A Coaching Model Created by Shaun Ellsworth
(Self Development Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
I have really been drawn to the idea of self-discovery in my coaching journey. I appreciate learning more about my values, belief system, personal strengths, and so forth. The “Stacked Stones” Coaching Model is a self-development model. It isn’t necessarily a program that a client is plugged into – unless that is what they decide to be coached around. A coach can also use these steps when coaching around any issue by asking thoughtful questions, a few of which I will list in the discussion of each stone.
About the Stacked Stones Illustration
The “Stacked Stones” Coaching Model is represented with a symbolic cairn, or a stack of rocks. Each rock represents an individual bit of knowledge we gain about ourselves in the process of self-discovery. If these stones are balanced and stay in alignment, they create a monument to the individual. If the rocks aren’t balanced, they will topple. The two-headed arrow in the graphic represents that the stones are to be in alignment, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a direction in the process.
In a cairn, each stone placed becomes the foundation for the next stone. Starting at the bottom, each stone of understanding about ourselves prepares us to add the next stone, values, beliefs, strengths, archetype, purpose and finally goals. The Stacked Stones Coaching Model expresses the importance of balance, stacking knowledge incrementally, and alignment, where each bit of knowledge creates a tower of accomplishment and wholeness, a monument to the individual.
I have been asked, “Can the order of the stones be changed?” Perhaps, but the order I present is what I have found to be most effective in my practice.
Symbolism of Stacked Rocks
A man-made pile of rocks is called a cairn. The fact that it is a man-made stack of rocks is significant. No matter how long one waits around, hoping the rocks will stack themselves, it simply won’t happen. For us to create a cairn in our lives (get the results we want) we have to put effort into it and make it happen ourselves.
Throughout time, cairns have been used to mark the way, either as a single marker or landmark or to mark a pathway or trail. Sometimes cairns have been astronomical markers, pointing our eyes to the stars, allowing us to dream.
Some cairns serve their purpose as grave markers. When we participate in the Stacked Stones Coaching Model, we bury old beliefs and old attachments that don’t serve us anymore. We might even bury our old selves and be joyfully reborn into our new fulfilling and empowering lives.
Stacking rocks, especially around sacred spaces shows one’s devotion. In Japan, stacking rocks expresses the idea that, “I can’t build a temple as beautiful as this, but here is my effort, my ‘feeling.’” The tradition in Scotland is to carry a rock from the bottom of the hill to place it on the cairn at the top. This shows a willingness to work and make an effort to build one’s monument.
A stack of rocks can serve as an altar upon which to make sacrifices and offerings. “Sacrifice” means to give up something of value to get something of greater value. This is what we strive to help our clients do through coaching, to let go of favorite habits and ways of being to get to a higher way of being.
“Stacked Stones” Coaching Model’s Stones
The main stones in the “Stacked Stones” coaching model are: Values, Beliefs, Strengths, Archetype, Purpose and Goals. As we learn about each of these aspects of ourselves, we use that information in our discovery of the next step. We also seek to maintain alignment as we add the next stone. Each step needs to be aligned with the previous step. As we stack stone upon stone, we gain powerful knowledge about ourselves and are able to build energy and momentum so that when we come to the goals step, we already have knowledge regarding the types of goals we should set for ourselves and how we will be able to achieve them.
Let’s take a look at each of the stones individually:
What ways of being are most important to our clients? What is important to them? These are our clients’ values. Values influence everything we do, the questions we ask ourselves, the actions we decide to take. They are one of the lenses through which we see the world. Understanding our values is important because that information tells us why we do what we do. Understanding our values provides an excellent foundation upon which to build our cairn, our personal monument.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their values:
- What is important to you? What ways of being are important to you?
- What are the reasons that is important to you?
- What is most important about this situation to you, personally?
- What's most important to you that is missing from this situation?
Next, we look at the beliefs that exist in the client’s life. Both the beliefs that are moving them forward and the beliefs that are holding them back. If there are beliefs that are keeping them from achieving their dreams and aspirations, we can work on those beliefs to change them into empowering beliefs so the client can move forward. We can find our limiting beliefs by making a very optimistic, positive statement and listening for the “Yea, buts”. Any “Yea, buts” we find can direct us to limiting beliefs.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their beliefs:
- What are your beliefs around that situation?
- What are the reasons you don't have everything you want in life right now?
- Any time you hear "can't", "should", "must", it indicates a belief. Follow that.
- What is the reason you feel that way?
Discovering one’s strengths is a key component to the Stacked Stones Coaching Model. We use observation, questions, discussion and the AuthenticHappiness.com VIA Strengths Assessment to help the client in discovering what their strengths are.
Many times, if people are self-aware, they already have a good idea of what their strengths are. Using an assessment helps validate what people might already think of themselves. Finding one’s strengths helps build up the foundation upon which a client can continue to establish their positive future. Strengths show us how our values have manifested in our lives.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their strengths:
- What personal attributes do you use to deal with difficult situations?
- Have you ever done anything that left you feeling alive and powerful?
- Tell me a story about when you were at your best.
Archetypes are another tool to help discover one’s core self. This simple step helps the client wrap their head around who they are and how they function at their core. The idea behind archetypes is when we take away all the bells and whistles, name and personality and individual quirks, the client finds out who they really see themselves as. It is a generalization and removes most of the ‘Yea, buts” when we think of ourselves. This is useful when developing a purpose statement, our next step.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their archetype:
- If you were a generic character in a book or movie, who would you be and why?
- How would you as a (insert archetype here: queen, ninja, artist) approach this issue?
Once the client has all this background knowledge about themselves, it is time to tackle their purpose. What does the client, with all of this new information about who they are, want to do with their life? What feels authentic? What is their higher purpose? What is their mission, challenge, or quest? What will keep them engaged, make them happy, and give them fulfillment? We can help our clients come up with a simple short sentence that encapsulates their purpose.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their purpose:
- What are your most favorite things to do? What is your passion?
- What would you do if you could, even if you didn’t get paid for it?
- What gives your life meaning?
- What is the purpose of your archetype? Can you relate to that or add to it?
Now that the client has all this information about themselves, it is time to move forward and set goals. When we set goals that are in alignment with who we are, our values, our beliefs and our strengths, powerful things can happen. When all of who we are informs and is aligned with our purpose and we use that energy to create goals that are further aligned with everything about us, there is tremendous power, energy and momentum. Goals that are in alignment with our core being are very powerful and can be achieved much more quickly because that is who we are and that is the direction we are moving already.
A few questions we might ask to help a client find their goals:
- What do you want to do, be or have? What is your impossible future?
- What is the next powerful step you can take to fulfill your purpose?
Other Possible Building Stones
Many people appreciate knowing more about themselves. A personality assessment such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator or the Enneagram can give more information regarding why we do what we do. Assessments like these give the client more information with which to work. If a person knows their tendencies, they are more able to work in the manner that makes sense to them.
Moving Forward Using Strengths
The final step is to bring the information our client discovered earlier around to help them achieve the goals they have set for ourselves. What values, beliefs and especially strengths do they have that they can call upon to achieve these goals? Instead of tackling goals with sheer willpower, what special advantages do they have that will help them achieve their goals? If it is true that aligned goals can be achieved more quickly, then using the strengths that the goals were based on in the first place adds more momentum and energy to the process. When we use what we already know we are good at and what we enjoy doing (our strengths) we can move forward powerfully with engagement.
A few questions we might ask to help a client discover how to use their strengths:
- How have you solved a situation like this in the past?
- How can you use your strengths to overcome this obstacle in the future?
- How can you use your strengths to achieve the first step towards this goal?