Coach's Casebook

Case of the Unresponsive Graduate

Case of the Unresponsive Graduate


Ian was a new graduate who had lost what seemed to be the passion for his subject and for life itself.

No significant event, trauma or emotional incident had led to this state, but Ian’s general demeanour was that of a general boredom with life.

If Ian had been a teenager, it may have been possible to believe that this behaviour was merely that of a moody teen, but Ian had been a very enthusiastic ‘joiner’.  He’d played sports, computer games and enjoyed socialising.

While not obviously suffering from depression, it was almost as if he had lost the interest in life.

Having checked for the usual indicators of clinical depression, medical and other socially acceptable (or illegal) depressants, it seemed as though Ian was struggling to find a goal that he could strive for.

His bachelor’s degree had given him the impetus to work hard and generate his own achievement behaviours but on further investigation it appeared Ian lacked the personal leadership that creates self-motivation.

It was as if the Bachelors of Arts he was studying had ‘leant’ Ian the motivation to complete it rather than that motivation being an internal drive to achieve.

This pattern of behaviour was repeated across a series of activities in Ian’s life.  Ian would join in with activities that were being organised but because of the momentum of the group rather then as a result of being self-initiated.

A coach profiled Ian’s decision strategies and these were very simplistic.

Ian saw others doing something à felt he wanted to be part of the group –> saw himself joining –>  and joined the group.

Ve (trigger) –> Ki –> Vi –> Ke

For those who work in therapy, this can be seen as very similar behavioural strategy to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), where the Visual External (Ve) is not perceived as it should be (Visual internal) and this cognitive dissonance generates an uncomfortable feeling (Ki) which creates a compulsive action to resolve the difference.

Most people have this strategy to a greater or lesser extent.

We see something wrong with the world and then we change it.  Those with OCD are driven to make the change and ‘balance’ their mental equation (sometimes not seeing a resolution despite their actions and repeating the behaviour with a compulsion).

Ian saw the activity but had no real view of how his ‘world’ should be and so had very little motivation to make a change.

Ian also had a strong feeling of duty, in that what he started he would finish and so this feeling of duty was potentially a strong emotional lever.


The coaching intervention was to create an internal image that Ian could use to compare the world with and then use this as a trigger to begin the motion towards change that we feel as the result of motivation.

The coach needed to create a strategy for Ian that followed:

Vi ≠ Ve (trigger) –> Ki –> Vi –> Ke

The coach used a timeline approach in a attempt to  identify an event or time when Ian was highly motivated but struggled to find a sufficiently motivating event to leverage into a current/future trigger.

The coach then took Ian along his timeline to a point almost at the end of his life and had him assume a highly contemplative state.

Here the coach led an investigation of what a good life would look and feel like (V+K).

This introspection became a list of activities and achievements that Ian perceived that others would think of as good achievements.  These were scored (1-10) as things that Ian would have also have liked to have achieved.

The coach then asked Ian to compare how his current behaviours would lead to such a ‘good life’ (Cause and Effect leading to Ve(imagined) to Ve(anticipated) comparison).

A fairly strong state change occurred and Ian demonstrated a high degree of anxiety at this point.  This was the Vi ≠ Ve difference that the coach wanted Ian to create by himself as an internal drive to achieve.

Returning to the present on the time line, the coach had Ian review his ‘future’ list of activities.

Ian then selected a few activities to begin with, as well as agreeing to a general approach of Search Around Vigorously (SAV) for alternatives to do.

Ian’s anticipation grew as he considered the new experiences that would feed his desire to explore the world and match his view of ‘a good life’.

As a final emotional lever, the coach had Ian view the achievement of his ‘good life’, whatever that became as a ‘duty’; a duty to life itself to get the most out of it with the resources he had.

This closed and confirmed the motivation strategy for Ian and the session ended with a goals setting process that allowed Ian to take immediate action on his new path and so imprint the new behaviour.

Ian is now still searching for a Unique Life Purpose (ULP) but the important point to note is that Ian is searching for that Purpose and with some vigour.



While a complex case in terms of actions on the coach’s part, the underlying strategy is relatively simple and can be applied in many change situations.

Know what you want.

Get some Feedback on what you are getting

Change something to take you more in the direction you need to go to get what you want.

I use the letters KFC to remember this process as these are the initials for a popular chain of chicken restaurants in the UK.  Simple to remember and simple to apply.


Change the World

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