This is the time of year when many of us (myself included) reflect back on the year behind us, and think about how we can have a better year ahead. As most of you know, I am an inveterate maker of goals and intentions at the beginning of a new year (or any new venture, for that matter). So, it was with interest that I read a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece by Timothy Wilson (a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who conducts research on self-knowledge and happiness) that argues that naval gazing is not all it is cracked up to be.
According to the article, a growing body of research suggests that too much analysis can actually confuse people about how they really feel. Trying to “explain the unexplainable” by analyzing it can often make things worse. In one study, people who relied on gut reactions were found to do a better job of predicting the outcome of their relationships than those who relied on analyzing the specifics of the relationship. Self-reflection, according to Yale researchers, can even be damaging when we are already feeling down on ourselves. The best antidote appears to be taking positive action and practicing those attributes that we seek in ourselves, not just thinking about them.
So, what does this have to do with our coaching work? I believe that part of my responsibility to my clients is to help you balance introspection with action. I may encourage you to also listen to your intuition when making a decision, if you normally reach for the calculator. I may challenge you to act more like the person you want to be, rather than getting stuck in analyzing who you are (or are not). We may sometimes talk of feelings and not just facts. But throughout my intention is to help you to move forward towards whatever goal you have declared for yourself, by being who you instinctively know you can be, and acting accordingly. Imagine what a remarkable year 2006 will be when the energy we spend in analysis is transformed into actions.
With all best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
Sharon Keys Seal