A Coaching Model By Raphael Weninger, Life Coach, AUSTRIA
Why Water Flow Model?
Water is one of, if not the most crucial element of life. It covers around 70% of the earth’s surface and it makes up around 60 % of the human body. In short, all known forms of life depend on water, that’s how important it is.
As water flows through us on a cellular level, there is a tight bond between us and water, without water we would not exist. Thus, it seemed fitting to link the water cycle to human life and the different states we go through in life.
Water Flow: How Does It Apply to Coaching?
We encounter various challenges in our lives, which are represented in the graphic by the transitioning states (precipitation, evaporation and condensation), that we might not be able to solve on our own. Here is where coaching can help to create new awareness and bring insights, which can then help to move to a more positive and stable state (gas, solid, liquid).
The cycle of the model also shows that new situations and problems are arising throughout life. Often there is a misunderstanding that humans are reduced to functioning like a machine, so when you fix a software issue it is fixed forever when in reality we are constantly interacting with our environment and we get triggered by new events.
Stage 1: Current State
Each client is in a home state or current state, which represents the view of their inner world as well as of the world around them. When the client engages with a coach this usually signifies that there is a challenge they are facing and cannot solve on their own.
In the Water Flow model, those challenging situations are represented by precipitation, evaporation and condensation, as life gives us different challenges at different stages of our own life cycle.
Example: I have struggled with my previous job as there were elements I liked about it and elements I did not like. This made it tough to arrive at the conclusion to quit and to decide on what is next for me.
In this stage, it is important for the coach to understand and acknowledge the client’s current situation, which will build trust and form a connection between the client and coach.
We can then build on this trust to move to the next stage of transformation where the client and coach partner explore the challenge in more detail and move the client towards their desired goal.
Stage 2: Transformation
During the transformation stage, various elements such as commitment, awareness and insight need to be present to get the most benefit from the conversation.
Commitment is an attitude towards a situation as well as a demonstrated behaviour and ideally, it is made explicit and unambiguous. In the context of coaching, this means that there is a clear understanding of both the client’s as well as the coach’s side of their respective roles during the interaction.
The attitudes and behaviours with regards to commitment include being honest about facts, being open and vulnerable, being non-judgemental and taking responsibility, among others.
It takes both the client and the coach to be committed and fully present during the conversation, only when both parties contribute can the conversation be successful.
Example: At this stage, I honestly shared the facts about my work situation with the coach and I was vulnerable by sharing my feelings and fears. By being non-judgemental the coach enabled me to open up further.
Awareness relates to being able to directly perceive, know or feel certain experiences inside and outside of yourself. It is about finding what is true for you at this moment and bringing it to the forefront of your mind. Here it can help the coach to share feedback with the client in the form of observations. This exploration creates the environment for new thoughts to occur because we dare to look, which in turn gets us closer to what we might call an insight.
It happened to me, not only once, that I had been thinking about something and when I spelt it out with my coach I gained a new awareness of the situation. I could then use that newfound awareness to break out of my old thinking loop. It opens up the possibility that there is something else.
Example: As the coach gave me feedback by sharing observations about my behaviour and thinking about my current job and what the future might hold, I could see how I was stuck in a loop. This loop kept me trapped by coming up with the same ‘solutions’ for my problem, which did not work for me.
A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push. Ludwig Wittgenstein
Our experience of life is created by how we think about the world, which in turn informs how we feel about a situation. If we are able to shift our thinking, our experience of a situation changes, often it’s only that change in perspective that is necessary to resolve a problem or unlock a new world for us.
The difficulty is that we tend to go in circles and think about a problem in the same way.
In short, insight is a new thought. That new thought rearranges us, creating surprising juxtapositions and emotional openings that allow us to see our situation with different eyes and create a new reality for us. Nothing is different on the outside but everything changed on the inside.
I like looking at insights in this way, as a new thought, because it ceases to be this hard-to-grasp concept that suddenly appears out of nowhere and changes our lives in miraculous ways.
Insights allow us to engage with the possibility we see through awareness and turn it into more concrete thoughts and feelings that we can then act upon.
Example: By exploring my behaviour and thinking in the current job, I realised how I was afraid to quit because of the uncertainty of finding a new job that I enjoyed. By digging deeper, I figured out that I didn’t actually know what exactly I was looking for, that’s where the uncertainty came from. With this insight, I knew I needed to learn more about myself and what I want, so looking for a job that fits my criteria was not such a scary thing anymore.
Stage 3: Stability
With the insights the client is gaining at the Transformation stage the goal is to move towards a ‘stable state’, which can be done by helping to establish support structures, creating awareness around possible obstacles and putting in place accountability measures.
The stable state is represented by gas (vapour), liquid (water) or solid (ice) and refers to cementing the positive change the client has achieved and maintaining healthy habits. The clients find stability in their life again and have reached the goal they have set for the coaching journey.
The positive change can be cemented by celebrating the win together with the client, finding resources to help with the task at hand, establishing accountability structures and ultimately integrating new behaviours into daily life to become sustainable habits.
Example: After realizing that I needed to learn more about myself, what I am looking for in a job and what criteria to apply, the coach supported me in terms of what resources I could use to achieve my goals and think of people or habits that can support me in the process. This helped me to bring back more stability in my life and move ahead with more confidence.
As the circular nature of this model highlights, after reaching a stable state, a new challenge is awaiting us sooner or later and this same process can be applied to reach a stable state again. This means the next challenge could be only days, but maybe months or years away. The different stable states also indicate that the challenges we face can occur in various areas of our life and at various stages of our life.
Jéquier, E., & Constant, F (2010) Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 64. pp. 115–123. Retrieved: 4 June 2022.
CIA World Factbook (2022). Retrieved: 4 June 2022.
Neill, M. (2013) The Inside-Out Revolution: The Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever.