Blog Post: Upgrading Your Life OS

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Ugh!  It has happened once again: my “new” computer cannot upgrade to the latest Apple operating system (OS).

I feel like I just got the desktop computer, but in reality, I’ve had it since 2013.  Now begins a slow decline.  From here forward, the number of apps and features my computer will not support will increase.  Right now, it’s just Garage Band that will not update without the latest OS.  Eventually, the majority of my frequently used apps will be out of date and I’ll have to buy a new computer in order to get the new OS.  I should start saving now.

My computer woes are analogous to the struggle with change many of us deal with in all areas of life, not just technology.  Sometimes we reach the end of what our current operating system can support and it’s time to adapt.

I have a client who has functioned really well as an HR manager for over a decade.  She’s very good at getting to know people in a one-on-one context, she shows genuine support, and she sincerely likes being helpful.  She’d worked her way into being very good in her role, then she was promoted.  Her new role requires her to work in group contexts, with many people she will never see face-to-face, and in ways that are less about responding to needs and more about proactively creating change.  Her old OS isn’t able to support her new context.

I have a friend who’s always been a happy-go-lucky sort, flying by the seat of his pants and putting things off until the last minute (or beyond!).  His way of operating in life was to just take things as they come, without a lot of planning.  Also, he tended to create messes that those around him had to clean up.  His OS was well-suited for his life as a bachelor who never held an “adult job”.  As he moved into a serious relationship and then got a serious job, he needed an upgrade.

As coaches, we often support clients as they go through the difficult process of upgrading their life OS.  Updating one’s life OS is a deep change, even a transformation.  The old way of approaching life just doesn’t work anymore, but the switch to a new way of seeing the world and being in the world is far more complicated than buying a new computer.  Facing the need to upgrade brings many thoughts, feelings, and questions, including:

  • I just got here. Making your way through life requires ongoing adaptation.  Like me and my “new” computer, it can feel like we just adapted to life when we are required to make another adaptation.  Parenting is a great example of this: as soon as you get used to parenting an infant, you must learn to parent a toddler.
  • How long can I hold out? The difficulty involved in updating your life OS means that most sane people resist doing so as long as they can.   As coaches, we need to remember that resistance is a reasonable response.
  • Which path of trouble will I choose? Updating is painful.  So is not updating.  When life requires an update, there is no choice that puts you on an easy path.  Whichever choice one makes, it’s a path of trouble and difficulty.  This reality can result in paralysis, which, by default results in not making the adjustment.
  • The cost is too high. Paying the price to upgrade is always “too high” until the pain of not updating makes it worth the price.  We can support our clients by exploring the costs involved in adapting and the costs involved in not adapting.  Motivation often follows on the heels of realizing the cost of not adapting is “too high.”
  • I have to pay in installments. The costs associated with upgrading one’s life OS are not felt as a once-and-done payment.  Instead, the person pays the price over time as they transition from the old way of seeing and being to the new ways.  Transition takes time, and it’s helpful to remember that the reality of ongoing costs is not a sign of having made the wrong decision.
  • Wow, this was worth it. Following a life OS upgrade, a client can often feel a sense of relief and rejuvenation.  The new OS better fits their new reality, and better supports progress and fulfillment in their new context.  Sometimes the sense of goodness is mixed with a tinge of regret at not having adapted sooner.

Life OS upgrades are not just for coaching clients, coaches also face the need to adapt.  When our old patterns of coaching no longer fit our new coaching context, it’s time for an upgrade.  My own coaching OS upgrades have included:

  • From serendipity to intentionality. For many years I coached those who sought me out or people with whom I just happened to cross paths.  I relied on serendipity and it worked, until it didn’t.  When I co-founded a coaching practice with two other partners, I had to radically re-orient myself to seeking out clients instead of coaching whoever happened to reach out to me.
  • From free-range to framework. Honestly, I still prefer doing free range coaching – coaching that starts off with “What would you like to talk about today?”  I prefer it, but my clientele is better served by coaching that’s supported by a framework and follows a prescribed flow of topics.
  • From ministry to business. Over a decade of ministry coaching, I found a certain comfort level when coaching ministry leaders.  However, as I began to take on more and more business clients, I had to adapt my OS.
  • From problems to people. I love solving problems and helping others solve problems.  Problems are tangible and it feels good to figure something out and get to a solution.  I did “okay” coaching by focusing on my clients’ problems.  Being a professional-level coach required more than an incremental improvement; I had to move from a problem OS to a person OS.  I had to coach the person, not the problem.

What OS upgrades have you seen in your clients?  What about the upgrades for you, as a coach?  Consider journaling about some of the life and coaching upgrades you’ve made, how you recognized the need to adapt, the challenges you faced in making the shift, and the payoff you experienced as a result.

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