Breakdown to Breakthrough

McLaren Coaching | Breakdown to Breakthrough by Cami McLaren

In coaching, we have a concept called breakdown to breakthrough.

Sometimes, when we are having a tough time, we hear things in our head that aren’t very useful like “this is going to last forever” or “something must be really wrong.” But in coaching, when we go through a hard time often we call that a “breakdown.” It’s not a mental breakdown like in psychology. It’s just a thing that happens when you’re truly committed to something.

Let me offer some examples. Let’s say that you were learning something new like say, being a better leader, or becoming a coach. Let’s say it’s kind of hard to learn this. But you are really committed to learning it. There will likely be a day (or more) that you feel you’re just not getting there. There may be a day (or more) that you see that you’re not being effective. You may see that you’re not understanding something or people are not having the reactions you wish they would. And you might feel bad about it. But, feeling bad about it is a choice. This is a breakdown. What does it mean? It means that you are committed! How do I know? If you were not committed, you would just walk away. If you were not committed, you might not even care that it was happening. But you do care. So you are noticing a breakdown. Because you are committed. That is great news!

That’s the breakdown part. This is evidence of your commitment.

What is the breakthrough part? The concept of breakdown to breakthrough is similar to the Robert Frost quote which says “the best way out is always through.” What it means, is that if you don’t walk away, and if you are willing to really look at what is happening without blaming yourself or anyone else, you ask the question, “What can I learn here?” You are going to learn some things that lead you to a breakthrough.

In the end, I really just want to offer you a paradigm shift about breakdowns. That we don’t necessarily have to choose to be upset about them. We could choose to see them as evidence of commitment. And then we could choose to turn toward them, and not run away or ignore or avoid. We could look at the breakdown and call it a breakdown and learn from it. And the learning will lead to a breakthrough. It will lead to knowledge about yourself, which will apply to your life, in a way that makes it better than it was before. In a way that makes you more powerful before. More effective. First though, you get to be brave and name the breakdown and move through it!

My favorite metaphor about this is the supersonic airplane. Before it breaks through the sound barrier, the cockpit gets very shaky. Then it breaks through and the ride becomes smooth. If your cockpit is shaking, you are about to break through that barrier! Hang on. Investigate. Learn. Celebrate your breakdown. Breakthrough is coming!

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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