a: one possessing or held to possess supreme political power or sovereignty
b: one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere
c: an acknowledged leader : arbiter
Each of us is sovereign.
I learned this concept from a great coach I know, Alysia Vrolyk. I think this is completely applicable to all sorts of areas of your life (and of course mine). It’s probably most applicable if you have a teenage son, are in a committed relationship, work with others or are a coach. So if you are a hermit? Not so much. But if you aren’t; pay attention. You have supreme power over you. I am the acknowledged leader of me. I can love you or lead you or teach you but it is only you who decides what to do with what I give you. Sovereign.
The best illustration or example of this is the first time a teenage child gets behind the wheel and drives off without any co-pilot…without their mom to tell them to slow down or turn the iPod down. It’s terrifying but true; they are now officially sovereign. Whether that car (and its contents) returns to the driveway is completely and utterly up to that child behind the wheel and all the other sovereigns out there on the road. I have to say I wish I had this concept when my kids were looking at colleges. It’s not up to me, or their guidance counselor or their best friend. The decision of what school is completely up to my sovereign child.
So how do you incorporate a little sovereignty into your life? Here are some tips:
- No meddling. Do not meddle in other sovereigns unless you are invited to a détente. So if I’ve started a new exercise regime and I think it would be an awesome idea if my significant other would do the same….stop. If I think the Vice President of Operations should make her whole crew work every weekend until the backlog is gone…stop. If I think the client’s goal should be to get a promotion instead of feeling confident in their industry knowledge…stop. Respect the authority of others to make their own decisions. If you have not been invited to meddle, don’t.
- Detach from the outcome. I wrote recently that my daughter had to decide between three jobs. One of them would have left her in NYC and the other two brought her back home to North Carolina. I could not get attached to any outcome. All three jobs had their pros and cons but if I was excessively attached (like calling every day to find out how job prospect B was coming or constantly talking up prospect B), she would not have ultimately been able to make her own decision. I would have been way too invested in one outcome over another and…she would have resented my opinion Detach from the outcome.
- The gift you bring is your presence. Just because they are their own sovereigns does not mean you can’t be present. In the anguishing weeks where my daughter had to decide where she wanted to be this Fall, we talked several times on the phone. I was present. I listened. She played through the scenarios. She made decisions. I was a sounding board. I wasn’t there to sell her on what I wanted. I was there to let her think things through. It’s the same with clients working through a dilemma. I am present and ask the questions that help them do their own best thinking. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know. Only a sovereign can know what they really want. Sit back and be present.
- No sweat. The great facilitator Paul McGinniss uses this phrase when modeling the coaching dialogue and the client hasn’t taken a step they planned. This happens all the time when a client doesn’t do the action they said they wanted to. They didn’t start… exercising, studying for the exam, standing up to their boss, having a meeting with their team. No sweat. Is it still important to you? What would make you feel like you are moving forward on this goal? They are their own sovereign. Let them decide the direction they want to go. You aren’t there for accountability; you are there for reflection and re-framing. Don’t sweat it.
- You need to respect your own sovereignty. Don’t lose yourself in giving your time and presence to others. Don’t change the borders of your sovereign just because your neighbor asks. This is not a time to let folks roll over you. Keep the moat filled, the drawbridge in working order and your crown shined up. Don’t diminish your own self-respect. It is great to respect someone else’s space as long as they don’t tread on yours. Keep your back bone and self-respect.
When you grant other’s sovereignty, it’s freeing. You are no longer trying to be a backseat driver for everyone else. You have control of your steering wheel; if someone else fails, let it be. They are on their journey and you are on yours. Accepting that everyone has their own sovereignty untangles the expectations so that we are free to make decisions for ourselves and no one else.