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Creating our identity - the influence of coaching and technology


Creating our identity - the influence of coaching and technology

I recently read an article that was compelling and disturbing at the same time on how technology is messing with our identity and how in the future, with the rapid changes that are occurring,  it is going to be even more difficult for a person to “find themselves” than it is now.  And for many, this is a serious quest. 

It was argued that our sense of identity usually comes from many factors in our lives – what we do, what we own, who we love and care for, our various roles, our gender, sexuality, race, the way we look, what we’re good at where we were born, what we habitually do, how we measure up to others - to name a few!  Many of these are external references which suggests that our identity comes from outside and from within.  

How is technology changing this?
Social media allows us to selectively choose what how we present ourselves to the world. We can become a person that appears to be quite different perhaps from who we really are – an extrovert, a party goer, a happy, fun loving , or excessively healthy individual. You choose. Many of us believe we are posting real images of who we are – with the people we love, on special holidays, yet even this is a snapshot of a point in time when things were going well!  And creates an impression of how we want to be seen.  

Our possessions are becoming simplified with many things stored online, no need for cash any more!  Our memories are digital photos.  If we can remember where we stored them!

Virtual reality games have become so popular where the player takes on a role to play –and uses their skills to make decisions during hundreds of hours of play.  They try on an identity in a safe environment and it can become so addictively pleasurable that they might just “give up” the real world, not having to deal with messy complex things like feelings, failure and relationships that you can’t always control as easily as you can in cyberspace.  

Cosmetic surgery has become easier and cheaper and genetics is moving rapidly towards our having the ability to switch on and off certain genes that influence who we are or might become. Pharmaceutical drugs allow us to alter our brain chemistry so we can have the kind of mood that suits who we want to be.  

And then there’s our daily life spent continually online even when we’re going about our normal routine. Constant distractions, interruptions affect our ability to be present and in the moment.

HOW CAN COACHING HELP US RETAIN OR DEVELOP OUR SENSE OF SELF?
After writing the above, I then think of going into a coaching session – as coach or coachee. And everything slows down. We slip into a relaxed and calm conversation where the pace of life decreases and and atmosphere of curiosity and exploration is created. Good coaching helps us work out how we see ourselves and who we want to be.  We can explore our strengths and what we enjoy doing. (Much of our identity is determined by what we feel most valuable doing.) We can talk about what matters to us and why we think certain things are important.  We have time to explore our beliefs, both rational and irrational – work out what are still relevant with who we are today. Most of all we can take the time to think, feel and explore our individuality and question how we live and whether this life is giving us what we need.  Do we have time to relish and savour experiences, people and feelings? In the process, we hope that we can eventually work out who we really are.

Coaching in the Cloud


In our constantly evolving world of technology, we have many options of tools to use to help us achieve our health goals. Pedometers have given way to more sophisticated sensors that we can wear that will monitor our number of steps, distance traveled, our total energy expenditure and sleep. This is useful information indeed yet it has been shown that most people discard these devices after a short period of time.  What’s missing is human interaction.  

A new sophisticated system of support involves a subscription the gives the client contact with a “real” coach. It is claimed that a trained coach will be assigned to each subscriber and have live contact with them to encourage, challenge and “gently cajole” them towards improved lifestyle habits.  Now we’re getting closer to “coaching in the cloud”. This is no doubt an improvement on the original tracking devices.  And the regular messages and interaction with a person, plus one liners of support may well help. However, something is still lacking.

One of the biggest strengths of a coaching relationship, is just that – it is a relationship. And a relationship can’t be built on one line interaction.  It involves an exchange of information which can only happen when insightful and perceptive questions are asked and the answers acknowledged. When the conversation helps an individual get to know themselves better.  Motivational interviewing techniques, used to help people move through “stuckness” are subtle and complex and can’t be automated. Relationships are built on trust, empathy and rapport. These things cannot be created through a digital service in Mumbai.  

That doesn't mean that services such as the one referred to above do not have value. The value will come from increased engagement and accountability of the client and the occasional lift in mood when a message comes through,  but some things in our world cannot be found in the cloud. Positive relationships are created through time, effort, acceptance and understanding and just like a good marriage cannot be created from a few sessions of speed dating, the value of  a coach is undermined if we feel a few  digital sentences will suffice.



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