A Coaching Power Tool Created by Matthew Heim
(Transformation Coach, UNITED STATES)
What Does it Mean to be Aspirational?
In the coaching profession, aspiration is more than a goal-friendly emotion or value, because it involves both heart and action. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Aspiration” as
A strong desire to achieve something high or great
Aspiration stems from the Latin word aspirationem, which literally means “to breathe into.” So we can also view the word aspiration as being related to a creative process since many religious traditions refer to a higher power breathing into or upon something when describing a process of giving new life to something or someone. Regardless of the root meaning of aspiration, we all know it today as the will and desire to achieve something that is more meaningful to ourselves.
Today, more than ever, people are signing up with coaches either because of their great aspirations or because of their lack thereof. People are seeking new ways to re-energize their bodies, minds, and souls, in hopes of transforming themselves from a state of dissatisfaction, unwillingness, or sheer lassitude to a state of inspired action and achievement. How many people have you encountered in the past year who expressed their desire to re-invent themselves? The need for transformation is great, as increasing numbers of people are actually becoming sick, because of the toxic (literally and figuratively) environments they find themselves in today.
Recognizing and Understanding Lassitude
Before the transformation process begins, having a deeper understanding of the causes of lassitude will be helpful. But first, let’s see how Merriam Webster defines “Lassitude:”
A condition characterized by lack of interest, energy or spirit
We can all relate to actions for which we have no interest or energy, but lacking spirit strikes at an even deeper level. Lassitude, if unprocessed, can eventually lead to a state of burnout, in which we can no longer conjure up the energy to create change in our lives. Anxiety and depression, as well as physical illness, are all shown to follow a pattern of longer-term, unaddressed lassitude, so the earlier we can begin working on a plan of transformation, the better off we’ll be.
The Transformation Coaching Opportunity
Earlier stages of lassitude are often recognized by the prospective client or “coachee” as a state of dissatisfaction, uneasiness, or unwillingness in their personal lives or their work. More advanced stages can show up as depression, anxiety, or sheer burnout, where the client experiences a state of emotional paralysis, unable to execute even the simplest of tasks. There may be times when the client does not even realize what is happening, and will just appear to be agitated or have a feeling of listlessness.
This power tool: Aspiration vs. Lassitude can offer some suggestions to help the coach recognize these symptoms, and to develop strategies that may support the client through a meaningful transformation process.
Understanding CircumstancesAround the Situation
When a client expresses their desire to change their state of lassitude, they often express this by explaining circumstances that generate dissatisfactions, for example, “I just don’t have the energy to do my job,” or “I have lost complete interest in ________ anymore.” As a coach, we can create opportunities for exploring the deeper emotions behind these feelings or “symptoms” through a series of questions intended to separate the client’s goal from their hidden beliefs. For example, the coach could respond by asking one of the following questions:
- “What is going on when this feeling of ____________ shows up in your day?
- “In the past week, when did you experience that feeling of ___________ the most?”
- “What was going on then?”
- “What was going on inside of you when this happened?”
- “What do you believe was causing this feeling?”
Upon reflection, the client will often describe and express underlying feelings as they surface. As they surface, the coach has the opportunity to explore those emotions or feelings by asking:
- “Can you explain to me what ___________ means to you and how it is affecting you?”
- “Can you tell me about other times in your past when this feeling of ____________ showed up in your life?”
- “What do you think was the cause of this feeling?”
- If the client expresses and becomes aware of the deeper cause of their emotional challenge, the coach has an opportunity to move them forward towards transformation.
Probing the Client’s Willingness to Transform
Transformation begins with the client’s willingness to create change in their lives. Some probing questions to challenge the client to see if they are ready for change could include:
- “Now that you are aware of the source of these feelings, how could you begin to address them?”
- “What difference would it make in your life if this feeling were gone?
- “What if the situation never changes – how could you show up differently?
Identifying the Scope of Transformation (i.e., the Goal)
With the client’s new awareness (which may have been showing up in many aspects of their life), a next step could be to encourage them to begin prioritizing and choosing goals that will present the most significant transformation opportunity in their life. Some possible probing questions are:
- “Now that you are aware of ___________ what would be the most important thing for you to accomplish in today’s coaching session?”
- “What would successfully accomplishing this goal look like for you?”
- “What has kept you from doing this in the past?”
- “Where would it make the most sense to start?”
Uncovering Core Values
If the client is still unable to pinpoint the cause of their dissatisfaction, it could be that they are operating from a perspective that is not in alignment with their personal core values. However, many people are unaware of their core values, so taking them through a discovery process could help them to identify those values that are most important to them, which can then be used as a lens or filter when making key choices in their lives. Values can also be used to help the client seek opportunities to make daily situations more pleasurable, by seeking an aspect of a situation that they could “buy into” by seeing how it can align with a specific core value.
One exercise that is very useful in helping clients uncover their core values is the “Peak Experiences” exercise that is part of the Appreciative Inquiry approach created by David Cooperrider. In this exercise, the coach asks the client to explore certain peak experiences they have had throughout their lives, where they felt most whole, perfect, and complete. After exploring these experiences, the coach may ask the following questions to gain further insight into the core values (e.g. freedom, love, connectedness, etc.) behind these experiences:
- “Can you tell me more about the emotions that were evoked in you during that experience?
- “If you were to assign a word or phrase that describes the feeling that you had, what would it be?”
- “How could you apply these values to future choices and situations to make them more enjoyable?”
- “What will you do differently now that you are aware of your core values?”
Creating a New Vision
Another reason that many people have a sense of lassitude is that they feel a lack of empowerment or buy-in with the situations that they are in. They may express or hint of the fact that their life has no direction, and that they are living the desires of other people. Using a combination of visioning and visualization techniques the coach can help the client experience new ways of seeing their future activities, and how they can show up differently, thus creating a whole new emotional experience.
The coach could, with the client’s permission, start by guiding the client into a meditative state. Then presenting them the opportunity to see a new vision of the future, where they are in alignment with their core values. The coach can also lead them into situations similar to those that caused lassitude, allowing them to seek a new (more positive) experience in these situations – again, always emphasizing the client’s empowerment to create the most desirable outcome for themselves.
After the vision is established, the coach can ask the client to explore details about the vision that is meaningful, for example, they can ask:
- “Who is around you in this vision, and how are they showing up?”
- “What does this place/experience look like/feel like/smell like?”
- “What is it about this place & time that makes it so desirable?”
- “What are you feeling in this place & time (encouraging the client to explore their positive emotions and feelings)?”
- “What did you (client) have to do differently to allow this vision to become real?”
- “What did you (client) have to let go of to allow this vision to become real?
Creating Commitments for Transformation
Immediately after the visioning and visualization session is typically a good time to ask the client what new commitments they are willing to make in their life. Some questions that the coach could ask include:
- “What part of the visioning session was most empowering to you?”
- “What did you do differently in this vision that made the difference?”
- “Which of these would you be willing to commit to in your life going forward?”
Planning for Action
New commitments require clear action in order to bring them to life in the client’s life. If appropriate, and aligned with the client’s goal for the session, the coach could encourage the client to action by asking the following questions:
- “What steps are you willing to make to realize these new commitments?”
- “What structure or help will you need to achieve these new commitments?”
- “How will you ensure that these actions are in alignment with your newly discovered values/vision?”
There is no single “best” way to help a client through the transformation process from lassitude to aspiration, and much will depend on the client and the coach’s reading of the client’s willingness and aspects of self-discovery that may arise from the coaching session. The coach may offer the Peak Experiences and Visioning/Visualization exercises as part of an initial self-discovery process, then use subsequent coaching sessions to chip away at different goals that the client has that will bring transformation to their life, shifting from a state of lassitude to one of aspiration towards things to come.
- What are the root causes of any feelings of lassitude in your life?
- What are the root causes of any aspirational feelings in your life?
- What is the difference between how you are showing up in the one vs. the other?
Cooperrider, David, “Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change,” Berrett-Kohler, 2005
Heim, Matthew, “Breaking the Musashi Code: Transcending Competition Through Visionary Strategy,” Visionary Partnership Press, 2007
Dispenza, Joe, “Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon,” Hay House Inc., 2017
 Cooperrider, David, “Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change,” Berrett-Kohler, 2005
 Heim, Matthew, “Breaking the Musashi Code: Transcending Competition Through Visionary Strategy,” Visionary Partnership Press, 2007
 See Heim, M.