Coaching is a form of talk therapy aimed at helping people identify meaningful goals and achieve them. While there are some similarities with therapy, coaching is often described as more forward looking - helping high-functioning people to overcome specific obstacles or move assertively forwards towards some goal.
That all sounds very official. In more basic terms, coaching helps people be happier, more effective, and more resilient.
I have two main jobs as a coach. The first is to help you see what is going on in your mind and to help you understand the linkage between this mental and emotional activity and the results you’re creating in your life. We take a bottom-up approach, where we investigate specific incidents in your (usually) recent life. We analyze what happened with you last week, not things from your childhood.
Then we can look forward. We determine:
- What results you want.
- The actions you can take to get those results.
- New thoughts and feelings will fuel those actions.
Coaching does not involve me giving advice or telling you what to do. I don’t know what’s best for you. In fact one of my main duties as a coach is to ‘hold the space’, meaning to interact with you from a position of pure curiosity without judgment and without an agenda.
That’s the broad outline. Within that structure, we do things like break down goals into small manageable steps. We consider belief and commitment to the new results. We identify obstacles and develop strategies to overcome them. We find out why you’re not doing the things you intend to do, or why you keep doing stuff that you want to stop doing.
Who Seeks The Help of A Life Coach
People who are tired of feeling bad - guilty, regretful, overwhelmed, afraid, angry, resentful, lonely - and want to feel better.
People who want to develop skills such as better time management, to stop procrastinating, or create good habits around things like eating healthy or exercising or going to bed early.
People who want to improve their relationships with their mothers or sons or siblings or spouses.
People who want to lose weight and keep it off, or stop binge drinking.
People who want to find a romantic partner and create a healthy long-term relationship.
People who are ‘doing well’ in their lives, but feel like frauds and imposters, and want to create true confidence in themselves.
People who have achieved big things but still feel empty and unsatisfied, and feel like they’re killing themselves in the process.
My speciality is helping people who want to moderate their alcohol intake and not have to quit. I use the term ‘overdrinking’ to refer to any amount of drinking that creates a result in someone’s life that they want to stop experiencing. Typical unwanted results from overdrinking are weight gain, poor sleep, hangovers, low energy, poor quality relationships, lack of forward progress in life.
What Happens In A Coaching Session
I ask a lot of questions.
It’s not all questions though. There are some key concepts that I teach. For example one is called ‘The Manual’; it addresses issues of expectations, disappointment, and personal freedom in the context of interpersonal relationships. Once you learn the concept, when you’re in the heat of the moment in a challenging interaction, you can think ‘oh, I’m having a Manual’ and you’ll instantly have a useful framework you can use to manage your reactions.
When I have some specific concept that would be helpful, I weave it conversationally into the conversation so that it feels very organic and meaningful. Coaching isn’t school.
I have applied all of these concepts in my life to great positive affect, and sometimes I share my personal experiences with them. And I share experiences from my life before I had these tools. I’m open about my successes and failures and you’ll get to know me pretty well.
I lead the session. You don’t have to come prepared with an issue for the day. You don’t have to keep the conversation moving. You just have to show up with appropriate privacy and a willingness to be attentive and open for an hour. There is never a question of finding something useful to coach on.
The sessions unfold in a conversational way, not according to a rigid structure. What’s important to you is important to me. Any issue that you want to talk about is an opportunity to dig into your mind, and as we sort through and ‘solve’ issues, you are developing the ability to apply this approach to other situations.
You may get mad at me occasionally. As an outside observer, I can sometimes see a relationship between a long-held belief and an undesirable result in a client’s life. My job is to point this out, and sometimes people don’t take kindly to this. It can be a matter of wanting to shoot the messenger. I don’t mind.
Coaching takes place via phone, or videoconference, using Zoom. If using Zoom, we can record the call so that you can re-listen to it at your convenience.
Is There Homework?
There are some standard self-coaching tools that you could do every day if you were inclined, and doing these will increase your rate of growth and transformation. However most of my clients don’t do this sort of homework frequently.
I’ll often provide written material that summarizes the concepts we discuss. The concepts usually will seem pretty simple when I explain them, but studying the written material causes them to sink in so that they become useful to you.
If we’re working on overdrinking, there are specific exercises that are foundational to the program, such as worksheets for Drink Planning, Learn and Move On, Urge Tracking, etc. If you don’t do these, in written form as specified, it’s very possible that you won’t achieve your goals.
You have to experiment with everything I offer to you. Whether something makes sense or seems dead wrong, passive acceptance or silent rejection won’t allow you to make change. You have to put the things into practice, see if and how they work for you, and become an expert in using the tools. You have to become an observer of your life, not just a participant in it, and then use this awareness to create transformation.
Having said all that - even when you don’t do the homework, just show up to the session with an open mind. I will always show up with an open mind, without judgement, and ready to coach. Maybe we’ll coach on why you didn’t do the homework. There is learning to be had there.
I am not an accountability partner. That’s your job. I’ll just help you find out why you aren’t being accountable to yourself.
I used to be nervous about getting coached. I’d worry if my topic was worth talking about. I’d feel like I should have figured it out already. I’d assume that we would waste our time confirming what I already knew.
But once a session starts, the first thing you notice is how nice it is to be able to talk entirely about yourself, to someone who is listening intently with 100% of their attention on you. You get to let go and just be yourself for an hour, in the (virtual) company of someone is completely accepting of who you are.
And I always get some insight from a session. I learn something about myself, or see things in a different way. I see how some innocuous little thought is holding me back, or causing me to feel crappy.
At the end, sometimes you come away with huge AHA’s, realizations that will change your life. Sometimes they are just little aha’s. But I’m always pleasantly surprised by what comes up. I leave the call gratified to understand myself and the world a little better, and inspired to see possibilities for growth and progress.