When I was in college, I listened to an audio program that mentioned businessman and author Harvey Mackay. The program cited him as an example of someone who was very coachable because he’d often hire a coach for those areas of life where he wanted to improve. For instance, he hired a running coach to help him get better at running.
This got me thinking about how coachable I was. I decided to try hiring a coach for 6 months while still in school, someone who was part of a coaching program offered by Denis Waitley. When this offer came to me via postal mail, I thought, “Why not?”
That was a new and interesting experience for me. We had weekly 30-minute calls, which were very conversational. Usually the coach, whose name was John, would ask me for an update on my situation, and then he’d make some suggestions for what I could do to improve.
I also had to take a personality profile test as part of this program, and the results were shared with the coach and me. My results were fairly unbalanced according to the report, but I thought it was reasonably accurate.
This was during the time when I was going through college in three semesters by taking a significantly higher course load. My focus at the time was on productivity. I wanted to get better and better at that. My goals were mainly academic in nature.
My coach, however, often didn’t seem to care much about helping me in that area, perhaps because by most people’s standards, I was already highly productive. He wanted to bring more balance to my life, so his advice was often social in nature. He advised me to reach out and connect more with other people, and he gave me some tips on how to lean into that gradually.
I had a small group of friends, and I thought my social life was okay for the time I had to devote to it. I was in a bit of a bubble socially though, and I didn’t feel much desire to expand in that area. My friendships weren’t particularly deep, but I actually felt okay about that.
The coach spotted an imbalance, and in a way he was right, but I wasn’t in a position to be coached in that particular area. I did work on that area of life tremendously after I graduated, but while I was immersed in the educational funnel, working on the coach’s goal for me wasn’t a good fit. I wanted to work on my own goals that were front and center.
After six months I decided not to continue with that coach. I found that his advice in some areas was okay, but his timing was wrong for me. I think he wanted to help me create a significant breakthrough in my social life and relationships, but I wasn’t in a position to make that a reality.
The bigger issue for me, however, was his attitude towards productivity. I wanted to push myself further in developing outstanding productivity practices and habits, so I could complete my schoolwork faster and take on even more. I wanted his help in raising my standards even more. On some level I knew that my life was unbalanced, but I was actually okay with that. I was getting so much juice from pursuing goals that mattered to me.
When I released the coach, I actually went faster. I don’t think this was due to saving 30 minutes a week from not doing the coaching calls anymore. I think it was from unshackling myself from the coach’s expectations, which were lower than the demands I placed on myself. The coach anchored me to attitudes that didn’t serve me.
My final semester at college was my most productive ever. I even did the equivalent of a full-time contract work position programming computer games while taking 37 units at school (the usual is about 15 units). I’d sketch out game algorithms during slow classes. I found many more ways to be productive without burning out.
I realized that when I pushed myself to excel, other people could create social drag for me. I also recall that this was one reason that I was fairly guarded in my social life back then. I liked having a few friends to hang out with and to enjoy poker nights with. I was also active in the school’s computer club and eventually served as Vice Chair of that club. But I was hesitant to make too many friends, partly because I didn’t want to be infected by their attitudes.
Well-meaning people can slow us down if they hold us to lower standards than we wish to hold ourselves. They’ll often try to rope us back into the fold. I see this as a test from reality: Are you ready to stand up for your desires? Are you ready to develop and maintain your own standards, regardless of what other people think?
Don’t let other people’s limits infect you. If you want to go further and faster, you can do so. Expect social resistance to rise up now and then. Just poke it with a pin, and you’ll find that it deflates pretty easily.
What I found is that if I keep leaning towards my desires, even when it seems like no one else wants to go there, it does eventually attract people who align with having similar experiences. Again, it’s helpful to see this as a test from reality. If you don’t stand up for your standards, then you don’t have standards. You have sitards. 😉
Surely there are some areas of life where the standards of the people around you seem to be significantly lower than yours. A major challenge of living consciously is to continue acting in alignment with your own standards. Do your best to avoid the tendency to sink back down into the social trough – you won’t be happy if you let yourself slide.
Take a moment to remind yourself of your true personal standards. What habits and practices feel aligned to you, even though someone else might consider those standards too extreme? Are you happiest when you maintain your standards… or when you slip back down to lower standards that others can accept more easily?