Recently, in my feedback from an observed coaching session, my observer coach noticed that my client didn’t appear to be thinking from the future and looking back. Their language was future tense, with lots of ‘…will be’ and talking about now being different to then. It was a light bulb moment. It was immediately evident that all of the difficulty I had keeping the focus of the session tight, stemmed from not enough future focus. There are still times when a speedy 30-minute session is too short for the complexity of the goal to be addressed easily. (My coaching group, the Bristol Coaching Collective, use observed 30-minute sessions for analysis and skill development… see ‘sharpening the saw’) This was one of those times.

I was moving quickly through the structure of the session, trying to draw my client along with their goal in good time to be able to explore where they were now and what they could do without running out of time. What I should have done was asked the client to go forward in time to the point where they were able to look back on their completed goal and describe the success with the benefit of 20-20-vision. Ironically, it probably would have tightened the session up and made the timing easier.

Why is that?

Using your imagination to travel forward in time is one of the most powerful things we can do with our minds. There’s a saying that ‘if you can imagine it, you can achieve it’. Now, dragons and wizards aside, imagining things about your own life does tend to both fit with your values and your potential. It seems we have an unconscious knowledge of our potential. By going to that future time and really experiencing it, feeling what you’d be feeling, describing what you’d see, smell, hear and touch; the state of your health, wealth and life overall, you start your subconscious mind reconciling the cognitive dissonance your visualization triggers. Your mind will begin to explain how and why things are different. Maybe not right away or easily, but that’s where your coach can help prompt you. What do you see, what do you look like? What are you doing? All of these questions build that picture of a possible future. It should feel pretty exciting, or at least impart feelings of wellbeing or hope.

At that point, when you’re feeling the benefits of your possible future, looking back and exploring, describing what it was that you did to get to that possible future brings that subconscious mind, that’s immediately trying to join up with that future from your present, into the light and along with it, all the plans and steps you would need to take to come to that future.

It’s an incredible experience that simply intellectualizing about that same future cannot replicate. Not even if your client happens to be another coach! This was what I glossed over in that session, and why it became a transactional coaching session. Yes, we got things done and my client was in a better position with regard to his session goal than he would have been had he worked on his own, but the experience wasn’t transformational, and it should have been.

Time passes and futures become nows. If we don’t decide to strive for a brilliant possible future, the future will become now anyway, but it will be a default future.

The question really, is do we want our default future or do we want to dare to dream and do more? What errors do we need to make, and are we willing to make, for the feedback we need to develop into that possible future?