In an ideal world, we’d all have a life coach. Someone to support our growth, challenge our limiting beliefs, encourage us to move forward, and help us find our best selves. However, we do not live in a perfect world, and that’s not always feasible – perhaps because of a lack of resources, a perceived dearth of time, or some other inconvenient life circumstance.
That was certainly the case for me when I first arrived in Paris. At 23, I was broke and fresh off the Eurostar armed with a single suitcase and a mini French dictionary that I carried around in my bag like an amulet for longer than I care to admit. However, after a stint teaching English, more studies, then a few years in communications, I started to (re)question what I was doing with my life and where I was going. After much time spent in the personal development aisle at WH Smith, I learned about the coaching profession, and my moment of insight ensued. I signed up for an Introduction to Coaching course the next day and discovered – to my joy – an immense toolbox exists specifically to help me figure out where I wanted to go next in life.
That toolbox, along with other techniques I have picked up during training and years of experience as a coach, is what I plan to share with you in this series of articles.
Empowering coaching is based on the premise that people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and that while a coach is a fantastic tool when you’re creating your best life, it’s the client that does the work.
As a colleague once told me, the coach is a hammer, the client is the sculptress.
So, even if you cannot or perhaps are simply not yet ready to work with a coach, there’s no reason you can’t make significant inroads into shaping a more satisfying life working alone, from the comfort of your own home.
Try spinning the wheel of life
Whether you’re only just starting to think about making changes to your life or you’re a regular reader of personal development titles, the most accessible arrow in your self-coaching quiver is the wheel of life. This was the first coaching tool I ever tried (Day One of my Intro to Coaching!) and, as well as using it with clients, I still do the exercise regularly for myself.
If time spent with a coach is a moment to step out of and back from your life to examine how it’s going, the wheel of life is a visual representation of that exercise. It provides a fairly comprehensive tool for taking stock of your life and can be a great point of entry when you feel stuck, off-kilter, or simply that things could be better, but you don’t really know where to start making changes. The wheel of life is an engaging way to take a beat and see where your figurative house needs to be put in order. And, while you’ll probably make more progress faster by doing the exercise with a qualified coach, it’s also perfectly possible to use it on your own to glean some helpful insights.
Four simple steps
1. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide it into wedges, like in the pies in a game of Trivial Pursuits (number of wedges is your choice – I find starting with six pretty manageable). Assign a theme to each wedge. Themes are areas of your life that you wish to take a look at or can just be areas that spring to mind; in this exercise, your intuition is a good guide. A few examples: one wedge might be “family”, which for some might mean “me, my partner and our kids” but for others might mean “parents, grandparents, siblings.” Others might choose to put “partner/love” and “children” into separate wedges on their own. What you understand by each of your themes is your business, as long as you’re clear about the meaning you load onto the word you choose. Wedges specific to expat life might be “language learning” or “integration.” Other possibilities might be “money”, “leisure”, “health”, “career”, “spirituality”… it’s a very personal choice.
2. Once you have your themes, take some time to consider each one and rate your satisfaction from 1 to 10 – draw lines in each wedge so that 1 is a line near the interior of the circle, and 10 is the further edge. Like so:
3. The next step within a coaching session would be to discuss each area and the mark attributed to it and to choose one or two on which to work. On your own, you can take your time to look at each one and think about what makes your love life an 8 but your health a 4 – talking to a friend can help. Then, taking each one in turn, think about what it would take to turn that 4 into 5. Be specific. Booking a check-up with your doctor? Taking the stairs more? Buying a good daily multivitamin? Cutting out caffeine? Taking up Pilates?
The idea isn’t to go from a 2 to a 10 in two weeks flat but to identify areas for improvement and actions you can start to implement now. The challenge of trying to take your career wedge from a 2 to a 10 can simply be paralyzing. Concentrate on the areas that naturally attract your attention and list small, actionable changes.
4. Once you have some action ideas, consider which you can actually put in place, and, crucially, which you want to put in place. It’s no good choosing “go for a weekly run” if you have absolutely no desire to go running. Yes, it might bump your “body image” score up to a 7, but your “time for fun” score might take a hit. I advise kicking off just one action per week and taking a moment at the end of each week to see what’s working for you.
Now the wheel is turning, slow your roll
Take your time. Your wheel of life is ever-changing. Even if you manage to take all your wedges up to a 10, at some point you’ll decide to move house, start a business, or run for office, and new wedges will appear for you to work on. The idea isn’t to strive for a perfect circle but to use the exercise to see where your pain points are, and what you can do about them.
And don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate the wedges that are looking pretty darn good. If your “friendship” wedge is a healthy 9, why not find a way to express your gratitude for your relationships? If your “work” wedge is flying high, why not acknowledge that by taking in some Friday afternoon pastries for your charming colleagues?
Revel in the high numbers, get to work on the low ones.
Stay tuned for Joanne’s next post in the series!