Awe and climate activism; being and doing

By Elisabeth Goodman, 12th March 2023

I finished a book I’ve been writing for a little over a year, Coaching in the Helix , a few weeks ago. It’s now going through the various stages of production, and I hope to get it out in April / May time.

Jon Bircher describes himself as a “Decision coach and mentor”. He reads prolifically and runs a book club for leaders. I met him online some time last year, about the time he was talking about Michael Bungay Stanier’s book How to Begin.

I’ve not read the book, yet, but it’s apparently about finding and doing something that matters; that you care about deeply. Coaching in the Helix was one such project for me, and I started wondering what new project I would undertake after I’d finished writing it. I didn’t need to think for long.

I’ve now embarked on this new project: it involves awe, climate activism and it’s also tied to my work as a coach. It certainly feels like it matters, and I’m witnessing the difference it can make already.

This blog is about how I got started on the new project, how it relates to awe, and how basing all of this on “being” and “doing” is having an early impact on others.

Purpose and motivation – born from a moment of awe

I was walking the paths in and around my village some time last summer. It’s something that the pandemic had got me doing, as it has many people, and I’ve continued since. My husband Jonathan Spain and I have discovered new paths, even after living in the village for 28 years, and we love how they take us along chalk streams, amongst trees and out into the open fields.

A stream in South Cambridgeshire, UK.

My mum was beginning her rapid decline into dementia, and I was looking for ways to connect with her, as well as ways to bring me wellbeing and calm in support of my coaching. Walking those footpaths inspired me to write short poems and prose that I then read to her, gaining such affirmation from her as “you’ve really caught it!”

Those poems and prose now form part of my book Wellbeing Musings that is also going through its stages of production. That one will take a little longer as I have an artist working up the illustrations for it. I will be dedicating Wellbeing Musings to my mum, Phyllis, who passed away on the last day of 2022.

There came a moment, on that walk last summer, when I had a powerful experience, an intense feeling of awe for the nature around me and for what it brought me.

Eben Harrell, in an article entitled The Power of Everyday Awe1, quotes this definition of awe:

[the] “feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world”

Dacher Keltner (2023). Awe: the new science of everyday wonder and how it can transform your life. Penguin.

Nature is, according to Kellner again, one of the eight wonders of life. The other wonders are music, visual design, people’s acts of kindness towards each other, “collective effervescence” (as in sports fans cheering together), spiritual experiences, epiphanies, the beginnings and endings of life. The awe that these wonders bring us can make us “calmer, kinder, more creative”, they can also make us “feel more connected to the earth and to other creatures”.

That moment of awe for me conjured a sense of being absolutely connected and in harmony with the universe. And with that came a sense that I had a duty and a desire to use the power that I have, as a human being, to make a difference: to do something to redress the impact that we are having on our environment and on our planet.

Secondary to this has been the realisation of the power of coaching, and of community connectedness, in this space. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people who are either not daring to think about the consequences of our impact on the planet, or who are thinking about it so much that they are feeling overwhelmed.

So, my second level of purpose and motivation is:

“To help others access their resourcefulness, their choices and power, their hope and resolve”

As described on my webpage – RiverRhee Consulting: Supporting your thinking and wellbeing in relation to climate change

“Being” and “doing”

The concepts of “being” and “doing” and how we balance them are recurring themes in Coaching in the Helix. I explore them in relation to spiritualism, and I do so again in relation to mindfulness and nature.

So, it was with a sense of joy, that I came across them again in Climate Change Coaching2, in the Flynn model of sustainable change.

I have just started participating in the course that is based on this book, and, the first module is about how we can help our clients to frame and anchor their goals in the context of a resonant purpose. The idea of doing this is to help people move from feeling stuck, or overwhelmed, to some level of sustainable performance. Taking some time every now and then to reflect and refocus on our purpose, and what gives us the courage to carry on, will also help with that.

Reflecting on what got me started with climate action and what keeps me going has definitely connected me to my “being”.

Telling my story, and sharing this Flynn model, is also starting to trigger conversation and reflection with people who have either not dared to talk about climate change, or are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Here is an example of that impact from a session I facilitated:

Thank you for sharing your story and stimulating some insightful, reflective sessions this evening Elisabeth.

I found the Flynn model a really useful way of framing the Co-coaching and as was shared in the group discussion, in a short time it enabled the person being coached to move from a sense of feeling ‘crushed’ to identifying positive action and a sense of ‘hopefulness’.

Vanda Morgan, Association for Coaching, Cambridge Co-Coaching Lead.

My “doing” then is this:

  • Bringing coaching in relation to climate change into my work – both paid and voluntary
  • Helping to build communities, in my village and more widely in Cambridgeshire, to make conversations and mutual support in relation to climate change more possible


I’ve shared this personal story in the hope that it will inspire and/or support others who are thinking about climate change and what role they might take in relation to it.

Do reach out to me if you feel that this is a topic that I might help you with, either through one-to-one coaching, or through group coaching.

And don’t forget to look for opportunities to top up your own experience of awe. As Eben Harrell also says in the HBR article:

“We can break up the humdrum of daily life simply by adopting fresh eyes that allow us to discover awe in everyday things.”

and, we can discover:

“infinite riches in a little room.”

Christopher Marlowe

Look at one object in the room that you are in, or out of the window. Look at it closely as if you’ve never looked at it before. Consider the colours, the shape, the pattern, the texture, what went it to making it what it is. Feel the awe!


  1. Harrell, E. (2023, Jan-Feb) The power of everyday awe. A series of new books suggests that life is wonderful – if you know where to look. Harvard Business Review, pp. 15-151
  2. Cox, C. & Flynn, S. (2022) Climate change coaching. The power of connection to create climate action. Open University Press.

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