The power of nature in the coaching process
As a coach my aim is to help my clients find the clarity and inspiration needed to help them move forward on their path by also helping them to connect with their true nature, their authentic selves. I find that connecting with nature is a wonderful pathway to connect with your own authenticity. It is an excellent mirror and source of inspiration. Just as there are so many different expressions of nature, all beautiful and unique, so there are many different ways of self expression and self realisation. Drawing parallels with nature allows people to identify with themselves and with their uniqueness as well as allowing them to realise that they are an integral part of the greater whole, and the entire universe. I often like to use the snowflake analogy to describe this. Every snowflake, like every human being, is unique, yet at the same time it is made up of the same component, water. When connected with other snowflakes, it becomes a snowball, or even a huge glacier.
This ties in with the concept that coaching is a creative process. The belief in coaching is that we are each creative and whole. If we look to nature, we see that it is constantly creating. The universe is constantly growing and expanding. Being a part of nature, each individual is naturally creative and whole and is a part of the entire creative process. By bringing individuals closer to nature both mentally (through metaphor and visualisation) as well as physically (coaching outdoors) I am able to connect them to this concept.
Nature is universal. Individuals of any age, nationality and culture can relate to it. It is the one thing that every human shares and that binds us all together. It is our one uniting factor. We all live on the same planet, we all see the same sky and we all breathe the same air. We are all part of this living breathing entity. If you live in a city, you still have, at the very minimum, the air, the clouds, the sky but often much, much more; you have trees, flower boxes, birds, pets, parks. We can all relate to nature in some way, whether it be a river running to the sea, to describe a journey, to a bright spring morning to describe an emotion. Some people need to use the concept of wilderness to describe their authenticity – letting their wild soul run free. Others, may use the concept of planting seeds, and watching them grow, when describing projects or goals that they wish to achieve. Because nature uses all the senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste it is the most fantastic medium to be able to tap into to gain insight and awareness. Nature gives people access to an array of colours and visual images and thus unlocks another part of the brain to allow limitless exploration and opportunity.
Nature is a natural medium for engendering joy and inspiration, and through joy and inspiration comes much creativity. This is why I use many references to nature in my blog www.nesrineverett.- com as I know that it is something that everyone can identify with, and is a wonderful channel for me to use to get my message across.
Nature can be used as a healing modality and aid to mindfulness in the coaching process. It has the wonderful ability to energise, empower, calm. It is able to give us whatever we need. Whether by visualising the tranquility of a forest or being physically located next to a roaring ocean – we can tap into that energy whenever we want.
Nature can be used to help people enter into a state of meditation and create a particular coaching space. For example if I feel that some of my clients are overwhelmed or have a lot going on at the start of one of our sessions, then one example of a nature connecting method would be to take them into a visualisation where they imagine themselves at the top of a mountain. I would help them create the space (the mountain top) and then allow them to create their own vision, where they could picture everything beneath them looking very small and feel everything around them to be light and airy. By creating a feeling of lightness (connected to the air, the elements, the sun), and a feeling of empowerment (top of the mountain) as well as seeing things from above and from a different perspective (i.e. very small beneath them) they are able to take a distance from the challenges that they are currently facing and begin the session in a lighter way.
Another example could be to ask clients to imagine themselves in a beautiful peaceful natural area of their choice. They can describe it to me if they like or keep it to themselves. They may choose an open field of flowers, or a beach – whatever it is that gives them a sense of peace and safety and helps to establish a healthy framework for our session.
Nature is a wonderful medium that allows people to be able to express and connect to their feelings. It is something that has been used since time immemorial, be it in poetry, literature or art. Sometimes when people have a limited vocabulary to describe their emotions, they can relate them through nature. A client may tell me that he feels like a spring morning (light, full of hope), or heavy like a rock. I may ask my clients to spend some time in nature, say ten minutes and then let me know what they really identified with. Perhaps it was the clouds in the sky, or a beautiful bird that they saw in a tree. Then I ask them what it was about the experience that touched them, what emotions it evoked.
The natural world can also help to empower; a client seeking more confidence could be asked what animal they feel like in the moment. He may describe himself as a squirrel, or a shy, timid creature that hides whenever it feels scared or threatened by a situation. I would then ask them to describe an animal that has the qualities of confidence and to think of themselves as this animal. What kind of animal comes to mind? We are able to look at what traits this animal had that attracted the client? If for example it was a lion, we can see presence, regality, strength, social standing. If a leopard, speed, agility. If a dog, loyalty, kindness, compassion, friendship. I would then ask them how they could integrate this metaphor of the animal they have chosen in a way that would serve them to remind them of the quality they desire to have more of. They may choose to think of it whenever they are feeling a lack of confidence, or they may find a picture of it and place it somewhere where they can see it often.
Many people live their lives in a way that is very disconnected from nature. If we take executives as an example: they are based in an office and spend the majority of their time there. However comfortable, most offices are a fairly sterile and regimental environment and only a few seem to offer a creative physical space. Nature helps executives to take a different perspective that allows them to disconnect from the corporate world and reconnect with the rest of the universe and the natural world. It brings them out of their normal roles to a place where they can let go and breathe. This in turn allows them to have a different perspective on the changes that they wish to make. For this reason I love to bring people as close to nature as possible within my coaching practice. Taking executives out of their office environment and, if the weather permits and the client is receptive to it, to a natural setting can be invaluable. If we are having a session during the working day, then simply sitting in a park or walking while we coach can bring huge physical and mental benefits. Removing the client from the office environment, away from the ringing phones, the emails and the air-conditioning and placing them into the natural world with all it’s colours, sounds and smells can really help them to relax, be inspired and thus access their authentic selves, we could even say their inner “wild selves”, a part so often repressed in our modern world.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. Alan Alda
Nature creates a setting for mindfulness. By connecting people with nature as a coach, I am able to bring people out of their “bubble”, out of their thoughts and connect them to being fully present to all that is around them. By allowing them to breathe the fresh air, touch the grass, smell the flowers, look at the beautiful view, they can be present to the “now”, and engage with all that is. Away from the office, transport, shopping, television, all the man-made constructs that can distract us, they can have a different perspective. By being fully in the present, they can take a neutral perspective on everything taking place in their lives. Neither in the past nor the future, they can gain further clarity on what it is they want to do. By connecting people with nature I am helping them to see the bigger picture, or to paraphrase the poet Rumi, the ability to “swim out of their little pond”7. Sometimes just being in nature literally expands people’s horizons and thus allows them to grow.
Just as each client’s life journey is an adventure, similarly every coaching encounter, no matter how short or how long, is also an adventure. It is an adventure of self-discovery for the client, and for the coach, an adventure into the true nature of a human being and a journey into the soul of the individual. Although people may share certain characteristics or traits, and may come to me with similar areas they want to work on, not one individual is the same as another (as per my snowflake analogy). With each new person, I the coach, travel into uncharted territory. With each adventure I get a greater perspective of what journeys I enjoy and thus what my signature coaching style is. With each coaching journey my own journeying (coaching) skills get honed, and I also learn which types of treks (clients/topics) I am more suited to, which ones touch my soul the most and which areas I simply am either not ready for or interested to voyage into at the stage. As a seasoned traveller I know that I am willing to adventure to many different destinations; however some areas are unsafe for me to go. In a coaching context, this could be a person where I feel that we do not have a connection, in which case I would refer them to another coach, or it could be someone who is in need of a different kind of service, for example a psychologist or a psychotherapist.
By bringing the concept of nature into the coaching process I am able to help the client to reconnect with their authentic selves, in order to give them the clarity and inspiration to move forwards and grow. Similarly, I also have to bring my true self to the coaching process as it is only from a place of authenticity that I can fulfil my full potential as a coach and best serve my client. This is why I try to bring the things that inspire me to my coaching practice. By being true to my own nature, I empower myself, and am able to help someone else do the same. Each coaching conversation is a creative connection from which beautiful results can and do spring. By letting go of my agenda and allowing the coaching process to be organic I can let the coaching relationship truly develop and allow the client to develop organically into their best, most natural, authentic self (see my power tool Flow v. Force).
In conclusion: coaching is as much about “being” as about “doing”; the two are so intertwined. I hope to have shown throughout this paper, that by harnessing the power of adventure and nature I am able deeply connect my clients with their core self and with their passions. I am able to create a space in which I can work with them to help them achieve their full potential, align with their authenticity, find their own True North and ultimately be empowered to transform their lives.
The COMPASS Coaching Model