A Coaching Model By Heather Prentice Schmidt, Identity & Empowerment Coach, CANADA
From Roots to Fruit: Reaping the Benefits of a Rooted Life
Just as a tree begins life as a tiny seed, humans begin life as tiny, helpless beings filled with infinite potential for growth, grounded in the genetic makeup of their own unique nature, and rooted in the soil of their environment and the human condition. The first thing a seed does after sprouting is to grow a root system. A tree puts down roots according to its particular species. As the freshly-rooted seedling pokes its head above the soil, it is subject to nature’s blessings and harshness: soft rains, sunshine, gentle breezes, driving winds, periods of drought and torrential deluge. Eventually, the seedling strengthens and matures to produce a harvest, ready to be enjoyed.
I have integrated this imagery of a seedling, from setting down roots to bearing fruit, into my coaching model. The tree is constantly growing and changing, new roots and shoots emerge, old roots and shoots die off, and the seasons of harvest vary from prolific to barren. The way in which a tree is tended (pruning, fertilizing, watering) along with the tree’s overall health and the external conditions of its life stage, dictate its harvest. Similarly, an individual’s nature, choices, growth, and internal and external conditions, all contribute to the fruits of the harvest. As the tree’s life is a continuous cycle of growth and maturation, so is our own human life.
From Roots to Fruit
The steps in the coaching process are:
Creating awareness is the starting point. Questions to ask include:
- Where are you now?
- What are your values and priorities at this life stage?
- How are they different from an earlier life stage?
- What resources (physical, mental, emotional, financial) do you have to draw upon?
- What are your strengths and interests?
- What key events from your past define and shape who you are today? What parts of your family and cultural traditions do you deeply value? And what parts don’t resonate?
Without an honest starting point, the process of growth, change, and transformation becomes impossible.
- Acceptance of where you are is key to moving forward. As long as you remain stuck in denial, attached to expectation, wishing or hoping things were different, or railing against conditions as they currently are, the less possible change becomes.
- Acceptance involves self-compassion: being kind, gentle, flexible, and forgiving.
- Acceptance involves feeling emotions as they arise, not denying or suppressing them. This can be difficult for many people who are used to pushing away difficult or painful emotions, such as anger, resentment, disappointment, grief, or regret. Denying the full range of emotions can lead to toxic positivity or a Pollyanna-ish approach to life.
- Acceptance can then move into appreciation, where the client can begin to find the gifts and opportunities in their current conditions, including adversity or obligation.
- From a place of acceptance and appreciation, a client can start to see a path forward.
This is one of the most powerful steps, in which a client begins to dream, to connect to a vision, and get clarity around what they want.
A powerful, authentic visioning process stays out of the show, thus reducing the inner critic’s tendency to highlight judgement, deficiency, limitation, and lack.
Questions to ask include:
- What do you want your life to look like?
- What would you love to have?
- How would you like to show up each day for yourself and the people around you?
- How would you love to spend your days?
- How would you like to feel as you move through your day?
- What legacy do you want to leave for your family, community, professional discipline, etc.?
Identify & Question Assumptions:
As the client starts to move from imagining, dreams and visions, into reality, fear, doubt, and judgement can creep in. These can often be subconscious, driven by our childhood programming, our deeply held yet unquestioned beliefs about how the world works and “the way things are” or “the way things are supposed to be,” our previous experiences, and how we learned to cope with life.
Helping a client examine the pattern of their thoughts à feelings à behaviour à results, can help interrupt established patterns and expose thoughts which are either flawed, assumptive, limiting, or no longer of service.
Questions to ask include:
- What’s getting in the way?
- What’s holding you back?
- What assumptions are you making about yourself, others, and the situation itself?
- How’s that working for you?
- Is that thought/assumption/belief really true?
- What else might be available to you?
Access and Awaken Possibility:
- As the client questions their assumptions and clears some limiting beliefs, possibilities will start to open.
- Excitement and commitment build as the client deepens, clarifies, and personalizes their vision.
- As the client relaxes into the state of acceptance and deepens their appreciation, what inspirations and intuitions come up?
- How do we help the client bridge the gap between what is and what is?
- Being able to stay in the space of appreciation and acceptance, while at the same time holding onto the delicious feeling energy of the desired state, opens up new ideas and possibilities. The energy liberated from resisting, shirking, or fighting against what is, becomes available to move forward.
- Empowerment grows as the focus shifts from limitation, lack, blame, and victimhood to possibility, support, structures, and relationships.
Aligned & Inspired Action:
Taking action is what actualizes the underground work of growing and strengthening our authenticity and rootedness, and turns our vision into reality. Inspiration without action stays in the land of dreams, never coming alive in the client’s daily life.
The steps required to move from the current reality to the desired state may be unclear or daunting. A plan will most likely not be revealed all at once. Advancement along the path, even with baby steps, increases our line of sight, allowing us to see further into the distance or around the next corner. The necessary steps may not all be obvious at the outset, but they will be revealed incrementally as the journey progresses.
Inspired actions are those which resonate with the client’s soul and are aligned with their rooted nature, rather than the possibly more obvious choices dictated by society or to please others.
Listening to the little nudges, following the inexplicable urges, and seeing where they take us are the key to inspired action. Consistent, small, inspired actions accumulate into eventual, remarkable transformations.
The action phase can sometimes derail a client who seeks to actualize a big dream. The ego brain’s role is to keep us safe in our current comfort zone, rather than moving in the direction of our dreams. It uses all sorts of tricks, such as impostor syndrome, overwhelms, fear, doubt, uncertainty, procrastination, distracting us with momentary pleasures, ramping up the inner critic voice, and any other number of sabotage tactics to keep us from stretching into growth and spreading our wings.
Motion begets motion and acting quickly before the amygdala can steer the brain into the paralysis of freeze/flight/fight, is key to overcoming the status quo.
The action builds the client’s confidence and trust in their own ability to do the work. It shifts the client’s identity (“I’m the type of person who…”) to a more empowered place. The action allows us to express who we are at our rooted centre out into the world.
Consistent micro actions or atomic habits eventually build into routines and systems, gathering momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill. Future progress becomes easier and faster once the hurdle of inertia is overcome.
Consistency is essential. It’s what you do on a daily basis that matters more than what you do every so often.
Questions to ask:
- What baby steps can you take to build momentum towards your goal?
- What supports or structures can you put in place to help you?
- How can you hold yourself accountable for what you want in the face of internal resistance?
- What can you say to talk back to the protective ego brain when it tries to keep you in its safe, comfortable, well-worn rut?
Acknowledge & Appreciate the Harvest:
- Celebration stokes the fires of motivation and joy. We tend to celebrate the big milestones, but acknowledging each little step along the way helps generate the positive vibes that fuel motivation.
- Gratitude is a powerful tool to create your dream life. It anchors us in the present moment, where life unfolds, and where our power lies.
- Gratitude and celebration energize us, propel us forward, and keep us connected to our goals.
- Just as in nature, we take a moment to harvest and enjoy the fruits of our labour, so in our own lives, we can benefit from the pause of appreciation before racing off to the next goal. Life is a journey, not a destination, to be fully lived and savoured moment-to-moment, not “someday.”
Attend to the Roots:
Just as Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly effective people is to sharpen the saw[i], so it is important to regularly tend the roots with rest, rejuvenation, and ongoing investment in personal development.
The cultivation and development of one’s roots, under the surface of the earth, unseen by others, is a necessary jumping-off point for visible growth above ground, and for generating a crop offruit to enjoy.
Questions to ask:
- What acts as rain, sunshine, and fertilizer to what you want to grow in your garden of life?
- What fills you up? What energizes you?
- Who do you love to spend time with?
- What do you love to do?
- What brings you the emotions you desire (love, joy, peace, playfulness, connection, etc.)?
- What makes you come alive and feel more like yourself?
- What people, places, things, or activities drain you and how can you minimize or remove these energy vampires from your life?
This coaching model is not meant to be exhaustive or sequential. Each client’s journey takes place in its own unique way, at its own unique pace. Just as a tree has its seasons of growth, dormancy, challenge, and ease, so do we. Sometimes a tree grows rapidly, while other times it slows down or even struggles to stay alive or overcome trauma. The coaching model’s steps serve as a rough guideline of what we need to consider on our journey to a mature, bountiful life, one deeply and powerfully rooted in authenticity, while simultaneously full of the fruits of our labour, ready to harvest and share.
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[i]From Dr Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People