I recently had a client tell me, “You’ve changed my life.” To which I responded, “You changed your own life because you were ready. As your coach, I had the opportunity to come alongside you, to light the path, and to support you as you navigate your own way.”
“I saw an angel in the stone and carved to set it free.” ~Michelangelo
Speaking to this beautiful quote from Michelangelo, Wellcoaches Founder Margaret Moore said, “Coaches help clients to chip away at the layers of life’s clutter to reveal their best selves.”
Coaching is a partnership with clients that promotes growth through a thought provoking, curious, creative process that both inspires and supports you in maximizing your potential. Giving yourself or a loved one the gift of coaching actually gives the gift self actuary and unleashing potential.
The transformative environment of coaching moves you forward through four unique coaching mechanisms: 1) co-creating a supportive, strengths-based coaching relationship; 2) eliciting your own intrinsic, autonomous motivation; 3) growing your capacity and confidence; and 4) designing the structure and process for lasting change
Co-Creating a Supportive, Strengths-Based Coaching Relationship
Masterful coaches know that you are the expert in your own life and they let you lead the coaching process. Maybe this sounds upside down and you are wondering why you would pay a coach to NOT tell you what to do? I remind my clients early in the coaching process that the basic assumption of coaching is that you are creative, resourceful, and whole.
The premise of coaching is that you are creative, resourceful, and whole.
This strengths-based approach to coaching implies that you are not broken and that the answers you seek already exist inside you. One of the first surprises I share with my clients is that my job as your coach isn’t to give you the answers or tell you what to do. The truth is that most of us hate being told what to do.
It isn’t that we resist change, it’s that we resist being changed.
According to Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication, most people feel resistant to change when they feel judged, labeled, shamed, forced, manipulated and compared. Rightfully so, these approaches to transformation can botch the vital, open communication of coaching and decrease your capacity to change.
In contrast, it is the empathetic heart of the coaching relationship that makes the relational space between you and your coach open, safe, and powerful. Masterful coaches resist the human tendency to “fix things” and supportively trudge through challenges with you while facilitating your own self-discovery and power to move forward.
“The end game of coaching is self-determination–a client’s ability to reach his or her highest level of motivation, engagement, performance, persistence, and creativity.”
~Deci & Ryan, 1985
Eliciting Your Own Intrinsic, Autonomous Motivation
Many people do not realize that doing what a partner, parent, or boss tells us to do is sitting behind the wheel and letting someone else push the gas pedal. This external motivation is haphazard and generally results in a “crash and burn” event.
Clients that lean heavily on external motivations are also often anxious and hypervigilant; wasting precious emotional and mental resources on needless perseverating. Dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum, while it may be productive in the short term, usually reaches its end as an exhausting, life-sucking endeavor.
In addition to the external motivations that come from other people, coaches also tackle the internalized ideals you may be carrying.
One of my favorite reminders to my clients is, “Don’t should on yourself.” A pile of ideals that start with “should”– that have no attachment to your own personal desires or values– is a recipe for burnout and long-term failure.
Not long ago, I saw a meme on social media that said, “If all your life you’ve been told what to SAY, what to BECOME, what to PROJECT, what to VALUE, what you are allowed to FEEL, one day the world will come asking, ‘Who are you?’ and I fear you will answer, ‘I don’t know.”
Coaches skillfully mine for your autonomous, self-directed motivations that will ultimately lead you to sustainable change. These personal motivators become an anchor to you in times of challenge when you are faced with the obstacles that will surely threaten your progress. Rather than feeling stuck or trapped, these internal motivations are attached to your life force and they generate powerful focus, intention, creativity and problem solving.
Coaches connect these anchors to the future and identify what you want for yourself. They also tether them to the forward-moving behaviors that will ultimately transform your path.
Growing Client Capacity
Recently, I was co-facilitating a corporate group coaching event with Coaching 4 Good owner, Michelle Poole. During the early sessions, we encountered the often asked question about why we don’t just hand out strategies to the people and teams we coach.
“Just tell us what to do to be good leaders,” they said.
Michelle skillfully responded by sharing a photo of a glass of water and explained to the team, “Horizontal development is when I tell you what to do, and we just pour water into this same glass. Vertical development is giving you new, strategic, systemic, interdependent ways of thinking–it’s giving you a bigger glass!”
Handing out strategies and telling you what to do or how to be your best self not only incites resistance, but it limits your capacity to grow. The gift of coaching challenges you to stop pouring into the same old limited container and to get yourself a pitcher!
Powerful coaching stretches you beyond your comfort zone, calls on you to be open and vulnerable, and grows your capacities to expand your life.
My 20-year-old daughter, a devoted athlete and health guru, called me recently to share her realization that confidence is like any other muscle in her body–it has to be built with effort and practice.
In fact, confidence levels can vary for the same person across a vast array of circumstances from eating habits, to exercise, to leadership skills, to relationships, and even finances. Positive change happens as your confidence is meticulously and strategically built by the careful placement of one brick at a time.
Challenging the client to reach higher and farther at just the right moments is a priceless skill of a thoughtful coach.
Growing Client Confidence
I have a hobby that involves coaching the entry level Couch to 5k team at a local running club. This means that I get to teach people who may have never run before to run miles at a time.. Last weekend, a member of my team, who started running just 10 months ago, finished her longest run ever: 11 miles in preparation for her first half marathon.
I reveled in her success with her and, as she walked away to join the other runners, I remembered her first day with the team when she ran .6 miles for the first time. I have carefully coached her by building her training plan to grow both her strength and her confidence bit by bit. If I had sent her out to run three miles on that first day, she would likely have become defeated and discouraged and quit running all together.
We worked together and created a plan that was doable for her. When she doubted herself and her abilities, she would come to me for affirmation and I would remind her of the many successful miles that were already behind her. And week by week she would stretch herself further.
The gift of every coach to every client is saying, “My certainty is greater than your doubt.”
Great coaching is the sharing of a calm, confident certainty on which you can build. Not baseless cheerleading, but authentic confidence that becomes the essential variable in determining how resilient you may be to setbacks.
This grounded confidence facilitates an open-minded, creative approach to lasting change. Careful coaches know your capacities and patiently work to grow your confidence. You know you’ve got a great coach if they champion you to confront your challenges and failed past attempts with determination, courage, curiosity, and self-compassion.
“Once your excuses are gone, you will simply have to settle for being awesome.”
Designing the Structure and Processes for Lasting Change
Yes, goals, plans, projects, strategies and accountability are all essential ingredients to productive coaching success. But the best coaches will expand client capacities before jumping onto the strategy bandwagon. Wise coaches take time to get expansive and crystal clear on the “what” and “why” before chasing after the “how.”
This designing phase of the coaching process requires both the well-honed navigational skills of the coach and your own spirit of open experimentation. Like partnering with an architect to build your dream home, your needs, ideals, and desires are carefully woven into the plan to ensure that all of your essential outcomes will be realized.
Masterful coaches know that your specific, positive image of the future will have the greatest impact on your present situation. The more real and concrete the future image is, the more longing, drive, and momentum it will create in you.
“Vision is a target that beckons; a power, not a place, an influence, not a destination.”
~Margaret Wheatley, 1999
My husband and I recently embarked on the adventure of building a home from the ground up. Working with the plans and honing all of the features to fit our desires, like future family (including grandchildren) and lifestyle, has been a detailed, meticulous, and sometimes tedious process.
As we wait for building to begin, having mapped out a clear plan of what we want in our future home has been incredibly energizing as we work day to day to meet the financial demands of both a big family and a new dream home. The marvel is that having the dream so clearly defined is both thrilling and powerful. Not only that, but it keeps us on track when we have endless opportunities to depart from our plan.
When creating my dream home, I focus on building what I want. It hardly seems productive to exhaust the builder with all the things I don’t want. Similarly, a clear vision of your life keeps the focus on the positive, expansive things that are important to you. I love to remind my health coaching clients of this when they tell me that their dream is to lose 50 pounds. Rather than focusing on what they don’t want (the extra 50 pounds), I challenge them to tell me what they do want.
“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.”
Give the Gift of Coaching
Working with a coach to define a detailed plan for your future that is anchored to your needs, desires, values, and intrinsic motivations is one of the most inspiring, transformative things you may ever experience. And a gift that will truly keep giving well into your future.
Armed with a clear image of your life at its best, you will experience the full power of your life force and the abundant internal resources that foster in you a sense of hope, positivity, resiliency, and possibility.
“Nothing is more incredible than witnessing the private victories of my clients that they have obtained through hard fought self-reflection and the persistent work of extricating themselves from the marble of comfortable complacency..”
Cathy Dunford is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She chose the coaching profession because she wanted to help people to move beyond living day in and day out feeling stuck, unfulfilled, uninspired, and dissatisfied with their lives. Cathy’s coaching practice focuses on the areas of personal development that move her clients through a lasting change process.
Cathy’s approach to coaching is centered on meeting the unique needs of each individual client to bring about improved well-being, greater life satisfaction, and work/life balance. She utilizes her extensive background in health and wellness, paired with her passion for coaching psychology methods from Harvard Health, to define her “whole person” approach. Her coaching is grounded by the latest research in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry models, motivational interviewing, self-determination theory, autonomy, and emotional intelligence.
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