Home » Reimagining the Future through Coaching Pathways

“Coaching focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes.”
-Sir John Whitmore

The pandemic unearthed much unease. People are experiencing a crisis in meaning and questioning several assumptions and mindsets as they unpack their life’s journey. I am hearing several of my clients reflect more on some of the deeper and more important questions of life now more than ever. How can I live my life with more intention rather than be driven by external pressures? What parts of my life need more of my attention? What can give me a sense of fulfilment and contribution? How do I stay committed to growth in a chaotic world? The answers are not easy but neither impossible. As coaches, we should not waste this urgency and discomfort arising from the crises.

While the crisis is uncomfortable on the surface, it may prove to be a golden opportunity in disguise. Robert J Thomas and Warren Bennis, in their research on Crucibles of leadership, famously concluded that challenging experiences can make leaders far more resilient and resourceful. The key, though, is that they should not merely cope. They must mine meaning and harvest learning as they navigate the experience. Such crucible experiences help break barriers and limiting mindsets and help them gain insights to make the right choices, adapt, grow and evolve. How are you leveraging this crisis?

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.’ Coaching, in my experience, is among other things, a powerful tool to help people find meaning and spark motivation to redesign their life and work. This article will explore three ways coaches can help clients solve this crisis in meaning and co-create a new future, rooted in their aspirations and realities.

1. Evoke Agency.
Agency is both a belief and a mental state. It gives us the confidence that we can learn , change and make a difference in any situation, rather than be passive and helpless. Agency enables growth by tapping into available resources and experiences. Coaching is a lot about evoking agency. It includes helping clients revaluate options, reimagine their future and pursue their dreams by tapping into agency. When people lack agency, they stagnate and lose hope. They get stuck in their circumstances and are unable to use their willpower which triggers the desire and energy to make progress. Martin Seligman, terms this act of reimagining the future as prospection and emphasizes that all humans have this capability of prospection innately. When people are experiencing widespread disruption, coaching will be more about enabling clients to discover and evaluate new possibilities. Clearing out their mental and emotional debris is essential pre-work to step into the space of prospection and designing a future path that resonates with them. Coaching helps break the barriers of getting stuck with what is not working. It shifts the attention to what is working. When unshackled from their past limitations, clients will be ready to pave the future and explore their potential. Agency is fuel for the much-needed action after reimagination.

2. Engender Well-Being.
In the past, the definition of well-being was limited to physical health. People rarely discussed mental health then. While physical and psychological wellness are foundational, there is more to well-being. While less discussed and attended to, well-being’s emotional and spiritual dimensions play a significant role in navigating a crisis. Emotions are contagious and need outlets for expression in healthy ways. Having emotional literacy, which is the ability to name emotions as you experience them, can be an awareness that coaches encourage in clients. When aware, recognition and regulation of emotions become more accessible to them. Being able to detangle emotions from one’s identity and building the capacity to tap into other people’s reality is pre-work for success. Coaches need to attend to the whole person. Well-being was not a central subject in coaching and is still, to some extent, a specialism offered by well-being coaches. In my years of experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, I have come to recognize the profound necessity of relaxation. Relaxation helps clients prepare for much-needed prospection, reflection and action in coaching. Sadly, relaxation is underrated in a high-performance world.
Many see relaxation as a luxury. Invariably when a client brings up their being overwhelmed and exhausted, I ask them about their relaxation. Their response is often about how overscheduled their life is and the lack of opportunities to take a break. In times of crisis, the default mode in which people operate is one of fear. Fear blocks the ability to progress unless addressed. It is never about ignoring pain or feigning positivity. The coach’s work is also about helping clients discover ways in which they garner the conviction to take action. When a person perceives setbacks as temporary, they can more easily tap into their internal resources to overcome, learn, and move forward. Yoga postures, meditation, mindfulness, breathing (Pranayam), positive affirmations, friendships, humour, and hobbies are some ways to relax, recharge and nurture well-being. Coaches need to encourage and help clients improve their holistic well-being, cleanse negativity and foster emotional resilience. As John Kabat Zinn says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

3. Evolve through life’s crucible moments
In leadership and coaching, new practices are getting introduced in the context of our current realities and ensuing priorities. Younger generations are starting to explore new meanings and pathways much earlier than the previous generations. They neither have the certainty of experience nor the comfort of guardrails in such explorations.
Spiritual well-being is about feeling connected to the planet and all its inhabitants. It is also about recognizing and reconciling with how transient our lives are. The question of how one can live a life enriched with meaning and contribution, is the essence of spirituality. Learning through experiences, finding inspiration in role models, nurturing yourself and making time for what lights you up from the inside, are some of the ways to attend to and grow in our spiritual dimension. Spirituality is often confused with religion. While in reality, it is more about becoming better humans, achieving our potential and evolving. This development need is what coaches must respond to by preparing fertile soil and the right environment. Coaches need to provide that safe space for clients to explore themselves more deeply and gain awareness that enables their success, happiness and well-being. To make this possible, they need to explore these aspects for themselves first and connect to the richness of their life’s journey. It may warrant more investment in the practice, reading, and learning through courses and experiences and exposure to practitioners and supervisors of these new coaching models. Such exploration and enrichment are critical to helping our clients benefit from coaching that takes them past the crises, into reimagining their future and actioning their plans.
The International Coaching Federation and other professional coaching bodies set standards, create curricula, and enable ethical practices in coaching. They need to continue to raise the bar in coaching in response to these fast-changing realities. “Coaches, heal thyself” could be a motto to heed and practise, adapted from the biblical phrase. Getting yourself a coach, going for supervision, gaining inspiration, taking the time out for your well-being, and expanding your offerings and knowledge are all ways to make your heart sing as you coach in this new world, in new ways. It also helps you find room for rest and recovery in a depleted world. We are on a mission to reimagine the future. The goalposts are shifting. Assisting people to explore themselves, find meaning, help redefine their life’s journey in alignment with their goals and live happier lives is what we aim for as coaches while reimagining the future.


Martin Seligman, The Hope Circuit – A Psychologist’s journey from helplessness to Optimism.

Sir John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance.

Hetty Einzig, The Future of Coaching.