One of the more creative aspects of life coaching is implementing or designing exercises that will help nudge a client closer to answers or clarity on her goals. I have been known to tweak some I’ve learned from others, to invent some on the spot and also to get ideas that I fine-tune and develop more slowly.
In the latter category is one I call Witness Protection. Just as it sounds, it is based on imagining oneself having to enter the Witness Protection Program and being given the chance at reinvention. The idea is to dig into your existing life with questions along these lines: Aside from having to sever significant relationships in your life, what would be most challenging? Does the idea of being yanked out of your current life and thrust into a new one bring up excitement or dread?
With the recent release of the movie Hit and Run where a character risks his new identity to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles, I thought it would be timely to mull this and see what emerges from the exercise.
The idea for this first came to me when I was an avid viewer of the USA Network’s In Plain Sight. I was initially drawn to it because I loved the sassy, smart main character of Mary Shannon (so well played by Mary McCormack), a deputy U.S. marshal based in Albuquerque. But as time went on I became intrigued by the way each character handled – bungled? embraced? -- the transition into Witness Protection.
What would be your greatest challenge? What would you do?
OK, I’ll go first.
How would I make a living? Well, I write in this life. Would that still be possible in a situation where I’m trying to keep my identity hidden? Clearly there would be no column that includes my picture. But I wonder if even my writing style would tip off someone, some linguistics expert hired to track me down because I testified against the wrong person. Public writing might have to go. Maybe I could keep it to local features for newsletters or the like.
And then there’s coaching. Could I still do that? Again, there would be no website promoting my work that contains my photo. No professional events where coaches gather. No conferences. No advertising my services. What if another coach I’ve met through my networking and columnist duties in this life made contact?
Part of me thinks I’d resign myself to a mundane money job to pay the bills and then just read myself into a frenzy. The UPS guy would be at my house non-stop delivering packages from Amazon as I went from Virginia Woolf to Philip Roth to Anais Nin. There would be the poetry of Hafiz and Mary Oliver and then maybe I’d enter a Janet Evanovich haze.
Did you see what happened there? I didn’t learn a darned thing about what I’d do to earn a living. That became secondary as I let the fantasy go forth into a stream of consciousness place. What did I learn that I can apply to my current life? That while I am fairly well read, I want to be really well read. I am jealous of voracious readers. What is stopping me from being one? Carving out more time for it. And to boot, when I do it feeds my writing. Win-win.
And what about you?
If you’re a person who is known for something that has a signature style and you couldn’t do it any longer for fear of discovery, what would you do? How would you bury what is innate and organic? Is there something else there, another voice within you that wants to be heard?
Let’s say an answer comes to you. A chance to be an entrepreneur, perhaps. What if in this life you’ve been following the money and in the new life you’d be getting a second chance to pay heed to a passion? Or might you go the other way? Be a waitress and spend your off hours hiking, playing chess in the park, learning how to play guitar. Maybe that beige-based décor you’ve had for years that you’ve wanted to shake up can now give way to a lemony yellow or tone-on-tone blue backdrop. Perhaps the suits give way to a more bohemian wardrobe with drapier jackets.
Oh, the possibilities.
Try journaling this exercise or sitting on a park bench and letting it swirl around in your mind. Don’t overthink it. We’re not after cerebral here. Let yourself be with the fantasy.
There is something to be had in the answers. A new lease on life.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.