A Coaching Model Created by Hayley Summers
(Life Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2011 and ended up back at my mum’s place with little idea what I wanted from life…or rather several ideas, all of which felt rather unfulfilling. With a laser-focus on my career, I moved to London with the intention of building an Event Management business. A part-time job on the side quickly became full-time, and then a new role and two promotions later and I found myself with a nice pay packet – exactly what I had been working for. So why did I feel so unhappy and unfulfilled?
Desperate and willing to give anything a try, in March 2013 I went on a retreat. The retreat was a huge turning point for me. After 6 months of work I was sure that I wanted my own business and I wanted to help people look after their wellbeing. In October 2013, still unsure but ready to take a leap, I started studying nutrition and in November 2013 I left my job.
Towards the end of my nutrition studies I started toying with the idea of training as a coach, at the time I would have said it was to supplement my work in nutrition, but in my heart I knew I wasn’t going to be a nutritionist. I signed up for a two-day coaching course and finished the course feeling elated and petrified. Elated that this stuff felt good and that I was another step closer to finding that thing I would love, petrified that it meant I was going to change my mind again. Mathematics, medical research, forensic science, management, event management, catering, sport, consulting, nutrition – I had pursued all of these in the last 7 years. I couldn’t change my mind again…but I had to.
I didn’t tell any of my friends at first. I burst into tears when I told my partner, I was wracked with doubt – as much as I knew this felt better than nutrition, what if it still wasn’t it?
Well if it’s not, then so what? You’ll be one step closer,
he said. It gave me the perspective I needed and I started my coach training in January 2014.
As soon as I started my training I knew I had found what I was looking for, I was a natural. I started taking clients shortly after starting the course.
Then a whole new chapter started. So, I wanted to be a coach, but what did I want to coach? I was drawn to business coaching initially, I’d worked in operations and was interested in consulting, entrepreneurship and small business. There was no rush to make a decision so I decided to just see what the course and working with various coaches and clients led to.
Well, it certainly isn’t business coaching! So how did I end up here? I started to see reoccurring patterns in my life, in the books I read, in the discussions I had and in the coaching I gave and received. Certain themes kept popping up, so I wrote them down. I wrote about which clients I liked working with and why, and which I didn’t. I wrote about the change I want to see in the world. I wrote about what made me happy, what made me sad and what scared me. I wrote about how I could help people…
…and this is where I ended up. I work with people who have experienced some kind of emotional pain or turmoil that they haven’t let go of, people who feel they are broken or damaged, people who feel they have failed and let themselves and others down. Ultimately people who think they are not good enough. I help them to let go of their past, learn to love themselves and create the future they want.
My vision is that one day feeling good enough will be the norm. That we will validate ourselves without having to compete, fight or put other people down. That we will listen, try our hardest to understand and show compassion. That the qualities we currently see in so few will become ingrained in our society.
I don’t have this stuff down to a fine art, some days I feel like I’m not enough too, but each day I’m finding ways to live the life I want to. This coaching model is based on how I got to where I am today and how I try to live every day.
What do you want from life?
People come into coaching with 3 different levels of clarity: no clarity, unspecific clarity and specific clarity. The aim of step 1 is for the client to gain specific clarity (if they don’t already have it), explore the reasoning and beliefs behind their clarity and examine how their clarity reflects their values.
Some of us don’t know what we want in our lives. Clients like this are probably investing in coaching because they are unhappy or because something doesn’t feel right. They are struggling to make a change because they have no idea what they want; their uncertainty of the way forward translates into inaction. When we don’t know what we want, one thing we’re often crystal clear on is what we don’t want!
I don’t like my job, but I’ve got no idea what I would do if I left,
I don’t know what I want, but I want to be happy,
Maybe I should be happy with what I’ve got,
I need to work it out before I can do anything.
Visualising – ask the client to visualise themselves doing things that make them happy, or themselves at some point in the future. Explore the surroundings and feelings with them so that they can paint a vivid picture in their mind.
Removing reality – ask the client to dream (can be done through visualisation). Remove all constraints such as time, money and commitments. If they could do anything what would it be? What would be the ideal? Make it clear that they’re not expected to do any of these things, it’s just an exercise.
Creating time pressure – take away the idea that “there’s always tomorrow”. Explore what the client would do if they only had a day/week/month/year/5 years to live (can be done through visualisation). Explore what the client wants to be remembered for when they’re gone.
Exploring the opposite of what they don’t want – many of us find it easier to know what we don’t want rather than what we want. This can be leveraged to start creating an idea of what the client does want. If they know they don’t want their current job, then why? Is it the long hours, the lack of flexibility, the rate of pay or the difficult boss? It might be a combination. Ask the client to flip these into things they do want such as
I want a job that pays more or I want a job where I am given freedom to manage my own work which includes working at home when appropriate.
Some of us know what we want in vague terms. Clients like this are probably investing in coaching because it has not happened for them so far and they want that to change. It may be that not achieving want they want is causing them unhappiness and frustration.
I want to be in a relationship,
I want to earn more money,
I want a job that I love,
I want to be fitter.
Visualising – ask the client to create a mental picture of exactly what they want life to be like x years from now, visualise several different time points if necessary. Question the client to get precise details.
Creating goals – explain the idea of specific goals to the client and ask them to use their unspecific clarity to make some specific goals.
Exploring vague concepts – some of us already know what our specific clarity is, we just might not have articulated it in a way that someone else would understand or put it down on paper. Explore these concepts, ask the client what “a job they love” looks like, or what their definition of “fit” is. Get them thinking about what they mean when they say these words.
Some of us know exactly what we want in specific, measurable terms and we know when we want it by. Clients like this are probably investing in coaching because they are having trouble getting into action. Not many clients come to coaching like this, but some do. These clients have no further work to do to gain clarity, but should explore the reasons why they want these things and how these goals align to their values.
I want to be earning £30,000 by next year but I don’t know how,
I want to run a half marathon next year but I’m just not doing the training,
I want to spend an hour with my kids every day before bedtime, but I just can’t find the time.
Defining values – get the client to write down 5 people they admire. Then ask them to write down why they admire them. This gives the client an indication to what values they find admirable and which values they might want to have themselves.
Asking why – get the client to work backwards from their goals asking why. Why do they want a large house? Why do they want to publish a book? What do those things give them? This can give a good insight into what they value.
Comparing goals to values – ask the client to compare the two. Are there any values that are not served by a goal? Do they already live according to these values? Are there any goals that need adjusting to better serve their values? Are there any goals that don’t seem to serve any values?
What fears are you going to have to face?
Now that the client is clear on what they want we look at what is stopping them. Most inaction is a result of some kind of fear. Fear can be uncovered and obvious or buried under other emotions. Step 2 explores the fears the client is feeling and looks for ways to move past them. There are two ways of moving past a fear: eliminating the fear or facing the fear.
Eliminating the fear
In some cases coaching may be able to eliminate the fear, in other cases the fear can’t be eliminated completely, but can be drastically reduced. Without the fear stopping them the client may be able to get straight into action.
Rationalising – often our fears are irrational or exaggerated. We don’t question the fear, and nor do the people around us, so it stays and grows. Often it’s based on something we chose to believe at some point in the past and might not be relevant any more. Coaching helps to shine a light on the fear and see it for what it really is.
Uncovering underlying fears – many fears will be underpinned by another, often more powerful, fear. Uncovering this can raise the client’s awareness and help them better understand and reduce their fear.
Visualising a life without the fear – for many people their fear has been part of their reality for a long time so they don’t see another option. Opening the client up to the possibility of living without their fear can help to reduce or eliminate it.
Facing the fear
Sometimes no amount of coaching (or anything else) will eliminate the fear completely. In these situations the client needs to find a way to become more comfortable with their fear and move forwards despite it.
Visualising themselves facing their fear – we have often never imagined ourselves facing our fear and coming out the other side. Getting the client to visualise themselves facing their fear will help to make it a reality.
Planning for all outcomes – fear of doing something is often a fear of what could happen if we do. By planning for all outcomes the client will feel prepared for any negative outcomes and will open themselves up to the positive outcomes that could happen.
Committing to small and frequent actions – breaking the fear down into smaller chunks can make facing it easier. Frequent action will keep up the clients’ momentum, ideally they should commit to taking action within 24 hours of their coaching session. Dedicating a time and place for the action will help them follow through on it.
The combined approach
In reality things aren’t black and white, it’s often not a case of eliminating or facing the fear, but a combination of both approaches that is needed to move forwards. Complete elimination of a fear might not be possible at all, or may take a very long time without any action. Facing the fear without reducing it at all first may send the client into panic. In this case, both approaches should be used.
How do you make your dreams your reality?
By this point the client is clear on what they want and is feeling courageous, maybe they have even taken some action towards their goals. Now it’s time to make their dreams happen. In order to take control of our lives we must reassign responsibility, we must take responsibility for the things in our control and let go of responsibility for the things that aren’t.
It‘s easy for us to shy away from responsibility, to blame other people or external circumstances. Often not taking responsibility feels good, like we’re not at fault, however it comes with a side effect. When we don’t take responsibility we give up our power and our control; by refusing to take responsibility for the situation we deny ourselves the opportunity to make a change. If we take, at least some, responsibility for a situation we take control of it.
I want a promotion, but my boss won’t consider me,
I can’t get fit, I have a bad knee,
I want to quit my job but I can’t afford it,
I don’t have enough time to study,
I try to eat healthily, but my flatmate always brings home pizza.
Considering both extremes – ask the client to detail all the ways in which they aren’t responsible for the situation, followed by all ways that they are. This opens the client up to the possibility that they might be more responsible than they originally thought.
Taking someone else’s perspective – ask the client to imagine they have a friend in their situation. Then ask them to find ways in which the friend is responsible. In situations involving others ask the client to assess the situation from the other point of view.
Taking responsibility for their reaction – we might not be able to control our situation, but one thing we can control is our reaction to it. Ask the client to take responsibility for their reaction.
Letting go of responsibility
Many of us take on responsibility for things out of our control, usually the actions of other people. Choosing to let go of the things we are not responsible for reduces guilt and worry and frees us up to show up in the areas where we are responsible.
I wish my mum would stop smoking,
I want my partner to take more of an interest in my work,
I don’t want to get ill again,
Segregating – most situations aren’t black and white, so getting the client to separate what they can control and what they can’t is a key first step.
Identifying benefits of perceived control – through coaching clients may realise that they don’t have control over some things they thought they did. Exploring the benefits of this perceived control, and what it means now that they don’t have it, can be useful.
Visualising – visualising a life without the burden of all the things they can’t control can help a client to see the advantages of letting go of responsibility. A useful extension is to then visual how these things will be exactly the same, even though they are not taking responsibility for them.
Action planning – with a clear idea of what they are and aren’t responsible for the client should be able to set down some clear actions to take.
How do you live a happy and fulfilled life?
The client has been on a journey, they have gained clarity on what they want, found the courage to go after it and taken responsibility for their actions. So, what next? The final step is often missed and is about being content with what you have. In such an achievement focused society we find ourselves striving for the next thing, and then the next thing, and the next. Telling ourselves that when we get it we will be happy, and we are, for the briefest of moments until it’s time to strive for something else. It is okay to go after goals, but if we are going to spend over 99% of our life striving for a goal then we need to make sure we are happy and fulfilled whilst doing it, rather than once we’ve finished it.
As well as regular goals (or future goals), the client should create some current goals. A current goal is something that:
- you enjoy doing in that moment
- makes you happy without needing to reach an end goal
Examples of current goals
- Go swimming twice a week
- Have a date night with partner once a week
- Connect with at least one person every day
Write every day
Current goals won’t be permanent, so encourage the client to review the goals regularly. The client should create a current goal to go with every future goal, this allows them to enjoy the process of their achievement rather than just the completion. If there are some future goals where there isn’t a current goal the client should re-examine the goal. Is it going to make them happy? How happy? For how long? Is it worth it for a process they won’t enjoy at all? As well as current goals that supplement future goals there should be some just for fun too!
Asking a client what they are grateful for can be done throughout the coaching process. It is good to encourage the client to think about how they will show gratitude after the coaching process is finished. Frequently reflecting on what we are grateful for is a good way to increase happiness and fulfilment. Most of us have many things in our lives to make us happy, we just can’t always see them.
This coaching model leads clients into a happier and more fulfilling life. They start by gaining specific clarity about what they want their life to look like. With their new found clarity they then address the fears preventing them. Then they take control of their life, and finally learn to live with contentment. Although this model is presented as linear and complete it is possible to start clients at whichever stage is appropriate and move back and forth between stages as necessary.