What is Coaching & Why Does It Work?
Last Updated: April 15, 2020
It depends who you ask. Ask an ICF coach and you get one answer. Ask an untrained/uncertified coach and you’ll get a million different answers (beware).
My take on it is that coaching is a collaborative learning journey and a relationship that helps people make positive, necessary and desired changes in their lives, over a relatively short period of time, through deep, powerful and meaningful coaching conversations that spark new insights, and that require new action for learning, growth and fulfillment to be realized.
In the sphere of personal development and growth, there are a variety of forms of coaching: life coaching, career coaching, business coaching, spiritual coaching, relationship coaching and so on. Within each form of coaching, there are also a variety of approaches.
I am an Adler Certified Professional Coach (ACPC), an ICF certified coach training program in Toronto (affiliated with the University of Toronto & Western University). Adler coaching integrates the work of Alfred Adler, a psychologist in the early 1900’s who searched for ways to enhance mental health instead of just focusing on illness.
Adler coaching calls on Positive Psychology, leadership and emotional intelligence research, Co-Active coaching, and several other resources across a broad dimension of fields, even the neurosciences and quantum physics, to develop better ways of helping people create lasting happiness, meaning and fulfillment in their lives. To understand a bit about Adler’s Guiding Principles, please click here for a PDF.
What Coaching Really Is
At its core, coaching is about helping people discover who they really are, what they really want in life and how they can go about achieving it in the most authentic and personal way. To be authentic is to be ‘yourself’– not anyone else’s version of who you should be – not even your own made up version of the person you think you need to be.
You will become ever more aware of your unique, natural strengths, your personal values and ways of being in which you feel confident, at ease, enthusiastic, content and gratified. You will also become aware of the opposite – ways of being and thinking that almost always lead you to feeling ‘less than perfect’, unhappy, anxious, angry or frustrated, including how you may self sabotage and get in your own way due to unconscious fears and limiting beliefs.
“Coaching expands your awareness of who you really are and what you deeply desire, need, and value so you can make more intentional and confident choices that bring you the most personal satisfaction and meaningful fulfillment.”
Over time coaching will help you will experience major shifts in perspective or mindset – you may know these as ‘breakthroughs’ or ‘eureka moments’. Each breakthrough can remove or replace a way of thinking or being that was limiting your potential for happiness (limiting thoughts, beliefs and behavior patterns) and open up new possibilities for you.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~ Viktor Frankl
Breakthroughs have the potential to unlock and reveal new choices and possibilities you never considered before. Over time you will learn to make more effective decisions in your life (both big and small) by trusting yourself and taking the actions or steps that bring you closer to your desires and doing them in ways that bring the most fulfillment in the present.
Domains of Life We Can Focus On
I believe in a holistic approach to coaching – working with the whole person on a variety of areas of life that are important to you, with the ultimate goal of achieving and sustaining balance, harmony and continual progress, growth and fulfillment.
Every domain of our lives affects each other, and finding fulfillment in one area can positively influence other areas and bring about or initiate change in other areas in a natural, easier way.
I believe that you are the expert in your life, and I am the expert in the process of helping you achieve whatever you desire. A coach doesn’t need to be an expert in your field of business to help you with your business – I don’t need to have the same experiences as you to be able to help you – that would be more of a mentor, trainer or a consultant.
Instead of becoming dependent on someone outside yourself for answers, you grow more confident and certain that you have the answers you need inside you and that you can create new ways of achieving what you want.
People often come to coaching because they’re not satisfied with a particular area of their lives and wish to turn that around. Coaching isn’t about motivational pep talks or ‘positive thinking’, however. It’s about going deep within and finding one’s unique source of power, the power of your authentic self, and then learning how to harness that energy to move towards living a richer and more fulfilling life.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Jung
Why Coaching Works
At the core of coaching, is a strongly held belief that people can change, develop and grow. They change when they:
a) believe they can,
b) are ready and want to feel better about something,
c) realize there is a much bigger payoff to change than the price or pain of change,
d) take consistent action in alignment with what they want,
e) reflect and learn from their experiences,
f) acknowledge and celebrate their strengths and successes,
g) diminish the impact of negative thoughts & feelings,
h) continually make new choices in alignment with their desires, values and priorities.
Coaching Builds Self Trust, Your Belief in Yourself (Your Self)
It isn’t enough just to have a breakthrough in awareness, though sometimes a key shift is enough to motivate someone to action – or help them feel better about a particular issue. There is something very powerful that gets in the way of each person’s movement towards fulfillment.
Some call it the Inner Critic or the Saboteur, some even call it the Gremlin or their personal demon; it’s the mostly-negative chatter in everyone’s head that brings up convincing reasons why you shouldn’t think about goals and dreams, let alone take action towards them. It’s the voice inside you that says you can’t do this or shouldn’t do that. There’s a whole inner world that’s affecting you whether you realize it or not.
That Inner Critic chips away at your self-confidence – it wants to keep you safe where you are and doesn’t really want you to take chances. It intensifies self doubt as it asks questions like ‘what if it’s worse’, ‘what if you’ll get embarrassed or hurt’, ‘what if you fail miserably and lose everything’? Every person’s inner critic has different messages and different ways of powerfully holding you back. Chances are you’ve got one and it’s holding you back from living the life you are meant to live.
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Coaching helps you turn your inner critic into an inner ally by supporting you as you discover and tap into your natural strengths and move towards the things that make you happy in life. You’ll learn to notice its voice and its messages.
When you are ready, you will choose to honor a higher (or deeper) part of you, your authentic Self, and once you start living from your true Self, called Self Leadership or Inner Leadership, you will experience more clarity, confidence, courage, calm, centeredness, and compassion, for yourself and anyone you care about or work with. Finally realizing, what a joy and fulfilling thing it is to be just who you are!
Coaching Increases Personal Accountability & Self Leadership
Another piece of the coaching puzzle that helps in the process of change is accountability. Coaching helps you increase and strengthen your level of personal accountability and self leadership so you motivate and drive yourself towards your goals because you want to, and because they’re aligned with your vision and values. At first you become accountable to the coaching process because a coach holds you accountable for the actions or steps you say you’re going to take.
Sometimes people find it easier to commit and be accountable to another person (e.g. a personal trainer) before they become fully self accountable and self driven. As a coach I will never judge you or berate you but simply remind you of what you said you wanted and to help you remember and embrace all the strengths, qualities and values you set out to honor by taking action.
With repeated forward movement and positive changes, you raise your level of personal accountability, self confidence and self esteem.
Coaching is a Judgment-Free Zone
A Safe Place For Self Discovery & Exploration
Coaching wouldn’t work, and you wouldn’t be able to have such powerful and deep conversations if there wasn’t the essential component of trust between client and coach. We will go to the core and talk about real human emotions, both positive and negative, a place some people find hard to go to at first. When you trust your coach, when you believe that they can help you, and you feel safe with them, amazing things begin to happen in your life.
Coaching conversations are completely confidential and give you a safe place to share what’s on your mind and in your heart. Something most people rarely get to experience in their lives – someone who’s actively listening to them with full presence, patience, compassion, curiosity and without judgment and who only has their best interest at heart. Most relationships don’t have those qualities and in itself just having someone fully accept you and support you the way you are, is a gift in itself.