Goldilocks and the Six Chairs

Facing a big, life decision with multiple aspects at play? There’s a Co-active coaching exercise where you divide the floor into 8 sections with tape. The idea is you think of the problem, choice or topic at being in the center and each of the sections being a different metaphor for a perspective that you put yourself into and ask your self how would xxx see this/do about this…?

I have altered that a bit to ask clients if they have a conference or dining table with 6-8 chairs.

Then I have them take stickies and put the topic in the center and a perspective at each chair. Often, they like some suggestions for perspectives; so, I offer a few and them them choose some others. Ones that seem to help include:

  • You @ 95: Think of yourself at 95 sitting happily at your beach bungalow looking out over the waves and chuckling as you look back at yourself now confronted with this choice. Knowing what lies ahead in life and choices made and enjoyed or regretted, what would the 95-year-old you say to you right now?
  • You @ 21: Think of yourself as the young college student/adult – full of optimism and ambition (or cynicism and doubt?). What would that perhaps naive or not-yet-jaded youngster suggest to you now?
  • A Passed Confidant: Sometimes we have a parent or grandparent to whom we are particularly close, who knew us well, and always had words of comfort or advice that we appreciated. Often we mourn their loss and the lost opportunity to get their advice; however, when we ask ourselves, we’ll usually discover we know exactly what they’d say.
  • A Former Teacher, Mentor or Coach: Sometimes there was a childhood or early career teacher, mentor or coach who always seemed to be able to help us look at things from another perspective – what would they say?
  • The Critical 13-Year-Old: If you’ve ever had a thirteen year old daughter, you know they can give it to you really straight in words you may not want to hear, but sometimes have more truth to them than you’d like to admit. Choose not only safe/comfortable perspectives.
  • Your Favorite Pet: It can help to try on a perspective you may have never considered before – such as that of what a favorite pet might say ,.. These ideas can help you consider what meaning you associate with these beings/things and what values they help you to keep in mind when confronted with a choice…
  • Your Spirit Guide: If you have a spirit guide or animal or shaman… what might they say?
  • Your Hero(ine): If Wonder Woman. Spider Man, RBG, or MLK is your heroine or hero, what would they think, do, say, ask?
  • Your Car: I was once asked, “What would your car think?” – this may seem a bit odd, but our car represents certain meaning to us and there are reasons we own it and time we’ve spent with it. A coach once asked me, what would your car say? Oddly enough, having made a conscious choice of car in my Subaru Outback, it reflected some of my passions and values and served as an interesting perspective.
  • Your Identical Twin: sometimes it’s easier to give a close friend advice than to make a decision. It can help to imagine you have an identical twin that you know very well, what would you tell them?

As you write the names of 6-8 such metaphors for perspectives on each sticky in front of each chair, the idea is to sit in each chair and consider the topic in the middle, you may discover one perspective is more relevant or resonates better for this topic. You can also switch back and forth between chairs to consider the different angles. Once you’ve found the most meaningful seat/perspective, stay with that for a while and see if it doesn’t help you get unstuck.

Your Table and Chairs as a Wheel of Life

Another tool leveraged in Co-Active Coaching is the Wheel of Life. It helps you assess where you are regarding various aspects of your life and determining which aspects you are potentially feeling a need to change. However, these aspects could also be leveraged when confronted with a life impacting decision. Instead of using such a wheel to assess where you’re currently at, imagine each of these perspectives as names tags of guests around your table and then you sit in each seat and consider how each aspect of your life would be impacted by each option you have to choose from.

For example, if it’s about choosing between staying in your current job A, or jobs offers B and C, how would you image each of these aspects of your life to be impacted by staying with job A, going to job B or going to job C, …?

Career choice perspectives

Here are different representations of this aspects/perspectives on your life that might be affected as a result of a choice you’re feeling yourself confronted with:

Vicky Schubert uses the following wheel of perspective in her Seeing Yourself Whole: A System of Power and Purpose:

Layout 1

Discover Wellness Within of Ontario leverages these perspectives to help you assess your current “health” level in each area, but it could also help you consider how each of these aspects may be impacted with each of your choices:


Other Characters to Seat Around Your Table …

In Michael Ventura’s Applied Empathy he introduces seven “Archetypes of Empathy” (hey’re embellished with some characters here that you might imagine seating around a table to help embody that perspective). Ventura suggests you try out each perspective to see which perspective/questions resonates the strongest with you for self reflection …

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