Stories on the Head-to-Heart Journey: The Big-A Agenda of Realizing Potential

I occasionally share stories to illustrate what a coaching session is like. While these stories are drawn from my experience working with clients, names, details, and identifying information have been altered.

realizing potential, life coach ottawa

Image: Sam Ely and Lynn Harris, Unrealised Potential stamp, 2010

E. said he wanted coaching on procrastination. First, I got curious and asked what procrastination looks like for him. He talked about what he does and doesn’t do when he procrastinates.

I wondered what it would be like for E. if he didn’t procrastinate. He started describing what he would do, and how he would get it done, and how he would meet deadlines.

E. was starting to paint the picture of what he wanted in his life, but I didn’t have a sense yet of what made this important. So I asked, “What’s important to you about this?”

As E. answered, I heard one of those big, lightbulb, heart-stopping phrases come out of his mouth:

“I could actualize my potential.”

Wowzer, I thought! We’re not just talking about getting things done. We’re talking about this beautiful human being’s ability to realize his potential!

I echoed that back to him, telling E. that I was really appreciating the significance of what he was speaking about. I had a sense that he was feeling the significance too, so I checked that out: “How does it feel for you when you start talking about actualizing your potential?”

E. answered that indeed, he was feeling the significance of it. I imagined he could feel it even more, though, and what I wanted for him was to get a taste of what he was describing, the person he would be without procrastination.

I invited him to choose a spot in the room that would represent “the land of realizing potential”. He chose the spot, and then together we moved there. We stood there, sinking into the feeling of “realizing my potential.” When I thought he was really experiencing the vision of it, I asked, “What’s possible here?”

A huge smile broke out on E.’s face as he said, “What’s possible? Well. . . anything! What couldn’t I do from here?”

I could see he was feeling and embodying that sense of possibility, and I wanted him to get even more tangible and specific. “What might you do?” I asked.

E. started naming things he would do in this land of realizing potential. He named the things he would have time to do once he got over his procrastination tendency. He pointed out that he would have more time for his personal projects, the things he really wanted to do.

When I could see his excitement at what he could accomplish, I knew we had tapped into the vision – we had touched on what was really important to him about being able to address his procrastination. So it was time to turn back to where we had started.

From where we were standing, I asked him to look back at the chair he had left. “Over there,” I said, “sits E., a great guy who’s struggling with procrastination. As you stand here, realizing your potential, and look back at E., what’s your advice for him?”

“I guess what he doesn’t get is that just because he doesn’t want to do something doesn’t mean he should put it off, because it’s not just about doing that one thing. . . doing that one thing affects so many other things he’ll be able to do.”

“Almost like he’s not looking at the big picture?” I asked.

“Yeah! E., see the big picture!” E. said.

From there, E. and I started drafting what it would tangibly look like to take a “big picture” approach, and how he could start putting it into place, starting with spending time later that day taking on something he’d been putting off.

P.S. For all you coach geeks out there, some of the coaching skills I was using in this conversation were:

  • Curiosity: Exploring what “procrastination” looked like for E.
  • The Big-A Agenda: The little-a agenda – the topic-of-the-moment, as it were – was procrastination. But procrastination was a piece of something much bigger for E. – his Big-A Agenda was self-realization, or actualizing his potential.
  • Fulfillment coaching: In Fulfillment coaching (one of three coaching principles taught in the Co-Active coaching approach), we spend a majority of the time painting the picture of What-It-Would-Be-Like if the client achieved his/her goal. From this place of fulfillment, identifying, choosing, and committing to an action comes easily.
  • Articulating what’s going on: I took time to articulate to E. that I was appreciating the significance of what he was talking about, and took time to get him to articulate what he was experiencing as he spoke about it too.
  • Geography: I used physical movement to get E. to explore a different “geography”. When he physically stepped into “the land of realizing potential”, he got a visceral sense of what it could be like, and what it was he was aiming for.