A Coaching Power Tool Created by Rachel Loock
(Leadership and Career Coach, UNITED STATES)
According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of paralysis is “a state of powerlessness or an inability to act.” Or more specifically, “occasionally we feel stuck or unhappy with a situation in our life and can’t see a way forward.” (ICA Reframing Perspective Power Tool Module, pg. 2).
You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be. –Wayne W. Dyer
Moving from a place of being “stuck” or unable to act to one of growth is at the very heart of what masterful coaching is all about. This is why I have selected paralysis vs. growth as my power tool.
We all have experienced the feeling of paralysis at least once in our lives. It is part of the human struggle and condition. Think about a time when you were stuck in your life and unable to move forward. The causes of paralysis are many. Listed below are a few common causes of paralysis.
Causes of Paralysis
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of change/fear of moving away from what is comfortable
- Fear of embarrassment
- Fear of the worst outcome
- Lack of Confidence/Self-Doubt
- Waiting for the big picture to emerge
- Waiting for the perfect solution
It is important for the coach to help the client explore and recognize the cause or the source of the paralysis. Is the cause one or more of the fears listed above or something else? What are the triggers that support a perspective stuck in a paralyzed state? With this recognition, the client takes the first step in building self-awareness that is required for a shift in perspective and change.
A client can be held back from growth by one or more of these causes. However the capacity for growth that is inside of the client and wants to emerge will continue to gnaw at him or her unless it is addressed.
Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists. –Eckhart Tolle
It is the coach’s role to assist the client in creating and developing their self-awareness around the cause of their paralysis. Once this self-awareness is achieved, that will help the client open his or her mind to consider other perspectives. With this change in perspective it becomes possible for the client to have a more empowered view.
How can a coach help a client move from a state of paralysis to one of growth? Basic coaching techniques such as active listening, being present, building trust and rapport and help provide a safe place for the exploration of the issue at hand and create the foundation required for the coach to move to more specific powerful questions that work best with the client and his or her situation. Only by recognizing their own perspective (or truth), can the client start on the road to shifting their perspective.
Techniques to Support the Shift from Paralysis to Growth
- Explore with the client his or her awareness of how he or she physically experiences being stuck or in a state of paralysis (e.g., lethargy, stress, fatigue, etc.). When the client is feeling paralyzed, ask the client to describe the primary physical feeling and to explain where he/she notices it the most? (e.g., stomach, neck, jaw, etc.)
- The coach may then review techniques that can be used to change this sensation (e.g., breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, etc.) as appropriate for the client. Different clients will be receptive to different techniques.
Moving from Paralysis to Growth – A Personal Example
All aspiring ICA coaches must complete a specified number of classes devoted to building their coaching skills and development. Coaches must also complete a certain number of hours in peer coaching, both as a coach and as a client. Generally, these requirements may be completed in the order that makes sense to the individual coach. I have recently completed almost all of the modules and have started peer coaching (as a client).
Recently, in reviewing my status on completing my ICA requirements with my peer coach, it became obvious that despite completing most of the required modules, and starting peer coaching as a client with two different coaches, I had not started peer coaching as a coach. In fact, I was delaying moving to this step as much as possible by imposing additional milestones on myself that I believed I must complete prior to beginning peer coaching a coach.
My peer coached asked me to tell him more about this. I knew I was paralyzed. Through the coaching session, I became aware that I was afraid of failing and/or being judged as a new ICA coach. Through my peer coach’s questioning, I identified some of the physical feelings associated with this state of paralysis. We also addressed some recent examples in my life (both personally and professionally) where I was not stuck or concerned with others’ perception of me. In reflecting upon those examples and through my coach’s questioning, I identified the feeling I wanted to have versus the feeling I actually was experiencing. I came up with a visualization to support the preferred feeling or state. The visualization I selected was a bird soaring–specifically a seagull that flies effortlessly above both land and sea. This visualization is a powerful one for me as it signifies growth, grace, upward movement and leaving the anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach behind. This visualization, along with discussion around identifying other instances where my confidence level has been very high led to a shift in my perspective.
Powerful Questions to Support the Shift from Paralysis from Growth
Asking powerful questions is an important skill in the coaching process. This is especially true when working with a client to shift their perspective. Listed below are some questions that can be used to help shift a client’s perspective from one of paralysis to growth:
- Describe a time when you have been paralyzed, stuck or unable to act.
- What held you back from moving forward?
- Think about a time in your life when you grew, changed your perspective or the way you looked at a situation?
- How did that happen?
- How did you sustain it?
- In your current situation, how is the current perspective helpful?
- How will this perspective lead to growth?
- Describe those instances where you moved forward towards a goal totally confident and self-assured.
- What did you believe about yourself to make this happen?
- What was the physical/mental state associated with this growth?
- What is trying to emerge in this situation?
- What are perspectives would lead to growth?
- What would be a more empowering perspective?
- Explore those instances where you moved forward towards a goal fully and without hesitation. What did you believe about yourself in this situation?
Committing to the Shift
Sustaining the change and remaining committed can often be most the difficult part of shifting to a new perspective. The coach can help the client to recognize that changing a perspective is challenging. It can be easy to slide back into the old perspective. Coach and client can work together to identify or create an award the client can give him or herself for staying or getting back on track with the new perspective—in this case one of growth.
Once a shift in perspective is achieved, putting structures in place to support this shift can be helpful. Growth rarely happens in one huge step, but rather in a series of smaller ones. Developing SMART goals is one effective tool the coach can use to help support the client’s shift in perspective. Developing SMART goals (those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time specific) can help a client break a larger goal into smaller achievable milestones. SMART goals are one structure to aid the client. Whether it is SMART goals or some other mechanism to help support the client, ultimately, it has to be a structure the client is comfortable with (e.g., weekly check-in via phone or email, keeping a log of successes achieved that support the new perspective).
Client feedback and evaluation will aid the coach in determining which techniques and questions worked most effectively in helping the client shift from a state of paralysis to one of growth.
Reflection Questions for the Coach
In addition to the techniques described in this power tool, what are some additional coaching techniques and tools you can use to help your client develop self-awareness? How can you aid your client in changing their perspective, specifically moving from a state of paralysis to one of growth? Shifting one’s perspective can be risky. I think this quote sums it up best.
Risk Taking is about believing in your highest self. –Wayne Dyer
How will you assist your clients in moving from paralysis to growth?