I admit that I can be pretty sceptical. Coaching is one of those things that if misunderstood can bring out the sceptic in anyone. But think of it this way, athletes know themselves, they know their sport, they understand their bodies. And yet they still use coaches. Life and business coaching has its genesis in sports coaching. And like an athlete you are pretty much an expert in your own life - your strengths and limitations.
Also as for an athlete a coach can accelerate your success and help you to capitalise on what you do well and to avoid wrong turns in getting what you want. Coaching is an approach that offers you the support, motivation and guidance that you didn’t know you needed. In this post I will tell you three of the (numerous) things that coaching can do for you and eliminate your scepticism.
1. Life Coaching Will Make You Focus On What is Important
One of the things that I found when I was writing a Phd is that it could feel utterly overwhelming because the task was so huge it felt impossible. At the same time I was also going to tennis coaching twice a week. When I started I hadn’t played tennis before, so I had no muscle memory, no skills, and little aptitude. But I Improved. I learned to hit the ball. I learned to place my feet. I learned the techniques I needed. I got fitter. My stamina improved. I am still not a good tennis player, but that wasn’t the point. I loved it. And I loved learning to play because rather than say at the start of each session: “right, you have to learn the game of tennis in its entirety today” my coach helped me to develop and learn a little bit at a time. Once I had improved my footwork, I learned how to place my racket. If I had tried those two things at once I would have been utterly over-phased and quite possibly tangled in a mess on the floor with a tennis racket lodged in my head.
What my (excellent) tennis coach taught me is the importance of focusing on manageable improvements. Improving one skill and having it become automatic frees you up to learn the next skill. Tennis was joyful for me. My PhD on the other hand was often the opposite. It was a source of constant discomfort and feelings of inadequacy. Partly because every day was a “I am writing a thesis” day. One massive daunting task. I wish that PhD supervisors were more like tennis coaches. (Seriously my PhD supervisors are the best of people, and were endlessly supportive, there's just a way that it is done).
Of course, you might ask, if I had coaching skills myself, why didn’t I just create smaller steps for myself? Well, because I’d never written a thesis before and didn’t know where to focus, or whether certain avenues would waste my time. Imagine if I had started tennis coaching, and the coach said, today I would like you to play a tennis match. And at the end of the session the coaching feedback was “a lot of what you do when you try to play tennis is wrong”. And that was it.
It’s a lot like that with a PhD. Writing chapters and receiving 60 feedback points focussing on 60 different areas for improvement. But I know that if the process had been more like “this week focus on generating ideas” or “this month get familiar on a superficial level with all the literature and map it by categories” it would have been the equivalent of footwork first, racket next. Focus. It makes a big difference.
Of course, I knew that these tasks needed to be done to write a thesis. But I needed an outside eye, I needed permission to learn incrementally, I needed help with where my focus would be best spent and when. And that is exactly the role of a coach when it comes to focusing on the steps that you need to follow.
When you want to change any aspect of your life it helps to have an outside eye. Someone objective that can keep you on track, while ensuring that you don’t become overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks. A person to encourage you to master one thing at a time. Someone that can help you to create order out of jumbled thoughts and desires so that you can decide which step to take and when.
2. Life Coaching Can Improve Your Motivation
Don’t let anyone tell you that coaching is easy. It isn’t. If making changes were simple then you would have made them. You are an intelligent and motivated person. In reality change takes a concerted effort and some complicated thinking. It has a number of contributing elements from conception and contemplation to planning and execution. And each of those elements can be hard. The effort that goes into it is part of what makes change rewarding, but it’s also what can make it daunting.
One of the great things about coaching is that it helps you to reflect on the intrinsic reward brought by change. Frequently in life people focus on difficulties and obstacles.
Coaching encourages you to see the bigger picture. The enjoyment that you can derive from solving problems and facing challenges. The sense of satisfaction to be had along the way to change. Your coach is your task master, your journey companion, and your cheerleader. Your coach can keep you going forward beyond the point that you can keep yourself going.
A good coach has a process, but knows that people are unique, so will tailor their motivation to your personality. They will learn from you whether tough love is what will motivate you, or whether you thrive on praise and encouragement, or when to just let you to get on with it. They will choose the right approach for the right moment.
Change is different for everyone. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes more time. But having someone in your corner who is as invested in the changes you are making as you are is invaluable.
3. Life Coaching Turns Confusion Into Clarity
It’s a cliché, but we spend many of our waking hours at our place of work. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that it can be soul crushing to be in the wrong place doing the wrong things. I have been there myself working in theatre in a role that on paper looked exciting and fulfilling. But the reality was that I was miserable. I had looked at my skill set, and at the tasks of the job, and I had thought a little about the kinds of things that fulfilled me. But I hadn’t thought hard enough about what deep fulfilment would require. (I know now) for me deep thinking, autonomy and meaningful connection are what I need at work. I found all of those things in the academic world. But also some drawbacks that I couldn’t over-look like meaningless bureaucracy, inefficiency and arbitrary competitiveness.
Coaching can help circumnavigate some of the dead ends and culs-de-sac of working life, so that you can get to what is more deeply fulfilling more quickly. Academia, for me, was a decision made off the back of coaching. And it was absolutely the right choice. It has added richness and depth to my life and I have met some excellent people through it. I do, however, wish that coaching had been around when I embarked on a career in the arts. I might have balked at the first job interview so full of red flags that I should have run a mile.
What coaching can offer is a sense of clarity. Your coach will help you to see through the excitement of change to what really matters. They will help you to avoid having to learn by costly experience, and rather to plan and strategise according to what you want and need.
I'm Jodie Lamb, accredited life coach since 2008. I founded Trevnee Coaching in 2020.
Trevnee coaching is for people like you. People who are motivated to make career change, or lifestyle improvements, but aren't sure where to start, or that need a cheerleader to smooth the way.
I can help you find clarity, make decisions, and take challenging action to get what you want.
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