A Coaching Power Tool created by Dominika Farley
(Career coaching, Expat and Diversity Coaching, POLAND)
This tool is a metaphor of one’s attitude towards achieving goals. Farming is a systematic approach to cultivating and gathering food. It takes planning, knowledge, skills, and – above all – patience and consistency. Out of all animal species of the Earth, only humans are capable of farming. Foraging is a very different approach. A lot of animals (including humans, especially in the times from before the agricultural revolution) forage by moving from place to place looking for bits of food and gathering them. This approach usually requires the individual to move a lot, changing places and trying new things. Neither of those approaches can be called inherently good or bad, although farming is more productive in the long term. Foraging is all about getting by, while farming is about long-term survival or even prosperity and growth, as we can learn from history. However, it is the farming approach that in my opinion is more useful as a metaphor for achieving goals.
Farming vs foraging approach to achieving goals
What I mean by the farming approach is that the client is dedicated to the idea of focusing on one goal at a time. The agricultural equivalent would be choosing certain crop(s) and dedicating the whole growing season to that particular plant instead of changing one’s mind mid-season, digging up immature specimens and starting another crop whether the time is right or not – which would not be considered normal or good farming. The foraging approach would be to switch from one goal to another, sometimes even from one session to the next, based on having a different idea, feeling, or just not being particularly convinced about the goal that was agreed upon during the previous session. As can be expected, the foraging approach to achieving goals is not going to bring about the desired change, if such change cannot be achieved through an amazing breakthrough during a single session. In most cases, the foraging approach displayed by the client will prevent them from making a change.
Identifying the foraging approach
It does happen during the coaching process that the client changes his/her mind about the goal. It can occur for various reasons. Perhaps more work is needed in order to identify true values and needs of the client. Some clients may have lived most of their lives living out somebody else’s expectations rather than their own needs and ambitions. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about what they really want or need to be doing. Another reason may be intense anxiety stemming from negative beliefs about one’s ability to actually carry out the change. However, once all those concerns are addressed and solved, and the client continues with the foraging approach, they need to be confronted about that. This is when I would use the farming versus foraging metaphor in order to explain the consequences of not focusing on one goal.
As coaches, we can also fall prey to the foraging approach. Jumping from one niche to another, taking one course after another, may be a symptom of the foraging approach. After identifying it, we might want to think what should be the real focus of our efforts and why we behave the way we do. Talking to a peer coach or a mentor may prove to be very helpful in such a situation.
This tool can be used to bring the client’s attention to the fact that they are not focusing on the goal they previously decided to pursue by using an easy to understand metaphor. This can be an introduction to a session dedicated to imagining what could happen as a result of the foraging approach rather than the farming one and exploring what the client’s reasons for behaving in that way may be.
- What is my current professional goal or mission? Am I truly aware of that? How much do I really believe in it?
- How are my actions bringing me closer to reaching it?
- How easy is it for me to drop what I decided to do in order to pursue another goal?
- Why does it happen? Is it lack of faith? Boredom? What thoughts are coming into my head when I ask myself that?
- What do I think will happen if I keep moving from one goal to the next?
- What can I do in order to become more focused and committed to achieving my goal?