life like snowflakes

This week I was working with a 57 year old client* through the Connections foundation module of the Total Life Checkup program. With the evolving role of parent already discussed in the Identity module, this client was assessing her web of connections and where in it does her son feature. “My career has been stimulating and full, but it was all about supporting the home. Now that structure is different, so I’m not sure what my motivation is.”

This is why coaching is embedded throughout the online workbook experience, rather than just leaving big questions with the client to wrestle with on their own. I asked her how her discoveries in the previous module could assist her. She recalled realizing that the mother-son relationship had changed many times in the 20 years they lived together and that she rolled through each one without much thought. “You just do it!” She reflected that subtle changes will continue in their relationship in the years to come. Through further questioning, she noted that perhaps she hadn’t paid enough attention to her own needs and desires.

In the exercise portion of each module, clients are asked to examine their current scenario, to then imagine a preferred, future vision and to describe how to get there (utilizing what is working from their current state, and releasing what is not). This can be a lot of work, when you think about all the layers in a person’s network, but exposing the fine details can be thought-provoking. My client, at that moment thinking about her son, teared up. “In many ways we are so different. I know he feels loved and always has as home to come to, but he is already entrenched in a community [far away] and may not feel much pull to return. My objective will be to keep the phone line open, to check in, let him know I’d like to see him, but otherwise I have to move on.”

As professional coaches know, we don’t coach the issue, we coach the person. I may ask about where to go next in the conversation that would serve best, checking in with a client that they are still on track with their session objective. But in this moment I held the space open, in silence. My instinct told me that this wise, practical person was allowing themselves access to untapped feelings, as I watched her body process what she had said. Within a few moments her eyes lifted to meet mine, she nodded her head and whispered, “Interesting. You think life is just one big story, but there are so many subtle, distinct parts to it, like snowflakes.”

We gently moved on and she created her Connections guiding principle: “Reignite relationships with old friends.” As I wrapped up the session, I spent a moment asking her to model how she will tie this foundational learning to the ‘environment’ modules to come. (Our name for practical matters.) She went to the topic of home, wondering about turning her son’s bedroom into a guest room, so she could finally invite out-of-town friends to stay over. Referring to her son, my client lit up and chuckled: “He can sleep in the basement!”


*Actual client stories are altered for privacy – details are substituted to express the intent of the article.

Announcement: a new podcast “Aging Deliberately” coming soon. Stories from Canadians, personal and professional, sharing how they embody the Widening Sphere mindset! Seeking guests – see criteria here.