Cinque Terre

Gullion Media Limited


Constructing a life worth living.

By George Kingsnorth


Part of my personal research has been looking into coaching psychology. Using Palmer & Whybrow’s Handbook of Coaching Psychology (2008), I have gone over a range of techniques used in coaching that coincides with theories used in facilitating adult learners in further education. Three particular strands of coaching psychology seemed appealing due to my background in media production and designing curriculum for media courses. The three approaches were narrative coaching, neuro-linguistic programming and personal construct psychology.

Narrative coaching is described by Ho Law (Palmer & Whybrow, 2008) as when a coachee explores their goals through actively listening to the retelling of their own life stories to find hidden meanings, allowing them to craft new narratives for them to put into action. One of the reasons people look for coaching is because there is a gap between where the coachee is in their learning and where they wish to be. Vygotsky (1978) calls this the ‘zone of proximal development’ (p.84).

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) takes from a range of theories including constructivism, behavourism, experiential psychology and Gestalt theory, which are but a few. NLP uses modelling as a technique where clients learn through imitation instead of verbal instructions, in a holistic manner (Palmer & Whybrow, 2008), often by encouraging the coachee to consider the viewpoint of others watching them, but also to fully engage with their experiences. For example, if a coachee indicates they often fall to pieces when giving a presentation, the response might be ‘how many pieces?’ Drawing the coachee’s attention to their use of abstract language.

Personal construct psychology (PCP) uses similar theories to NLP but encourages the coachee to explore their own lives from the perspective of a story text, in which they are the protagonist. The story is open-end in order for the coachee to construct alternative narratives (Kelly, 1955).

Each approach is goal orientated, complimenting the narrative structure I often use to develop stories for film projects. The first task, when generating ideas for a film, is to determine who the protagonist is, what they want to achieve and who or what is stopping them from getting there. With each obstacle identified, the necessary adjustments are worked out so the protagonist can move around each obstacle and refocus on the goal. Through out a short film there can be several obstructions, including the protagonist (both psychologically and physically), another person, or the environment. When the goal is reach there is often a gap. The gap is the difference between the idealistic view of what the goal is and the reality of what it is. For example, you may have seen a camera you wanted to take some amazing pictures, but realise when taking the photographs the camera isn’t capability of capturing what you wanted.

The great thing about writing, is you can explore a range of ideas, map them across your own narrative and discover problems along the way. By re-drafting the storyline you can construct a more appealing adventure which others will want to share with you, especially if you can insert the right hooks to keep them captured. This adds to the drama, allows for well developed characters and helps to work out any hole in the plot.

Through creating a narrative structure you are able to visualise a range of different outcomes. It does not mean the journey will be easy. Any story without conflict is boring, so it is important to see the obstacles as a way of building character. The important thing is to expect the obstacles and come up with an effective way of getting around them.

By writing a storyline for where you want to go in life, you can explore the problems that will be encountered along the way and come up with strategies to solve them. This works with all ventures, both business and personal, constructing a life worth living.


Kelly, G. (1955) The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Volume One - A Theory Of Personality, W.W.Norton & Company, Inc: New York.

Palmer, S. & Whybrow, A. (2008) Handbook of Coaching Psychology – A Guide for Practitioners, Routledge: London.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind In Society – The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.