Once upon a time, in the midst of an economic downturn, a thirtysomething named Graham successfully held a secure, respectable government job. He felt accomplished and appreciated, but something was missing. Hoping to learn something new and to open up new opportunities inside his workplace, he decided to enroll in the Certificate in Leadership Coaching program at Georgetown University. To his surprise, Graham soon found himself in love with coaching and transformed by his newfound awareness.
One day, near the very end of the program, Graham’s peer coach invited him to perform a simple visualization exercise related to his future plans. She guided Graham to close his eyes, get still and centered, and imagine himself six months in the future. With his eyes closed, Graham pictured himself happily engaged in the activities of coaching, instructing, facilitating meaningful discussion, and supporting development and change – his newly identified calling. The coach asked Graham what image or symbol emerged when he thought about that future possibility.
“A fountain,” Graham responded.
“Tell me about the fountain,” the coach inquired.
“I see myself as a fountain,” Graham continued animatedly, “because a fountain has energy, and it makes a happy noise. I see kids playing with toy boats, and people sitting around on benches looking at the fountain and feeling better. It’s a gathering place. A fountain refreshes people who visit it, and its water is vitality for others. A fountain enjoys being a fountain.”
Then the coach asked Graham to describe what was preventing him from being that fountain right now, and Graham seemed to withdraw a bit – a change that the coach brought to his awareness, as good coaches tend to do.
“What happened to the fountain?” the coach asked.
“There’s no water in it right now,” the fountain replied.
“What happened to the water?” the coach asked, with concern in her voice.
“Closed up for winter,” the fountain answered.
Graham committed that day to embark on a creative journey to make changes in his own life so that he could become a little bit splashier, like the fountain in his imagination. He would prioritize coaching within his workplace, and he would seek an external outlet for his professional passion as well. His coach agreed to support him as he made those changes.