A to Z of coaching: I – Indifference

In coaching work, the exploration of the reasons behind our indifference to something can often lead to useful breakthroughs.

When our performance dips below the level we would like, or when our sense of weariness or dissatisfaction is growing, it can be worthwhile to investigate where our concern, sympathy or interest has waned.

At our best, we are alert and aware. We can discern between what requires our attention and what is less important. We are clearer on what improves as we devote our interest to it and what doesn’t require our full engagement. We can see the signal through the noise.

But when we’re sub-par, we begin to miss things. We gloss over, lose touch, become indifferent.

Why? What might be behind that?

Has something become misaligned with our values? Have we issues arising from conflict with others? Are we actively practising aversion from discomfort? Are echoes of past traumas causing us to turn away?

In creating the space to explore and understand this better, it might be helpful to recognise the benefits of adopting a more compassionate approach. And in doing so, the words of meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein may well be useful:

“Compassion is the motivation to alleviate suffering, to alleviate harm.

When it’s developed, it opens us to whatever suffering is in front of us and it overcomes the arising of indifference and inaction.

It’s not enough to admire the quality of compassion from a distance. Our practice is about making the compassionate response the default setting of our lives. This is the power of practice. This is what practice means.

Instead of falling into indifference, instead of conditioning apathy, we practice compassion so that it becomes the habit of our mind and heart. 

As we learn to open to our own pain, our own suffering, our own difficulties, of how to be with them with an open, receptive, compassionate attitude of mind, we then have greater strength and courage to be with the suffering of others – because we’ve practised it.”


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

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