About a year ago, my daughter and I created what she called a “dream board.” She wanted to make a collage, so we went to the library and got armfuls of random magazines from their free stacks. It was cold and rainy, so later that day I curled up by the fire with her and began to leaf through those magazines. We pulled out pictures of everything that struck our fancy. We weren’t looking for anything specific, just chatting and cutting, and as the afternoon wore on our stacks grew pretty deep. When we laid out all the pictures for the collage, I began to see that these pictures represented more than just what we thought was funny, beautiful, or interesting. These pictures provided insight into our deepest passions, hopes, and dreams. We had inadvertently created a great tool to add to my life coaching repertoire.

I often have to utilize life coaching skills in my professional practice. Many gifted kids are extremely talented in several areas, which can make it hard to choose which talent to pursue professionally. When I am working with middle and high school aged clients, I am often asked to help them identify where to focus their educational efforts. When I meet with these clients, I work to help them uncover their authentic self. I use various tools that are designed to utilize both sides of the brain and help them make discoveries and connections.

I have conducted brainstorming sessions where we roll out long sheets of butcher paper and write down everything they have done, love to do, or plan to do, and then try to find connections between those items. We circle and color code items, draw lines between ideas, elaborate on original thoughts, and eventually a pattern emerges. Sometimes the results are surprising. We find connections that allow them to combine their passions or links that lead them to a new way of thinking about their future.

Another approach is to interview them about how they spend their free time, what types of books they read for fun, which movies and TV programs they watch. I ask them questions: What would you do if you had a windfall of cash? What do your friends like about you? What is easy/hard for you? If you could change anything about your life, what would it be? What are your pet peeves? What do your value? If you could go anywhere, do anything, what would you do? What do you think needs to be changed in your community?

Sometimes I push them out of their comfort zone. I might have a left brain thinker draw a five line self portrait or write a 10 sentence story of their lives. I might have an artistic right brain thinker make a sequential list or graph their activities. I might put them into an imaginary parallel universe that doesn’t have any limitations and ask them to rethink their life. When our sessions are finished, my clients often make insightful discoveries about who they really are and what they truly want out of life.

When we have finished our brainstorming sessions, we put together a plan to take classes, pursue apprenticeships, find mentors, and gain experience. I have seen kids go from barely motivated to racing out the door, once they figure out what they want to do and what it will take to get it done. The key is to help them figure it out for themselves. This is one of those decisions that needs to come from the soul. It requires them to sift through a great deal of daily life clutter to get there. They have to be free to separate their own desires from those of their parents. They have to learn to be their own life coach.

We all want our children to discover and safely navigate their path to a happy life. While this is our ultimate goal, we sometimes lose sight of it along the way. We are bogged down by the minutia of daily life. We have to make endless decisions and deal with the repercussion of those decisions. Work and money issues cloud our view. Pressures from family, school, or society put us off track. We forget that we eventually have to let go. Many of us have had to put our own passions on hold. We may have even lost touch with what really makes us happy. Consequently, we don’t always provide a good role model of how to follow our dreams.

The ultimate result of my off-the-cuff dream board session with my daughter was my application and acceptance into a doctoral program. My passion for education is reignited, my desire to be a social entrepreneur is refocused, and my daughter has a mother who is still engaged in making and meeting life goals. If you want to help your child discover their own possibilities, first take some time to reconnect with your own. Then put on your life coaching hat and watch the wonders emerge.


4 thoughts on “Life Coaching Our Kids

  1. I teach at a very small and progressive school in Springfield, MO. We are attempting to make this level of reflection and self-understanding an integral part of how we develop each student’s learning path. We are organizing students into cohorts of 15 or less with a teacher/mentor/guide who follows them through their entire high school experience. We are such a small school right not that getting to know students on a very personal basis is not difficult. But we don’t always cut through to dream board types of insights. I would love to be more proficient at techniques that can break through the protective shield of sarcasm and wit that often keeps my students from really tapping into their passions.

    1. Hi Patrick,
      I think our kids learn to be protective of their authentic selves because too often they get hurt when they disclose their hopes and dreams. It is so wonderful that you are helping them to get in touch with who they really are. I applaud you and your school! It has been my experience that when you are truthful and authentic with kids, when you work to build a safe, nurturing community, and when you show them that you truly value their ideas, they will open up and let go of their protective shields.
      As for ideas to help students tap into their passions, Daniel Pink has some great ideas about using both sides of the brain in his book “A Whole New Mind.” Some of the ideas I use in my practice came from that book. I also use some ideas from Sark’s book, “A Creative Companion.” I also have students keep a dream journal to record what they dream about for a month and see what their subconscious is up to. There are also lots of good ideas on various life coacing websites. However, since you have groups of kids who are assigned to cohorts, perhaps one of the most powerful ideas would be to challenge them to come up with ways to tap into their subconscious mind and then have the whole group do each of the students’ ideas as they work together.
      Please feel free to contact me off-line if I can be of further help to you in this endeavor. I would love to support you in your efforts with your students. My contact information can be found on my website, http://www.solutions4students.com.

      1. Thanks Melanie! I read Dan Pink in the past but at the time I was in a different career (inventor/entrepreneur/small business stuff). I think it would be a good re-read with students in mind. I will check out Creative Companion. I like your ideas about tapping the subconscious. I think they might respond to that approach. A few of them have fears about “picking wrong” and that might be a good way of relieving them the burden of “deciding” what they like (if you know what I mean.) Thanks for your suggestions and offers of help. I have really enjoyed catching up on your blog. I saw it linked from the @AsynchSchlrsFnd Twitter feed.

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