I am a coach; I also have a coach. Last year I wrote about the importance of having a coach. I thought now was a good time to revisit that conversation since I have reaped the benefits of having a coach for another year and what a spectacular year it’s been!
I’ve had coaches since 2nd grade T-ball, through High School and College sports and more recently a running coach. Being told what to do, or being told I was doing something wrong, never felt good. From a young age, I learned to embrace the coaches that helped me find my own strength and celebrated my achievements.
That’s what a good coach is supposed to do. In my first course with the Coaches Training Institute last year, I learned that’s the only way to properly coach; to understand that we are all naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We all have the right answers within ourselves that are best for us. A coach is our guide to finding them.
So what have I gotten from coaching?
I started seeing problems for what they are, not the expanded version I created in my head.
My mother used the term “creating a mountain out of a mole hill.” She was referring to the times when our fears, our anxieties, cause us to exaggerate a problem. We often have misplaced worry that can paralyze us from moving forward.
My first experience with life coaching was in role playing with my classmates when I took on the role of the client. My first topic for coaching was the anxiety I had about my daughter meeting my boyfriend for the first time. I was coached by one of my classmates and with just the skill we learned and were practicing in that first class, I found the true source of my anxiety.
I was over thinking it; making it into a do or die equation. I was really having anxiety over the entire relationship down the road and not just that first small step. Whether or not they made a connection at that first meeting wasn’t important. What was important to me was the relationships that would develop over time. Right now, the coach made me see, was not the time to be be concerned about that. I was now able to just focus on the simplicity of that first meeting; not place too much significance on that first effort.
A coach can talk through a problem with us; asked the right questions so we can understand exactly where the fear lies. Just being aware of that in many cases, relieves the anxiety. A coach also helps break a big problem down into manageable pieces allowing us to move forward rather than feeling overwhelmed.
I stopped being a control freak.
When I found myself in the role of client, issues with my teenage daughter were frequently the topic of discussion. I was often reminded that they were not coaching my daughter, they were coaching me. What was it that I had control over? For starters, I have no control over others. I do have control over myself, and perhaps most significantly how I react to the things I have no control over.
My coach showed me, as a mom, I had control over the structure I could create at home. Providing nutritious meals, clean laundry, an organized environment, could have the power to set my daughter up for success. I also had control over the words I used. A more positive approach was to be more curious than reprimanding (“What do you need to keep this stuff organized?” rather than “Don’t leave your stuff on the kitchen floor for me to clean up!”).
What I didn’t have control over was the decisions my daughter made for herself. What I did have control over was now I reacted. Whether it’s choosing to discuss rather than scold or not trying to make my daughter do things she clearly doesn’t want to do, having a clear picture of what I could and couldn’t control made me a better parent and improved my relationship with her.
I changed my perspective.
Because there are so many things we don’t have control over, sometimes the only way to deal with that is to change our perspective. We can often only see life from where we are. It’s very difficult to look at it any other way. A coach will ask you to step outside for a moment and see things differently.
My coach helped me move from the perspective of “my daughter is going to screw up her life if she doesn’t start taking school more seriously” to “maybe a traditional path isn’t going to work for her; that’s okay, I will be here to support her to be the every best of whatever it is she wants to do.”
Changing perspectives is not just being more positive, but seeing the full reality of the situation.
I realized everything is a choice.
Life is a series of choices. We choose our reactions. We choose to spend our time the way we do; with some people and not with others. We choose to work for a living in the job we do. There is always a choice, always an alternative. The alternative might be to make sacrifices in other areas we are not ready or willing to make, but it’s a choice nonetheless.
Last fall I felt very stuck. I felt I had no choice but to work in the field I had been in for 20 years because it was the only place I could make a living. But I was burnt-out, uninspired, and frankly not capable of putting in my best effort. I wasn’t feeling good about it on so many levels.
I worked though this in several sessions with my coach, and eventually agreed to speak to my boss about the ways in which I felt my role could be improved. Doing that didn’t have the desired outcome, but left me doing a lot more soul searching. Ultimately, I figured out a way to leave and make that work for me.
My coached reinforced the idea of choices; of wanting, rather than needing something. Making choices requires courage. She gave me that courage.
I created a plan.
Once my coach helped me boil issues down to manageable pieces, figure out what I could control, find a better perspective, know what I want, and have the courage to make choices, I actually had to do something. “What’s next?”
After outlining my goals, the biggest of which was to make coaching a full-time career, my coach asked me what my plan was to get there. We brainstormed on what the plan should include. We came up with a summary of all the steps to be taken and a timeline for completion.
Without a plan, I wouldn’t have direction. How many times have I wanted to achieve something but procrastinated simply because I hadn’t mapped out the small steps to take every day to move me closer to the goal. So yeah, having a plan is super-important, so much so that we’ll talk more about that next week.
I embraced accountability.
As I said, being told what to do, or being told I was doing something wrong, never felt good. As my career advanced I became increasing resentful of accountability. I wanted to move at my own pace, be trusted as the professional I believed I was, and basically be left alone. The problem is, left to out own devices, we often become our own worst enemy.
At the end of each session, my coach makes a request of me. “Will you…?” I can either agree, refuse or make a counter offer. I never refuse. I will occasionally counter with a goal that I know is more doable.
I also have my business plan. After brainstorming a task list and committing to a timeline to get everything done, having to report in to someone other than myself is powerful. We can make excuses to ourselves to justify why we’re not getting things done, but it’s hard to do that with my coach. And unlike the accountability required by an employer, the goals we work on with a coach are for our own personal growth and self-fulfillment.
In the past year working with a coach, my relationship with my teenager has evolved and grown, I manage conflict in all relationships better, I’ve found the courage to have important conversations, I’ve taken risks, and have a viable plan for my career and my life. I feel I have a path to success and that leaves me feeling much less over-whelmed. I also focus on the present and future more and have been able to let go of the past. I have less regret and less guilt.
There was a point where I would have thought having a life coach was completely self-indulgent. I now realize it’s a great investment with tremendous benefit. Thankfully my clients agree.
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Montauk Point. June 2017.