I remember using the pros and cons method for choosing the college I went to. That gave me the understanding that I preferred a large, coed university with an international program. What it didn't do was help me understand how a college education could help me learn how to develop authentically as a person, and in that way, help me find a career path that genuinely interested me.
That's where coaching could have been very useful in offering me different ways to make new, aware choices for learning, expanding my skills, and becoming the person I really am. The choice-making options that coaching offers include what Joshua Rothman in "The Art of Decision-Making" describes as—
Maximizing values— understanding what's really important to you— and making choices based on those values
Diverse perspectives— seeing your situation from different angles— helping you see aspects you hadn't thought of in making a new decision
Old self into new self— when a choice point requires that you open into a completely new way of engaging with your life
Aspiring to new values— aspiring to a new direction that interests you, but you don't know why or whether it could be right for you
The following example shows how using values and perspectives helped lead a client of mine from aspiring to a new way of working to shifting into a new self— that is, opening into a completely new way of engaging with his desired work and his whole life.
Matt, a corporate manager in his early forties, turned to coaching because he felt stultified in his career. He aspired to creating his own business, but wasn't sure that he was the type who could do well working for himself. When he came for coaching, he first wrote out a list of his values, which included— family, financial freedom, environment, and living authentically. Then we did the coaching exercise, “Perspectives,” which helps people explore different choices or options by encouraging them to push the boundaries of what they feel is possible.
With Matt, I used “Perspectives” to explore his attitude towards “working outside the box.” The perspectives he chose to explore included “Critic” and “Dolphin.” As I guided him through each perspective, I encouraged him to stand in different places, close his eyes, breathe, feel the sensations in his body, and visualize his internal energy level, “environment,” and attraction to that perspective.
He felt the fear in his contracted body sensations of the "Critic" as he thought about working outside the familiar corporate container. The “Critic” reminded Matt that it would not be easy to have the same level of financial ease and daily structure outside the corporate environment. Matt felt a deep weight inside his chest, as if his heart were closing down.
Ultimately, however, Matt chose the the “Dolphin” perspective to help him find a way to work “outside the box.” He realized that his new “Dolphin” attitude gave him energy for taking action on his dream. It also supported the purposefulness of his commitment to his family and the environment. It felt good, both physically and emotionally — excellent intuitive reasons for going with his new choice!
Matt then learned about the steps he needed to take to start his own consulting business with pro-environment action groups, and began doing this kind of work on a part-time basis. As he stepped into his chosen way of working, he said he felt as if "a huge weight had released from his chest" and he was "coming back" to who he really was.
Synchronistically, the company he worked for was downsizing, and offered Matt the option of leaving his corporate position with a sizable severance pay. Because he was now emotionally and financially prepared to leave, Matt's career transition became a deeper, transformational change. He left a career whose purpose was defined by others— and became a person who worked and lived out his own, immeasurably more satisfying purpose,