In this weeks Friday guest post Dr Colin Clerkin shares a technique he likes to use and invites you to add your comments.
What would you see as the credits roll …?
Reading recent posts on the Coaching Confidence blog, including Jen’s post “Once Upon a Time” and Frederique Murphy’s similarly-titled “Once Upon a Time …!” , I was prompted to think about the power of story telling within coaching and how, when you can help a client create their own story of how they want their life to be, you are creating a powerful vision that then allows you and your client to make the changes that are needed to enable them to begin to bring this story to life.
We all know of the importance of creating a strong vision with our clients, and I am sure we all have various techniques we use to achieve this. I thought today I would share with you one method I like to use, especially with young people or with clients who are perhaps struggling to identify their ultimate goals for coaching. I’d welcome your thoughts or comments on it, as I am constantly looking at how I can tweak my practice to make it even better.
The “Future Movie” concept is one I learned many moons ago within my therapy practice when I attended a workshop with Dr Ricky Greenwald, a child trauma expert and EMDR practitioner from New York. It was presented as a therapeutic technique and I used it often when I worked with children and families with problems. Although I’ve altered it a little over time to suit my coaching clientele, the basic elements remain. Using some EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) techniques can enhance the power of the vision, but they are not a necessity for it still to be effective.
As I am teasing out with clients their goals and what they want to achieve through coaching, I find that some clients struggle to imagine how things might be different in the future – they have ideas of what they want to change, perhaps, but they find it difficult to connect with how their world might be different if they make those changes. The possibility of change appeals but they may find it hard to believe that they can make changes that will have any significant impact on their world.
After discussing the power they have within them to make a difference to their lives, I then sometimes introduce them to their “Future Movie”. I ask them to let their imagination flow as they listen to what I outline next, perhaps picturing what I describe projected onto the wall in front of them and then I begin to tell them a story that goes like this: “Ten years from today (or five or whatever time frame you feel is relevant to your client), I arrive home after a long day, just wanting to sit and unwind for a bit, so I grab something to eat and settle down to watch a movie. I turn to the TV listings and see that “The (Client’s Name) Story” is just about to start. I think to myself, “Hey, I knew them X years ago … I wonder how their story has developed since then?” The movie starts and I become totally absorbed in this movie, feeling all the ups and downs and cheering the hero on as they soar to achieve all they aspire to. As the credits roll, I think to myself “Wow, they really did it … they told me all those years ago that this is what they wanted, and now there it is … what an inspiring movie!”
I then ask the client to describe to me what they are seeing on the “screen” as the credits are rolling on this movie, to describe the final image, in as much detail as they can, tapping into the brightness and colour, what they feel inside, who else is there with them, describing in detail what this scene means to them as it relates to their success, what their thoughts are as they experience this positive outcome, and, most especially, what they are saying to themselves at that point in time.
I will delve deeper into these points with the client, as getting as clear a vision that connects to the successful culmination of this phase of their story is important. Clients need to be able to emotionally connect with this vision and flesh out what it is their aspirations and goal-setting can ultimately achieve. When they have been able to do this, it is much easier for them to identify the interim goals that they need to set and work towards that will take them closer to their ultimate vision of their future. Without this clear vision, I find that some clients, especially my younger clients, do struggle to identify those critical steps that they need to take within their goal-setting practice to move forward with purpose and energy.
I believe that a goal without a thought-through end-result is little more than a vague “wouldn’t it be nice if …” wish-list, so this technique helps clients focus and be clear about what their goals are and why they are important to them. As I’ve said, it can be particularly effective with young clients (I work with adolescents and adults in my practice), but it is a tool that can be useful whatever your client’s age or background, whether they are personal development coaching clients wanting to look at their personal lives or business coaching clients, trying to visualise how their business or careers can develop going forward.
And it is another example of the power of story-telling in coaching; only this time, you help your client put themselves smack bang in the starring role!
About the Author/Further Resources
Dr Colin Clerkin is a psychologist and coach based in Chester, in the North West of England. Colin has been involved in helping people tackle challenges in their lives for almost 20 years, initially as a clinical psychologist and, over the past three years, as a personal development coach too. He launched Mirror Coaching earlier this year, and provides face-to-face or Skype-based coaching to parents, individuals and small business owners. After his own experiences with cancer in recent years, he has also been inspired to coach cancer survivors as they look to adjust to life after cancer.