Dr. Bock, you are the founder of your own life coaching institution with a European approach. What about your own life? Are you happy?
PB: If you were a coach and asked me how I would rate my current satisfaction level based on a scale of zero to ten, I would tell you that I’d give it an honest eight.
Is that a number that satisfies you?
PB: In my mind, the basic concept of life coaching is for free human beings to shape their lives in a time of freedom. That’s exactly what I’m doing and it takes me to an excellent and honest eight. At the age of thirty, when I was pretty burnt out from working way too hard, I made it my big goal to once again begin every new day with the same curiosity I did when I was still a child. I have attained this goal. Almost every day is inspiring again and gives my philosophy of life meaning within the big picture I define as my life. Sometimes I even get a sense that I am living in multiple parallel lives at the same time. Or that I live like a renaissance woman who is realizing numerous facets of being a human being simultaneously.
So which facets does Petra Bock, the renaissance woman, manifest in her life?
PB: In fact, I could list several professions that I engage in simultaneously. I am an author, coach, management consultant, speaker, coach trainer and entrepreneur. All of those would be official job titles. Moreover, I am an enthusiastic reader, thinker, athlete, gourmet, driver and art friend. The people we call renaissance men or women did not only put the emphasis on business, but also intellectual and artistic interests and goals. I find myself reflected in this type of profile. And of course there a still a lot of private facets – however, in my opinion, they would be a bit too intimate to share in an interview (laughs).
Do you have any secrets?
PB: Of course (laughs). Seriously, though: I second Hannah Arendt’s notion. She saw the tyranny of intimacy, we have only been experiencing since the late 20th century, from a very critical perspective. I consider it an act of freedom to have rooms entirely to myself and I make very concise distinctions. I think every individual is entitled to secrets and boundaries that have to be protected. For instance, it takes me a long time to use the intimate German pronoun “du” (translator’s note: offer someone to interact on a first-name basis) in interactions with others. I don’t like it when people act like they’re intimate friends when they’ve only spent a few hours together. In my experience, every person needs time to truly open up. I don’t like to break down that personal distance to nothing. It’s a formal approach, but it also is related to the fact that I think that it is important to be forthright and to respect other people. Many of us now feel that respecting people means that we have to drown them in intimacy and to quasi force their integration. I think that’s the wrong approach. In all cultures, respect means giving someone space. I also demand my own space. I do have a very sensitive and introverted side.
Nevertheless, you are currently giving yourself an “honest eight” on the scale. What is the reason for that?
PB: I am a very passionate person and I do everything I want to do until it is done – completely. Sometimes it feels like I am walking a tight rope and I always have to pay attention. That’s one thing. On the other hand, a rating of ten for happiness is virtually impossible in my eyes. The simple reason is that I always have to leave some room for growth. I even had to have that as a child. I wanted to be happy in the moment and simultaneously look forward to something. Every night before I fell asleep I wondered what it was I had to look forward to the next day. This “ability to look forward to something” is the space between the rating of nine and ten, which I have to keep free and clear at all times and that I also have to fill with a fantasy. If I can no longer envision that things can get even better, it will stifle my creativity. Faust’s “linger, precious moment, you are so wonderful,” as he talks to the moment beyond which there is no more fulfillment, required Goethe’s Faust to pay a steep price: he had to sell his own soul. My interpretation today: A person who does not have a vision how things could go even further, has sold his or her soul and is caught up in the MINDFUCK mode or drugged out (stops to think for a minute)… or experiences a one-time absolute moment of happiness that usually only lasts for a few seconds. Pure euphoria. However, it would not be advisable to pursue this state of mind as a permanent state of mind. It would not even work out from the brain physiological perspective.
Is that why you reject this approach you call “chacka coaching?
PB: Yes, the desire to attain permanent euphoria as a state of mind is part of the blockades cosmos in my eyes. Those who tempt people with promises of permanent euphoria are not being truthful. They are taking advantage of humankind’s desire to be euphoric to manipulate people. False promises of this nature and other exaggerated motivation fantasies are not part of the professional coaching world in my opinion.
So what should one strive for in life from your perspective?
PB: These days, the generic term “one” does not really apply any longer. In the 21st century, it is possible for people to create highly individual lifestyles. With the exception of fundamental inter-human relationship factors, we are no longer bound by strict commitments to role models, even if we might not even be aware of it. That’s why the availability of professional and truly effective life coaching is absolutely essential. The remark I made about euphoria referred to the ancient philosophical wisdom that pure happiness thankfully is impermanent. For me, a satisfying life is one that allows me – as I said earlier – to look forward to something and that allows me to perceive myself as self-effective. Choosing challenges, embracing them creatively and resolving them – that’s very fulfilling for me. It brings with it a sense of flow, but not permanent euphoria. For you own meaning of life, it is much more important to trust in your own creativity and ability to do things. You have to be bold, open and curious.
And now from a higher perspective: What is the ultimate purpose of life in your eyes?
PB: The one issue that counts is to find a way of life that is satisfying and fulfilling. A life well lived, from my personal perspective, is one in which I, as a human being, get to know my potential and develop it to the best of my capabilities. This happens in many dimensions that, when they all come together, lead to what I would call a satisfying and fulfilling life. It is very important to me to understand others, our era and life on this wonderful planet. And to share it. I want to share it with others, because I consider myself part of a vast human community. All of us alive today will one day no longer be here and others will live in this world. There is nothing more precious than receiving and experiencing the huge gift that “life” is and to accept it with all of its bright and dark sides and to simultaneously create, as a self-effective, free being.
This almost sounds spiritual.
PB: Possibly. However, I am actually taking a more level-headed; pragmatic and informed approach towards it all. What’s important is that none of that has anything to do with any effort at self-optimization in my eyes. Instead, I see it as a wonderful development process, an awakening, a life lived to the fullest. Evolution is something that comes after growth. You can’t grow forever. At some point you will be fully grown – an adult. That’s when the phase of active development begins and I believe that it’s the most beautiful part of life. Being an adult and evolving.
How do you experience that part of life?
PB: I notice it – for instance – while I’m working on my new book, “Der entstörte Mensch” (The Interference Suppressed Human). It’s not just another book, it’s a creation. It is very hard work, but it fills me with so much joy – maybe like an artist working on a huge painting or like a mountaineer who is reaching the summit of his dreams. I feel freer than ever. And freedom is very important to me. I allow myself to draw from and immerse myself in virtually all human intellectual universes. I engage in intense studies of human intellectual history, history in general, physics, biology, mathematics, information technology, neurobiology, a lot of philosophy and the psychological classics. Nevertheless, I want to approach it with a new way of thinking because I believe that we are living in a completely new era. The world is like a big intellectual playground. All of the rooms are open to me and I link them to my very own way of thinking and my innumerable experiences in the work with people. Combining creation with knowledge is one of the most amazing experiences I know. I enjoy it very much.
What’s hard for you?
PB: I think that in my life, the big deal is always that walk on the tightrope – when I have to decide where the fine line between enthusiasm and passion ends and I do too much because I lose my sense for what’s reasonable. I always come up with an idea and want to take it one step further. I think it makes those around me furious at times. However, the ability to harness this energy is a challenge for me – not only when it comes to my projects, but also in other areas of life. Food, for instance. Or sports. After all, doing everything in perfect moderation has been considered a great human quality for good reasons for such a long time. I’m still working on it (laughs).
When do you give yourself a break?
PB: (contemplates the issue) When I run, play tennis, when I laugh with friends, ride my bicycle and spend time outdoors in nature. I’d love to have more of those breaks. That would be what it would take to bring me from an eight on the scale towards a nine.
What do you think about the relaxation techniques that are omnipresent these days?
PB: Hm. Those can certainly be helpful. However, for me they’d only be the second choice. In my early thirties, I wanted to force myself to reach a balance in my life after the burnout I had just gone through by practicing yoga, meditation, etc. This went on until I realized that I am not Buddha, a spiritual being that is always well balanced and soft tempered and that forcing oneself to be wise is at least as strenuous as trying to be perfect using any other way. Back then, I sometimes wondered if that was just an excuse. However, today I think that I am a person who is hungry for life and very lively; that I have edges and thorns combined with an actual vision of life, which needs me to be just the way I am and not the way I always thought I had to be. It took me a while to understand – in fact until my mid 40s.
You are enjoying success with your work. Do you have something that you would call a recipe for success?
PB: I like the quote “To break the rules, you first have to master them.” I aim to understand the depth of things. Only once I do, I will wonder what could be done differently, possibly even better or in a more beautiful, more elegant manner. Many try to do it the other way around these days. Unfortunately, that does not take them very far.
Today, many suspect that coaching is superficial or frequently not a time tested approach.
PB: Unfortunately we have quite a few black sheep in our industry. But that’s true for every profession. The way I see it, coaching is the most sophisticated way of conducting a conversation today. A coach has to master so many intrinsic skills, such as strong perception skills, expressive capabilities, absorption capacity, sensitivity and analytical strengths paired with superior methodical skills. Outstanding coaches have to have the capability to understand the personality and mindset of a person during the initial conversation. We have to recognize the goals and action driving motifs of our clients very quickly. Finding our way into the points of view of other human beings is one of the key competences of a good coach. On this basis, we jointly search for methodically secure ways to change and expand perspectives. After all, the goal is to develop new, creative solutions and to reflect the mindset of a person at a speed that is compatible with that individual to make new dimensions of objectives, experiences and quality of life possible. Is there anything more beautiful and expedient? Not in my eyes.
You have said that the type of coaching you practice is the most contemporary form of productive conversations. What specifically do you mean by that?
PB: It’s contemporary, because it meets people in a highly complex world. And also because it is a dialog between two adults who see eye to eye. It’s also contemporary because it does not spread doubt and strengthens people instead. The goal is to reinforce the confidence in one’s own creativity, into new perspectives and one’s own self-effectiveness. If such a conversation is excellently moderated, it is on par with the level of philosophical or other analytical conversational techniques, but is always perceived as productive, intense and meaningful by the client. It delivers results and progress that frequently makes it far superior to other types of conversations. And it does this over a very short period of time.
Your eyes light up when you talk about it.
PB: (laughs) Yes, my fascination with coaching gets my wild mind going like a mustang. In fact, coaching is the most beautiful way of productive listening, thinking and speaking for me today. And it shows me time and again that as human beings, we are not autistic monades, but need each other so that we can understand and develop ourselves. I am still very much in love with my calling and I can find new inspiration in it every day. This is perhaps also related to my fascination with truly great technology. In my Apple device, for instance, this is evident that it appears to be simple, attractive and extremely user friendly from the outside. However, if you go beyond the basic screen and gain a better understanding of the fascinating and groundbreaking technology in it, you will be amazed. Good coaching should be just like that in my eyes. It should be fun, should surprise people and its effectiveness should be compelling.
Well, let’s talk a bit more about technology and horsepower. Some say that you have a passion for cars.
PB: That’s true. I love magnificent cars. I used my first earnings to buy a 78 Bug Convertible. It was tomato red and had a white roof as well as white-wall tires. Something was wrong with it all the time, but I always found nice guys who repaired it for me free of charge (laughs).
U And now? What do you drive today?
PB: Another really cool one. But it’s much faster (laughs).
When you founded your academy, you drew inspiration from the Weimar or Dessau Bauhaus, which revolutionized the world of architecture and design in the 20th century. How did you discover these sources?
PB: Even as a very young woman I was fascinated by the twenties, an era that ushered in modernity and made so much possible that would have been unthinkable in the past. The architect and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, dared to open a school for construction and other design sectors, which wanted to comprehend its era in depth and derive practical applications for architecture and design from it. I think it’s an enthralling idea. And in 2008, I was determined to transfer it to my own work: I wanted to establish a school for the intellect and for communicative work with people, in which we move the art of coaching into the present tense and advance it in an innovative way. We will accomplish this only if we understand the world and the era we live in today in a novel way and draw the correct conclusions for our work. I have a great desire to become a conscious witness and co-creator of our day and age in my own way. It’s a time that is in some ways just as tumultuous and central as the 1920s. We – the people alive today – will determine the direction of the future. I think it is a very exciting scenario.
Any dreams for the future?
PB: Indeed, I have many! That will never stop. I would like to travel much more frequently into the South or even live there or in the mountains. I have done away with a permanent desk many years ago. I love to be on the road a lot and I’m always looking for places that inspire me and that allow me to feel the intensity of life. I consider it the purpose of my life to work with other people on the big topic of human evolution. I believe that as sentient beings we will only have a real chance in life if we jointly and inter-culturally find our actual human strengths and abilities. What drives me the most now that I am what we call in the summer of my life is the commitment to make a contribution that helps turn this century into a good one.