Monday, October 17, 2011

Keeping your own counsel

Posted on Monday, October 17, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Last night I was flicking through a book of mine which discussed that people join groups as they have a need or a want to be lead. One thing that struck me in this book was that because humans have an unrelenting need to belong to a group, these very groups (like church, self help groups etc) can begin to act as cults. Cults typically have a negative connotation so I looked at its meaning on the trusty Webster’s Online Dictionary:
Cult - “Attentive care; homage; worship”, “A system of religious belief and worship”.

I don’t want to get into the whole cult debacle because that could be a subject for another day, but my book stated that essentially (and this is in my own words) groups become a cult when we stop seeing our own greatness or brilliance and rely on the person or thing we worship or pay homage to, to give us answers or direction. In other words, we choose to follow a leader rather than follow our own soul. It was at this moment in the book that I sat up and took notice – not because of cults and what they mean because I have certainly experienced them in my lifetime (my brother belonged to a cult along with a very close friend) – but because we can often seek out others to give us answers rather than rely on our own inherent wisdom.

So let me pose a question to you. When you have a decision to make, what’s the first thing you do? Do you discuss it with all your friends and family to get their opinion (and sometimes feel even more confused) and eventually make a decision after you have heard all their advice? Or do you keep your own counsel and go within for the answer with the belief that you know what feels true or right for you?

Women are always willing to help friends and love ones with decisions and it is usually done with the best intentions. However, this ‘advice’ can often be fraught with projection, judgment and a very personal take on the world. By asking everyone’s advice on a pressing decision we inadvertently end up giving away our own power, our own sense of worth, because we think they have the answer, or the wisdom, not us. We want to be told, or lead to the answer. As well, the more we discuss the decision or issue with our friends and family or work colleagues, the more entangled we become in the ‘drama’ of it rather than the solution.

A great deal of research has been done on ‘paralysis by analysis’ which means that the more choice we are given, the harder it is to make a decision. Supermarkets experiment with this all the time. When they offer customers too much choice, sales go down, but when the choice is more limited, sales go up. Malcolm Gladwell illustrates this point beautifully in his book 'Blink' and states that your first initial gut feeling, or intuitive feeling is often correct and that too much choice hinders that initial knowing.

Perhaps one of the greatest things I love about coaching is that as a coach my job is simply to extract the knowledge, the wisdom, the experience and the intuition which already resides within the client. And I can tell you, when the answer they need suddenly breaks forth, it ALWAYS feels true to them and they walk away with a greater sense of ownership.

So next time you have a pressing decision or are unsure which path to take, before you go anywhere near your girlfriends, your family, your work colleagues or whoever you go to, try and go within for your answer as that’s where it resides. You may well need to do research; you may need to speak to experts, but start getting used to using your own counsel and trusting your own inherent wisdom and knowledge. As you get used to trusting yourself, you will most likely find the decision making process a whole lot easier. And that can only be a good thing.

This blog post first appeared on Anne Loyd's Professional and Personal Coaching Blog.

Anne Loyd
About Anne Loyd: As a coach working specifically with women, I am committed to helping women define and create their vision of a life they would love - in and out of the workplace. Creating a vision is the most passionate and wondrous way to live life. I help women reveal what they want to be, to do, to create, without the limitations of time, education, background and money that we shackle ourselves with. As a New Zealander living in London, I work with women all around the world who have the courage to make a change and who want to be an ordinary woman like you and I, doing something extraordinary. Learn more at

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