Being at choice – choosing how we respond to situations

By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th February 2020

I have just come back from the second of three modules for my Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching.  One of our pieces of homework is to practice writing in a critically reflective style.  I thought a great way to do so would be choose one of the course topics as the subject for this blog!

Being at choice – choosing how we think, feel and respond to situations

“Being at choice” is a phrase that one of our tutors, Linda Marshall, used with us to remind us of the ‘Mercedes’ model (Barefoot Coaching, 2019).  This model describes the relationship between our:

  • internal state – sensations and feelings
  • internal processing – inner dialogue, thoughts and beliefs
  • external behaviour – what we do and how it’s demonstrated in our posture, facial expressions and language
Mercedes model of feeling thinking and doing
How our feeling, thinking and doing are interrelated. Based on Barefoot Coaching Ltd, 2019

Day seven of the course focused on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), an area of knowledge that I previously explored in my NLP Practitioner accreditation in 2014 (Goodman, 2014). I found the day fascinating both as a refresher of what I had previously learnt, and in the new insights that it brought for applying this approach in my coaching practice.

One of the premises of NLP is that any automatically triggered response to a situation has been programmed in us through how we experienced previous events in our lives. We are often most aware of such negative responses as anxiety or insecurity (both of which I have been experiencing at various stages during the course!).

We can in effect re-programme ourselves to respond in a way that we would choose to do, and generally increase our resourcefulness for future events.  This is what Linda Marshall described as “being at choice”.

The NLP Circle of Excellence is one one of the tools that we experimented with for achieving this.

The NLP Circle of Excellence

The Circle of Excellence was developed by John Grinder and Judith DeLozier and is described in the online NLP University Encyclopedia.

NLP Circle of excellence - illustration by Sabrine Francis
NLP Circle of excellence – illustration by Sabrina Francis, Barefoot Coaching, 2020

During coaching, the person being coached (a bit awkwardly referred to as the ‘coachee’*) visualises a virtual circle on the floor, and steps into it to create a powerful representation of a new response that they would like to ‘anchor’ within themselves.

(*I like Myles Downey (2014) alternative use of the word ‘player’.  For practicality I tend to refer to the ‘client’ in my coaching practice.)

It works on the premise that our embedded automatic responses will often have been triggered earlier in our lives by a combination of authority, emotion, and our state of ‘suggestibility’. The figure of authority could have been a parent, a teacher, or even a friend that we were strongly influenced by. 

So any re-programming of our responses may be more effective if some new emotion is engendered, and if it is facilitated by someone that we trust.  

The coach is effectively the figure of authority and it was humbling, when it was my turn to coach, to witness the level of emotion engendered as my ‘coachee’ accessed the emotions associated with their new resourceful state. I could see, hear and feel something of the new state that they were experiencing and anchoring within themselves for the future.

We were a bit short of time when it came to my turn to be coached and to step into the circle.  I found the new resourceful state – which was to do with having a sense of fun to take into my training courses – easier to access, visualise and internalise.  This may be because I had a very vivid previous experience to access and build upon.  I like to think that it may also be that all the coaching I have received on the course has heightened my emotional awareness and somehow made me more ‘elastic’.  At any rate, I now have a virtual parrot, complete with sound effects and an internal giggle to accompany me when I deliver a training course.  Hopefully this will translate into a positive experience for my delegates!


Being ‘at choice’ in how we feel, think and respond to situations is a very powerful skill.

There are various techniques that coaches can help us with to understand how we are experiencing and responding to situations, and to ‘re-programme’ ourselves to respond in the way that we would prefer to do.

It may be that, the more we practice this level of awareness and conscious choice, the more ‘elastic’ and resourceful we can become.

As ever, I am curious to hear of others’ experience in response to this blog.



Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019). Course manual for Cohort 57 of the Postgraduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching.

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Goodman, E. (2014) (accessed 19th February 2020)

NLP University Encyclopedia (accessed 19th February 2020)

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

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