Before I knew what coaching was, this is what I thought coaching was: you paid a coach to tell you how great you were and how everything would work out, if you just believed in yourself.
I thought a coach's job was to put a plastic sheen on life while quoting optimistic one-liners embroidered on throw pillows. I thought a coach was your private motivational speaker.
I was wrong. Coaching is not plastic or safe. Instead, coaching explores the four questions. Explore them at your own risk.
First, "where am I now?"
This is the "present" question. It wonders about your current reality. What is your present state of things? How are you getting along? If you looked down at yourself from above and could observe your life like a movie, what would you see? The present question is for evaluation.
You take the temperature and see what you find. You read your life as if you picked up the book of you and turned to a page. We seldom observe ourselves because we are often concerned with the hubbub of daily life. But it is necessary and good and even one's responsibility to explore, "where am I now?"
Next, "where do I want to go?"
This is the "future" question. It explores your vision for what could be. In a perfect world, how would the world work? What place would you have in it? What are the possibilities? With this question, you dream a better future than the one you observed in the present question. Without the present question, you wouldn't know where to start.
But now you do. You begin where you are, then you dream outward and upward. What would you like to see happen? If you woke up one day and your problems were solved, what would that mean for you? Exploring an alternative future raises you above your current conditions so you can see something different ahead. With the spirit of an explorer you ask, "where do I want to go?"
On to, "what's in my way?"
This is the "obstacles" question. It identifies the barriers in front of you. What is blocking your way? What is gritting its teeth and planting its feet and bidding you to back down? What is holding you back? You cannot move ahead until you see what's in your way. It wants to stay hidden, it's more of a threat that way.
So disrupt the cycle! Shine the light, sound the alarm, send out the hounds. Take back the situation, uphold the coming future, vindicate the better day. Asking the obstacles question bridges the gap between the present and the future. Where am I now? Where do I want to go? What's in my way?
And then, "how can I get there?"
This is the "solutions" question. After you've spied on yourself and envisioned a different future and identified the obstacles, you can plan your way around them. How will you get to where you want to go? How will you stare that thing in the face and tell it to move? How will you advance? This is when you get practical.
The solutions question helps you put feet to your future, to plan your path. You consider things like: What must I do next? Whose help can I enlist? What resources do I need? What skills can I employ? What strengths can I use? What knowledge must I gain? The solutions question helps you do what you must do, so you can get to where you must go.
Use the four questions at your own risk and enjoy the adventure Warning: it won't be plastic or safe.