“I’ve never had a huge circle of friends. I can’t spread myself that thin and go 100 million miles an hour all the time. I choose to give truly of myself, entirely of myself, to the people I choose to do that with, and I can’t do that with everyone.” 
-Jeremy Northam, actor

If you’ve ever attended the circus as a child, or with your own children or grandchildren, you have seen the clown, who spins the plates. He places a dozen or more slender sticks into the ground, in a long row. Then he places a shiny white plate, which looks to be high quality china, from the upper tier of the convention center, onto the stick and gives it a spin. He then adds a second plate to a second stick, and a third plate to a third stick; on and on, spinning them as he goes.

About this time, one or more of the plates begins to wobble. The clown dashes over to the wobbling plates and gives them another spin to keep them from crashing to the ground. No one wants to see ‘fine china plates’ crash to the ground. The clown dashes up and down the row of a dozen or more sticks and plates trying to keep all of the circles spinning…all of his circles in harmony. We are thrilled at his skill, and the women in the audience are relieved, when the clown begins to remove the plates from the sticks, until he is only spinning two or three plates, at a less frantic pace.

All of us have spinning plates in our lives. Circles which we are a part of and try to manage. These circles represent our different roles in life, e.g.  parent, daughter, teacher, and business owner. Sometimes our circles overlap, like on ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day.’

We may feel safe, protected, and loved in some circles more than others too. These circles have become a community of familiar faces and expectations for us. These circles never wobble on sticks. These circles get our regular attention.

Perhaps you are working with a client, who is going through a life transition. Maybe your client is trying to create a new circle. Perhaps you are working with a client, who is trying to decide whether it’s worth it, to keep a wobbling plate spinning. With you as their coach, they will explore what they will lose, if the plate crashes to the ground.

[Coaching Questions]

  • What are your circles or spheres of influence?
  • How do your circles define you? How do your circles overlap?
  • In what ways are some of your circles confining? Are you trying to spin too many plates at once?
  • Which circles do you feel safest in? What is it about these circles which comfort you, or give you confidence to allow you to be your true self?
  • Are you searching for a new circle? What would you like to find?
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