A Coaching Power Tool Created by Claudia Disco
(Expatriate Coach, UNITED STATES)
Wonder is what sets us apart from other life forms. No other species wonders about the meaning of existence or the complexity of the universe or themselves. Herbert W. Boyer
As an expat and an aspiring expat coach, the words wander and wonder have a special meaning for me. Having lived in 7 countries, across 5 continents, I have wandered and I have learned to wonder the world’s beauty, diversity and mystery.
The objective of this power tool is to help the client reframe his or her perspective. To see things differently and, as a result, come to different, more empowering conclusions or feelings about their journey.
In the context of this power tool, the definition of wander is to take one direction or another without conscious intent or control or to deviate in conduct or belief. When your mind or your thoughts wander you stop thinking about what you should be giving your attention to and start thinking about other matters.
Wandering emphasizes a journey without an objective. Like a river meandering, its path determined by the obstacles it meets and moves around. Or the aimless wandering of a person who is lost and does not know where to go. The path is determined by the outside reality and the person feels like they have no choice.
Please note that I will use the above definition to emphasize the opposing sides of this power tool. Wander also has a more focused and positive side to it. It can also mean to walk or move in a leisurely way.
Not all those who wander are lost.
is a line from the poem All that is gold does not glitter, written by J. R. R. Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings.
A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions, is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of “choice” when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses. Thomas Merton
In this power tool, wonder means a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. It is a desire to be curious to know something. Feel amazement and marvel. As opposed to the first definition I use of wander, wonder evokes a desire, curiosity and is associated with positive emotions. Wonder touches the unfamiliar, unexpected or inexplicable.
What evokes wonder in you? This power tool can help us recognize when we are living an aimless or an unconscious journey by focusing on the wonder in our life. It can be used in switching a client’s perspective of being lost to living a conscious journey full of curiosity, gratitude and awe.
In this power tool wander is a dis-empowering perspective. When you wander you feel like a victim who has no control over anything. As an expat coach my ideal client today is the expat spouse. Below some examples of where wander can take over the life of an expat spouse and how introducing wonder can help get unstuck.
- The spouse of an expat follows his or her partner abroad for work. Having had to resign from their job back home, the spouse now finds him or herself alone at home. The expat spouse also feels an increased pressure from the children who are struggling to adjust to their new school. The original objective and excitement around the move are completely lost. The challenges seem overwhelming. Combined with no sense of direction, the person might start to feel a lack of control over her/his life.
- During a short expat assignment the expat spouse can feel that there is no need to settle in. The place where he or she lives is not seen as home, it remains a temporary dwelling. No friendships are sought after, why bother meeting people and trying to start friendships when you know it will soon be time to move back home again. The person is leading an empty and aimless life.
How can the wonder help in these situations? Bringing wonder into this can help the expat open up to the unfamiliar, unexpected and inexplicable. Wonder brings us closer to living in the moment. In the wonder is curiosity and curiosity is key to moving forward. In the light of wonder a person can ask themselves the questions: “What contribution can I make during this expatriation?”, “How can the children and myself grow from this experience”, “What does this place look like?”, “Who is this person?”, and “What can I learn from the people I meet?” Placing the daily challenges in a light of wonder can help overcome the negative emotion of feeling stuck. Getting unstuck can help the person find a new and positive direction in their life as an expat.
It is important to realize that we always have choices. We can learn something from every situation, no matter how tough or short it is. Wandering is like the story in the coaching session. The story is important to get to the underlying issue, but if we only stick to the story we will not move forward.
How can this power tool be applied in a coaching?
Discovery consists not in seeking out new lands, but in seeking with new eyes. Marcel Proust
The first step in coaching is creating awareness through questioning. The client needs to become conscious if they wander, wonder or if they do both.
Depending on the client, storytelling can be a tool. In my brief experience as a coach not all clients are open to storytelling, and if they are, the underlying message of stories are open for widely different interpretations. Nevertheless a seed is planted and if the story sticks with the client, they can use the story and its lessons in their journey forward. Below a story about three stonecutters.
The Parable of the Three Stonecutters
Posted on December 9th, 2013
Once upon a time, a traveler came across three stonecutters and asked them what they were doing.
The first replied saying that he was the most miserable person on Earth and that he has the hardest job in the world. “Every day I have to move around huge stones make a living, which is barely enough to eat.” The traveler gave him a coin and continued walking.
The second one did not complain and was focused on his work. When the traveler asked him what he was doing, the stonecutter replied “I’m earning a living by doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire county. Although, the work is hard, I’m satisfied with what I do and I earn enough to feed my family.” The traveler praised him, gave him a coin and went on.
When the traveler met the third stonecutter, he noticed that the stonecutter cutter had sweat and dust on him but he looked happy and was singing a cheerful song. The traveler was astonished and asked “What are you doing?” The stonecutter looked up with a visionary gleam in his eye and said, “Can’t you see? I am building a cathedral.”
Finally, some homework can also give the client a boost. Of course this always has to be agreed upon by the client. The following exercise can give the client a practical skill to start identifying alternative ways of seeing daily challenges.
Exercise: Write down 3 positive things per day for a certain period of time. The positive things can be an encounter, a gesture, a remark, an observation, a sound, a smell, basically anything in your present environment.
It is similar, but not the same, as writing a gratitude journal. Gratitude being something to be thankful for, wonder is seeing something like you see it for the first time. This exercise can rewire the client’s brain to see the wonder in their present life. It can help find a sense, a purpose which will open the doors to finding direction and maybe even a new passion.
I would like to finalize my power tool with just a small anecdote on the impact language and culture can have on coaching and, in this case, a power tool. Wording will impact coaching and if we translate directly into other languages the effect or impact will often change. While researching this power tool I came across the importance of wander in the Finnish culture. In Finnish they actually have a word for “I wonder if I should run around aimlessly”. The word is Juoksentelisinkohan. A Finnish person would probably not find the same meaning, as I do, in the opposing meaning of wander versus wonder.