Elementary, but essential

Know-how Sharing, Leadership / Mentorship, Training

By Loredana Popasav, Transformative Coach, Mentor, Humanist, Diversity & Inclusion specialist

Loredana Popasav, Transformative Coach, Mentor, Humanist, Diversity & Inclusion specialist

There’s an old joke about the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr Watson. I am usually terrible at remembering jokes, but somehow this one stayed with me:

After successfully closing a case, the famous duo takes a trip to the moors of Scotland. After a long day hiking, they find a nice spot, pitch their tent and go to sleep.

At about 3 AM, Holmes nudges Watson and asks, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?”

Watson said, “I see millions of stars.”

Holmes asks, “And, what does that tell you?”

Watson replies, “Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Horologically, it tells me that it’s about 3 AM. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes?”

“Elementary my dear Watson, someone has stolen our tent.”

I have been frequently asked how can I coach a business person without knowing about their business. How can you coach an executive team if you don’t understand their work?

The answer is that I don’t have to know. One aspect is clear – I only coach humans (Tried once with a cat, but I gave up immediately). All Humans think and experience their thinking in any given moment. This the common denominator – we experience our thinking in every given moment.

Overthinking, like in the joke above, gets us away from clarity and the simple answer in front of us. When we overthink, we also tend to overestimate our problems while underestimating our potential to solve them. I can see the issue as not specific to the work, but as specific to the quality of thinking and mental noise a person has.

One of the best things I learned from the Supercoach Michael Neill about my job is to “show up and respond to what shows up”. I recalled this recently when, at a party, some of my clients shared some anecdotes about their experiences with me. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the philosophical talks, or the deep questions that seemed to have stayed in their minds, but some very amusing questions or statements that I made at certain points. They seemed to me more like faux pas and slap on the forehead kind of moments, yet for my clients were moments when they realised something about Thought and their psychology. I will just share a couple of them.

When a gesture changes the perspective

A few months ago, I was having a chat with a client, a brilliant high executive leader. She was juggling the roles of being a mother and a leader for months already, during lockdown. The team was well, the business was going really well, despite the circumstances. Her kids and family were healthy and for the most part joyful and happy. Yet, she didn’t seem to see much of that. She was tired and had some unproductive thoughts. She felt beaten up and was questioning if she is “good enough” in any of her roles. 

That’s not what I was looking at. I was looking at a brilliant woman who was tired and overthinking. I wish I could tell you I gave her a profound philosophical speech, but actually, the words that came off my mouth were “would you please go wash your face and put some lipstick on. You are well.” After the call I was wondering if i was too dismissive of her, if I should have given her a speech, be more philosophical and helpful and I was determined to call her back in the following days.

She called me a couple of days later saying “i woke up yesterday with the same heavy mind. When I was getting myself ready I remember you and the lipstick and I decided to give it a go. The most fascinating thing happened – while I was applying the lipstick, looking at myself in the mirror, I smiled. In that moment I went quiet and I wasn’t worried anymore. I felt tired, but there wasn’t any pain. Of course I was good enough, I just needed a moment to remember that and to rest. I was driving myself crazy and it was all in my head.” 

Stop thinking, take time for your personal life

A year ago another client, another brilliant leader, was at the end of a long and challenging project, which kept her and her team working long hours for nearly half a year. Everyone was exhausted and the team behaviour wasn’t the best. They were at each other’s back and she felt like she was putting out fires everywhere. In the meantime she was worried about her teenage daughter who was having different opinions about her future academic endeavour than her mother. Her relationship with her husband wasn’t the best either. She was stressed out and she had tears in her eyes. 

I wish I could tell you I had a brilliant speech, however… what came to my mind was – “When was the last time you had sex?” She raised her eyes and looked at me half confused and half amused. “I cannot think about sex now.” She said. What I said surprised even me “do you think sex, or do you do it?” Nothing could have prepared me for her reaction, though. She started laughing and didn’t stop for a few good minutes. I had no clue what was going on, but it felt quite good. “I didn’t expect this. How did you think of that?” She asked in the end. “I have no idea. But from all you told me it looked to me like you have been through a period of high mental stress. One of the results of stress is the decreasing of libido, or inhibition of sexual desire.*” (Thanks for the knowledge dr Sapolsky) I answered. “When we are stressed we also tend to overthink and everything looks out of proportions.”

Next morning, I received a text from her “sex was amazing. I thought I have to think, but I didn’t. I know you just wanted me to stop thinking. It worked. I have some perspective now. My husband thinks you are cool.” 

When we met next she shared with me how light she felt when her mind went quiet. She wasn’t afraid or worried anymore. From that space she looked at her team and saw fear and overthinking. It didn’t surprise her anymore that everyone was fighting. No one was listening to the other person. She responded to everything with kindness and a clear head.

It took her a few weeks to get back in touch with her team and things to settle there. She regained the intimacy with her husband and their relationship got even better. Then she realised that what her daughter was aiming for was brave, bold and very smart. Just a different “academic” future. As she pointed out to me “everything looks different and new and nothing is scary or dramatic.”

Instead of conclusions…

Listening to them and a few other people sharing their experiences, was both enlightening and humbling. All those moments didn’t come from my personal mind. That one is way too aware about being polite and professional. All these moments that people around me were sharing were the results of me showing up to what showed up and responding to that without fear, or my intellect.

Those interactions seemed to stay in the memory of my clients and seemed to get a penny drop. None of them thought that the lipstick, or the sex were the solutions, but they all saw their overthinking as the problem. And the little moment of mental quietness that my “outraging” questions, or statements lead to, helped them find their solution.

Clarity and perspective never seem to be more than one moment of silence away. As long as we allow ourselves that moment. 

About the author: 

Loredana Popasav is the owner of The Simplified Mind, a coaching company, where alongside her colleagues, works with private clients, clients in business and sports arenas, women organisations and NGOs by bringing pioneering approaches to mindset transformation. She is the co-organizer of the Understanding Human Mind International conference, co-founder of The Human Potential Academy, an international NGO dedicated to promote mental health and the human potential, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a teacher and a humanist. She also has over 20 years of experience in the marcomm industry, working on projects of media development, account management and new business, one of the most important positions being New Business Director at Publicis Romania.

Loredana is an experienced Associate Coach with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Negotiation, Budgeting, Mathematical Modeling, and Coaching. Strong community and social services professional with a Practitioner focused in 3 Principles from One Thought Institute.

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