Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
Curiosity dwells at the center of learning. When we choose to see the world with brand new eyes, we adopt a curious mindset. No matter how negative or perplexing the topic, we can stay open and curious. To do that, we approach our coaching sessions without thinking we know exactly what to do. What might be possible? We can acknowledge whatever is present or alive without being in a hurry to get somewhere else. As we keep company with emotions and get curious, the deeper needs emerge. Without applying pressure, we simply open to what is emerging.
There is no such thing as judgmental curiosity. To be curious is to be in a state of openness. If we embody the enthusiasm of a child exploring a creek, we approach our coaching sessions with wonder and awe.
The wisdom of not knowing allows us to be present to something new unfolding. But what if we do know? Suppose something similar has happened to us and we know exactly what the client should do? Since their experience is unique, we stay curious about what we don’t know.
We can embody curiosity by stepping into the unknown with childlike openness for the sake of exploring what is possible. Instead of responding to the situation as a problem, we explore with a beginner’s mind and resist the temptation to problem solve. For example, we can say, “So you are stuck. What is that like for you?”
Typically, giving the right answer may serve in the short run, but in the long run, we’ve done nothing to help the person we’re coaching to grow. People feel far more empowered when given the opportunity to access their own answers. Even when we can anticipate the solution, instead of becoming attached to our ideas and strategies, we expect people to build on what’s possible and to come up with an even more fitting solution than anything we could possibly imagine.
So we take great pleasure in not knowing, and cherish the opportunities to uncover buried treasure. It takes persistent practice to avoid looking for a fast answer, and to shift into exploring the client’s deeper wisdom.
Karen: I can’t seem to get to all of the things I want to do. I need help prioritizing them. Coach: What are the pieces that are important to you? Karen: Well, I’m really excited about the work I’m doing now. I’m independent and I
really help people, but I want more time for leisure, family, spiritual connection and taking care of things in my home. Coach: If you had all of that, what would it give you? Karen: Deep joy—joy beyond belief—and a sense of a life well-lived! Coach: I’m hearing peace, satisfaction and gratitude. What would a day well-lived look like?
Karen: (tunes in and notices) I would start the day with yoga, prayer and meditation. I would work until I noticed my energy sagging and then go for a walk. Connecting with nature would energize me for my afternoon work and I want to use my evenings for working to protect the environment.
Coach: So you see how your business, service and spiritual pieces come together. My intuition tells me to ask about family and leisure time. Karen: Yes! That’s very important. I see Saturday as a day for leisure, and want Sundays to be real family days. Coach: What leisure activities connect you with your deepest joy?
Karen: Reading inspirational books, walking at the lake, spending time with my dog, family dinners. Coach: What are you noticing as you share these joyful aspects of your life? Karen: I’m noticing how energized and excited I feel. Coach: How can you keep that energy and excitement alive?
Karen: I’m going to take a picture of me smiling and looking radiant and put it on my desk. It will remind me to make space each day for something that makes me smile.
Coach: I’m going to leave you with an inquiry. How can you make each day well-lived?
Although Karen was seeking a quick fix, the coach in this example remained curious and resisted the urge to move into action. As a result, she experienced for herself the impact of what really mattered to her.
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