The coaching world lost one of its most esteemed pioneers on April 28th. Sir John Whitmore blazed new trails in the business coaching arena, in addition to being an author and a racecar driver!
Much has been written about his passing in the last couple of weeks. However, I was particularly struck by Nic Askew’s soul biography of Sir John, originally created in 2005 at the very beginning of Nic’s foray into filmmaking. (See the video below.)
Sir John speaks with great clarity about our desire to be accepted by others and, therefore, our reluctance to step outside of the norm. He speaks of the bravery it takes to walk your own path. As he says right at the beginning of the six-minute film, “True happiness comes when you begin to find your own path.”
He invites the simple yet powerful question, “What am I doing this for?” as an early step in finding our own path. Being clear about why we are doing things helps us to live in integrity with ourselves and make clear choices about what defines the life that we live. Today, ethics, morality, and being authentically true to who we are and what we believe is called into question on a near daily basis. Sir John’s words about courage and strength to follow your own path feel particularly relevant right now. In the film, Nic poses the question: How courageous would you have to be to follow your own path?
Sir John says that personal acceptance by peers is perhaps the greatest driving force for many people’s choices and decisions. As a result, they strive to conform to what is considered acceptable behavior by the people they care about. This, of course, makes them quite reluctant to step outside the norm. Yet, “Stepping outside of the norm is the greatest liberation that most people can find.”
The question arises: Do you recognize when you are conforming to others’ expectations instead of living your own truth and walking your own path?
Sir John invites us to shift from living in a fear paradigm to a trust paradigm – trusting that life will unfold in front of us the way that it needs to. A fear paradigm may cause us to create a detailed plan for our future. Great planning is not necessarily a bad thing, yet it can also become a trap if we get caught up in conforming to our own plan rather than sensing, feeling, and listening to what life is offering us.
A trust paradigm, on the other hand, invites us to trust that we will be guided by the messages that we need to hear as we go along.
Sir John poses a beautiful question: What beliefs do I hold that are, in fact, beliefs and not truths? In my own experience, I have certainly found that there is an amazing life waiting for us beyond our self-limiting beliefs. Most of the time, the truth of what is available to us is far more expansive than the stories we tell about ourselves and about what is possible.
Sir John Whitmore’s closing words in the film: “I do know that if I’m still and quiet, and I listen, I will always get the answers and the way to go. I trust absolutely that that is there. The only question is: Am I listening?”
Enjoy the video.
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