Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) founder Marshall Goldsmith recently published The Earned Life. Essentially, it provides a roadmap for how to make better life decisions. In his book, Goldsmith identifies common mistakes people make that result in less fulfilled lives than they otherwise would enjoy. He also shares several methods and approaches that have helped him and the people he’s coached make better life decisions.
While reading this book, I thought of the “Solomon Paradox,” which is based on fascinating research conducted at the University of Chicago.
Research subjects were given challenging issues to address such as suspected infidelity of a spouse or threat of imminent job termination. One group was asked, “What would you do if you personally faced this challenge?” Another group was asked, “What if a close friend called you and said he or she faced this challenge?”
Researchers noted key differences in the two groups’ responses. If it’s your personal challenge vs. when you’re advising a friend, you:
- Consider less information;
- Are more likely to make erroneous assumptions;
- Identify fewer options; and
- Are less flexible about possible courses of action to take.
In other words, your decision-making ability goes up when you’re advising someone else, and it goes down when you’re trying to figure things out on your own.
Researchers call it the “Solomon Paradox” because King Solomon was revered for his wisdom (recall the two mothers and the one baby.) Yet his own personal decisions proved disastrous.
Goldsmith’s new book essentially provides an antidote to the Solomon Paradox. He asserts that to make good decisions, we must align “Aspiration” (our main purpose), “Ambition” (all the goals we set for ourselves), and “Actions” (what we are doing). We live an earned life “when the choices, risks, and effort we make in each moment align with an overarching purpose in our lives, regardless of the eventual outcome.” (p. xxiv) This means making sure our goals are clear, we consider all relevant facts, and that we assess “magnitude and probability” of both expected benefits and expected costs or risks. (p. 92). It also means, “Ask for help. You need it more than you know.” (p. 182)
In my view, this book underscores how incredibly valuable a coach can be. As coaches, we’re able to help others with the never-ending issues, challenges, problems and even opportunities they face. We provide a safe place for others to bounce off ideas, strategize, identify options, and consider alternatives in helping them step up their game. We also can provide ideas, insights and innovations including those identified in The Earned Life.
For you coaches, I recommend sharing with your clients the Solomon Paradox – and gifting them Goldsmith’s new book. Then observe how your otherwise one-off coaching gig turns into a valuable lifelong relationship.