How Coaches Evoke Change

What Is Falling Away And What Is Fighting To Be Born?

With the current political climate in the United States, I’ve been thinking about transformative change (change that occurs at the level of identity or being) and how it is a process with several stages or phases. Among the many others who have created a map for a transformative journey, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is one that is well-known.

I thought it would be helpful to create my own map — based on my work with a number of clients and students over the past 20 years — to talk about the role of coaching in supporting this type of transformative journey. In my experience, while this journey of transformation looks very different from person to person and client to client, there is consistency in the process and in the different stages that one moves through.

The power of disorientation

First, there is a disorienting event of some sort. These disorienting events run the gamut from a major life event (loss of a job, death of a loved one, etc.) to one of those powerful questions that smacks you between the-eyes. “What are you tolerating?” has always been a personal favorite.

Whatever the source, disorientation occurs. Things are no longer as they seemed. Imagine putting your hand in a bowl of very still water. Now imagine moving your hand around quite a bit until the water becomes disturbed and turbulent. This is the feel and experience of a disorienting event.

Sometimes, transformation is stopped in its tracks right here at the beginning. We humans don’t much like to be disoriented. We like to maintain the illusion that we are in control and that we know what is going to happen from one day to the next. So, sometimes we fight like the dickens to smooth out the rough water and regain a sense of composure.

This resistance is understandable…and limiting.

Transformation occurs at the level of identity, and it is difficult to generate an identity shift from inside an old paradigm. All that water in the bowl must slosh around quite a bit before it can settle into a new configuration.

Why context matters

Here’s where coaching comes in: A coach can provide context to what is happening, so that the client stays in the disorientation long enough for something new to emerge. It’s almost like the coach is the bowl, holding the turbulent waters and actually intensifying the disorientation with powerful questions, while at the same time championing and cheering on the client.

The next stage of the process is dissolution. There is still confusion and turbulent waters. However, the individual in question has stopped trying to cling to what was, and instead has surrendered to the journey.

From surrender to emergence…

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Photo Credit: Jamie Street on Unsplash

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