A Coaching Power Tool Created by Virginie Margin
(Career Coach, SWITZERLAND)
At first glance it can seem easy to be in the passenger’s seat of a car. You can just put your feet up on the dashboard, open the window and enjoy the ride. If anything goes wrong and the car swerves into a tree or embarks in the wrong direction, it’s not your fault. You can just blame the driver. You are not in charge of the situation.
But being just an onlooker of the situation is in fact a dis-empowering state. You are not in charge of where you are going. You are not free. Some one else is driving your life for you and deciding on the outcome.
Amelie is a successful thirty something teacher and is dating a colleague who is abusing her. She likes to portray herself at a victim. She gets attention from her friends. Though she blames her boyfriend for the abuse she is actually comfortable in that position. She has always had a poor self image and this relationship just reinforces her view that she is worthless. At first she does not see how her daily energy is being drained and how this relationship is effecting other areas of her life. She does not realize that she does in fact have a choice.
Then one day one of her friends tells her she’s had enough of her moaning and complaining that she should either make the choice of accepting him how he is or get rid of him and move on but that just blaming him will get her nowhere.
All of a sudden Amelie goes from powerless to powerful and realizes that she does in fact have a say in the situation. Whether she decides to put up with the abuse or not is now her decision. She is now in the drivers’ seat, she realizes the simple shift is the first step to being in charge. It does not mean he will stop the abuse, but it does mean she can find a solution to deal with it and if she decides to put up with it, that’s fine, she can focus on other areas of her life.
The situation itself has not changed, but Amelie’s viewpoint has.
Freedom, choice, control over our life, autonomy, responsibility, motivation, energy.
Passenger’s seat: alienation, self-doubt, suffocation, weakness, overwhelmed, powerless.
Nothing is a fatality.
This simple shift in perspective can be used in every moment of our lives from when we decide to eat that extra bit of chocolate before going to bed, to when we shout too loudly at our children. We can always take a step back and say I am in charge, I am driving. It does not mean we stop eating that extra bite or don’t stop shouting, but it does mean we are totally aware of doing it and that we do have another option: to just go to bed without or speak in a quiet tone, and that we are aware of the consequences. Just shifting into that state and taking that step back
The idea behind this power tool is make the client see that there is a choice and there is always some aspect of the issue the client can take charge of. Just being able to see that you can make that choice and take the wheel of the car is already very powerful. Then you can decide where to go on the journey. It’s not about going left or right but sitting in that drivers’ spot. No matter how helpless the client may seem in a situation there is always a way from him to shift to that seat.
1.The first step is to create awareness in the client.
Questions: Who is in charge of the situation? In what way do you have a say in the outcome? What would the outcome look like if you were in charge? What would it take for you to be in the drivers’ seat? How are you responsible for the situation? How is this situation serving you?
Possible tools: visualization. How would it feel to be in charge? Describe what you see? what you feel? What happens to your breath, your body?
You can even physically ask the person to move to the right (or left) to help the shift. Now that you are in the drivers seat what does the road look like? What kind of driver are you?
Active listening/ reframing: listening for vocabulary that tells the coach the client is not in charge. Mirroring for the client can help create awareness.
2.Once the client has experienced empowerment the issue is how to keep the client in that seat and in the empowered position.
Now you are in the drivers’ seat what do you feel? How is that a more empowered state? What structures could you put in place to stay there? Who else is in the car with you?
3.Action. Now the client is more empowered he is in a better place to move forward. Now is a good time to evaluate options or brainstorm. Where do you want to go? It is interesting to note that asking that question at the beginning before the shift might produce completely different answers than at this stage.
Back to Amelie. Once she realized she was bothering everyone with her endless moaning and victimising she decided to act. She saw repeated patterns of abuse in her relationships she had not seen before and she decided to ask herself why? She also decided to end the relationship with her boyfriend because she found herself to be worth more. Being able to make that shift to the drivers’ seat enabled her to set foundation for personal development and move out of a relationship which had been holding her back for years.
- The idea of the tool is that it can be applied in a multitude of daily situations.
- In my daily life, how can I become a more consistent driver?
- In what parts of my life am I merely a passenger? How is that serving me?
- What can I do to step back in the drivers’ seat?