A Coaching Power Tool By Donald Borg, Transformational Coach, AUSTRALIA
The Benefit of the Doubt vs. Possibility
The purpose of this power tool is to support the client’s shift from a disempowering to an empowering frame of mind and perspective.
Way too often we find ourselves stuck. Stuck to decide. Stuck to act. Stuck from moving forward.
Failing to move forward can also translate to pain and a feeling of ‘not being good enough as a result of self-doubt. It’s like beating yourself with a stick, knowing well that’s painful. But it’s the go-to place because it’s a familiar place that can ironically feel like a comfortable or familiar space.
It is amazing how a tiny shift of perspective can bring so much more joy. It’s like stepping out of a cold and dark room into a garden full of flowers, shining sun, and a smell of spring, hinting at new beginnings and possibilities.
I relate to these two states of being because I’ve been there so many times and on so many different levels. I literally experienced this state of doubt vs possibility for a long period of time before I got going with this very paper, as a result of a lack of confidence that I can get it done. It took weeks of procrastination. As a result, my confidence levels were at their lowest, and I was unhappy at the very least! It took a peer coach to ask me the ‘what if’ question that pushed me to just get going.
Doubt vs. Possibility Definition and Meaning
1: to be uncertain about (something): to believe that (something) may not be true or is unlikely
2: to have no confidence in (someone or something)
Too many things could lead to this state of doubt. Uncertainty can be an absolute killer. Killer of opportunities, killer of progress, killer of dreams. But sometimes it’s also a result of long-held values and beliefs. A perfectionist values flawlessness, which can in turn hinder progress. A loving husband and father can value stability. The stability of a corporate job even though he is over it but it’s in the best interest of the family. It’s this exact value that could be holding this loving husband from chasing his dream of doing his own thing or perhaps changing course.
Lack of confidence could also be another reason behind self-doubt. This could be a result of failure in the past, or fear of the unknown, just to mention a few. Confidence is the fuel for success as it keeps us charged and focussed on our goals.
A ‘shift of perspective’ from one of Doubt to one of Possibility for me is a perfect example of a shift from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset. A fixed mindset is characterized by fixed abilities, fruitless efforts, and giving up too easily. Much like when being stuck in a state of Doubt. Whereas a growth mindset embraces challenges, has a desire to learn and build abilities, and perseveres in the face of failure. This brings me to what I characterize as a state of Possibility.
1: the condition or fact of being possible
2: one’s utmost power, capacity, or ability
3: something that is possible
It is because of the power of possibility that man landed on the moon on that day in 1969. Someone had a dream and broke away from the shackles of doubt and went in search of realizing the dream. They believed in the possibility of being successful in going to the moon. Nothing else mattered.
Possibility thinking could be thought of as Positive thinking on steroids. It’s about becoming aware of the possibilities in every situation viewing life as an exciting array of challenges and opportunities. If we see the possibilities, we can view the situation in a more positive manner. By constructing more than one perspective or viewpoint, we can realize the potential in any situation, and open the door to great flexibility and more constructive action.
So How Can This Power Tool Be Used in a Coaching Context?
The coach partners with the client to establish the way forward for the client to achieve the desired goals and/or state of being. The coach does not tell the client what to do nor judge or assume. The coach asks questions to assist the client to explore and forge the path forward, from a heightened level of awareness. This is not possible if the coach focuses on the past. The role of the coach is to help the client shift perspective so that the client can allow themselves to start seeing and exploring more empowering possibilities to achieve their desired goals and/or positive state of being.
Questions That Can Be Used in a Typical Coaching Conversation to Help the Client Shift Perspective and Start Seeing and Exploring Possibilities.
How has this thinking been serving you to date?
What values and/or beliefs might be at play when you are in a state of doubt?
What could happen if you allowed yourself to explore different possibilities?
What could be possible?
What options are available for you to explore?
What other options could you think of?
What steps might you take to progress?
How will you support yourself when you’re faced with self-doubt?
What other support would you need to help you stay the course?
An Example of ‘Doubt vs. Possibility’ in Practice in Everyday Life.
(doubt) You think: I can’t go for a promotion. I’m less than 12 months into my job.
(possibility) What to think instead: What if I could go for that promotion? Have other people in my company made it happen in under a year? Who can I speak to internally to learn more? Where can I find some proof that this is doable? How can I take the right action to make this a real option?
Ideas for Supporting a Positive and Empowering Possibility Thinking Perspective
According to phycologist Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence is thought to be more important than IQ when understanding what successful people are made of. ‘Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.’ (Mindtools.com)
Although some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, like many skill sets, emotional intelligence can be cultivated. One way is by practicing mindfulness. ‘Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.’ (Verywellmind.com)
Choosing to rise above self-doubt and look at the possibilities comes from a place of clarity and self-awareness.
Often, it’s our thinking not reality that keeps us stuck where we are. Dwelling in possibility can also be one of the most exciting ways to spend your time.
Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence
ICA modules: Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence