Expanding the View in 4 Steps
Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
An old man walked to a neighboring town and came upon a group of workers carrying heavy stones. He sat down to watch, first seeing a man struggling under the weight of a heavy stone, grunting and having a very hard time with the job. The old man asked him, “What are you doing?” The man replied, “Carrying stones,” and went on with his work.
Then the old man noticed a second worker, carrying a stone much like the stone the first worker carried, but he made the work look easy. This second man was smiling enthusiastically about his work. He asked the second man, “What are you doing?” The man replied, “I am building the greatest cathedral ever.”
In this parable the two stone carriers saw their work differently. Their viewpoint made all the difference in their attitude.
We all have viewpoints about our lives and the situations we face. Our viewpoints are as close as our breath. We hold them as facts, yet they are not. These beliefs affect how we see and interact with the world and how the world interacts with us.
Helping clients recognize that their current viewpoint is just one way of looking at a situation liberates them from their self-imposed thoughts. Once they take the first step of recognizing that their views are not the “truth,” they can reframe their way of thinking, make a plan and take action based on a deeper awareness.
Our viewpoints are shaped by everything we experience, including family and culture. In this chapter, we learn how to help clients identify their viewpoints, attitudes and beliefs. We make viewpoints and their impact more conscious, so clients can choose to create from their aliveness, creativity and power. Expanding the View is a simple process that can transform people’s viewpoints and people’s lives.
Expanding the View rests on three assumptions:
- Our attitudes, assumptions, opinions and beliefs impact our experience and affect how the world responds to us.
- We can develop the freedom to choose our viewpoint.
- When we are free from undermining beliefs, we move toward life-sustaining choices.
When to Use Expanding the View
We start by recognizing when clients are out of alignment. They may feel stuck, confused or discouraged. We listen for viewpoints (assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, judgments) that limit or diminish aliveness or possibilities. They may believe their viewpoint is “the truth” or “the way it is.”
We recognize opportunities to use Expanding the View when clients seem to believe the “stories” they tell themselves, without question. Their language may convey rigid beliefs, such as: I never have enough money. It’s impossible for me to have a close relationship with my daughter. I must get more training before I change my career. I can never have an intimate partner again. Because I am good at math, I can’t consider jobs in another fi eld. I have to either do work I hate or have no money.
One way to recognize viewpoints is to look for them everywhere. Listen to ourselves, friends, politicians, teachers, newscasters. What is the attitude or belief behind what we say and how we say it?
The Expanding the View process pushes the boundaries of our well-constructed attitudes about life. The process is an aid for exploring many possible viewpoints about any situation and embracing a fresh viewpoint that offers more possibilities. By noticing our own viewpoints, we begin to attune to viewpoints that our clients carry.
Expanding the View in Four Steps
We use Expanding the View when we or our client notice a limiting viewpoint.
1. Identify a neutral topic
Separate the topic from viewpoints, opinions or beliefs.
Examples of opinions: All I do is fundraise. There is no end to it. We can never be sustainable. Example of a neutral topic: Sustainability of the organization.
2. Discover multiple viewpoints
Explore other possible viewpoints about the topic.
Example of viewpoints: I freak out when asking for money. I’m wildly bold and creative in crafting my pitch. I know what doesn’t get funded. I am good at networking. There is an insurmountable class and cultural gap between me, my organization and wealthy people with resources. I am not cut out for this.
3. Choose a fresh viewpoint
Select an empowering viewpoint or attitude to experiment with creatively.
Examples of viewpoints to create from: I am wildly bold and creative. Fundraising is fun. I can make a difference in my community.
4. Brainstorm possible actions
Explore new possibilities and action steps that open up from the chosen viewpoint. Then commit to at least one action step.
Examples of possible actions: Oh, now that I know that I want to unleash my creativity, I can identify grantors that are more closely aligned with our mission and write a wildly creative grant proposal. I could ask Rich to mentor me.
Example of committing to an action step: I’m going to ask Rich to help me write a wildly creative grant proposal this week.
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