A Coaching Model Created by Ana Davičo
(Life Coaching, SERBIA)
n. pl. in·ven·to·ries
1. a. A detailed, itemized list, report, or record of things in one’s possession, especially a periodic survey of all goods and materials in stock.
b. The process of making such a list, report, or record.
c. The items listed in such a report or record.
d. The quantity of goods and materials on hand; stock.
2. An evaluation or a survey, as of abilities, assets, or resources. (The Free Dictionary)
The I Am Model is based on the assumption that all a person does, feels and believes is answer to the following question: Who am I?
We are made of many answers to this question.
This model offers a structure for making the inventory of who we are. This is primarily a self-awareness tool designed to help the client understand the values they live by, understand that they have the choice to give them up, revise or keep them, depending on whether they are working for them or not.
The I Am Model is particularly suited for clients who are not clear about what they want to work on. Typically, they come to coaching because they need to talk to someone, vent things out, get some clarity, do something because they feel stuck, burnt out or emotionally bankrupt.
The list helps to clarify values, identify conflicts and possible sources of anxiety, identify the client’s defense style (i.e. the most common defense mechanisms), boundary style, help to set goals and develop a hierarchy among them (short-term, long-term, important, urgent).
Before applying this model in a coaching situation, it would be useful to try it on yourself first. It’ll help you get a hands-on experience of how it works and feels.
How the model works
It is (deceptively) simple: The client is presented with a blank sheet of paper with the words “I am” written at the top of the page.
He is asked to write down anything that comes to his mind that defines or describes him, or constitutes an important element of his identity.
Making the inner inventory/I am list is not a single-session endeavor. It usually takes two sessions to first make the list and then read it through in a meaningful way that will help the client identify the area or issue to work on.
If in this process several issues come up, you will ask the client to prioritize and decide on the one he/she feels is the most urgent or important to deal with right now, and proceed toward formulating a goal.
Ideally, the first session is spent on making the list, and the second on defining the topic. It is ok to give the client the guidelines for reading the list between the two sessions, so he/she already has an idea of what to work on the next time.
Whichever way you choose to use the list – and there are several – you will take the client from creating awareness about what’s inside, to the exploration of meanings attached to certain elements of the inner inventory, to the prioritization of items from the list. This process will result in defining the coaching area or issue and formulating a specific goal.
The borders between these phases of the process are very porous, allowing the client and the coach to go back to the previous phase at any time. This refines the client’s ability to identify the core set of items from his “I am list” that reflect his core beliefs and values, i.e. the things that are fundamentally important to him at this particular moment in life. This awareness and clarity will help the client focus on a particular area of work, and eventually come up with a specific goal. This link between the goal and core values will ensure motivation and commitment to the task at hand.
The flow of the process is as follows:
How to use the list
For most people the easiest way to start is by stating their name, age, profession, marital status… However, this type of information is the least revealing. The coach will encourage introspection by inducing the client to move on to the more specific features.
To do this, the coach will suggest the client to begin his statements with I am good at, I am quick at, I am someone who likes to, I am excellent at, I show, I develop, I enjoy, I am ready to, I am happy to, I am passionate about, I am prone to…
Encourage the client to avoid defining himself by saying what he is not, and use affirmations instead. E.g., if the clients says “I am not a bad person” ask him to translate this into, say, “I am someone who tends to do good”; “I am not a bad parent” into “I am someone who takes parenting seriously and understands it is a life-long process”, and so on. This is a good time and place to introduce the client to the habit of building a positive and constructive rapport with himself by focusing on the affirmatives.
The list is now an unstructured sequence of items, which can be read in several ways. Either way you choose to read it, it’ll involve developing awareness, exploration of meaning, and prioritization.
Create and crystalize awareness
Ask the client to read his inventory out loud. It is very likely that this is the first time he is making a similar list, and seeing one’s own inner inventory put down on paper can be a strong experience. It brings a new awareness about what you are made of, and of the quality and sort of your “inner ingredients”.
Grouping items into “values”, “traits of character”, and “knowledge/skills” will help him organize the inventory in a less haphazard way. Also, this helps him get insights into what his two realities – internal, made of values, beliefs and feelings – and external – made of character traits, behaviors and skills – consist of and to what extent they correspond with one other.
The list may reveal contradictions – “friendly” or “gregarious” and “lonely”, for instance – which the client may not have been aware of until now. They offer valuable material for work. Invite the client to share his impressions – and feelings – about the list. (Note: This is a good moment to remind him that anything he says is completely confidential.)
Remember, it is his list, but it is now also a coaching tool.
Some initial questions may include: How does this list seem to you? Anything that catches the eye? Any surprises?
Encourage exploration of meanings
Use the list is to just go though it item by item. As you go through the list, ask the client to specify the meaning of all the descriptive adjectives – e.g. good, loyal, stubborn… by asking the following questions: What does good / loyal / stubborn mean to you, could you give me an example of a situation where you were good, loyal, stubborn… In what situations is this characteristic most obvious?
These elaborations can help the client reevaluate some of the items from the list in terms of their authenticity and the meaning/importance he has attached to them. Stop and explore his specific meanings. Scared or tolerant or worried or hesitant – mean very different things to different people. It is behind these particular meanings that the specific core beliefs are hidden. What scares/worries you? How do you behave/feel when you’re tolerant? When you’re hesitant, what does that look like?
Offer the client to sort the items by importance/relevance/urgency so that he can begin to narrow down his list and focus on what really matters to him at this stage of his life.
Ask him to be in the here and now.
All along, ask questions to support and encourage the client’s self-examination:
- How does this match your present needs?
- Is this good enough for you?
- Is this what you want for yourself right now?
- What core value is this supporting?
- How does this (type of behavior) serve you?
- Are you using enough of this?...
These are the type of questions the client will learn to ask himself when the coach is no longer around. The answers to these questions will contain what in fact his issues are and help set a coaching goal.
“Who am I?” is a time-sensitive question, depending on many factors: the nature of life’s issues, age, life stage and financial status – all of which change in time. The same applies to the coaching situation: the initial “I am list” may be quite different from the one made towards the end of the coaching relationship, several week or months down the road. By comparing the two, you will get a fine measuring tool of the client’s development.