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Shifting tensions; how a small change can make a big impact

Last week I was in Rome exploring with my son who had just finished his exams, and this week I finished a group supervision programme with the wonderful Dr Natalie Lancer. How are these two events connected?

The Pantheon in Rome still has the world's largest unreinforced concrete Dome (43m in diameter and in height) and still survives almost 2000 years after it was built. It has an oculus, an opening, at the top of the dome, through which the sun shines acting like a reverse sundial. Every year, the midday sun centres perfectly on the door of the Pantheon on Rome's birthday, 21st April. An extraordinary feat of architecture, engineering, physics, mathematics, and astronomy, all calculated to balance tensions perfectly for the dome to survive.

During our group supervision sessions with Natalie, we've been working through the 8 existential tensions she identified as part of her PhD. As we wrapped up in our final session this week, I reflected that, like the extraordinary Pantheon, built to withstand seismic shocks and outside forces, we are all constantly balancing our tensions. Our tensions are more complex however, as we are constantly moving, not sitting still, and therefore we are constantly having to recalculate them. Luckily we are able to vary where we sit in our tensions, depending on what the external forces are at the time. Doing so intentionally, ensures that we are moving in the direction that we want to be. Have I lost you yet? Ok, so what do we mean by an existential tension? Well to give some examples, the two tensions that have resonated the most for me and for my clients recently have been: 'Being you/Fitting in', and, 'Doing enough/Going all in'.

Have a go for yourself: where are you on the tension of 'Doing enough/Going all in'? Which of the two sides of this tension are you leaning towards most in your current way of being? Those perfectionists among us might find we tend to struggle to balance this tension. We lean too far towards 'Going all in' and it can cause us to stagnate and not make progress, or burnout. Equally, how often have you felt like you're coasting, losing drive and purpose? How different would life be if you were more intentional about where you are on this tension? What would happen if you were on the opposite side of the tension to where you are now? Where do you need to be right now? Where do you want to be?

How about the tension of 'Being you/Fitting in'? How important is it for you to be autonomous and authentic? How important is it for you to be part of a group or a system? Where are you now and where do you want to be? With all the tensions, it is of course not an either/or, but a blend of both, or it wouldn’t be a tension. After all, to truly fit in, you need to be you.

The side of the tension you lean towards most will depend on your situation and your preferences. I reflected in my last supervision session, that I have preferences and defaults on where I sit, but these don't necessarily serve me well in all situations. Being more intentional about where we sit in our tensions can help us to withstand any external forces, help us be more balanced, and ultimately help us to move in the direction that we want to be.

During a coaching session, we might not explicitly call out these tensions, but we will be considering them all the same. Our personal biases and preferences might blind us to the possibility of another way of being, and a coach can hold that mirror up and support you to work out where you need to be on that tension to not only thrive, but also to be intentional about the direction you're travelling in.

Just as one small miscalculation could be a disaster in architecture, the opposite is also true. One small shift in thought can make a massive difference to your overall well being and the impact you can make on the world. As I often say in my coaching sessions, small hinges move big doors.

If you're interested in how coaching can help you, do reach out for a chat.

If you're a coach who is looking for a supervision group then contact Natalie!

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