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If I were granted a wish to have a super power , I would wish to be a ‘Healer’ …to make people feel whole from the inside-out, physically and spiritually; in mind, body and spirit and to have total alignment. In this sense, I would be a true ‘giver’. This is to epitomize one’s energy to feel alive and vibrant in the ‘here and now’. Coaching is the natural surrogate to healing. It makes ordinary but functional people exceptional and moves them on a journey of personal growth and development.

I found Lewis Carroll’s literary classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ a fascinating analogy to this platform of personal growth and development and I will use themes from this piece of literature to build the framework for my coaching model, where relevant.

The Discovery session

  • Establishing compatibility between coach and client
  • Agree on the next steps of ‘proceed’ or ‘abort’ with the coaching agreement at the end of the session

CLARITY - Establishing the genesis, accuracy and clarity for the need for coaching

  • Understanding why the client wants to be coached
    • Is it self-motivated and self-directed and coming from within; or
    • Is it being directed by a third party like his or her boss in the framework of a corporate setting
  • Establish whether the coaching is for growth, change behavior or result/goal oriented or some other specific motivation
  • Understand the clients preliminary time line for coaching
  • Any other objective that the coach and client may agree on

SELF AWARENESS – Exploring growth

  • Situational analysis of mind, body and spirit to get a holistic view of where the client is in each of these spaces at the beginning of the coaching session. To delve deep and explore in a safe and trusting space
  • Self-care is the foundation prior to taking care of others or excelling yourself
    • Exploring physical and health issues, if any
    • Getting on the same page of awareness on the stress levels at work and harmony or disconnects on the social front and at home
    • Paying attention to the clients body and how it reacts to stress before the brain catches up and understanding the ‘flight or fight response’
    • Acknowledging when the client has had an emotional or an Amygdala hijack in the past and how the client deals with it. Is it one of denial and suppression or recognizing the patterns of the hijack and planning an emotional response in advance
    • Understanding the spiritual well-being and connecting the dots between body, mind and the spirit
  • Seeking feedback from others and also using the SBI model of feedback – situation, behavior and impact
  • Being more self-aware in the present for better self-management and greater social awareness for better relationship management

How does this relate to the Alice in Wonderland fantasy? It is about managing one’s own personal growth. The most important metaphor in the story is the story of growth. We see Alice ‘grow’ from tall to short and from big to small. Growing up is being self-aware and about dealing with ups and downs and from moving from insecurity to confidence. When she eats she grows and when she drinks she shrinks. She learns to use the resources in her own world for her personal growth.

What is your client doing with the resources at hand to manage their own growth? – This can be explored.

Purpose and Values – What does the client want to achieve?

  • ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why’ – Mark Twain
  • Why are some people more successful than others?
  • Why are some people happier than others?
  • Where and how do leaders like Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther king Jr and Howard Shultz (Star Bucks) find their inner energy?
  • The two sources of limitless personal energy are
    • Purpose – The results that you want to create; and
    • Values – The principles that will guide you when tested
  • Discuss and explore the client’s purpose and values
    • How does she/he want others to experience them?
    • What is the source of the client’s social power (at home as well as in the office– their position or their purpose and values)?
  • What connects them to their deepest values?
    • Asking them, as they go through the process of life’s evolution of jungle existence, duty trap and duty ethic, which is all about the self and is very family centric …
    • Do I want to lead a life with every day pleasures; or
    • Achieve great success in a specific field or endeavor; or
    • Lead others to a better future?
  • Identifying what the client is passionate about and what lights up their eyes
  • Asking powerful questions on finding purpose:
    • What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects etc)
    • What activities make you lose track of time?
    • What makes you feel great about yourself?
    • What do people typically ask you for help on?
    • What are you naturally good at doing? (Abilities, skills)
    • If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
    • What would your regret be for not fully doing or having in your life?
    • Who inspires you the most? What are the qualities in the person that inspires you?
    • What were some of the challenges and difficulties or hardships that you’ve overcome. How did you do it?
    • It is the day of your funeral. What do you want the eulogist to say about you?
    • What causes do you believe in strongly?
    • If you could deliver any message to a large group pf people, what would your message be?
    • Given your talents, passions and values, how would you use these resources to serve a purpose larger than yourself?

Finding ones purpose is by no means easy. It is a long drawn process that very few have come to realize. The above list is by no means exhaustive. It is just a framework to help the client on the journey to find their purpose. To be successful and happy, you must be living your own values, not someone else’s.

Relating this back to Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks “Who in the world am I and that is the greatest puzzle?” The characters continually keep asking Alice who she is. As a result, she questions her own identity. Answers to this will keep the client sane and help them grapple with whatever curved balls life throws at them.

How many of us have lived our lives ‘living in places and doing things that did not make sense’, where our world seemed dark and senseless? Where the actions we took and the mistakes we made seemed to have no meaning until we went down that rabbit hole, reflected on our lives, caught our breath and had that ‘eureka aha moment’ or an epiphany. Why did we have to follow so many rules and make so many choices that didn’t seem to lead to happiness, when in reality it was happiness that we were in search of to bring true meaning to our lives? It is important to take time to reflect on what you love and you’ll most likely uncover a lot more about yourself than you would have ever imagined.

Focusing on purpose and values is the essence of one’s success or failure, the journey and the direction. The definition of failure in my opinion is when one does not give up and is resilient despite great odds.

Desired state – Setting goals

    • Where does the client want to go and what does he/she want to achieve in the coaching process?
    • What is the time frame for achieving this journey towards the desired state?
    • The client uses ‘Visualization’ and sees the end goal with all the five senses as if it has already happened

Relating this back to Alice in Wonderland, we can learn a great deal about the importance of goals from her conversation with the Cheshire Cat…

‘Would you tell me, please which way I ought to go from here’? asks Alice.
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to go’ said the cat
‘I don’t care where’ said Alice
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go’ said the cat.

The client should be asked what they want to accomplish in the next (say) twelve months and asked to write them down with the steps that they will take to achieve them. The power tool of visualization can be used to actualize their goals which help them build the intensity of the emotion of success and well-being.

Identify the Gaps to get there – gap analysis

  • Having done a situational analysis of where the client is and charting the path of where they want to go, the gaps become evidently clear.
  • List the gaps
  • What does the client need to do in terms of commitment, accountability, skill and will and specific actions to close the gaps?

What did Alice do to close the gaps or weaknesses and challenges? What were her gaps? It was her dignity, her directness, her conscientiousness and her art of conversation that often failed her. In addition to these challenges, Alice faced her pre-teen years of emotional development as part of her self-limiting belief systems and to be more self-aware of whom she really is, as she hopelessly searches for order, rule and reason after descending down the rabbit hole. On this journey, she undergoes a developmental pattern of growth in the physical, mental and social space.

Playing to the clients strengths

An emotional high can be had every single day either at work or in one’s social life by playing to one’s strengths. The client must take a responsible stand on their strengths. There are times when one is in the zone and the right decisions just come to you or when one is really creative without even trying, when one does something and they are so involved in it that they are not tired but feel fulfilled. The point is not to replace structure, which may seem as a challenge but to channel it.

There is a myth that we need to grow where we are the weakest. Marcus Buckingham in his book ‘Now discover your strengths’ polled the question – Which do you think will help you be the most successful in life:

a) Building on your strengths; or
b) Fixing your weaknesses

Only 38% to 41% chose to focus on building on their strengths. Marcus says that we live in a remedial world where people are fascinated by their weaknesses and take their strengths for granted. This is the folly of most people.

Given the above prelude to this aspect of coaching, my coaching model would focus on playing to the clients strengths by diving deep and assessing the client’s strengths in a variety of ways:

  • Doing a 360 degree survey from the client’s professional life consisting of his/her boss/manager, their peers/ colleagues and their direct reports/subordinates. This can be extended to some friends in the social circle or even family members, if the client is comfortable with it and feels safe in this space
    • Getting a list of names from your client with their mail IDs and ask them to list your clients strengths and provide some data points
    • Sharing the results with your client and listing the top five strengths from the undercurrent themes that emerge
    • Asking the client to be conscious of these strengths and bring their best self to every conversation, situation and relationship in such a way that it energizes them and gives them an emotional high
  • Online strength-based assessment tools can also be of help, but they can be too generic and not customized for the client
  • Asking the client to list down his perceived strengths also helps

Relating this back to Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s biggest strengths were her courage and curiosity. Time and again, her dignity, her directness, her conscientiousness and her art of conversation all fail her (her challenges). However, when the chips are down, she brings to bear her courage and curiosity to overcome adversity and then taps into her other strengths like kindness, intelligence, courtesy, humor, dignity and justice …in stages and brings her best self to every situation.

Adversity vs Resilience as a power tool can be used in conjunction with playing to one’s strength as an integral part of the model.

Sources of emotional energy

  • Energy can be physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. Some forms of energy are more enduring than others
    • Physical energy loses its pop and is not sustainable as one gets older and with time
  • What is emotional energy?
    • It is the aliveness of the mind, happiness of the heart and spirit filled with hope because you have a purpose larger than yourself.
    • Millions of people are experiencing an emotional energy crisis. Every day people say …’I am feeling tired , I feel older than I am, I could get more done, only if I had more energy that fuels my inner drive to overcome the setbacks in life. Emotional energy empowers you to take on the challenges and persevere to live one’s values and pursue. This is the biggest difference between people who get what they want and people who don’t
    • Having something that fuels your passion for life will certainly boost ones emotional energy
  • Where does the client find their source of emotional energy?
    What are these sources of emotional energy?
    • It is what works for each person. It’s what energizes them and makes them feel vibrant. They can range from passion, prayer, purpose, affection, approbation, pleasure, fun, visualization, making a difference, family happiness, generosity, harmony, friendship etc
  • Research has proven that emotional energy is four times more powerful than rational energy
  • What is it that ignites the client’s passion? Identifying these and filling their tank with it when they feel depleted and in a different de-energized zone will help
  • In the same breath, identifying the energy leaks and energy deflators and plugging them
    • Trying to be all things to all people all the time is a fools game that will in the end drain the mind, body and spirit’ – Marcus Buckingham
    • These could be toxic people, toxic situations, anxiety of the mind like envy and jealousy
  • Dreams die when we lack the emotional energy to hang in there and be resilient in the face of obstacle
  • Every one needs to find their own personal sources of renewable energy and fill their tank with it
  • It is important to determine the ‘zone’ the client is in and to reinforce the idea that failure is not option. It becomes an option only when on gives up…the client is only postponing their success.
  • It is important to determine the ‘zone’ the client is in and to reinforce the idea that failure is not option. It becomes an option only when on gives up…the client is only postponing their success.

Where did Alice get her sources of emotional energy? This can be explored.


Visualization is meant to be more of a power tool than a stage in the coaching model.

  • Human thought and intention have the power to influence reality. If you change your thoughts, you can change your world through the power of intention and attention. We are guided by our sub-conscious mind every day. The sub-conscious mind has no ability to reject anything.
  • Visualization is a visual technique of one’s imagination to achieve anything one wants in life. It is done through visuals and images through the visual cortex of the right brain.
  • One does everything twice – first in their mind and then in reality.
  • If you can see it and you can believe it, you can achieve it
  • Which is the way to Carnegie Hall asked the little boy to the Police man in New York, ‘Practice, practice, practice, young lad said the cop’!
  • Practice followed by self-belief, commitment, power of the sub conscious mind and seeing the end result as if it has already happened.

Famous people like Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Tony Robbins, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Phelps have all used visualization to amazing effect.


  • Taking Action
  • Evaluating the results vs the goals set that will be measurable
  • Revisiting goals and raising the bar through constant renewal for growth and development

Acknowledgement and Celebration

  • Acknowledge success, change and growth
  • Celebrating the moments – here and now

Conclusion and Essence of the Pave Success Coaching Model

The coaching model document is a living document that is dynamic and adapted to the changing and evolving needs of the client. . It is meant to be a framework and a guide that will be suggested to the client. If the client wants to adapt, the coaching model is meant to flexible.

Alice in Wonderland is indeed a fantasy that is steeped in reality and personal development and growth. We spend all our lives ‘growing up’ one way or another. The underlying messages in Alice in Wonderland and the ‘Pave Success model’ are about personal growth. Growing up is about learning who we are and what we stand for (our purpose and values), what we want to do, be and have (our goals). It is about dealing with difficulty, hurt and pain as well as love, laughter and fun and gratitude. It is about overcoming fears and embracing new challenges and fostering and nurturing relationships. It is about understanding our core values and strengths and playing to them on a daily basis and bringing our ‘best selves’ to every conversation, situation and relationship. ‘The effect that you have on others is the most valuable currency there is’ – Jim Carrey.


Peshawaria, Rajeev. Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders: The Art of Being a True Leader. New York: Free, 2011. Print.
Buckingham, Marcus, and Donald O. Clifton. Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Free, 2001. Print.
Carroll, Lewis, and Josette Frank. Alice in Wonderland. New York: Random House, 1955. Print.