A Coaching Model Created by Kylie McDonnell
(Life Transition Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
This coaching model is named after a series of books I loved as a child. What I loved about Choose Your Own Adventure books was that you could read them multiple times and each time choose a different ending, feeding my sense of adventure and empowering me with a sense of agency. Of course, the reality is that Choose Your Own Adventure books offer a limited number of outcomes, but our lives are different, open to endless possibility and we can not only choose our own adventure but also choose to look at whatever life presents us as an adventure too. Perspective is more important than circumstance.
This model was born out of a growing awareness that approaching life like it’s an adventure is core to who I am as a person and as a coach. Understanding this philosophy as a model has been a helpful structure to support personal awareness, acceptance and growth in my life and is a bias that influences my style of coaching, grounded in the mantra:
Remember who you are
Trust this adventure
You have everything you need…
When life is approached like it’s an adventure we assume:
- Change is part of nature’s cycle and a source of learning and renewal
- Courage is valued over comfort
- Life unfolds in the moment…the ending is not yet written
- You have choices…and there are no wrong choices only experiences to be had and lessons to learn. All paths lead back to you
- You are capable, resourceful and know what’s best for you
When we make these assumptions we invite curiosity, playfulness and non-judgment, which supports learning, acceptance and change…all of which are key ingredients for adventure.
There are five components to this model, which are by no means sequential. Each step invites you to imagine that you are an explorer, approaching each day like it’s part of an adventure – with you being the captain of the ship. Following these components in a sequential order might serve you, others might find it more natural to jump around, reflecting back to move forward – the choice is yours, it’s your adventure.
Tune into your inner compass
What do you value?
Your compass is your inner guide, the little magnet inside you that knows what direction to point you in when it’s time to set sail, and can act as an anchor when it’s time to stay at port.
Your compass is a combination of things: your values, supportive beliefs, strengths, interests, purpose – the stuff that you care about and feels true for you – so knowing how to tune into this can be a handy skill to learn. And it is a skill; this inner compass is within us all but it’s not always the easiest to locate. We can spend a lot of time looking outside of ourselves for the answer and yet, our compass, our truth, requires us to look within. Just as fitness is a result of action (i.e lifestyle and regular exercise) your ability to tune into your compass is a result of regular effort over a lifetime and the more you practice the better you get at it.
Tuning into your compass is where this model begins because when you remember who you are, deep down underneath current circumstances and behaviours, it serves as a firm foundation to set meaningful, authentic goals and intentions. It’s the “why” behind your “what” and why a goal matters to you, how it aligns with your values, will be the inspiration to achieve the goal, and the extra push you need when obstacles arise. It doesn’t make the action required easier it just makes it clearer.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung
Choose your own adventure
Goals & Intentions
With your compass in hand, where do you want to go? If you are not clear on the destination, what is the direction? This means you might have a specific goal to work towards or intention to practice (destination) or you might be keen to clarify, now that you know how to read your compass, what the next step is in that direction for you.
Are you travelling towards a feeling? A shift in mindset? A lifestyle change? Choosing your adventure is about clarifying and feeling into the change you want to experience in your life. To see it, taste it, smell it. And just like learning how to tune into your Inner compass can be a goal in itself, so too can choosing your adventure. Sometimes our goals slowly come into focus.
Once the goal or intention is clear some questions considered at this stage of your adventure is:
- How does this desired change align with your compass?
- How do you want to feel in pursuit of the goal?
- How will you recognise you’ve achieved it (i.e how will your life, how will you, be different)
- What’s currently in your way (and how real are those obstacles)?
- What are the steps involved (or, can you specify at least the next step)
Putting your values into action
Imagine you’re the captain of your ship. Once you know the direction you’re sailing in and why that’s important you’re ready to set sail, right? In reality, you might not be ready. You might be scared of the journey ahead. But part of step 2 is about breaking the goal down into bite-sized pieces. Trusting the vision, but choosing to focus on the next, small task at hand and doing that. Rather than sail all the way to Australia, what if you sailed the English channel first, or better still what if you started by just getting on the boat? It still honours the bigger goal and is heading in the desired direction. Clarity and confidence comes with action, you can always course correct once you’re out at sea.
A goal is not always meant to be reached. Sometimes it serves as something to aim at~Bruce Lee
Navigating choppy seas
What can you do when you experience resistance?
What happens when you’re on course and you hit choppy seas? “Choppy seas” could be any number of things: fear of the unknown, self-doubt or unexpected life circumstances cropping up. It could also be natural resistance in pursuit of your goal, what Todd Herman refers to as the biology of change. The science behind how the creation of new habits requires effort and this effort can be experienced in the body as resistance. Imagine that your ship in on course in one particular direction but you recognise as the captain that you’re slightly off course and need to steer the ship in a new direction. Your ship changing its course will experience resistance in the water in the same way your body experiences resistance with change. We’ve switched from automatic into manual and it requires a bit more effort. Mentally we can interpret that effort as resistance and a cue to give up on the goal (“it feels too hard”) but what if we just need to give the change more time? What if this adventure is inviting you to give your ship time to course correct? This step is about acknowledging the inevitable presence of fear when stepping out of your comfort zone and also about examining beliefs around how you think the process of change is “supposed” to feel.
Reflect, celebrate & integrate – the space in between
It’s an easy trap to fall into when we have a vision in mind or a change we’re craving to notice the gap between where we are and where we would like to be. This mindset can see us falling short if we let it. But what if we are exactly where we are meant to be in this adventure? What if we were to use this opportunity to stop, reflect upon and celebrate how far we’ve come? How could acknowledging the effort invested, the lessons learned and the distance travelled so far serve as a way to refuel, repair our ship and reenergise our crew before our onward journey? The same applies when the goal has been reached. This is an invitation to pause, celebrate the achievement and savour the moment before rushing to integrate the learning and create a new goal.
A call to action
How could this perspective support the way you set goals, travel towards them, deal with uncertainty and respond to detours and setbacks?
How will you approach your life as an adventure?
I have been inspired by the work of the following people, which has inevitably influenced my coaching model:
Brene Brown The Gifts of Imperfection. Daring Greatly. Rising Strong
Danielle Laporte The Desire Map
Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Tod Herman’s work on the biology of change http://www.marieforleo.com/2014/04/change-your-life-todd-herman/