Decisions, Decisions

Making important choices is never simple, but it can be a lot
easier and more fulfilling if you pay attention to ?where the
choice is coming from.? That?s the advice of personal coach Henry
Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute in San
Rafael, California
Kimsey-House is the co-inventor of the ?co-active? approach to
personal coaching, which adapted techniques from the kind of
coaching commonly used in business settings to the needs of people
in all walks of life.

Circumstances: ?Most people who are having
trouble with choice are trying to make choices from
circumstances, and casting themselves in a victim role,?
says Kimsey-House. ??I?m unemployed, so I?d better take
this job! And I?d better not explore other avenues of
making a living.? But coaches help people make choices from their
vision and their values.?

Values: So how does that work? ?Coaches begin
work with their clients by helping them become aware of their
values,? says Kimsey-House. ?And that doesn?t mean putting a
laundry list of values in front of them and asking them to pick. If
you see the word loyalty, you?re probably going to pick
it, because you?re supposed to. Instead, we might ask them
to tell about peak experiences they?ve had, or imagine themselves
landing on an uninhabited planet?what?s the first thing they would
want to have happen to them there? From these stories, the coach
helps them pull out the values they really care about and live
from; if your peak experience was a trip in nature, you value
nature; if you see yourself running a company in five years, having
power is important to you, whether it should be or

Perspectives: ?If you?re choosing from
circumstances,? he says, ?you might think this way: ?I?m
unemployed?gosh, I?m unemployable!? Unemployment is a
circumstance; the idea that you are unemployable is a
limiting perspective on that circumstance. Coaches help
you develop other perspectives from which to base your choices. One
perspective on unemployment might be: ?I?m free, available to
possibility?; another, ?I?m a member of the unemployed?a
significant group of Americans with real political issues.? Or:
?I?m unemployed?my need to support myself could jump-start a
freelance career.? You can eventually settle into the perspective
that has the most energy for you.

Exploring and Acting: Say that you?re energized
by the political perspective on unemployment. Kimsey-House outlines
how he would then approach your situation. ?I might brainstorm with
a client various aspects of the perspective, throwing ideas up for
further inspection, or even doing art or collage. Again, we?ll
eventually hit on one or more things that really excite the client.
Maybe there?s excitement around the idea of working in a group for
political change. As we explore it, it might turn out that group
work becomes the main source of energy, and politics fades. Or
vice-versa.? Step by step, by remaining flexible and conscious of
her values, the ?chooser? comes closer to a choice that will
provide maximum energy and honor her values. Then comes concrete
action. ?A choice without action is a fantasy,? says

A or B Choices: ?When you?re down to a
difficult choice between two alternatives?say, marriage or
college?both of them probably honor your values, so it?s more
difficult,? says Kimsey-House. ?I advise a client to ?try on? each
choice like a coat. Spend several days imagining what life will be
like in each. If I?m married, I?ll share all my space. I won?t have
exclusive use of the car. There will be someone waiting for me
every night . . . and so on. With time, this trying-on will usually
give you a feeling of greater comfort or discomfort.? The point, as
with all choosing, is to slowly align your deepest self with the

But what if it?s too hard? What if you make the wrong choice?
Kimsey-House laughs. ?Sometimes you do just have to choose, flat
out. And when you do, it?s good to remember the distinction between
failing and being a failure. ?Failing? because of
your choice is a wonderful thing, a way of learning, and the sign
of trying. It has nothing whatsoever to do with being a failure. If
you keep those ideas totally separate, you can really enjoy

Jon Spayde is a senior editor at Utne.

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