The Phoenix – The Process Fire-Ashes-Rebirth


A Coaching Model By Isabelle Finger, Executive Coach, UNITED STATES

PHOENIX Isabelle Finger Coaching ModelPHOENIX – What Happens When Someone Engages in a Coaching Process

The Phoenix – the eagle-like bird who dies in flames and get reborn from its ashes[1] –  is a powerful symbol that continues to inspire writers (e.g. Fawkes, the Phoenix created by J.K Rowling as Dumbledore’s trustee companion) and artists in general across generations and cultures, as well as politicians (e.g. San Francisco added the Phoenix to its flag after the earthquake of 1906 as a symbol of the reconstruction of the city[2]) and marketers.

From the very beginning of my journey as a coach, I’ve felt that this symbol helps understand and describe what happens when someone engages in a coaching process.

Going through coaching is not for the faint-hearted. Clients are looking for transformational impact (the new Phoenix coming out of the fire is a new Phoenix, not the same one) to move forward (the “rising” Phoenix). This change process can be uncomfortable at times (the fire), but the result is beautiful and bright (warm red colors of the Phoenix). The legend also tells us that such a process is not a one-shot adventure to attain a “final” state. In the coaching process, the client learns that values, purpose, goals, strengths are evolving over time and that many reinventions are possible in a single life (the versions of the legend differ about the number of times the Phoenix went through the process fire-ashes-rebirth but all agree that it wasn’t just one time!).

Let’s the Phoenix Deploy Its Wings and Join on a Coaching Journey!

Cultivate your  Purpose

Design  Holistic


Expand your realm of options

Nurture your energy

 Let the learnings Inspire you

Embrace the X {unknown}

Align With Your Purpose

Life is rich with both opportunities and constraints. Navigating them, making good decisions, and feeling strong, positive, and motivated can be a daunting task. Research[3] has shown that people who have a purpose in life are better equipped to face the dilemma and challenges that life is throwing at them. It gives them a north star and a long-term goal to orient themselves and face adversity.

As a consequence, the literature and the internet are full of advice and methods on how to find your purpose. The assumption here is twofold: a) everyone has one purpose that remains stable over time and b) knowing your purpose is enough to remain true to it over time.

I believe that such an assumption is too simplistic. As values evolve, a purpose in life is also susceptible to evolve and to take different flavors over time. The idea that each of us would have one and only one purpose finds its origin in the Christian belief that God has created every human being with specific talents and inclinations that are destined to be used for a specific role in life and society. Literature and the entertainment industry have romanticized this idea by frequently featuring heroes with a strong calling who are sacrificing everything to accomplish their mission. However, many of us feel that we could have more than one main focus, more than one activity, more than one set of immutable values. Such people are sometimes called “multipotentials” and struggle or refuse, to limit their life to only one purpose[4].

Additionally, even when one gets clarity about one’s purpose (or one’s purpose for a specific period of life), it remains a constant challenge to focus on the purpose and one’s goals amid many other competing demands from the external world. 

Therefore, there is an opportunity for coaches to help their clients not only to find their purpose (or one of them at a specific point in time) but to stay connected to it and to find ways to design a life that can combine purpose and the reality of daily life.

Design Holistic Objectives

As much as we are used to speaking about the aspects of our lives separately (e.g. the expression “work-life balance”), our life resembles much more an ecosystem than a set of silos. This means that when one aspect of our life is impacted, all aspects are at some level impacted too. To create sustainable and deep transformation, it is necessary to go further than defining the specific goal one has in mind and look at the implications that the pursuit and the achievement of such a goal would mean. This attitude goes beyond simply accepting the consequences of focusing on a goal (e.g. if I decide to invest in my career, I accept that I will spend less time with my children) – as this is keeping the individual in a black-and-white mindset where they can only lose what is gained somewhere else.

The coaching process is an opportunity for the client to regain ownership and power about the changes they want in their life and to adjust the other aspects of their lives consciously and in a creative way that allows for win-win situations and a broadening of the possibilities, while still facing reality.

Expand Your Realm of Options

Too often human beings try to define their goals and find their purpose by focusing on their thoughts. Many try to get away from their daily life and isolate some time to be able to do a deep dive into themselves and resurge from their retreat with the final answer.

However, a more efficient method[5] to identify goals, passions, and purpose in life is to experiment and iterate. Through real-life experience, the individual can better recognize what attracts them, what they like and dislike, what they need to adapt, and what they need to learn and develop.

The coaching process creates a safe space for the client to try new things and approaches, reflect on them, fine-tune them, and decide if and how to adopt or reject them. It allows the client to be the designer of his or her own life rather than someone who can only select from the narrow set of options perceived at the beginning.

Nurture Your Energy

Transformational change requires time. As much as we are tempted to envision important transitions as a sudden, dramatic and clear cut from the past situation, the human mind needs time to digest and incorporate change. Additionally, reality might not allow one to jump into a new situation but requires sometimes building the new desired situation over time and showing resilience and stamina in the process. Taking care of oneself, planning for a marathon rather than for a sprint are key elements of a successful transition.

In the coaching process, the client has the opportunity to discover what nurtures their energy and motivation level. It often means building habits and rituals to improve physical and mental health.

Let the Learnings Inspire You

As a result of the experimentation mentioned above, many learning opportunities will occur. Both success and failures can bring the client further and give hints on the best path forward.

In the coaching process, the client has the opportunity to benefit from learning at three levels. First, they can reflect, incorporate and plan actions according to the learnings that are bubbling up after each new experiment. Second, they are invited to develop their curiosity – which in return nurtures the experiment cycle. Third, they can develop their metacognition in becoming more and more aware of how they think and learn, making the reflection part even deeper and more transformational.

Embrace the X {Unknown}

Once the client has worked on all the above, the chances to achieve goals and enjoy the journey are greater. However, it would be an illusion to think that everything is under control. Challenges and opportunities will keep coming and might derail the client from their path.

Through coaching, the client can learn to accept the unforeseeable part of life, to deal with the fears, doubt, and other negative emotions that negative and positive surprises might generate, and to adapt to the path creatively and playfully.

Learn How to Create Your Own Coaching Model

Your Coaching Model reflects your values,
philosophies and beliefs and must communicate who you will coach
and the problems you will solve.
Read more about creating your coaching model


Wikipedia: Phoenix (mythology) and Flag of San Francisco
Viktor E. Frankl, “Man’s search for Meaning
Emily Wapnik, TedTalk Why some of us don’t have a true calling
Herminia Ibarra, “Working Identity

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