Coaching Model: Polaris Pathways: The STAR Model


A Coaching Model Created by  Kate McShane
(Career Coach, UNITED STATES)

Discover Your Guiding Star- Walk Your Unique Path


I have spent the last 30 years of my career helping the unemployed and underemployed secure jobs that provide training, advancement, and a pathway out of poverty. Having partnered with hundreds of clients through their search for meaningful work, I am awed by the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of adversity, and a fierce believer in the transformative power of securing the “right” job. I have witnessed the power of hope and shared in the excitement of the client who realizes their unique gifts and achieves their career goals. However, I have also witnessed the struggle of many as strong feelings of anxiety, unworthiness, and incompetence impede or prevent progress. Left alone to wrestle with these fears, quitting can seem to offer an escape from the pain. However, with a partner on the journey, fears can be cut down to size and dispelled, and hope can be fostered, the outline of the path can be lit up with light. I was honored to step into that very role with those whose lives and careers got off track, to assist them in their search for work. My work and my calling are with those that struggle to find their way. Consequently, the image of a guiding star and a lighted path most accurately represented my coaching model.

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. —Theodore Roosevelt

The North Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in the sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. It marks the way due north and orients one to the east, west, and south. In a dark country sky, even when the full moon obscures a good deal of the starry heavens, Polaris is still relatively easy to see, making this star a boon to travelers throughout the Northern Hemisphere. As we are all travelers on life’s journey, discovering and relying on one’s own Polaris Star offers guidance and direction for the journey ahead.

Career oaching Model Kate McShane

Seeking (Yourself)

Discover Your Guiding Star

At the center of yourself you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want. —Lao Tzu

The Star represents the guiding force in our lives. We each have one, but often do not take the time to discern it and use its guidance. To reach our goals, to effect real and lasting change, to move in the direction of our authentic selves, and to realize our highest potential, we need first to discover our own Polaris Star. Polaris remains constant while the entire northern sky whirls around it, and much like events of our life will whirl around us, our Polaris Star can orient us and keep us moving in the right direction.

In this initial phase of the coaching model, the client seeks to discover their authentic self or their Polaris Star. The coach offers a safe, agenda-free, and judgment-free space for exploration and reflection. The client then can feel free to uncover their authentic self without the concern of adhering to the expectations of culture, parents, partners, and friends, or any other external source. They feel validated and free to be who they are.

The seeking/self-assessment phase of the coaching process can continue with any of a variety of tools and assessments, such as the Enneagram, Strength Finders Meyers Briggs, worksheets, and self-assessment exercises. These assessments clarify strengths and challenges and shine the light on outlook, character, unique talents, and possible opportunities. Working with the coach, the client further reflects on what really matters most to them, contemplates what brings joy and what creates a sense of dread, considers their passions, hopes and dreams. From there, clients seek to understand their purpose and mission and imagines their hoped-for future selves. The client has discovered their Polaris Star.


Plotting the Course

Whatever it is that makes you feel excited and alive, that clears the path for more of what you feel passionate about, that helps you feel connected to the charm of navigating endless twists and turns within the labyrinth of your own imagination—allow it to be a part of your day…a part of your life. ― Carrie Ciula
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. —Jim Rohn

Once the client has discovered their guiding star, the next phase of the coaching process involves accurately plotting a trajectory, a course of action, an outline of the path. As the client contemplates their Polaris Star and comprehends its position in the infinite sky… the client grasps that the possibilities are endless. By tapping into their values, purpose, and mission, the client can generate a plan for pro-actively moving their actions and life forward in the right direction. Led by the knowledge of their authentic self, the client reflects with the coach their ideal in work, family life, relationships, lifestyle, mental and physical health, finances, and more. The client and coach then weigh the current position against the ideal, shape an action plan, and clarify goals.


Walking the Path

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost.The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. —Martha Graham

Coaching is about getting the client into action. As with every other phase of the coaching model, the coach is responsible for the process, the client is responsible for the content and the work. Authentic action is the path. The coach may shine a light on the path, but the client must walk it.

The client, working with the coach, translates the plotted trajectory into action steps. The coach listens asks clarifying questions and acknowledges progress. The coach explores the client’s commitment to the goal to reinforce motivation and assists the client in aligning their actions with their goals. Focusing on the goals developed, the coach encourages the client to commit themselves and their aspirations. The client is asked to consider structures to support their goals.

Goals, both big and small, are specific, time-sensitive, actionable, measurable, and realistic. The resources required to reach the goal are explored. The coach works with the client to identify small action steps that take the goal out of the client’s head and into small, concrete, actionable items. Potential obstacles are identified, reviewed, and thought through to not derail progress. Growth can be painful. The coach helps normalize the client’s fear and insecurities and frames them as merely growing pains versus a reason to quit. The coaching relationship fosters accountability as forward steps are celebrated and the roadblocks along the way are encountered and surmounted. It places structure to an unstructured process and gives touchpoints to measure success and strategies to navigate challenges.



You must do the thing you think you cannot do.—Eleanor Roosevelt
We aim above the mark to hit the mark.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reach-e star is positioned in the vast spaciousness of the sky representing boundless possibilities. In this phase of the Star Model, the client is encouraged to reach beyond what they believed possible for themselves. The coach facilitates awareness in the client to widen their perspective and to challenge negative underlying beliefs. Perhaps the client is committed to an underlying belief that does not serve them and delays taking action. The coach helps the client explore what underlying beliefs are in play that factor into the client’s current situation and impedes progress. Is the client blaming outside factors, are fears and insecurities getting in the way, are they afraid of failure or of making mistakes, are they stuck in the past, did they expect immediate results when the goal was long term, does the goal appear too big to actually tackle, does the client struggle to believe they are “good enough”, are they afraid of success or change? The role of the coach is to work with the client to reframe the situation to open up new possibilities. The client develops an awareness of the impact of negative or underlying beliefs and comes to understand their role in impeding action. As the client’s perspective shifts, their ability to reach toward their star becomes greater and greater.

In the end, the greatest victory we can know is the result of all of our hard work, discipline, and dedication: the realization of our dreams.― Cheryl Burke, Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life
Realize—The coach works with the client to develop a strategy for action that inspires forward movement. Taking action toward the goal fosters growth, learning, self-confidence and self-esteem in the client. As confidence builds, momentum builds. Progress is acknowledged, small successes are celebrated. That which once seemed impossible is now realized. The client has reached for their Polaris Start and taken hold of it. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is relax —Mark Black
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a couple of minutes, including you. —Annie Lamott

Recharge—The final phase of the Star Model is for the client to recharge. Today’s culture prizes ambition, competition, productivity, and wealth. Comparisons run rampant. We fear falling into the loser camp and frantically work harder and harder to avoid it by keeping busy and stacking up achievements. And yet, time and time again, the sought-out accomplishment only brings into focus the next essential accomplishment required to feel worthy and enough. It never ends. Self-care is put off until there is enough time, yet it feels there is never enough time. We are afraid to pause and recharge.

Nature has much to teach us about the benefits of laying fallow for a season. It is the freeze of winter, that makes a possible new life in the spring. We are animals and of nature. We require the hibernation of the winter season to generate the new life for the next phase. If we are to function as nature intends, then it is essential to embrace those practices that help us recharge. Whether it is a meditation practice, an exercise routine, or journaling, we need to shut it down to fill it back up and start again. As the coach coaches the whole person, they can assist the client in building awareness of this necessity and work through the steps to implement a plan to celebrate and recharge.

Coaching Mindset

In considering my coaching model, I also wanted to explore my coaching mindset. I happened across “The Three Principles” the underpinnings of the spiritual psychology movement and felt it most precisely captured my “hoped for” mindset. The following passages are from “The Little Book of Big Change”, by Amy Johnson.

“The Three Principals”

Universal Mind: is the creative energy that is the source of all life …. the power source of all living things – the universal, infinite intelligence that creates and powers our entire universe and everything in it. The universal mind is running through all of us, always. We are all wise, spiritual beings with infinite clarity and peace of mind.

Why I like this for coaching: the thought that the universal mind is running through all of us is such a great equalizer. Belief in the universal mind as the force that powers us all, by its very nature places to coach and client in an equal partnership. That infinite power that runs through the coach, is equally present in the client. Coaching provides the client the space to tap into their infinite wisdom, peace, and clarity. The coach brings the compassion, presence, and coaching practices that help create the conditions for the client to resolve their own issues and develop a plan for reaching their goals.

Further, our age of the “individual” fosters competition and comparisons over cooperation and community, leading to unfavorable comparisons of self to others, and creating the distressing shame and worry that “I am not enough”. To my thinking belief in Universal Mind vanquishes this fear. That we are alive and equally powered by Universal Mind proves that we are enough; our worth need not be earned; it is a given. Coaching strives then, to part the (thought) clouds generating the belief “I am not enough”. As the client works to increasingly realize who they really are, (Universal Mind), they can move in the direction of their purpose and goals.

Thought: is the vehicle that transforms the creative energy of the universal mind into real life, manifest experience.

Why I like this for coaching: In the ICA learning process, I have developed a new understanding of thought and the powerful role it can play in our peace or our suffering. Our thought has the capacity to distort our thinking in ways that obscure our sense of wholeness. As a coach/partner to my client, I will be in the position to listen to a client’s thoughts and where appropriate and possible, challenge their thinking in a manner that allows them to open up, widen or change their perspective. As the vehicle that transforms creative energy into life, the immense power of thought is acknowledged. Our thoughts make our experience, it is not our experience that makes our thoughts. As a coach, I am excited to consider the implicit power of that concept in fostering the client’s ability to heal and change themselves and move toward achieving their goals.

Consciousness is what allows us to experience what thoughts create. Consciousness is like a movie projector in our minds – it brings thinking to life, delivering a vivid, sensory experience of what’s actually taking place internally.

Why I like this for coaching: Consciousness allows us to experience our thoughts. Each of our thoughts will be unique to us, so our sense of reality will also be unique to us. What shapes my client’s life experience will be different from what shapes my life experience. This speaks to the critical need for me as a coach to empty my mind of all of my thoughts and listen to my client with a deep curiosity. I must not assume; I must not have an agenda because I must understand that my sense of reality is far different than my client’s. Advising my client is futile as we are basically living in two different worlds. At best, I can mirror back to the client an unbiased statement on that which I have observed. It is for the client to consider that information work with it to move toward their goals.

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