The Adjustment Bureau

Here’s a question. “Do we control our destiny or do unseen forces manipulate us?” This question is posed on the back of my copy of the movie The Adjustment Bureau. If you haven’t seen the movie it starts from the premise that Fate is the arbiter of your life and that you can’t out run it, not least because there are a team of guardians (I hesitate to say angels) who make sure we all stay on track. It’s a good film and I found it thought provoking. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it but I want to examine a couple of things about coaching through the filter of this story.

Firstly, as a coach I spend quite a bit of time with people who do believe that fate, destiny, (call it what you will) has been running their lives. If it’s not a belief in a higher power as such then it will often be that they believe their actions thus far are the only measure of what they will ever be, that they cannot possibly be in control of their lives. Many of these people have given power to partners, friends, parents, bosses and then feel completely unable to take back control. Now bearing in mind that I coach with a style that believes the client has all the answers within them, (and we just need to elicit that), well I guess you can see how that might be a problem. How do I deal with that? Well often it requires people to see themselves as others see them, to hold up a mirror. There is another way too. In the movie, our hero Matt Damon catches a glimpse of these guardians at work and is amazed by what he sees. The same can happen with clients, you need to draw back the curtain, show the hand working the puppets, reveal the magicians tricks so that people can see how it easy it is for others to manipulate them……

That leads me on nicely to my second point. When you’ve shown clients the “reveal” sometimes they then transfer that control to you. Perhaps because you showed them a different way of thinking all your views become right and correct. Now I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t think I’m all-knowing and wise beyond compare. I have seen some people in the world of personal development who are very comfy with this adoration, who want the title of “guru” forgetting it’s most basic meaning as a teacher, nothing more. I think the danger for coaches at this point though is making the coaching about your agenda for the client. After all, you’ve helped them and what harm can a bit of direction do eh? However, coaching should always be about the client’s needs, not your ambitions for them. When I’m tempted to give advice (and there are times) I always declare it as such and make it clear that it’s not an instruction or even the “correct” answer. However in general I try to steer clear of it because I don’t want coaching to be part of some faceless “Adjustment Bureau” that tweaks other people’s lives.

If you’ve got a thought or insight on this post please feel free to comment or come and find me on twitter @projectlibero

3 thoughts on “The Adjustment Bureau

  1. Andy Phillips Reply

    The first half of your post reminds me of my perspective on religion*, whatever religion that might be, and I am not specifically religious. However I do feel spirituallity, and believe that the ultimate ‘god’ is actually within oneself, without feeling guilty about loving and respecting yourself. This then connects with your latter half in that I understand you are guiding (teaching) clients to be ‘self’ empowered rather than giving advice or specific direction. Your objectivity is admirable.
    *religion/belief system is a personal thing, and (personally) I don’t think it should be ‘worn’. Religion is pretty much the cause of thousands of years of warefare, although some prefer to say it is tribal. Also, if Mitt Romney is a Mormon (LDS) that’s his business – just don’t mix it with politics!

  2. Pingback: Coaches, not editors | Project Libero

  3. Pingback: Coaches, not editors | Project Libero

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.