So coach, how do you feed yourself?

At my first session with my new coach – Abbodi Shabi – he asked: “So Stephen, how do you feed yourself? He meant: how do I relax? How do I replenish what I need for my work and for all other aspects of my life?

A good question and I stuggled a bit to answer it. I said that I played tennis – but I am pretty competitive and always looking to do better.

I added that I play music – but that can be hard work and performing can be highly demanding.

Aboodi said that he used to go to have a Turkish spa and massage. I was about to go on holiday to Turkey so that seemed like a great opportunity to feed myself and notice what worked.

And my short list? Sit by a river with a beer on a sunny day. Read good detective stories in a hammock. Leave the Blackberry somewhere else. Listen to mellow music. Spend time on water. Laugh with someone you love. And the Turkish massage? Quite an experience but only relaxing once it stopped.

A great holiday but why does this matter? It matters for perspective: if you’re inside the vortex it’s hard to notice that you’re going round and round. It matters for presence – being able to just be where you are and do what what you’re doing. It’s about not feeling responsible – not feeling you have to do anything. This is something that many of my clients need to do more and so I had better engage with it for myself if I am to work with them.

Aboodi’s question helped me realise that things like tennis and music do feed me. Also, I get a deep satisfaction from my work that is in itself energising. But that’s not enough and reading ‘The Musician’s Way” by Gerald Klickstein while I was away showed me why. He distinguishes three types of break during musical practice: the active break (which I am good at), the diverting break (which I am ok at) and the restorative break (which I – like most people – need to do more). I was struck by the parallel with being a coach.

This helped me see that the perspective, presence and relaxed attention that I bring to my coaching takes a special type of energy that has to be fed. So if you see me in a hammock, or having a beer by the river, I am working, honestly.