"If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?"
This was a question I posed at the beginning of a health workshop I was leading. It was to a group of (mostly) women in a weight loss program. I wanted to start with this because the tension was thick and uncomfortable. I had sat with them individually before, in short coaching sessions, on a weekly basis. I knew their self-judgments and excuses peppered their moments of triumph. It was my goal and job to help them begin to see and celebrate where they were making progress while shifting the focus off of perfectionism.
We needed an ice breaker, and this was the first one that popped into my head. Prior to asking it, one of the women who I had not met with personally, grilled me on my qualifications. I had heard about her, she was on of the ones the management was "concerned" with. She had gained instead of lost, argued with suggestions, missed appointments, and wanted to quit the program. I answered her questions without defense.
Then she shared her frustrations. Turns out, she really wanted to be heard. She went on to say how she doesn't feel happy, she doesn't want to feel
happy, and she hopes I don't try to make her feel happy. I told her that it's ok to not feel happy and I'm not there to change her mind. She can feel however she wants to for however long she needs to. I'm just glad she showed up. She relaxed. And then...
I asked the question.
Everyone went around the circle sharing their animal and why they chose it. As they did, she lit up. I mean, this woman got excited around something I had no idea would float her boat. Her animal was a chicken. Or, shoot, it could have been a dolphin. Those are kind of far apart on the animal scale, huh?
In the end, it doesn't technically matter. What does, is that she gave herself permission to BE. Not happy, relaxed, a chicken, a dolphin. Emotions are transitory, yet how often do you feel stuck on one in particular, wishing that you felt differently than you do? When you give yourself permission to be, to feel, to get off your own back, you create peace inside of yourself. With that kind of freedom, you have more room to choose and more room to change.
From that day forward, she came to her appointments. And each time, she mentioned how much she loved that "Animal game we played that one time" and how it made a huge difference for her. I told her if she ever feels stuck again, she can scratch and peck like a chicken. She laughed and said that would probably help her lose weight. True that!