 

He elucidated that Coaching works on two levels.

(1) First at a relatively superficial level, where we try experimenting with new methods and go ahead.

(2) Second at the subliminal level, where the presence of the coach itself has an impact upon the person being coached.

Generally, coachees tend to relapse to their way of thinking. Therefore, there is a need to change their outlook and not merely coach them.

Dr. Rao advocates extreme resilience, where we bounce back very quickly from adversity. The pace should be such that others who observe might not even know we suffered an adverse event.

Emotional Goal Setting

Often we set goals, try hard to achieve them and we succeed. There are also instances where we fail. He suggests that we set an ambitious goal and ‘just forget about it.’ The benefit of setting a goal is to establish a direction. Once the direction is established, do not think about the goal. Instead, we need to pour all of our emotional energy into finding the way to meet the goal while we focus the flashlight of awareness on the main task. When this is done, irrespective of whether we achieve the goal, we fully enjoy the journey towards the goal. In simple words, “Invest in the process and not in the outcome” that is not in our control. The benefit of setting a goal and trying to achieve the goal is the learning and growth that happens to us and in us as we try our level best. If we could achieve the goal, it’s a bonus. But if we fail, the learning and growth have already happened. Dr. Rao reiterates the words of a basketball coach, John Wooden, which he often told players to ask themselves at the end of the match, “Did I do the best that I was capable of? If yes, the results don’t matter”. This, Dr. Rao, says is the perfect articulation of investing in the process and not the goal.

How much time does the mountaineer stay at the summit after scaling it? It’s always about the journey, and what we become during the journey.

The second speaker in this session was Miss Aparna Kumar, IPS, DIG, Dehradun. She comes with considerable experience and achievement as a successful women police officer and Indian IPS officer. She is a passionate mountaineer. She has scaled several mountain peaks around the world. She holds several titles and awards for bravery.

As a mountaineer, she explained that life is like a mountain. We go up, reach the top, come down, set a new goal, and start the journey again. The mountains are not only covered with rocks and snow but also dreams and desires. She translates “Where there is a will, there is a way” into “If there is a way, I’ll find a way; if there is no way, I’ll create one”. There is always a way when one is committed.

She compares 3 basic rules of mountaineering to life.

It is farther than it looks
It is taller than it looks.
It is harder than it looks.
This is life in a nutshell. Life is hard, life is tough, life is unfair.
Miss Aparna shared how she was initiated into mountaineering and her training experience while fulfilling her duties as an IPS officer. She narrated many incidents from her life attempting to climb various mountains and Mount Everest as well. In many instances, she had to trek with people who were younger than her. She stresses, “We are as young as we feel”. Age should not limit our potential or willingness to learn, as she feels age should not be considered as a reason for not growing. She believes that success is driven by the mindset of an individual.
“Failure is not a crime, lack of effort is”. To be successful, we need to train ourselves to handle failure, pain, crisis. She inquires for herself, “What stops me from doing what I want to?” She says we need to break the barriers and shatter those self-limiting thoughts which hold us back. We need to have faith so that we can beat our self-doubt. She says we need to expect changes, uncertainties because we are bound to come across them. Moreover, we need to accept and adapt to the situation, which helps in overcoming with a pragmatic approach and confidence.
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