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a blog by Chris Barrow

The painting, the mirror and the crystal ball

I was recently asked to provide some personal coaching for a good mate. It would be fair to say that his life has been challenging recently, both professionally and personally – and his self-confidence has taken a knock. The meeting was to talk about that with me in a non-judgemental environment. So out came the basic coaching skills training from 1994 (Coach University). Rule 1 – let the client talk – and you do the listening. I asked him to tell me how he felt about his life right now. What happened next was what I call the “and another thing…” session. “And another thing – my business is losing money.” “And another thing – my family life is poor.” “And another thing – I’m overweight and drinking too much.” The important thing to do here was to remain quiet. Too often we want to make the client feel comfortable by offering context. We jump in too soon with… “Don’t worry! My business used to be crap. My personal life was in shreds. My drinking was out of control.” We – the coach – feel as if we are identifying with the client and making them feel less bad about themselves. The reality? The client is thinking “who cares about you – this is about me!” So I stayed quiet – for 45 minutes – until the client was all done. Then I asked three simple questions, after each question I waited until the client had finished speaking before I moved to the next. Q1 – if you were to look back over your life – what have you learned? pause – and wait Q2 – if you look at yourself in the mirror today – who do you see? pause and wait Q3 – if you look into your own future – what potential do you see? pause and wait In answering these questions fully – the client takes THEIR OWN JOURNEY through their life and balances the good and bad. You see:

  1. each of us has a painting (a portrait) of ourselves that records every experience of our lives so far – we can judge the portrait

  2. each of us has a mirror, the reflection we see every day is the ‘me’ we are right now – we can judge the reflection

  3. each of us has a crystal ball – an imagination of what the future may hold – we cannot judge the future – it’s just imagination

My belief is that we can only truly understand ourselves when we look at all three. You may not like the past you. You may not even like the present you. But you can imagine a future ‘you’ that you will grow to like. You might want to take some time out and ask yourself those three questions. It is never too late to start. It was Charles Revson who famously said “in the factory we make cosmetics, in the drugstore we sell hope” As a coach I believe I do the same every day. 99 days I sell the hope that your business can be better. 1 day in 100 I get to ‘sell’ the idea that your personal life can be better. Either way round – this work is a calling and a privilege.

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