5 Things You Didn't Know About Coaching
Coaching originated in sport, but the process can be applied to a whole range of endeavours
Coach Neil Lawrence explores some lesser known aspects of coaching
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When I decided to change career, I wanted to help people with wellbeing, but in a less judgmental and directive way than I had within education. I came to coaching feeling intrigued and also needing to support myself. I discovered there were a lot of misconceptions and I now earn my living helping people discover how they can use their strengths to hack growth and transform. Who couldn’t love that?
When most people think of the word ‘coach’ they think of someone in sports helping people improve performance in the game, or in business helping improve productivity. Both things are true. People who are coached will experience non-directive growth and the coach is trained to help them find their full potential. Tennis is where it all started, but business increasingly benefits from a range of coaches all helping to hack growth, helping restructure and even supporting staff going through audit evaluations such as the 360 progress report.
But it turns out, coaching is a far more flexible structure than that. Coaching can deeply impact on people who desire improvement in their personal development. And here’s the five things you might now know about coaching:
1. Coaching can help with general wellbeing
It’s perfectly possible to set goals to improve your overall wellbeing. It is also possible to find tools that enable you to reach that aspirational healthiest state. Meditation, CBT techniques, journaling, creative outlets, increased social interactions to name a few. It’s all up for grabs and your coach will be equipped to help scaffold that improvement and help it to stick!
Take a meditation as an example. There is the common mistake of thinking it’s all about sitting on the floor and focussing on your breath. Many people can’t, don’t want to, or are too time-poor to sit for long periods. In reality, there are many different ways to meditate. One client of mine used to get into a meditation mindset when he was out running. The sound of his feet pounding on the floor became the thing he concentrated on to help calm his mind.
CBT is a form of therapy but lots of the exercises used are perfect for improving wellbeing and you don’t need to be in therapy to benefit from them. The approach in coaching is a simple one:
- catch yourself in a way of thinking that’s not aiding your wellbeing
- give it time to ‘cool its heels’ and its hold over you
- replace it with something that’s more positive and that really works for you
- be patient and persistent enough to give the new habit a chance to embed. And wow! The results can be dramatic!
Another great coaching tool for wellbeing is journaling. By writing down day-to-day experiences it’s possible to really notice how we’re doing. For example, if you wanted to shift your mood to a more consistently upbeat feel, it’s really helpful to notice what your day-to-day mood pattern is like. It’s then also possible to discover what tasks you do when you experienced those moods.
You might find you are more upbeat overall than you expected, and the problem is that you never stopped to notice! Or you might notice that when you visit a particular friend you come back feeling negative. Whatever your experience, journaling allows you to find ways to make change.
2. Coaching can help with relationships
Another area coaching is not commonly associated with is relationships. And yet, it is possible to set goals and make progress within a relationship, especially in my experience with the help of Tara Brach’s adaptation of the RAIN model.
Let’s take communication as an example. If there’s a deficit of communication within a relationship, coaching can help. By being able to identify where the communication breakdown is happening and by creating new tools or ‘scaffolds’ for conversations, it is possible to make change. Other wins might follow.
Once a person has improved their communication with their nearest and dearest, they could apply their learning to a wider network of people. All kinds of benefits can follow from that.
3. Coaching can help you with burnout
I know this from personal experience. I trained as a coach after burnout and living with PTSD from my previous career. And as I was coached so now, I coach.
Coaching is particularly effective when combatting burnout in three areas:
- Recovering a sense of self
- Recovering a sense of confidence
- Developing ideas for a new direction
4. Coaching can help you manage chronic health issues
Again, I speak from the position of experience as I live with fibromyalgia. The right discussions and the right tools can help you find the key to living a fulfilled life that is under your control. Secondly, finding acceptance for the reality of living with chronic health can be enormously liberating. Coaching has tools for that too.
Strength Based Thinking
Most of us already have the answers. We can use our ‘signature strengths’ (Marty Seligman) to help raise our game. When it comes to chronic health many of us spend most of our lives looking at what we can’t do or overanxious about what doing more might mean. Dr. Phil Parker, whose ‘Lightning Process’ programme successfully eliminated my worst symptoms of fibromyalgia, found that many chronic health questionnaires he looked at focussed on limitations or were phrased in a limiting way. When we reframe our thinking after becoming aware, we are rewriting a negative narrative and magic can happen. Accepting limitations can make a huge difference and then we are able to live far freer life.
That leads me to one last thing you might not know about coaching
5. Coaching can help you with questions around identity
‘Who the hell am I?’ A question many of us are asking, especially in these more tribal, rigid, and judgmental times. Coaching is a space where you can explore, set up experiments, journal, goal set and help define parts of yourself that maybe never got a look in before. Or parts that are desperately waiting in the wings.
Finding the right tools and starting to find a space for your true voice is a transformational experience.
Coaching is still very much in its ‘infancy’ in terms of wider public awareness. My experience of being a coach is that it is a structure that’s infinitively adaptable to many contexts. My question to other people would be ‘How would you like to use it’...