Reflections from Coaching training
A scribble I made in the margin of my notebook during training said ‘Coaching as permission to dream’. I think it was an interpretation of a conversation rather than a direct quote, but it has formed a cornerstone of how I approach coaching.
The world we live in both lauds and loathes dreaming. Small children may be told they can be anything, while teenagers are encouraged to take a ‘sensible’ or ‘realistic’ path for their lives right from the point of choosing their GCSE subjects at thirteen. The school system and the demands of a conventional life often require us to choose from a limited number of options, rather than imagining something more freeform, original or true to ourselves. The way ‘dreams’ are spoken about in popular culture is often heavily intertwined with capitalism. ‘Dreaming big’ could be synonymous with aspiring to have a prestigious title, to be rich or to be publicly celebrated. In reality, I suspect our dreams are much more unique, varied and nuanced.
My journey with coaching so far has highlighted the power of being invited to dream. When we ask ‘what would be your ideal outcome?’ or ‘what would you do if you had all the confidence you needed?’ or ‘how would you love it to be?’, clients light up. They can see a world of potential that often extends far beyond the immediate challenge - one that encompasses many or all areas of their life, that has the power to change how they see themselves as a person.
This, to me, is the essence of dreaming; an act of unbridled imagination, not bound by the confines of what currently is or what we’re expected to aspire to. It is so rare that we are asked these simple questions, and yet if we asked them more often, perhaps we could unlock far more fulfilled and rich lives.
While the topics clients bring to coaching may be career or business-focussed, the impacts they identify in their ideal outcome often spill seamlessly into their personal relationships, their work/life balance, their sense of self, the way they use their leisure time and much more. They may even find their true goal is the feeling that they hoped to achieve through their presenting issue, but that there’s an alternative, better or more appealing route to achieving it. As hypothetical examples, perhaps a client comes in wanting to discuss feeling stuck in their career, but ultimately finds they want to live in the French countryside, prioritising their spirituality and family relationships. A client may want to discuss moving cities, but in time finds they want to start their own business which gives them the same sense of freedom. The space to unpack the complexities of our minds can give us much greater clarity on what our ‘best case scenario’ could look like.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all dream. Each person’s ideal life is as complex and unique as they are. By asking clients to think beyond their present reality, by taking away barriers (if only hypothetically), we can support them to access their dreams. It’s only with the knowledge of what their dreams truly are that they can begin to pursue them.
Occasional thoughts from my professional life.