Meaning: The Golden Thread Woven throughout the Most Powerful Coaching

Meaning: The Golden Thread Woven throughout the Most Powerful Coaching

Meaning Conference

Note: What follows is the abstract of presentation that our President, Laura Atwood, will be sharing in a coaching symposium at the upcoming 10th Biennial International Conference on Meaning (Vancouver, August 2-5, 2018). For more information go to:

Meaning in coaching starts with the core question that underpins all of coaching: “What do you want?” And it’s important for us as coaches to go deeper and make sure that the client hears the real question of “What do you really, really want?” Not just what you think you should want, or what you’ve been told you should want, or what, maybe, you might try for. That deep-seated, personal want gives meaning, drive, energy, and focus to coaching, operating at all levels from the big, overarching goals for coaching, to the specific choices made in each conversation.

Meaning operates across the domains of coaching outcomes:
• Identifying the “why bother?” or “what’s at stake?” that makes the hard work of enhancing performance worth the effort.
• Recognizing that learning is always personal, and must be self-directed, based on the individual’s unique subjective perspective and process of meaning-making.
• Enhances personal fulfillment as the client discovers wonderful things about their unique strengths, values, and contributions they can make to the world, and starts to come off autopilot and take the wheel in steering their own life.

Meaning invites the client to pay attention to how they’re being in the world, to notice what brings out the best in them, and what triggers their lesser self to show up, and to choose more intentionally how to be, more of the time. Through focus on self as an expression of meaning, the client engages in a process of intentional evolution and creation of the future self.

Meaning guides the client in designing action steps that are right for them, and supports them in holding themselves accountable to what’s truly important to them.

And meaning connects the client to the big picture of their life, so that they can align all their goals, choices and actions to their own design of purpose. Expression of meaning may change over time and place, but the constellation of internal elements of meaning, once discovered, can provide a valuable compass for a lifetime.

This rich parallel agenda, which can ride alongside a more concrete goals-focused agenda, offers the opportunity for meaning-focused transformation, and provides the great “Wow!” factor of coaching. And it fits comfortably within ICF’s Coaching Core Competencies, and can be mapped to ICF’s PCC markers.

Exploration of personal meaning is also a key element of coach formation, to enhance trust and presence, and to support client exploration at deeper levels.

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