This article was originally published on a prior version of my blog.

This is fairly thought provoking interview with Stephanie Coontz on gender roles in work and marriage and the progress of feminism. What struck me most however was the ideas she discusses 1/2 way through the article, on paradoxes and trades:

“The same things that could be really helpful in constructing and sustaining a successful institution or relationship or sources of real power in your life may also set in motion dynamics that undermine it. This is a theoretical point, but it’s also personally empowering. They can look at their life or outside institutions and see that the things that make it strong can also make it weak.”

There is a lot of juice in this looking at society. I’m more interested in the personal development piece. This idea that over identifying with our personal or institutional strengths can distract us from where we may have weakness isn’t a new one. 

One of the most common challenges I’ve seen in the clients I work stems from this very issue. Its one of the places where a coach can offer real value. Consider this:

Fred at 32 decides he wants to start a family. Always successful and a hard worker he had found success by putting all his energy and available time into a project. His friends describe him as dedicated, driven and focused.  Attending to his career for so long, Fred does not have much of a social life. The extra hours he has put in toward his success have kept him isolated to a large degree. He decides to try internet dating. 

Dedicated, driven, and focused – these are all great qualities. Fred has relied on these tools and has been successful in his career. He has not however found a way to balance these qualities with some of the traits that might build great relationships. Qualities like patience.

Fred knows success through diligence and hard work. For as long as he can remember when he has felt uncertainty he has turned his attention to the things he knows he can accomplish – his work. 

While this reminds Fred of his success he has been ignoring building some essential life skills.

So how do you think our theoretical friend faired in his quest for a meaningful relationship? Yes, dedication, commitment, these are good traits to have as a partner, and in life in general. But what are the weaknesses and paradoxes? Can he balance a relationship within his driven and focused way of tending to his career? What happens when he achieves his goal of marriage and a family? Can he tend to and maintain this kind of relationship? How does he deal with conflict when it arises in these relationships?

Coaching, and particularly Integral Coaching, is designed to address these kinds of challenges – to see the paradoxes and trades we make to be strong enough to accomplish what is important to us. Working in these areas, tending to the weaknesses and trusting that our strengths are still there and still valid. Finding practices and raising our conscious awareness of ourselves and the world around us allows us to create fuller, more meaningful lives.

What challenges are you facing? How do the tools you’ve used to get you where you are fail to expand your life toward what you really want?

Book a free consultation and let’s see if we can help you find a balance, trusting your strengths and strengthening new areas that need it.


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