• Jim Young

Bad News for Harmony & Joy

Updated: Nov 11, 2019


Why are you so drawn to negative stories?


An extensive study done by Outbrain a few years back shows that you are 63% more likely to click through on a negative headline than on one that is positive. (Forgive me, but I'm lumping you in with the rest of the crowd for this article's sake.) Digging deeper, our negativity bias seems to be ancient - with roots in physiology and neurology.


My layman's interpretation is that we are wired to look for danger (Look out for that saber tooth tiger!!). A negative story fires up our amygdala even though the threat is not immediate, or even real. Sounds like a copywriter's dream, doesn't it? It sure does work!


So with all of that ancient wiring pulling us inexorably towards negativity, how do we ever get to lofty, positive outcomes like "Harmony" and "Joy"? I trust that you want both of those things in your life, right?

So Where Do We Go First?

For some quick backdrop, I am passionate about helping people through two mediums: Coaching and Applied Improv. I was struggling to reconcile how these two things made sense for me for a while. I was thinking that I was trying to run two separate businesses in parallel. I know that my own curiosity can only take me so far, so I started a series of conversations across a broad span of my professional world.


One person with whom I spoke is a highly experienced coach who both teaches coaching and has an extensive background as a therapist. It was really helpful to get his perspective, especially because there's a common question that often comes up in coaching:

"What's the difference between coaching and therapy?"

It's a very reasonable question, especially because coaching often feels therapeutic. In talking with my colleague, I offered my take that "therapy is about the past and coaching is about the future". He agreed and extended that, saying, in his 12 years as a therapist that his work was aimed at bringing people up to a functional baseline.


Ah, yes! That's such a helpful way to look at it.


Coaching isn't about fixing anyone, at least not as I practice it. But as a human being who has benefited from addressing limitations through therapy, that notion of getting to a "functional baseline" really clicked for me. I had to leave behind the old baggage I was carrying before I could truly grow into an exciting new future.


That got me thinking about my 25+ years in the corporate world. Every company I was in battled challenges with training. We'd regularly train staff on technologies, skills, and policies. The commitments were huge: classrooms full of staff doing hour-long training courses, dedicated trainers to follow up with teams and develop new training topics, help desk staff offering tips & tricks, etc.


While the training generally got everyone up to the functional baseline for effectively doing the job, it never addressed a bigger question:

"How are we supposed to be towards each other to be most effective?"

The same old cultural clashes, communication gaps, and silos continued to exist, whether or not everyone had figured out how that fancy new project management software was supposed to be used. People understood what to do, but they weren't being any different.

Ok ... How Do I Get to Harmony & Joy?

Back to my conversation with my coaching colleague. We discussed our passion for pushing people to find the future they didn't think was possible, and then coaching them to achieve it. It's the most rewarding experience to see, for example, a client who was distraught over their financial future now smiling as they try to figure out who they need to hire to handle the influx of work that's coming in.


Therapy doesn't help you grow your business or change your career or finally pursue that passion project. It's not designed for those things. But once you're at a "functional baseline", regardless of how you got there, it can be easy to get stuck there. Self-limiting beliefs, narrow perspectives, distractions, and more can easily keep you from developing. And what if your current situation happens to be misaligned with your values or a vision of the life you really want? These are the places where coaching kicks in powerfully!


In coaching people, and working with my own coach, it's incredible to see what starts to happen once we get clear around things like our vision and values. Talking honestly about those - and seeing where we aren't honoring them - creates motivation for life-altering change. With the support of a coach, we are freed up to do the work that moves us forward.

When we are living within our truest identities, honoring our core values, and pursuing our ideal vision in life, we find internal harmony. From there, we can access joy.

Cool, so ... How Does My Team Get to Harmony & Joy?

So clearly, the functional baseline isn't enough, whether for an individual or a team. But let's look at what happens once we've gotten to the baseline, whether by getting our teams trained on the basics or by getting ourselves square with our past.


I recently attended a weekend workshop of the Applied Improvisation Network's Northeast Regional group. Over the course of several hours the 20 or so attendees discussed, described, and demonstrated a series of improv exercises aimed at helping groups of people learn important lessons that elevate how they work as a team.


This is just a sampling of the skill sets that we covered in our workshop:

  • Clarity of Communication

  • Difficult Conversations

  • Leadership

  • Collaboration

  • Situational Awareness

  • Emotional Intelligence

[Definition of Applied Improv: At its basic level, applied improv is simply taking concepts, ideas, and techniques from the world of improvisation and applying them to business, relationships, and life. It is effective, experiential learning that inspires, educates, and entertains.]


As much as I picked up some fun new skills at that event, it helped me connect to a much bigger and clearer truth. Applied Improv brings teams of people together, gets them out of their default posture, and creates a common experience that brings forth a higher set of principles, which I believe can be "rolled up" to Harmony and Joy.

When teams of people are able to see and connect with each other authentically as human beings, they come into harmonious relationship. From that place of harmony, joy becomes possible.

I guess I could've just posted that image above without all the writing. You know, a picture and a thousand words and all that? But I wasn't sure it would be self-explanatory. I do hope, however, that it helps you see, as I did, how both Coaching and Applied Improv are connected. Even more so, I hope that you have a new understanding of how those two disciplines can help bring more Harmony into the world, so we can create more Joy. And wouldn't that make for a great headline???

If you are seeking Harmony & Joy in your life, I'd love to offer you a powerful, two-hour coaching session that will help you start down the road towards a future filled with both!


If you want to bring Harmony & Joy to your company, organization, or team, I'd love to talk with you about how Applied Improv can get you there!


You can reach me through this website for either or those reasons, or you can simply email me at jim@thecenteredcoach.com.

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Northampton, MA 01060