Don’t stumble over things that are already behind you.
I think that just might be the essence of successful coaching. Good coaching focuses most of its attention not on the problems of the past but on what it will take to create a better future.
The key questions in coaching are “Where do you want to go?” and “How will you get there?”
So where do you want to go?
Since you’re visiting this page, my guess is that there’s at least one area in your life where you’d like things to be different, some aspect of your life in which you’re just not all that happy with where you are.
As you think about this area now, you may already be starting to dwell on the problem itself, or on your anger toward someone who may have contributed to it, or on what you need to “fix” about yourself if you’re ever going to get out of this mess. Try your best not to get caught up in all of that for the moment. Chances are, you’ve had all of those thoughts a thousand times before. Today’s a day for trying a different approach.
Begin by asking yourself this question.
What would it look like for this problem to be completely solved?
Completely gone. No more of this problem. What would that look like?
Now before you worry that this might be heading in a new-age direction, I promise that I’m not going to suggest that just imagining the problem being solved will lead to its solution. That’s not the case at all. But imagining the problem being solved is an important step toward figuring out practical approaches to solving it.
So let’s spend a few minutes here. Imagine you woke up one morning and discovered that this chronic problem no longer existed. Go ahead a let yourself imagine it. Think about how you would begin to realize that the problem was solved, about what would look different, what you would do differently, how that would feel, and what other people would begin to notice.
It really helps to take some time richly imagining this wonderful future. If you like to write, you might want to write a description of what you’re imagining. If you like to draw, go ahead and draw it. Or turn on your favorite music and spend some living in the future you’ve imagined.
Then turn your attention to question number two.
On a scale of one to ten, how close are you today to that picture you just created of a better future?
Take a minute here to give yourself some credit for where you are on the scale right now. If you’re already at a two, a three, maybe even a four, think about what you’ve already done to get yourself there, or to keep yourself from going lower. There’s probably something there you’ll be able to build on. And if you’re at a one with regards to this particular area of your life, then give yourself points for the courage to take it on — and for having found ways to cope with it all this time.
We’ve got one question left. And this one may be the most important question of all, because with it, you’ll begin to create the path you’ll take to move in the direction you want to go.
What would it look like to be one step higher on the scale?
One step. If you’re at a two, what would it look like to be at a three? If you’re at a four, what would a five look like for you?
When we think about changes we want to make, we tend to focus on the whole distance between where we are and where we want to be. But once we’re clear on where we want to go, progress actually comes from focusing on the very next step.
So what does one step higher on the scale look like for you? What will get you one step closer to where you want to go? Try to list three or four very specific, concrete things you could do that would contribute to getting you one step further along that scale.
Now choose one — one very specific, concrete thing that can help you to move one step higher on the scale.
If possible, choose something that you can begin today, and commit to exactly when today you’ll do it. If it’s not possible to begin today, choose something you can begin in the next couple of days, get out your calendar, and set aside a specific time to start.
Why the rush? Well, it comes down to human nature. To create sustainable change, we need to choose manageable steps, begin taking them immediately, and take them consistently until the change becomes part of our routine. Then we can choose one more step and repeat the process.
That’s how change happens — not by dwelling on the past and stumbling over things that are already behind us — but by imagining a better future and taking specific, committed steps to get there.
You’ve pictured a better future. What step toward it will you take today?
Lynda Wallace is a highly sought-after life coach and career coach who meets with local clients in her sunny office in Montclair, NJ, and with clients from around the world by phone and video. She wrote the best-selling book A Short Course in Happiness, and teaches coaching skills courses to both new and experienced coaches. Lynda spent twenty years as a senior executive at Johnson & Johnson, holds an MBA from the Wharton School, and is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach.