Living On Purpose    ...Life Coaching
Living On Purpose

Archive for January, 2009

Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Entrepreneurs make great coaching clients. They have a wealth of ideas that are just waiting to be hatched. Their eyes light up as they explain a new product/service and how it could be used. We float from one idea to the next exploring a slew of topics, ideas, products and services. Their mood goes from excitement to overwhelm as the ideas pour out of their mouth. How does it all fit together? How will they proceed? How can they prioritize and focus their time and not get lost in the minutia?

Ideas with numerous pieces can be overwhelming. As you try to get a grasp of the whole picture, you find that you are juggling thoughts and ideas that are exciting, but seem to make no sense. It’s like having five hundred puzzle pieces in front of you and wondering if they belong to the same puzzle.

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You may have heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” and then the answer, “One bite at a time.” But how can this be implemented with the whirlwind of ideas that feel more like a tornado than a warm summer breeze?

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A client was frustrated trying to create her new business. She asked, “How do I define it? What does it look like? Who do I serve?” We explored different sides of her “elephant.” She provided stories of people she had already served, different modalities she offered, various forms of communication, etc. The more we talked, the more puzzle pieces we had out on the table. How did they all fit together? Here is where her confusion and frustration originated. This is where many creative people become paralyzed.

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I pulled out some note cards and we wrote down each of the ideas, words, and images on a card and set them aside. It was a fun way to brainstorm and create.

We came to a natural break and laid out the note cards. Using a puzzle analogy, we had opened the box and spread all of the pieces on the table. We began to group the main ideas, just like you sort out the edge pieces, the sky pieces, etc.

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We categorized, grouped, set aside and pieced together the cards, looking for the view of the entire elephant. Most of the cards fit; some did not – and that was okay. A relief, even, because knowing what didn’t fit meant clarity.

After we had several main categories, I asked about each one, looking for the passion and energy she held for each. We prioritized them. “Which one(s) must happen first?” Having the cards laid out and talking through each made this exercise so much easier. It wasn’t just a bunch of words floating through the air or in her head, but something tangible that we were able to see, touch and manipulate.

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A flow and order surfaced and we came up with action plans and deadlines for each of the steps. Her energy went from frustration to motivation.

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something needs to be done and harder to know what needs to happen first. By laying all of the pieces on the table, even if you can’t see the puzzle’s image, you have a sense for the larger images. As smaller pieces fit together, it’s easier to see what stands out, define the larger pieces and then determine your next right step.


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Coaching Challenge: If you feel overwhelmed with the multitude of ideas and find yourself wondering how it all fits together, get a stack of note cards. Anytime an idea comes to you – whether it makes sense or not – pull out a note card and write it down. Do this for at least a week.

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Then review the cards and categorize them into groups. As categories become clear, prioritize each one and create at least one action step forward. Give yourself deadlines to keep you on task. Then move on to the next. Continue to note any other ideas you have and repeat the same process. This will help you move from ideas to action.

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Change Your Story to Change Your Life

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Over the holidays I attended several parties and practiced the fine art of small talk. It begins with your name, a brief description of who you are and what makes you and your life important. It sounds like this: “My name is Sheri. I am a Life Coach. I am married and have three kids.” And then they tell their “story.”

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Our “story” is how we describe who we are. Although it is an easy way to relate to people, it often becomes the way that we pigeonhole ourselves. As we say and hear our story over and over again, we begin to accept that this is who we are and all we will ever be. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” becomes our mantra. However, that mantra can keep you stuck when you tell the same story long after you’ve outgrown many parts of it.

Parts of the story can include phrases like, “I’m no good at math,” or “I’m not good talking to people I don’t know,” or “I’m always late.” It becomes a chicken and egg type of question. Is your behavior the BASIS to your story or is it the RESULT of your story? What is the cause and what is the effect?

Since the coach-client relationship is more than small talk, it’s easy to catch when a client is trapped in his or her story and see opportunities to explore new chapters and variations of the story.

Jan was a new client who felt stuck. Her “story” consisted of being a housewife, raising two children and working part time. During our first meeting, she explained how unimportant these things felt to her. She cried as she described how empty she felt. Her “story” had become a re-run. It was predictable, boring and old.

As we explored further, Jan had several ideas, ways to paint the story different colors and write new chapters, but she was scared to admit that she longed to do so. One of the best ways to help her was to suggest stepping WAY out. So, when she mentioned her love of writing, I suggested writing a story and submitting it to her favorite magazine. “Wouldn’t it be great to have your story published and have thousands of people read it?”

There was dead silence. “I could never do that!” she said. “But I could draft a story on raising two boys,” she said. “I have a good sense of humor and could tell some funny anecdotes. I’m not sure if I would submit it to a magazine, but I could write it.” There was her first step. She was actively changing her story!

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The great thing about your story is that you are the author and have complete control over how it is told. It can be changed at any time – if you decide to do so. Maybe if you change your story, you can also change how you experience your life. “I’m good at math…good at meeting new people and I am usually on time. “

What is the story you tell about yourself? Do you enjoy it or are you sick of it? Add in something new, exciting and true every time you tell it. It is much more entertaining to both you and your listener. Perhaps if you change your story, you will change your life!

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Coaching Challenge: Think back to the last time you introduced yourself or related your “story.” Sit down with a friend or write in your journal your current story. What do you tell yourself and others? Does your story lead you towards your purpose in life?

If you feel stuck in your “story,” then change it! Be creative! Explore what would make it exciting, brilliant, dramatic, or fun. Then set a goal to re-write the story. When was the last time yours was updated? Your story is how you describe your life. What story are you telling? It’s probably the same story you are living!

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