I don’t know much about science, but from what I remember, a petri dish is a little, intentionally- cultivated environment meant to grow a certain kind of bacteria, right? I assume scientists use them because they are a sure-fire way to control variables and maintain an intended atmosphere - to grow only what you want and not what you don’t.
I think about this analogy when starting with a new client. They come to me all amped up, ready to get their life in order and launch the idea/project/business/lifestyle they’ve been dreaming of for years. But I’ve learned over the past several hundred clients that to simply indulge their desire to jump in immediately is to enable old, start-and-stop patterns and set them up for failure.
There’s a reason they come to me, right? No one would spend money on a coach if their own, free efforts were working just fine. (It’s why I work with a coach, too!)
The “secret” is pretty simple, really. I zoom out.
By the time they enlist my support, they’ve been focusing intently on this one thing they want to accomplish for months or even years, right? They have likely developed a limited perspective. So it’s my role to zoom out, look at their life as a whole, and offer a new perspective. What kind of petri dish is their current life environment? Is it conducive to the kind of growth they want? Or is it set up for self-sabotage?
I ask questions like:
And on and on and on. I don’t ask every question at every first session with every client. I let my intuition lead and see what seems pertinent. It’s a delightful conversation of discovery, as both of us get a clearer picture of what we’re working with. Where are the areas of strength and clear, healthy movement? Where are the areas of stuckness?
From what emerges, I assign the first week’s homework. It is very rarely homework directly related to the reason they came to me. It is almost always related to strengthening some aspect of their “petri dish” so they are set up for success. There’s nothing more frustrating than working with a client for several months and seeing exciting progress, only to watch it crumble from something simple like lack of sleep, food, exercise, adequate support system, meditation, or some other, easily-prevented pitfall. I have learned that setting the stage first makes all the difference in the world.
For example, one of my new clients, we’ll call her Alice, came to me for support launching her new app. She has a fantastic idea for an app and I’m so excited to help her discover what’s been holding her back from launching it and get all of that out of the way so she can unleash her brilliance on the world.
During our consultation, Alice talked a lot about her “pitch deck,” an important first step in getting backers for her app. She had been having trouble finding enough time and motivation to finish the pitch deck, and was worried she might lose the opportunity to take action on this idea altogether before it became necessary for her to go back to the corporate world.
So at our first session, Alice was ready to dive in and talk about when and how she’d finish the pitch deck. She was surprised (but cooperative) when instead, I spent the whole hour asking her the questions above. At the end, I said, “Ok, ready for your homework?”
“Yep,” I could hear her rustling paper and pen to write it down on the other end of the phone.
“Don’t touch the pitch deck all week.”
Silence. Then laughter. “What?” she asked, incredulously.
“Your homework, just for this week, is to not touch the pitch deck. Instead, I want you to focus on getting good sleep, paying attention to what food feels good in your body (not just what your husband and baby daughter need to eat), taking walks, and most importantly, meditating every morning.”
“That’s going to be hard. I have so much to get done on this thing,” she said.
“I know it seems counter-intuitive, but it’s just for a week. I’m worried that if you keep going the way you’ve been going, the pitch deck will either never get done, or will bury you alive in stress and worry. Either way you don’t reach your goal, and you hurt yourself and possibly your family in the process.”
She got it and agreed.
Halfway through the week, I received this email from her:
I’ve been meditating every day, mindful of my food needs, and turning off devices before bed so I can focus on quality sleep whenever possible. Overall, I keep thinking about how much I like your approach for this first week!
Then during our next session, she reported that her husband noticed the change in her and asked what was going on. She gave him the meditation app I had recommended (insight meditation), and he began using it on his way to work on the train each morning. They both ended up having one of the most peaceful, stress-free, enjoyable weeks in months – despite being sick!
Oh – and she had so much extra energy from all the sleep and self care that she made excellent progress on her pitch deck the following week, including connecting with several possible partners.
So before you jump into whatever project is exciting you right now, take a moment to zoom out. What kind of petri dish is your life right now? Is it one that is conducive to the kind of growth you want? Or is it set up for stress and self-sabotage?
If you’d like some support getting that perspective, I’d love to help! I recently announced that I could take on three, new private coaching clients in my practice. The spots filled with three, powerful, inspiring women in less than one week – woo hoo!
Now I’m having such a good time working with each of them that I’ve opened up two more spots. I would be honored and excited to work with two more women to help bring their goals to life – whether in the area of work, relationships, or overall, wild happiness. Is one of those women you? Let’s start with a Wild Woman Strategy session to see if we’re a good fit, and get you on the road to living and breathing your best, wild woman self every day. Ow ow owwww!
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!