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Academic Coaching & Writing

V. Create a Vision of the Future: The Future Scholar

Feb 11, 2016 by Kathryn Kleypas

Helping your coachee articulate her vision of what she wants for herself in her academic career is one of the biggest successes you can have as her coach. Without realizing it, whether you are swayed by others’ views of yourself or you let your own negative self-talk run rampant, you often settle for a much smaller or a different version of the future than you wish for yourself. As a skilled coach, you can help your coachee tap into the vision of the professional life that she most wants. Once your coachee has articulated her vision, helping her figure out how to get there becomes much easier and more joyful as well.

Guided Visualization

If you and your coachee are comfortable with this, a visualization exercise can be a direct route to discovering and articulating how you would like to be as a “future scholar.” Some people are open to these kinds of visualizations and find them moving. Others may be open to the experience but have trouble experiencing the visualization. Everyone responds differently.

Create a quiet space with soft light where there will be no interruptions for about 10 minutes and where your coachee can relax in a comfortable chair. Ask your coachee to close her eyes and relax. The following is one version of a Future-Scholar visualization. Feel free to change it and make it yours. While I have been led through countless guided visualizations in my life, I had never led one before I began coaching. My mistake in the beginning was moving too fast through the steps. Time moves differently for your coachee when her eyes are closed and she is being guided through the visualization, so you should be comfortable with long silences. Let ample time elapse between each instruction so that she has time for the images to emerge and to sit quietly with them for a while. Let your coachee know before you begin that she does not need to speak during the visualization, she can sit in silence with her answers to your questions, and there will be time to discuss her experience afterwards. Here is the Future-Scholar visualization I use with my coachees:

Feel your body sitting there in the chair, breathing slowly in and out. [Pause] Now imagine yourself floating out of the chair and up through the top of this building, higher and higher and higher until you are effortlessly floating far above the Earth and looking down on the entire planet. Enjoy seeing what the Earth looks like from this perspective. [Pause] Start your slow descent back to Earth to the place on the globe where your Future Scholar lives in 10 years. [Pause] You are now standing with your feet firmly on the ground in front of your Future Scholar’s home. What does the home look like? [Pause] Knock at the door and look at your Future Scholar as she answers the door. What do you notice about her? How is she dressed? [Pause] Your Future Scholar invites you into the house for a visit to her sanctum—her home office and library. As you walk into the room, what do you notice about it? [Pause] Take a long look around. Look at the book shelves. What kind of books feature most prominently on the shelves? What kind of books have your name on them? What are on the covers of those books? Pull out one of the books. What do the reviews on the jacket cover say about you, the author? [Long pause] Your Future Scholar is very happy to have you there and wants to speak with you. She invites you to sit down with her at the table. [Pause] Ask your Future Scholar what makes her the happiest. [Pause] Now ask her a very important question: What do I need to know to get where you are now? [Pause] Take as much time as you need now and ask your Future Scholar any other questions you would like to ask. [Pause] You are now going to wrap up the conversation. As a last question, ask your Future Scholar what name, besides her given name, she would like to be called. It might be a metaphor or a symbol of her essence. [Pause] Thank your Future Scholar for taking the time to speak with you, turn around, and walk out of the room and out of the house. When you are ready, you can return to this time and place. Open your eyes when you feel ready to do so.

After your coachee opens her eyes, you will want to spend time debriefing with her about the visualization. Ask her to share what she experienced and perhaps to write it down while it’s fresh in her mind. You will want to take notes too because the images, names, and answers that emerge from this visualization will inform future coaching sessions. Just as you incorporate strengths and values in your coaching work, your coachee’s Future Scholar can be a deep source of inspiration and wisdom for her. An excellent powerful question in a future session might be what her future scholar has to say about something that matters to her.

Powerful Questions as a Window to the Future Scholar

If you or your coachee are not comfortable with visualization exercises, you can tap into the wisdom of the future scholar via powerful questions. For example:

  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • If your grandchild were reading about you in a history book, what would the book say about you?
  • Think about your role models. What do you admire about them?
  • Think about your favorite academic writers. What do you admire about them?
  • If you could time travel (5, 10, or 20) years into the future, what would you say were your biggest accomplishments?
  • If you could time travel (5, 10, or 20) years into the future and meet your Future Scholar, what wisdom would she want to impart to you?

Discussion Questions:

Try doing this visualization yourself, or alternatively, answering the Future-Scholar questions. What did you discover about your Future Scholar?

How can you use this knowledge of your Future Scholar to guide you in your current situation?

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