Shifting: #7 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching

Updated: Jan 6

This article is eighth in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).


7. Shifting

“The best vision is insight.”

— Malcolm Forbes

“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

— Nathaniel Branden

There are various ways to interpret and apply shifting in the realm of coaching. Right now, we’ll focus on the shifting that is part of the basic coaching model. This is the moving from the fog and unknowing to the aha’s referred to in the last lesson — the breakthroughs, the insights, the things revealed, the newly crystal-clear.

Let’s review the steps of this simple model that will bring you to the shift, and the gift on the other side:

  • You realize you need a bit of coaching.

  • You make the time and space for a session with yourself.

  • You choose the modality (meditation, journaling, walking).

  • You select an agenda item and a takeaway (big idea 4).

  • You ask a powerful, open-ended question directly relevant to the agenda to begin (big idea 5).

  • You follow up your own answers by peeling the onion (big idea 6).

  • You continue until you can feel, notice, and acknowledge a shift in some way. This might manifest as a subtle energy change, the sense that confusion is dissipating, a warm reassurance of moving to a better place, or a thunderbolt of excited awareness.

  • In a session with a coach, the client does not always realize that they have struck upon something valuable. The coach in those cases gently invites the client to shift (Something just happened!…Can you repeat what you just said?…perhaps the coach will mark it with a prolonged silence or a hmmm, interesting), pointing the client to the fact that something is different, that they’ve untangled their agenda item and are looking right at prize information.


Because you’re playing both roles here, coach and the coached, you may also not realize what you’ve accomplished layer by layer with your questions, that you’re staring at the end of that work and are in a position to shift. Slow the entire process down and leave some room to experience each step. Breathe deeply in between. This mindfulness makes it easier to catch a meaningful change in your internal state.

It’s also possible to probe, explore, dig, and get “somewhere” — have some new thoughts and feelings — but not shift. If you suspect you’re going around in circles, not arriving, take a step back and inquire with yourself about the “stuckness.” You might want to ask such things as: What is my limiting belief here? What am I gaining by not changing…and what is the cost to me?

And…when you’ve dug deep or dug enough, it’s okay to stop without a shift. Acknowledge where you’re at and the work you’ve done and let it go. The shift may come down the road after you’ve stopped trying and have moved on to other things. In the next hour, the next morning, or the next week. You will recognize it.


Your Coaching To-Do’s

Work on becoming aware of how a shift shows up for you — what that looks, feels, seems like.

⎕ Writing: Dedicate a journal page for current notes and future observations on shifting. Start by jotting some thoughts about how you currently notice and experience aha moments.

⎕ Walking or Meditating: Spend 30 minutes or more taking yourself through the basic coaching model two or three times. Besides agenda items of the moment you wish to explore, walk yourself through a knotty problem of the past that ended with a grand dose of insight. In each case, pay close attention to the movement at the end of the process. What is the shifting like? When these sessions are over, add relevant notes to your journal page.

⎕ To explore the concept of shifting further, check out the book Oh, Shift! by master coach Jennifer Powers.

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