A Coaching Power Tool Created by Maiko Ueno-Murray
(Expats & Expat Spouses Coach, FRANCE)
There is a famous quote by Dale Carnegie.
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
It may be a cliché, but even a cliché can teach us something. When we face a challenge in our life — and we all do — it is easy or tempting to throw up our hands and ask “why me?” Sometimes, we may look for someone of something else to assign the blame.
How we approach these challenges is often the determining factor in whether or not we overcome them. Having a positive attitude, looking for hidden opportunites, drawing on the support and experience of our family, friends, colleagues and even coaches, is the key to successfully turning lemons into lemonade.
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said,
Never let a serious crisis go to waste.
Even in the midst of the worst financial/economic crisis that the U.S. had seen in more than 50 years (and similarly, the most severe global crisis the world had seen), he had his eyes on the future and was determined to be successful.
Most of us won’t face challenges on this scale, but let’s take a look at a case study to learn how we can apply some of these lessons to our own daily struggles.
The story of Ricardo Ricardo
was an electronic engineer in the U.S. One day his wife’s company asked her to relocate to an overseas branch. Ricardo enjoyed his job very much, but living separately without his wife and kids was not an option. He quit his job and the whole family moved to France.
The first couple of weeks were exciting. New culture, new language, new friends… everything fascinated him. Without a work permit, however, he couldn’t get a job, and gradually he began to feel empty. It would have been easy for him to weep over his misfortune, but he didn’t respond that way. He acknowledged the fact that there was nothing he could do about the work permit, and began to focus on how he could enjoy his life without having a job. He immersed himself in his new role as a home maker, taking up cooking, cleaning, and spending more time with his kids. Within a few months, Ricardo realized that he actually enjoyed cooking and people raved about his food.
He wanted to pursue his newfound passion and decided to enroll in one of the most prestigious cooking schools in Paris to learn French cuisine. During his days at the cooking school, his passion for food kept growing. After 6 months of classes, he successfully graduated and was hired at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Soon after, he found out that his wife’s company would relocate them again, this time to Ricardo’s hometown where he could legally work. Ricardo is planning to open a French style café there and is thrilled about his future.
Ricardo’s story is a good example of perceiving a challenge as an opportunity. He could have whined and complained about his bad luck and inability to find a job, but instead, he switched his focus to looking for ways to work with the situation he was given. In other words, he made lemonade.
One thing I would like you to take away from Ricardo’s story is that when life gives you a challenge, it is your opportunity to grow big. Seeing anything (or everything!) as a challenge is your choice, seeing anything as an opportunity is also your choice. It is YOUR choice.
As coaches, our main job is to help our clients shift their perceptions and identify ways to overcome their challenges. Below are a few steps that might help us in such an endeavor.
1) Identify what the challenge is and how it impacts to their goal.
- What is your challenge?
- What are the indication that it is a problem for you?
- What bothers you?
- What impact does your challenge have to reach your goal?
- How is this challenge making it harder to achieve your goal?
- How does it affect you?
2) Showing empathy.
- I am sorry to hear that…
- I can hear how frustrated you are…
- I can see this is a big challenge for you to…
- I understand that this can be frustrating.
- It sounds extremely challenging…
3) Clarify the client’s desired outcome.
- What would you like to achieve?
- Which results would you like to have?
- Who would you like to be?
- What is your dream scenario?
- If it is not a problem, what would you do?
- If you could overcome this challenge, what would that do for you?
4) Try challenge their thought or belief around the challenge.
- What makes you think that it is a challenge?
- What assumptions do you have?
- What evidence/fact do you have that this is a challenge?
- What does it cost you?
- What is the worst thing that could happen?
- What are other perspectives you have not considered?
5) Look for some possibilities
- What aspects of the problem can you control?
- What are the benefits to have this challenge?
- What can you learn from this challenge?
- How will you amplify your existing strength under this circumstances?
- How do you respond to what you can’t control?
6) Design action plan.
- What possible action can you take now?
- Who could support you?
- How do you use your awareness to achieve your goal?
- What is the fist step you can take at this moment?
- What resources can you use?
- What needs our immediate attention going forward?
We can also ask the clients’ past experience when they overcame the challenges. Asking them how they actually overcame the challenges might give clients the confident and might be the possible way to reframe their current challenges into opportunities. Useful questions are below.
- What challenges did you have?
- Did you overcome them?
- If the answer is yes, how did you overcome them?
- If the answer is no, what kind of excuse were you making?
While the coach helps uncover clients’ real beliefs or fears, coach should not forget to keep encouraging the client that they are the ones who control their life, not the circumstances.
Reframing challenges into opportunity might not happen overnight. Sometimes it takes longer than we expect. But no matter what, coach should be patient and always believe that clients can find their ways to overcome their challenges and attain what they want.