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Coaching to Flourish #091: The Value of Visioning

September 29, 2023 by Coach Training EDU

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In Coaching to Flourish #091, host Raj Anderson and guest John Andrew Williams explore all things vision! They highlight the value of vision recordings, and discuss the power of a clear vision as an evolving tool for motivation and goal achievement. John also takes us through the practice of "gratitude reps" as a powerful type of mind-body visualization exercise. Don’t miss this experiential episode!

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[Raj Anderson] We are live. Welcome everyone to the Coaching to Flourish podcast. And I'm your host, Raj Anderson, executive life coach and coach assessor. And I am here with John Andrew Williams, who is the founder of coach training EDU. And how are you doing, John? 

[John Andrew Williams] Good. I just cleaned my glasses, which might be a metaphor for my life. You know, now I can see clearly, everything. 

[Raj Anderson] Perfect metaphor, because today we're actually going to be discussing creating a vision, and creating vision boards and all of those things. And I'm excited to hear John's perspective. I set that off as well, didn't I?

[John Andrew Williams] I didn't even know, it was not pre planned. I did need - I'm like, how cheesy and silly is this, but why not? You know, life coaching itself is a cheesy profession. So I embrace it, I embrace it. 

[Raj Anderson] So I'm excited today. I mean, I always am when we come on onto this, but I think this topic around creating a vision and a vision recording is one of my favorites. You and I have talked about this before. It's something that I do religiously and diligently, and have done for years. Every year, normally about this time, I am revisiting my vision board. Yet I learned a lot from you, John, around vision recording. So why, from your perspective, is it important to create a vision?

[John Andrew Williams] Well I remember once I was in, let's say my early twenties, and I had just been hired by an organization to lead an education program. And they did a leadership workshop or something, they brought maybe 30 people in there. And there was a list of maybe 24 different points of leadership, and one of them was vision. And then they asked us to score these out on level of importance. And at the time in my early twenties, I put it at maybe 23 out of 24, or 20. I was imagining, in my mind, the vision was so key, that as I thought to myself, well, why do you have to articulate it? Why do you have to clarify it? And so I put it as number 23 or 24 out of level of importance. And everyone else had like level two or three, you know, out of 24. 

And then the whole facilitator in this thing - and we submitted all these things anonymously - and the facilitator in the workshop said, okay, so who put vision down as 23 out of 24 level of importance? And here I am, you know, I was by far the youngest person in the room by maybe 20 years. and I thought, there's no way. I did not raise my hand. I'm like - ‘that's interesting. Whoever did that, that was, that was silly of them. Who is that person?’ And it was me. I was that one. 

And I thought, and since then, that really made me think. And this was pre life coach. This is like when I was in the middle of getting life coach trained, and this idea of vision came up a lot. And I think for me at that moment, in that moment in that workshop, I really thought, well, why did I put that as 23 out of 24, when everyone else put it in two or three? 

And I’ve since realized, the value of vision, it's not - clear articulating it and putting it down, and really getting clear on what exactly you're looking for, especially if it's measurable. There is an element where human beings, it's surprising that the misunderstandings that happen in communication are unbelievably common. And it's just human nature. And I think what vision does is it helps, the clearer you get, it helps align people towards a common goal. It helps you realize and focus in on that idea of what you're going after, and making that idea of what you're going after even more tangible and real than, let's say, present negative circumstances.

That to me was a real power vision, especially when I was in the thick of it, just making it month by month. Like, there were times when we had two weeks of money left. I'm like, all right, we gotta get some clients. Or else what? And the vision of what we were going for, even in those circumstances, there was a belief that that vision was possible. It helped us continue to take the hard steps to make this organization, this company, this whole thing happen. 

So that's where I feel like, the two main benefits of vision are, you get a number of people in the same boat. And the clear vision for Coach Training EDU, especially the academic life coaching program, is for every teacher, advisor, everyone who's working with young people, to be academic life coach trained. That's it. The education, the whole education model, to shift towards one of empowerment away from knowledge basis. That's the vision of academic life coaching. And we have similar visions with wellness and executive. That's the driver, that's the show. And when I really got that clear, it clarified a lot. Path forward, what do we do, decisions. And then for myself, it really aligned in clarity of motivation. That's what we're going for. We're still going for it, 13 years later, you know, more than 14. We have to keep adding - almost 15 years of a singular vision. And this is, it's an organization of a life. 

[Raj Anderson] Well, congratulations, John. I'm hearing from you that imagination, and there is hope here, and possibilities. It reminds me of that conversation you and I had a while back where we were talking about creating space for dreaming, as well as doing. It reminds me of the Walt Disney quote, you know, ‘if you can dream it, you can do it.’ I want to do something a little bit different, and I know you're going to be up for this, John. So what are your thoughts about guiding us through a mini visualization exercise right now? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah, let's do it. Let's do it. I've been putting together coach question of the days, which I haven't yet started rolling them out. But I've been thinking to myself, it's almost like going to - these visualizations, any visualization I listen to create these kinds of things, it's almost like going to the mental-emotional gym, where you're going and doing reps. You're almost like, seeing the things that you're most grateful for, leaning into something, doing some reps with it. So a part of me wants to up it and play a little bit, and for those of you listening at home too. I want to do, can we say a set of gratitude reps? 

[Raj Anderson] I would love that. Perfect timing. 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah. So let’s do gratitude reps. But I also want to make it a full body experience, so I'm thinking of maybe doing, maybe 10 standing squats while doing 10 gratitudes at the same time. Are you up for it Raj? 

[Raj Anderson] I am. I'm wondering, I might turn my camera off while I do that. 

[John Andrew Williams] I'm keeping mine on. All right, everyone. Here we go. Ready? Ready to do some gratitude reps?

[Raj Anderson] I an ready. I'm ready. I'm going to turn my camera off so I can be in full immersion. 

[John Andrew Williams] I can fix my camera, to get a better view. There we go. 

[Raj Anderson] Let's do it, John. 

[John Andrew Williams] Ready? Ready for some gratitude reps, everyone? All right, so this is how it works. The idea is, you want to think of something you're grateful for, and every time you think of something you're grateful for, you do a squat or something physical. I mean, I have this theory that human beings, we were meant to be physical, we were meant to move around, do things, run, jump, climb, swim, you know, run after things, run away from things, all that stuff. 

And the idea of reps and really thinking of gratitude is the alignment of the things in our life that we're thinking and feeling about and thinking, yeah, this is what I really want in my life - and then also looking at how can we integrate that physical self together. This is what I will sometimes do. So the idea is you think of things you're grateful for, and every time you think of something you're grateful for, you do a squat. We'll do 10 of them. Alright? 

So I would invite you to stand up, take a really deep breath, maybe stretch a little bit, work some stuff out. And then when you feel ready, just setting yourself and think of something that you're really grateful for. Something that you're deeply, deeply grateful for, something that happened today that you're like, yeah, that was cool. It could be just as simple as that hot morning beverage that you had, or the sunlight that is, the sun that's popping out and saying, nice to meet you.

Just think of something that you're grateful for and then do a squat, do a rep. Do a - bring it down, bring it back up. And let's do that again, with the same gratitude that you're feeling right now. Down and then . Good, good, good. And then notice what you have to let go of in order to make that happen, besides self consciousness. But just notice what it takes to do a gratitude. And when you feel that gratitude again, go ahead and just do another squat.

Good. So that's three. And then jus think of something else and do another one. Four. Oh yeah. Ready for five in a row? Like, just rip them out. So don't think too much, just first thing that comes to mind, you're grateful for, do another squat. There we go. Yes. There we go. There we go. Do another one, do another one. Think of something. Good. Good. Keep it going, keep it going. Think of something else. Think of something else. There we go. There we go. Yes. Good. Good. Good. Two more, three more. There we go. There we go. All right, bring it back, bring it back. What was it like Raj? Can we get you back on camera?

[Raj Anderson] I loved that, John. I've never done it with movement before. 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah, I know. It's fun, huh? 

[Raj Anderson] Yeah. I also noticed tension that I'd been holding in my neck and shoulders that I wasn't even aware of.

[John Andrew Williams] What did you have to let go of? 

[Raj Anderson] Pressure. Pressure.

[John Andrew Williams] On a scale of one to ten aliveness, like how alive? 

[Raj Anderson] I'm on that like nine. I'm excited. I'm buzzing. And that shift in the mindset with gratitude. Because I had a lot on my plate this morning, there were some things that didn't go really very well and I was a bit down on them. And this just helped me to think about all the things that are actually going great. 

[John Andrew Williams] Well some of my gratefuls, they don't have to be intense. Like it literally can be, I'm grateful for the way that the sunlight looks on that plant. I'm grateful for the team, some of the meetings, like, what we got to figure out. Those kinds of things. I know I'm doing really well when I can even be grateful for the hard things.

And what I've found is the physicality of it. Like when you start to pair a lot of this mental-emotional work with a physical action - which is a lot of what happens in sports psychology, a lot of what happens in sports - there's an integration of the frontal cortex with your rest of your body. Just, it feels alive. So that would be the visualization that I would offer, that we don't yet have in our program. One of the things I've been looking at playing with, maybe implementing in a leadership program. The ideas of using physical movement, even larger physical movements, in creating mental-emotional states. 

[Raj Anderson] Because that motion and emotion are connected, aren't they? I mean, I couldn't help but laugh. You know, I was wondering if any of my neighbors could kind of see me from over there. 

[John Andrew Williams] No, we cannot. Next time. Next time, Raj, we'll get you, don't worry. 

[Raj Anderson] On a live call. I loved it. Helped us really shift that energy. John, how would you suggest that coaches can use that kind of thing in a coaching session?

[John Andrew Williams] I've done it different times. Some of them don't go well. Like, clients have to be up for it and it has to be the right kind of client who wants to do this kind of stuff. For me I like - and we have visualizations as part of what we do. I mean, it's part of in the curriculum. We have a future self visualization. That's the main one, where you imagine yourself, nine years in the future, or some set time in the future. 

And there's so much positive psychology that talks about the benefit of seeing a link to your future self, and feeling like that link, that you are going to be the same person, maybe some similar characteristics. You know, do you view your future self as someone who's different from you, or do you view yourself as someone who is the same as you? It's an interesting question. In the coaching world, in the psychology world, their implications to both. Benefits and drawbacks to both. And that's what we talk about in the course a lot. And to use both, you know, to think of how can I use both at different times, and what are the advantages to those things.

When you're looking at this kind of stuff, I use them for just me. And I've been using them for just me for years now, not really putting them into a program, but I think, no, it's ready for a program. But I think this is more leadership based. This is more if you're working with a team of people, or you know, you're working with yourself and you're thinking, I need to get out of this rut. Okay. Have you done your gratitude rep squats? No. Well, go do 10 and then come back. Our daughters think we're nuts, but it works. It works. 

[Raj Anderson] It does work. And John, I heard you mentioned future self. And yet there is also the concept around future pacing. What's the difference between future self and future pacing? 

[John Andrew Williams] I mean, I think one of the mechanics - Future self is you are imagining yourself who you are, in your relationship with who you are going to be a certain distance in the future. Future pacing can be much quicker. It can be, you could future pace out. And what future pacing is is imagining yourself doing the actions that you most need to do before you actually do them. That could be in an hour from now, that could be tomorrow, that could be 2 or 3 weeks. It could be years from now, but usually not. Future pacing is usually a much closer kind of visualization activity. 

I think what you're speaking to, Raj, is the whole, the muscle of visualizing, of vision, of imaging, imagining, all of this, I feel like is something that our traditional education system doesn't necessarily teach us how to imagine better. We don't go to imagine class. That would be amazing, a class that teaches you how to use your imagination, you know. And the quality of it. I think that there are higher quality visions than others. And what makes a high quality vision? I think there's gotta be a resonance with, does it resonate with your values? Does it feel like something that really gets you excited? Both future self and future pacing could operate in that realm. 

And I think it's most useful to think of them as tools. Not something that - sometimes I feel like people judge themselves on how good they are at them. And they just do it once, or they've never done a visualization in their life. And they're like, I didn't see my future self yet. Like, well yeah, you have to practice it. You have to let go of stuff. 

And I forget where it was, I saw this recently. I came across something that says, personal growth isn't necessarily about what you gain. It's about what you let go of. Personal development, professional development, spiritual development, all of these things. A lot of it's letting go of things. Letting go of anger, letting go of blame, letting go of a feeling of not enoughness. With visualization, you have to let go of, I might look silly, or I might be really vulnerable, or I might actually articulate the thing that I really want most in my life, and that's scary. All of that you have to let go of when you step into visualization world. 

[Raj Anderson] So there's this whole theme around letting go. 

And I think what was really valuable for me when I was in training, at Coach Training EDU as well, was the concept of a vision recording. Because up to then I'd only really focused on creating a vision board. So more of that, the visual aspect. And I create vision boards, and I have apps. But then I found I had clients who, their internal map of the world wasn't necessarily through visualization. You know, I work with a lot of exec clients who are highly auditory, or auditory digital, and I really found that doing a vision recording lands better for them than actually attempting to maybe create a visualization in their mind or on a piece of paper. They can connect to the sound and the audio, and that feeling in a different way. What are your thoughts on that? 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah, I mean, you get executives to write their thoughts, feelings, and things like that on audio, you're doing well. Like, they do not want to. Any execs I work with, they do not want to do that. They do not - yeah, it's hard. It's a challenge to get them to, I found it a challenge to get them to do it, but the ones who did do it, loved it. 

And the way that I explained it to people was, what a vision recording is, is you pick a song that brings an emotion you want to bring.

And then you voice record over it - your goals, what you want to have accomplished, perspectives you want to have on top of mind, insights that you've had recently, things you want to be reminded of to help you live your best life. And the people who do it and actually listen to it, it feels like magic. It feels like something that is such a strong structure to help you stay in an empowered perspective and take meaningful action steps. If you do that, you win. Full stop. 

[Raj Anderson] Well, thank you John. I mean, time's gone really quick, probably because we were doing squats today. 

[John Andrew Williams] Yeah. Lots of team meetings today that needed to happen, but it was good that we did them. 

[Raj Anderson] What is a final message you'd love to leave us all with today?

[John Andrew Williams] I think when creating a vision recording or doing any of this vision work, I think a lot of times people put a lot of pressure on making the very first one amazing or perfect, or somehow capturing all. Don't - just look at it as you're creating a first draft and doing one of many. And I think I maybe have created 24 different vision recordings in my life. And they're lovely in the sense of, I can go back and listen to them, and it brings me right back to what was happening in that time period. It's very strong, very strong associations. So I think when you're creating them, I wouldn't look at it as I'm creating the ultimate one, as much as I'm creating one of many. I would experiment with different flavors, don't try to make it perfect.

[Raj Anderson] Well, thank you, John. And what I'm taking away from that as well is try not to make it perfect, let it go, and have fun with it. 

[John Andrew Williams] Have fun. Do your gratitude squats. 

[Raj Anderson] Well, thank you as always, John. Thank you for playing with that. Thank you for leading us through it live. Please send us any questions that you might have. I'm really grateful for this community, and look forward to seeing you next time. 

[John Andrew Williams] Bye everyone.

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