As a coach, I listen and ask questions (in that order).
Here’s how I know I’ve asked the right question: you stop your flow. You’ll look up or down; you look away. If we’re talking on the phone, there’s a longer than normal pause.
And that’s my goal – to help you step away from, and get perspective with your own thoughts. You’re here, talking to me, because there’s a question that’s tugging at you. Making your brain circle, get fatigued, and not focus on answering the problem, but focusing on the problem itself. We want to move toward the solution, not sit in the problem.
There is one question that is incredibly effective, and I know this from being on the receiving end. This is the question my coach asked me in our first session that made me stop and re-frame my focus.
Ready for it?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Here it is:
My coach asked me, “What would thriving look like?”
That’s it. Five words. And it probably doesn’t read like much on the screen, so say it out loud.
What would thriving look like?
Here’s why this is the best question a coach can ask. Let’s parse it out bit by bit:
- “…thriving…”. You know what thriving means. It’s a plant in full bloom. A kid who loves to play sports running on the field. A dog chasing a ball. Thriving. You have an image of this, and there’s momentum to it. We’re not talking about “success”, “doing well” or “happiness” – these words are loaded and complex. Thriving. It’s an active straightforward word.
- “What would…” This question invites a possibility. Woulds and coulds are possibility words. Nothing committal. And nothing judgmental like their arch-nemesis, “should”. (More on that damaging word later.) It’s the ultimate set up for a hypothetical question, inviting you to brainstorm, allowing you to imagine the possibility of something. No commitment. Just dream.
- “…look like?” Instead of asking that thriving “is” – is is a static word, (just ask Bill Clinton), I’m asking you to literally describe what it might look like. You want to lose weight? Tell me what you want to wear, and where you want to go when you hit your goal. Now let’s make that happen.
Or, you want to love motherhood?
OK. Are you lying on a hammock with your baby? Or are you reading a book while the baby is napping and you get a break? You want a happy marriage? What does thriving look like? Is that snuggling in bed watching Steven Colbert or is it climbing Kiliminjaro together?
When I ask you to picture the end state, that helps you to imagine it. And a picture of your future is worth a lot more than 1,000 words. Once you have that delicious image in your mind; you’ve got a great motivation for creating, and implementing a plan to make it happen.
That, my friend, is the essence of coaching: listening to you and asking really good questions that help you answer your own questions.
So, the next time you find yourself going around on a problem, ask yourself, “What would thriving look like?” Or better yet, ask the question of a good friend or partner if you see them spinning. Stop. Listen. And help them go for it. Look them in the eyes and ask, “What would thriving look like?”
Then have a good look at the picture that is painted for you.