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The Landscape of the Human Spirit: How Where We Live Affects the Way We Coach | Transformative Coaching Skills

  • POSTED ON MARCH 19, 2024
A person meditating outside during sunrise, embodying the serene energy and transformative potential of the coaching environment

The Landscape of the Human Spirit: How Where We Coach Affects How We Coach 


Embracing the Terrain: The Profound Influence of Place on Coaching 

In the journey of Co-Active coaching, we explore the vast landscapes of human emotions, aspirations, and challenges with our clients. However, there’s a dimension to our coaching practices that remains subtly influential yet profoundly impactful — the physical landscape from where we coach and its energetic interplay with our coaching dynamics. 

Ever pause to consider how the spaces we inhabit can shape the energy and dynamics of our sessions?   

Where Do We Stand? 

“Where are you standing right now?” is often the first question I ask my clients after we exchange our initial hellos. 

Then I ask, “What are you looking at?” As I listen to my clients describe where they are, what they are viewing, and how it feels to be there, it helps me tap in to my client’s state of being.  

Getting the general description of my clients’ outer landscape conveys so much — the values that are visible around them, the emotional flavor of their current physical backdrop. Is it sunny, rainy, windy, snowy? Are they outside, in a park, in a forest, in their home office? Are they in a hotel room, in a city, in their car? Are they in a busy airport, a quiet conference room, or in their bedroom? Their descriptions are like a picture (worth a thousand words), giving me a sense of whether they are feeling relaxed or on edge, focused or distracted, expansive or constricted. 

We know that where our clients are physically plays into the coaching. But what about the other side: What is significant about where the coach is standing? 

The Magic of Mirror Neurons  

When we think about the coaching relationship, it’s like a dance of mirror neurons — those amazing bits of our brain (neurological mimicry) that help us empathize and connect. The place we coach from, with its unique energy, plays a crucial role in this dance. It’s not just what we say or how we listen, but also where we are and how the energy of that place flows through us to influences the session.  

We know we are connected to our clients, so why wouldn’t we be connected to the place where they are, and vice versa?   

“No one knows what causes an outer landscape to become an inner one.” 

—Margaret Atwood   

The Power of Place: More Than a Backdrop 

Our surroundings are more than just backdrops for our coaching sessions; they’re active participants in the dance of transformation. 

Some of my best coaching calls have occurred when I was...   

On a beach at low tide 

In an empty parking lot at sunset 

Atop the Space Needle 

Lying down in a meadow 

In a bubble bath 

Alone on a playground 

On the top of a mountain 

Walking in the Cemetery 

From a red telephone booth on the island of Skye in Scotland 

Perched on a bench overlooking a cliff 

Next to my dog on my favorite pink rug 

With my back against an old growth Cedar tree deep in the forest 

Between my garden beds looking up at the flowers 

Gazing at my bookcase 

Sitting at my altar with a lit candle 

Pruning fruit trees 

Skipping rocks over a still pond at twilight 

Painting on a huge canvas in my studio 

Building a rock wall in our yard 

On a snowy trail (where I found a freshly shorn antler!) 

Picking a bouquet of daffodils in a bright green meadow 

From the deck of our sailboat... 

What are some (unusual) places you have coached that positively impacted your clients? 

“ Now modern science is confirming that our actions, thoughts, and feelings are indeed shaped not just by our genes and neurochemistry, history and relationships, but also by our surroundings. " 

—Winifred Gallagher, The Power of Place 

Human Geography Leads Us to Connection with Physical Geography 

In the practice of life coaching, particularly within the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), we introduce the concept of the tool of using human geography — the study of how humans interact with their bodies. For instance, a simple act of standing and placing fists on hips can imbue a coaching client with a sense of authority and empowerment. Our willingness to go first as coaches by changing our geography alters the energetic landscape of the session. All this highlights the undeniable link between our physical state and our mental and emotional presence.  

So why stop at physical body geography? I propose that the Co-Active cornerstone of “focus on the whole person” is affected by both of the current physical environments — that is, both the coach’s and client’s — that influence the coaching relationship. I propose that we intentionally include our own immediate environment as a useful collaborator for coaching. 

Tuning Into Our Surroundings 

So, how aware are we of the physical spaces we coach from and their impact on our coaching? 

Recognizing the role of our environment can unlock new dimensions in how we connect and facilitate growth. Connecting to our surroundings can shift mindsets and energy beyond our own. 

How conscious are we as coaches of our physical surroundings, and how do these spaces influence our clients? Recognizing and harnessing the power of place can unlock new dimensions in our coaching practices.  

If we are in touch with what energy our clients need to transform, we can work with our environment as a collaborator to have greater positive impact.  

Practical Magic: Bringing Place into Coaching 

So, how can we weave this awareness of place into our coaching tapestry?  

Here are a few ideas: 

Choose your space wisely: Pick spots for coaching that resonate with the client’s intention. (Prep forms are great to get this info prior to the call.) Whether it’s a calming park, a bustling city spot, or a thoughtfully chosen virtual background, the setting sets the tone. 

Enable energetic alignment: Guide your clients to engage from places where they are engaged with energy that will help them move forward. For a burned-out corporate client, this might mean suggesting they find a quiet spot, connect with nature, or simply stand in a way that feels empowering. For a client who is needing more focus, motivation, or discipline, this might be a more focused or structured environment. 

Bring nature into the conversation as a co-coach: Use elements of nature as co-facilitators. This could be as simple as having clients visualize a peaceful place or gaze at an image of nature during coaching. Or it could involve conducting sessions outdoors when possible. 

Heighten spatial awareness: Introduce exercises that enhance clients’ awareness of their surroundings and the impact on their thoughts and feelings. This can deepen their connection to their own inner landscapes and help them identify what outer landscapes might support this growth. 

Ask for feedback! When you coach from a new environment, ask your client for feedback. What new or different energy was available to them? What did they notice in their body, emotions, intuition, and how might that be related to where you stand? 

Wrapping It Up: The Dance of Place and Spirit 

In the grand adventure of Co-Active coaching, let’s not overlook the subtle yet powerful influence of our physical environments. As we explore the vast landscapes of human emotion and aspiration, remembering the role of place can open new pathways to connection and transformation. 

I invite you to reflect on your relationship with the spaces you coach in. How do they shape your interactions, your energy, and your impact?    

As we ponder these questions, let us remain ever curious, compassionate, ever conscious of our impact, and ever committed to the transformative power of Co-Active coaching. 

Abigail Prout Profile Photo
Written By

Abigail Prout

Abigail’s dream is to inspire deeper relationships with the Earth, ourselves, and each other. Specializing in spirit-led leadership through online courses and in-person retreats (Spiral Leadership), Abigail believes in the power of creativity to grow conscious evolution. With a background in therapy, she has worked as a professional leadership coach for the last 25 years and has spent the last 8 years as faculty for the Co-Active Training Institute, teaching coaching and leadership courses. Abigail won the 2021 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize, and her first book of poetry, Walk Deep, has won the Nautilus Book Award and is nominated for a pushcart prize. She offers classes on the art of leadership through creative writing. She lives on the small island of Lopez where she grew up in Washington State, with her husband, Clive (also CTI faculty), their two children, Iona and Jax, and her silky black lab, Bella.   

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