Marilyn Atkinson is the Founder of Erickson Coaching International and originator of the Solution-Focused Coaching methodology. A former Registered Organizational Psychologist, Marilyn is an NLP Master Trainer and specialist in Ericksonian Communications. Since 1980s she has been helping leading global companies and leaders through Solution- Focused and Outcome-Oriented Coaching. Marilyn has authored eight books, including The Art & Science of Coaching trilogy (Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Step-by-Step Coaching & The Flow of Coaching).
Solution-Focused Coaching, Free Will and ‘Conscious Mind’ Habits
Why do human beings need Solution-Focused Coaches in the 21st Century?
To answer this question, we need to look at the habits we have built through our language patterns that completely disable our free will. Stay with me for 10 minutes of reading and I will attempt to summarize the importance of coaching to us now. Humanity stands on a cusp. We either develop our potential with free will, or we do not. Solution-Focused coaching today can make a huge difference.
Learn how Solution-Focused coaching skills empower you to create transformational change in yourself and others.
Complex language might be defined as languages of several hundred thousand words or more, organized around a sentence structure based on questions and answers. It is also only several hundred thousand years old, at best. There is evidence that we built our first ancient language structures through singing questions to each other across the vast African plains as a way to keep connected during the hunt.
What is the furniture in our linguistic homes? At first, language was mostly open and positive. Why did this change?
We don’t know exactly when closed ‘negatives’ were added into basic language structure as the key aspect that ‘hardened’ language, but is likely only about 15 thousand years old at best, starting when we emerged from hunting and gathering social systems. The use of negatives, such as no, can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t supports control from the top, an important part of agrarian cultures. Strong, top-down, no you can’t rules over disbursement of crops allowed prevention of famine. The grain needed protection so that these more complex cultures could survive.
Language has always been a critical human tool to express intentionality. That is why we developed it. What do we want? How might we achieve that? Why is it important to us? How will we know if we have our result? Our personal intentions get expressed through verbal declarations.
Language is also our critical tool for expressing relationship and culture. Who are we to each other and with each other? Why are we important to each other? Why is that important? How are we willing to maintain that support, and/or do that? What specifically? Where and When? Relationship from group to group is what we have been gradually growing over a long spiral of cultural development, over 200,000 years. Our social contract is expressed through verbal declarations.
These two areas of declarations are the critical domains of consciousness we humans call free will. We bristle at the thought of losing it. We build our ‘identities’ around it. We treat it as ‘our world’, more real than the ground we stand on, and the planet itself. Our ‘identities’ have other areas we need to factor in, however.
Our linguistic channel, only new, is now developed into 6500 languages on 6 continents. This ties to a species-wide attention span organization that tends to be narrowly focused. Our ‘conscious’ attention range, the area of linguistic focus, tied tightly to our current system, is like the periscope on a submarine. Four to seven ‘chunks’ of viable ‘focus’ at one time is what we have at best. With a cup of coffee. And with stress, two. We have all had a ‘two chunk day,’ hardly able to attend to much, at some time in our life!
Yes, we have the ability to move our attention around to different sectors of our life’s spaces. Like the submarine’s periscope, we have a wide range of potential focus. The periscope can actually move around 360 degrees of vast ‘ocean area’ and can look high and wide! Notice how we insist on that? We ‘hold on’ to that knowledge as our belief in free will.
Habitually, in fact, we become prisoners. We focus only on our already well parsed ‘areas of concern’. We look out into a world based on our regularized habits. We move the periscope of attention, already small, into the tiny range of our personal interests and our comfort zone. We don’t notice what we habitually don’t notice, and, frankly, on some level, people mostly like it that way. This is because of the conscious mind itself. It is only when we hit urgent and important that our interest in personal change opens.
The aim of the conscious mind is often simply routine just to get through the day in the normal way. The conscious mind is like a doorway, or like the screen on your cellphone. You get used to it. All the small icons are there in their regular spots, the same as always. You only open a few. The rest becomes the ‘same old backdrop.’
If we are going to get moving towards a creative idea, we need to move to fresh areas. This means to open the relevant thumbnails of consciousness. Otherwise, we only see the already known, our normalized basic screen, our routine everyday discursive conscious mind framework. To keep things extra simple (same old), the conscious mind often focuses to keep ‘what’s next’ consistent. Consciousness then orients around the ongoing process of attempting to take control and regularize everyday routines.
The conscious mind tends to be judgmental and to keep vigilant around already formed judgements. It is a true believer because it links its established field of judgements into its normalized field of safety. It usually focuses on noticing what is missing. Because our judgements can easily be challenged by others, it tends to be tense and stopped. This disables curiosity. For the purpose of sameness, the conscious mind also disables overview.
What else? It disables bridging. It disables debriefing. It may see others mainly as objects to impress or control. Also, when we are only focused on safety, we disable our tonal range and our relaxed rhythm. For the purpose of keeping things simple and in control, it looks for conclusions so it can make judgements. It may tend to ask no questions or closed questions. It may ask fear-based ‘red light’ questions: “Is it safe enough to be myself?” It is always checking what is the point?
Notice if this is familiar? Examine inward.
Why is Solution-Focused Erickson Coaching so relevant here? The skills of solution-focused coaching have been designed to work exactly and systematically with our linguistic abilities to expand the range of our conscious focus, and this opens up our world! We don’t just say to ourselves that “we can do ’such and such’ if we wish”, which is actually a ‘free will’ lie. With a real solution-focused open-ended conversation aimed at our deepest concerns, the range of the periscope truly moves to 360 degrees!
We now can factor in the power of all areas of our brain with 86 to 100 billion neurons, the number of stars in our galaxy. This provides 10 to the power of 15 connections with every thought that we think! Our periscope becomes truly useful. We can focus in on our tipping point creative areas, discoveries, and next steps. We are empowered!
Solution-Focused Coaches and potential Coaches. I am talking to You.
Humanity is currently at its darkest hour. 7 and ½ billion ‘comfort zone’ habit systems are currently colliding on one small blue planet. Get a coach for yourself. Get a team for yourself. Sell your skills powerfully to those who need and want coaching. Sell Erickson Coaching into every company who can assist us all to thrive in the strange new post-covid world, our new frontier. Let us make Humanity’s future, and our huge human potential available now!