How to Use Poetry in Coaching: Inspirational Poem, "My Symphony" by William Ellery Channing

Do you ever use poetry in your coaching? Poetry has a way of speaking to us, of connecting to something deeper inside us - closer to the heart or soul. Poetry can set us thinking, sometimes long after we have read something. It can be soothing too - and - can also be a coaching tool!

So, I have always loved this poem. It speaks of simplicity, learning and honesty, of bravery, worthiness - and beautiful slowness. It reminds me of my values, encourages me to stop work and contemplate, learn or simply get out in nature. It reminds me of what is important - awe, nature and an open heart. But perhaps it speaks differently to you?

My Symphony by William Ellery Channing

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An Idea for Using this Poem in Coaching:

For many of our clients, I think this poem could refocus people on having "enough". I love the idea of being wealthy but not rich, of enjoying elegance (or beauty) rather than luxury. It speaks of enjoyment, rather than having or doing things for the sake of it - or for what others think. Even (especially) today, I believe this poem still rings true.

This poem is also great for your stressed out clients - who push themselves, who want life balance, who are perhaps attached to life being a certain way. There are other, much more satisfying ways to be...

ACTION IDEA: Give this poem to your clients, and simply ask them to ponder, reflect or journal around what it means for them. What do they take away from this poem? What one action do they feel inspired to take after reading it?

My Symphony

by William Ellery Channing

To live content with small means.
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion.
To be worthy not respectable,
and wealthy not rich.
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently,
act frankly, to listen to stars, birds, babes,
and sages with open heart, to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

More information about William Ellery Channing (1818 - 1901)

William Ellery Channing was born in Boston, USA and attended Harvard - although he did not graduate.He was an American Transcendentalist poet, nephew of (and named after) the Unitarian preacher Dr. William Ellery Channing. Channing (the poet) was thought "brilliant but undisciplined" by many of his contemporaries and his family. However, may admired him too.  His contemporaries included Henry David Thoreau (with whom he was friends), Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

One of his housemates - the journalist Franklin Benjamin Sanborn - wrote of him, "His artist eye was constantly seeking out the finest landscapes, and his sauntering habit was to take his friends and introduce them to scenery they could hardly have found for themselves. He showed Thoreau the loveliest recesses of the Concord woods, and of the two rivers that came slowly through them..." You can learn more about him on Wikipedia here.

Finally, I'd love to know what you think!

Does this poem appeal to you? Do you, like me, think that if people could do this they would be happier? Do you use poetry in your coaching at all?

If you like this article with an inspirational poem, you may also like:

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Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

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  1. Ruth Ossenag

    Thank you so much for sharing this poem. This poem captures to me the essence of mindfulness, to slow down, to show gratitude for what we have in life, and to strive for things that can make a lasting impact in our life and in the life of others.

  2. Karen Burrows

    It's been reported that "My Symphony" may have been actually written by his cousin Wm Henry Channing a minister for a sermon. Their Uncle Wm Ellery Channing was one of the most influential ministers of his time. ... ref


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