What motivates people is connected to their highest values. And, often, what holds them back too. As a coach, leader or friend, there are times when to really help someone you want to explore what is most sacred to them. In this piece, we will explore how to enter the delicate ground of spiritual belief and offer a process to restore confidence in people who are down on themselves.
To open the topic of highest values, learn to be innocent. Clear yourself of any sense that you know the right way to do the sacred. Approach with transparent curiosity. We have heard hundreds of ways a person might speak about what they hold as fundamental. To start the conversation, I might ask: “Tell me about spiritual life, whatever that means for you.” Religiously inclined—or averse—may use divine language, others speak about inner experiences of enlightened awareness, love or singularity. The more scientifically inclined about Nature or the universe. Learn to speak in the language they use.
The View from High Up
The really interesting part is not so much how people see higher power anyway. What is most interesting is how their higher power sees them. As the person talks about spiritual understanding, practices and values (in whatever language), I want to touch the feeling of what they hold most sacred. I am connecting, so to speak, with their God—however that is for them. Steer away from philosophy. We invite them to be in their ultimate perspective, to share what the higher power sees. As we connect with that, we can ask about all the challenges this client, team-mate or friend is facing. For example (inserting whatever word they use), “When ‘Pure Spirit’ looks at your situation, what does It see.” Receive and explore the answer with the respect due to what is sacred.
Uncover the Projection
Here is the really delicate part. If you listen for it, you may hear a judgment in there. For example, the person’s higher power may say: “Well he tries hard” or “he needs to focus.” You sense the tinge of dissatisfaction in such comments. As I inquire further, I often find this judgment is harsher than it looks at first. Pretty soon the higher power is admitting what It really thinks: “He needs to stop being such a wimp and get on with it.” Of the hundreds of people with whom I have entered sacred territory in this way, almost everyone has had some such judgment coming from their highest most sacred place.
As I am sure you can see, when ‘God’ or ‘Being’ or ‘Nature’ sees you as failing to live up to your potential, it is hard to argue with that. If in your most sacred core belief you see yourself as a well-intended loser, or a fake talking a big game, you bet it affects your confidence! The truth is, of course, that this judging voice is not true to higher power. It is a projection that you internalized along the way, not the way ‘God’ or ‘Being’ or ‘Nature’ actually sees you. And we can help the people clean their projection off of what is most sacred.
You Are Perfect Exactly as You Are
It is usually enough to have the person recognize what is happening. I might reflect it back to them: “You can see what happens when you put a shaming voice in your most sacred place. It is really hard to argue with that.” We can also normalize, as in: “Everyone has some version of this.” With the false ideal dethroned, we invite a deeper and truer reality into the sacred space. Invariably, the real higher power is empowering. When we ask how this real higher power sees you, it is typically, “you are perfect exactly as you are”. People feel loved and appreciated in a way that does not have to be earned.
No need to change anybody’s belief system. Not only does this kind of clarity energize motivation, it also gives people a freer and more intimate experience of the sacred, however they choose to express it. We would be interested to hear your experiences of entering sacred territory and realizing a new clarity.