List B! First of all, thank you to everyone that took the 10 seconds required to vote in my psychology experiment.
I have to admit, I was surprised that I didn’t see more votes. I guess it’s harder to get people to participate actively than I thought it would be. That or my analytics are vastly over-reporting the number of people visiting this blog.
So, what was this all about anyhow? Read on to find out.
A lot of effective coaching is helping a client generate and maintain effective momentum. Many of us can start thinking about something we are passionate about, but very quickly have limiting thoughts take over our mental space.
“Well, I can’t possibly do that because it would mean I’ve have to quit my job” or “There’s no way I could do that, my parents would never let me”. Even if those thoughts are true, they’re irrelevant when we’re trying to figure out what it is that we are passionate about. If you’re passionate about something, it’s worth exploring that freely. Maybe you can’t do it immediately. Maybe you would have to quit your job if you were to chase after it right away, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in simply understanding that you are passionate about it.
I call this dissipating our momentum. It’s a challenge to part the fog that sits in our head and getting the brain moving in a direction you want takes time. When we let limiting thoughts get in the way of pursuing how we really feel, we stall the process.
Don’t get me wrong – limiting thoughts have their time and place. Once you’ve identified what you want to do, the next step is determining how you can actually achieve it. This is the point where it’s okay to see your limiting thoughts (provided that you don’t accept them as immovable barriers that will forever stand in your way). When trying to determine how to move in the direction you’ve identified is correct for you, it is important to see what will stand in your way, and then to think creatively about how you can move forward.
So, what does all of this have to do with lists?
Just start moving
The key to all of this is that the hardest part is often just getting your brain going. I’ve worked with many clients that knew where they wanted to go, but simply could not get the ball rolling. We identify a goal that they want to pursue, but when it comes time to try to figure out some steps to actually start moving in that direction, they draw a blank.
One of the things that I’m good at is determining next steps. It’s one of the reasons GTD methodology has been such a good fit for me, and one of the reasons I was a natural at project management. My brain naturally breaks projects down into small, bite-sized increments. However, coaching should never be about the coach — it’s about the client. I’m fine offering a few suggestions, but the best suggestions ultimately need to come from the client. After all, you possess everything that you need in order to resolve your problems. That’s the true beauty of coaching.
During my training, we used a technique referred to as the “chinese menu” (why that is the actual name I do not know). The idea behind this approach is that it is okay to offer a few suggestions, but it is important to provide a number of other entries or blank lines for the client to write in their own suggestions. Imagine two scenarios:
- In the first scenario, I have one suggestion for you. I write it on an otherwise blank piece of paper, and then ask you to come up with some other suggestions that might work. When your mind stares at that single items on an otherwise blank piece of paper, all you can envision is that one item.
- In the second scenario, I also have one suggestion for you. However, I write 4 numerals down, and draw a horizontal line across the paper from each of those numbers. On the first line, I put my own suggestion. When you look at this piece of paper, your mind is naturally going to try to think of at least three other suggestions that will get you toward your goal.
In reality, the number of lines I draw is actually irrelevant. The real goal here is to generate momentum. Once your mind has accepted that it needs to come up with some answers, the gears will start to turn and the ideas will start to flow out. It’s amazing how many solutions come out of your head once you actually get the ball rolling (my client’s routinely surprise themselves by the number of solutions that they generate on their own).
So… again, what does this have to do with lists? Well, my experiment was to try and determine:
What kind of layout will best generate momentum?
That was the ultimate aim of my experiment. If I was to create empty slots alongside my own suggestion, ready to be filled out, which configuration would best start the momentum that we want to get a client on their way?
The results were a little surprising. I figured that List C would be the best to fill out. Why?
Well, I figured that List C was simply begging to have a single item put into the first slot. There’s already an item in the second slot, and that makes my own mind absolutely desperate to fill in that first slot. Once the first slot is filled in, there is only one other item to fill out in the third slot and you’ve got three solutions. The momentum is rolling!
In reality, only 2 people (out of 20 total) voted for List C. I didn’t vote, but that would have been my vote as well. List A received 5 total votes, and List B received 13 votes – 65% of the total votes!
List B clearly trounced the other options. Another thing worth noting is that after filling out the first slot of either List B or List C, the resulting list is exactly the same. So what matters most is which list generates the most initial momentum to get you working.
Thanks to your responses, I now have some valuable information! From now on, I know that when I have a suggestion to offer my clients, the best way to create a “chinese menu” is to put my suggestion first. The other benefit (that I can think of) to this approach is that the rest of the list remains open-ended. If I draw enough lines, the client isn’t working to “complete” a list – they simply have one suggestions that gets them started and can then go as long as they are able to.
A big thank you to everyone that participated in this experiment. There’s another favour that I would like to ask you – please help me out by passing along this site to anyone that you think may be interested. It’s challenging to write on a consistent basis, especially while attempting to develop both a law career and a professional coaching career simultaneously. With your help, I can generate more readers, and nothing provides more momentum than knowing that what I’m writing about matters to people.
Thanks for your continued support!
The near future…
Finally, a brief update on my own journey. As mentioned, I’m actively trying to develop both a career as a legal professional and as a professional coach. It’s very challenging trying to balance both of these pursuits, but challenge has always been what drives me, and time management is an area in which I excel.
This fall, I will be working a clinical term at UVic’s legal aid clinic, the Law Centre. There I will be assuming conduct of client files and representing clients in court. I anticipate being much busier this term than I was during my summer school term, but I am nevertheless excited for the coming four months. Stay tuned!