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  • Jennie Antolak

Juliet's School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam


During this time of uncertainty, days may feel complicated and consuming to your clients. @Eliane Vanderburgh found a way to ease the pressure of the pandemic by utilizing the book Juliet's School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam. Elaine shares in her review of Vanderkam's book that it lifted her spirits plus expanded her thinking when working with coaching clients. "During quarantine, I've had ample time to read everything on my coaching and self-help book list. Unfortunately, after a couple of chapters, many of the books I chose to read felt too heavy or no longer relevant. I kept finding myself ditching them after a few pages in place of one of the many captivating fiction books that magically arrived on my doorstep after my weekly Sunday-night-blues-insomnia-Amazon-shopping-date. Luckily, Juliet's School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam is one of those books that arrived on my doorstep. It is both a light-hearted, easy-to-read story, and it is a book relevant to the world of coaching."


Reviewer: Elaine Vanderburgh, Certified Narrative Coach Practitioner, Certified Life Coach Practitioner

Book: Juliet's School of Possibilities

Author: Laura Vanderkam


Key Point One: Expectations are infinite. Time is Finite.

Despite only being in her late twenties, Riley Jenkins, is near mid-life crisis. Her personal relationships are crumbling as she struggles to keep her high-paying consulting “dream job” despite answering client emails all hours of the day and night. After losing a big work project and getting dumped by her boyfriend, she reluctantly attends a weekend company women’s leadership retreat at a place called Juliet’s School of Possibilities. Luckily Riley’s plan of showing her face at the main events while scurrying off her room to check emails changed as the weekend progressed. Eventually Riley was able to put her phone away and spend some time with the school’s founder, Juliet herself. How is it possible that Juliet, a successful entrepreneur, a single mother of two, and the retreat host, can spend so much fairly-god-mother-like time with Riley? Maybe her secret is one of the quotes that can be found hidden throughout the décor of the school, “Expectations are infinite. Time is finite.


Key Point Two: You are always choosing. Choose well.

“You are always choosing. Choose well.” In a similar whimsical Charles Dickens Christmas Carol-like way, Juliet is able to help Riley envision different futures. One is a future where she stays on her current path of prioritizing other people’s to-do lists and another path where she aligns her actions with her true priorities. In the end of this fable-like-tale, Riley embraces the school’s mantra and starts to make better choices. While the reader is left to fill in the ending, we do get to a glimpse into how the simple act of reclaiming one’s own power to choose can impact the immediate and future moments in life.


Favorite Passage:

One of my favorite parts from the book was when Riley was talking with Juliet early on in the retreat. Riley said, ‘I am sorry to take up so much of your time.’ In response, Juliet said, “I have all of the time in the world.” This scene resonated with me because in life, I am both the Riley and the Juliet. I have been both on the sending and receiving end of the comment, ‘I am sorry for taking up your time.’ From personal experience, I know there is nothing more affirming than responses like Juliet’s. Her empowering response says, you matter, are acknowledged and important. When I have been on the receiving end of this comment, I would like to think I answer like Juliet did, but in reality, I am not sure. This part of the book caused me to pause, reflect, and begin to notice my responses to this invitation.


Application to Coaching:

This book has many applications to coaching. What I will remember the most is the power story. Right now is a heavy time. While there are some positive and necessary changes happening, it can be hard to concentrate. I have attempted books by countless authors so I can finish my book reports, one of the last things I need to complete to get my coaching certification. Nothing was sticking. I could logically understand the words on the pages, but my heart wasn’t tracking and my brain felt too full. To make matters worse, each time I didn’t finish a book, I felt guilty that I was wasting time.


How I Will Apply the Key Points to My Coaching:

This book was different. While the message was similar other non-fiction books I tried to read, this one stuck because it allowed me to notice, witness, and even laugh along the way. My main take-a-way and application to coaching is remembering the power of a story. With the power of a story in mind, I will continue to ask about the elements of a client’s story. Directly or indirectly, I will ask people about the characters, plot, storyline, and setting of the stories that keep them stuck and also about the stories that set them free.

Juliet’s School of Possibilities, by Laura Vanderkam, not only reconnected me to the morale of the story about the power of choices, it also reinforced the power of story both in my personal life and within coaching.



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