A Coaching Power Tool Created by Clare Ng
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
When you’ve exhausted all of the possibilities, remember this: You haven’t Thomas Edison
Opportunity occurs when we embrace the possibilities. By refusing to allow difficulties to get in the way of our success, we create our own opportunities. Opportunity is defined as “a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.” Too many times, people wait for an opportunity to come along. They live their lives stagnant waiting for the chance to come to them, when, in reality, it’s the act of being active that actually creates the opportunity. Opportunity and action walk hand in hand. When we view ourselves as being in a position of opportunity, we are acknowledging that we have the power to choose success. We view challenges not as barriers, but simply as detours along our journey. When we do not view ourselves as being the creator of our own opportunities, we create excuses. We think of reasons why we should remain inactive. We allow any challenge to give us a rational reason to not reach our goals. Excuses are our fears creeping in to tell us that we are not capable of success. Telling us we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or strong enough to reach our goals. By pushing past the difficulties and rising above our excuses, we will be able to find hope in possibilities and be able to see the opportunities available to us.
The power tool opportunity vs. excuse focuses on surface level change in perspective. Often in coaching, we work with the client to make deep shifts in their outlook on the issue at hand. When a client first begins the coaching process, they may be feeling overwhelmed by the possibility of change. By shifting their perspective to the positive view of opportunity, they will be able to see they have options. As coaches, we can support the client in this simple change in perspective that will open the door for many deeper shifts later in the process.
Imagine you are hiking through the woods. At the start of the trail you chose to follow the blue path. It was clearly marked and easy to follow as there were signs along the trees. As you continue, the trail becomes less distinct. The markers are further and further apart, so it is hard to tell whether you are on the right path to reach your destination. You take a moment to assess the situation and decide you have two options. One is to go back the way you came. The trail behind you is safe and well marked. It would be easy to follow your steps backwards and take the clear path in your comfort zone. The other option is to continue moving forward- taking the chance on the road ahead. You know that it may be scary and more difficult, but you know the possibilities are endless if you decided to push past your fear of the unknown.
The two options in the scenario compare to our choices in life: opportunity and excuse. In life, when we are faced with a challenge, we have the option to be in the position of opportunity- allowing ourselves to take a risk and move outside of our comfort zone to move closer to our goals. We can also choose to choose a position of excuse- deciding that the challenge will force us to remain inactive or even worse retract backwards away from our goals and success. We can view the present situation as an excuse to return back to the safe path or as an opportunity to explore the unknown and reach our highest potential.
As a coach, our job is to support our clients in taking action. There may be times when we notice that the client is making excuses to remain inactive along their journey. We can help the client by bringing clarity around the limiting beliefs causing them to lean towards excuse vs. opportunity. For example, the client may have a fear of inadequacy. When faced with a challenge, they may believe that they do not have the qualifications or experience required to view this situation as an opportunity to try something new. Because of this fear, they see the challenge as an excuse to remain inactive for fear that will not be able to branch out on their own to reach success. When a client views a challenge with tunnel vision, they see the excuse as their only option. We can support the clients in widening their view to see the many options they have to move forward in action.
Consider this case study.
Sandy has come to her coach unhappy with her home life and feeling like she has no option to improve it. She comes to the session feeling stuck and frustrated.
Sandy: “I’m unhappy with my husband. Whenever he is home, he spends his time watching TV. He doesn’t like to spend time outside, explore new places, or spend time with friends”
Coach: “How is this a problem for you?”
Sandy: “It stops me from doing things I like to do because I feel like I need to stay in the house when he does.”
Coach: “What emotions arise when you think of your husband watching TV?”
Sandy: “I feel a sensation of anger every time I walk into the house. The emotion overtakes to the point that I cannot enjoy the things I likes to do”
Coach: “I can see that you carry this anger with you even here in our session. I would like to invite you to take a deep breath and let that tension go for the moment.”
Sandy: *takes deep breath*
Sandy’s current position is that of excuse. She sees her husband’s behavior as barrier that won’t allow her to be happy at home. Sandy uses her husband’s behavior as an excuse to remain inside and unhappy because he has chosen to remain inside.
Coach: “How can you see your husband’s spending time watching TV as an opportunity for yourself?”
Sandy: “Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Perhaps I could use this time to get out of the house”
Coach: “That’s great! What could you do during this time out of the house?”
Sandy: “Well, I could spend some time by myself, or visit with family and friends.
Coach: “What does it feel like to make the decision to be active instead of staying at home with your husband?”
Sandy: “It feels like a relief! I don’t feel that anger or tension anymore. It feels much better.”
Coach: “I’d really like to acknowledge you, Sandy, for taking a step back and seeing this situation from another perspective. What is it that you are taking away from this session today?”
Sandy: “I am taking away the realization that I have options! I can choose to stay at home with my husband, but I can also use this time as an opportunity to get out of the house and do things on my own.”
When she views the challenge with a more open mind, she understands that her happiness is in her hands. Instead of using her anger as an excuse, she has shifted it to an opportunity to explore other options she has rather than to remain stagnant and unhappy.
As coaches, we want to help focus the client on their strengths and help find a reference for success in a challenging moment. Challenges they have overcome in the past can give them a boost of motivation to help them regain a positive outlook. We can help clients explore what drives them to let excuses get in the way of their goals and happiness. It is imperative to create the awareness that we cannot control other’s behavior. We can only control how we react to it. By shifting the client’s perspective to a place of opportunity, we are supporting them on a journey to explore their options for success in a new light.
We can use this initial shift in perspective to branch into deeper shifts later in our sessions together.
- Reflect on what goals you have set for yourself and barriers that have slowed you in reaching them.
- What limiting beliefs could drive a person to approaching a challenge with excuses?
- How can focusing on a client’s strengths shift them to a position of opportunity?
- What are some emotions you link with excuse? With opportunity?
- In what ways could excuse be an okay perspective for a client to take?
- How can taking a perspective of opportunity shift the client’s beliefs?