Conversations at the Crossroads.

Stuffing George

A recent client was passionate about launching a non-profit in the education space. Up to the point when we began working together, she had always worked in a for-profit setting and had earned a steady income. Because of this, by her own admission, she was uncomfortable imagining a career phase without predictable paychecks. It concerned her to such an extent that she was struggling to envision even a high level outline of steps for the creation of her non-profit. Designing a plan was one of her objectives for coaching, though, so we needed to find a way past this mental block. I asked her:

If you could wake up tomorrow without any need to worry about money, what would you do first?

It seems like a simple enough request—to pretend that money is no object—but it can still be a difficult idea to try on. For most of us, money is a key consideration (if not the main consideration) when it comes to professional decisions. It is for this reason, I believe, that some clients need time and space to mull before they can begin to really address the question. With this particular client we wanted to be able to return to an open-minded, exploratory planning space frequently over the course of our sessions, so we started referring to this exercise as “stuffing George in the closet.” That is, we invited George Washington, whose face is on the one-dollar bill (and who we therefore saw as representing money in general), to bow out of the conversation for a little while. This had the desired effect of releasing my client to think more creatively. In the momentary exclusion of money concerns from our dialogue, she was able to see some steps of her plan unfold. And while taking early steps is not a guarantee of plan success, taking no steps at all is certainly a guarantee of plan failure. After a few more sessions of “stuffing George in the closet” my client saw further benefit from the exercise. She developed a greater capacity to explore ideas that at first seem farfetched. Her timelines and plans for the non-profit began to take shape and continue to gain momentum today.

To be clear, my intention in asking the question isn’t to take us out of the realm of reality. In fact, my approach in coaching is to always keep our feet planted in reality, addressing what a client feels he or she needs from a practical (read: financial) standpoint. At the same time, though, when it’s clear that there are mental roadblocks holding someone back, a pendulum swing to a radically different mindset has the potential to open up ideas before finding a comfortable middle ground between the extremes.

If you’ve noticed that money concerns have been affecting your ability to envision change and possibility, encourage George to take a coffee break and see what happens. I’d love to hear about it.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published August 10, 2017