I spent a couple of hours last week with Reed, an attorney who had heard about my coaching practice and asked to meet with me to see if it was something that could benefit him.
As soon as we sat down together, I asked Reed what it would take to make our session amazing for him, and he told me he wasn’t sure. I asked him what he wanted to see happen over the next year in his life and career, and he began telling me all about his glorious past, his amazing children, and the woman he was seeing—focused on everything but the answer to my question.
He wanted my opinion about whether someone was telling him the truth, and even after I explained that I wouldn’t be able to know from his explanation, and that his question really had nothing to do with coaching, he kept circling back to it.
As our meeting wound down, I did not see any basis upon which to offer this attorney any kind of coaching program, although I was fairly certain that he wanted me to. I was honest with him about his lack of focus—even questioning him to see if some substance dependency or emotional problem might be in his way—neither of which would be issues for a coach to handle. Finally, I offered to speak with him again, but only if he completed the “homework” I assigned to him, which consisted of writing down the answers to these three questions:
1. What do you want?
2. Why don’t you have it already?
3. What are you willing to do to get it?
If there’s nothing you want that you don’t already have, congratulations! You are one of those lucky people who are at ease with their situations. If, like the rest of us, you’re not totally satisfied, but you can’t even clear your head well enough to think of what’s missing in your life, there are probably emotional or other problems you need to address. If, on the other hand, you’re like most people, no matter how successful you feel you are at the moment, there’s something you feel you want next, and you have some idea of what it is.
What you want next doesn’t necessarily have to be about generating more income or acquiring more possessions. I’ve worked with a flight attendant who wanted to be a dancer; I’ve coached a brilliant sales professional, wife, and mother whose familial needs were being overlooked. For some of my clients, what’s missing in their lives is more free time or better relationships. They might appear successful to others, but they may not feel that they are having enough success in certain areas. They might, for example, be exhausted from trying to please other people but somehow unable to stop volunteering. What is the unrest for you?
Once you know what it is, consider why you don’t have it already. Internal hurdles can often masquerade as external boundaries. It’s possible that some roadblock or obstacle in the outside world is holding you back, but it’s more likely that something inside—fear, guilt, a limiting belief, or a distorted view or yourself or others—has been hard for you to get past. Whether or not you’re sure of the source, you should have some idea of why you haven’t yet gotten where you feel you want to go.
If there’s something you know you want and something else holding you back, the only remaining question is: What are you willing to do about it? Implicit in this question is a decision that you WILL do something new. Are you committed to making the changes you need to make in order to get what you want, or is this just one of those “want to”s that will never be a “choose to”?
If you are committed to having what you want and to getting past whatever has been interfering, how will you do it? This fourth question is my job to help you answer.
Reed wouldn’t have asked to talk with me if there wasn’t something he wanted, but he wasn’t able to articulate to me what it was, even after nearly two hours of in-depth conversation. If he really wants a change in his life, he’ll have to find a way to open up to someone. Once he’s clear about what he’s after, he can begin to examine what stands in his way. Only then, if he decides he’s willing to go after it, can a coach like me help him figure out how.
What are your answers to the three questions? If you at least have some sense of the first one, I can help you express the next two when you contact me. Just figure out what you’re reaching for and consider why you haven’t yet reached it, and then DECIDE to keep REACHING…