Why Life Coaching Works
By Leo Gura - April 12, 2013 | 5 Comments
An explanation of how question-asking and non-advice-giving is actually an effective way to make big, positive changes in your life.
Understanding What Coaching Is and Isn’t
Before looking at what allows coaching to do the heavy lifting and produce a change in your life, let’s define the key aspects that make coaching stand out from other helping modalities like Therapy, Mentoring, Consulting, and talking to Friends/Family.
- Coaching is about asking question rather than giving advice
- Coaching is about looking forward and not fishing for problems in your past.
- Coaching is about being professional, empathetic, and understanding self-development
How Can Asking Questions Produce Big Results?
I was curious about this myself as I was going through my training. Isn’t giving knowledgeable, expert advice an effective way to solve someone’s problems? Let’s say I’m overweight and I want to get in shape, wouldn’t going to a fitness expert, reading a fitness book, or buying a weightloss video be the way to go?
Not necessarily! While expert advice can be great — and I rely on it myself all the time — often times the thing that keeping you from getting the results you want is an inner block. That is, the way YOU are thinking about and interpreting the situation is leading to an insurmountable obstacle that will prevent you from ever achieving success. What might this look like in the case of weightloss? Well, I was actually overweight for most of my life, so I’ll just share the blocks I used to have. The following thoughts are what I used to think, verbatim:
- I’ve been fat since I was a kid, and my parents are fat, so it’s all genetic.
- I’ve tried to lose weight so many times before and it never worked.
- Losing weight will take forever and be painful.
- If I lose the weight, I’ll just gain it all back.
- There is no way I’m going the gym. It’s an impractical habit to maintain and takes way too much time and money. I can use those resources for better things.
- I’m not really an active person by nature. I’m more of a thinker.
These are just some of the beliefs I remember having when I was overweight. In hindsight it’s abundantly clear why I wasn’t losing weight. How could I if I held all those beliefs. But the crazy thing is that I wasn’t really even aware of them. These beliefs were so deeply internalized that they colored how I saw the world and triggered pain and negative emotions in me when I tried to act against them.
The biggest things holding you back are limiting beliefs, which tend to vary from person to person.
So back to coaching. The reason coaching can be very effective is that it can identify and resolve these often unconscious, highly personal blocks. Sure, you can read a nutrition blog on specific how-to advice on losing weight, but that assumes you’re held back by lack of knowledge.
Get real! That’s probably NOT what’s really holding you back from having the kind of success you’re looking for. You’re usually not lacking in knowledge or how-to, but motivation and engagement. Why aren’t you excited about going to the gym? What if we could pick your brain apart, identify all the excuses, stories, and justifications and rebuild them into more productive and empowering beliefs? If we did that, your chances of losing that weight would be significantly higher.
I would argue that a skilled coach would eventually get you the results you want or come bring you to the realization that you don’t really want to get fit (it’s just not a high enough priority for you). That might sound like a cop-out, but you’d be surprised how many clients get peace and happiness after exploring a goal and realizing, “You know what, this isn’t as important as I made it out to be. I have bigger fish to fry.” And then we work on frying those bigger fish. Ruthless prioritization and focus is key to success and happiness in life. There’s nothing wrong with being over-weight, as long as it’s a conscious decision on your part.
Conscious Decisions and Getting Your Cogs Turning
As a coach I live for asking questions that really make you stop and think. That’s when I can tell work is getting done.
If I asked you how conscious you are throughout your day, you’d probably be inclined to say that you’re conscious most of the time — like 90%. If you’re really honest though, you’ll realize that most of your day runs on auto-pilot. You’re lucky if you’re conscious 5%! The rest of the time you’re observing habits and running on well-worn routines.
Guess what, if 95% of your day is unconscious, most of your decisions are unconscious and automatic too. You don’t even realize how many assumptions you’re making, what other possible interpretations you’re missing, and how you might be limited in your thinking. It’s a very efficient and convenient way to go through your day, but it’s not conducive to making sustainable positive improvements in your life.
Ideally you want to develop the know-how and discipline to coach yourself. Then you’re 100% self-reliant.
Probing questions from a coach can help you see new possibilities, gaps in your thinking, and uncover hidden assumptions or beliefs that might be causing a deep disconnect between your goal and its implementation. Overcoming inner blocks means working with a coach one-on-one versus getting cookie-cutter advice from a consultant or a book. Changes are also more likely to last when you figure out the problem yourself, as opposed to having someone solve it for you. A big benefit of coaching is learning the mental to tools to think your way out of your own problems and proving to yourself that you have this power.
Think of it this way: if there’s a map in your head of how the world works, we need to work within YOUR map. I have my own map that I can share with you, and you can glean good ideas from it, but we need to find the missing pieces that will work with your map and your life.
Coaching Holds You Accountable
The other big benefit of working with a coach is that he can hold you accountable for what you’ll say you’ll do. Most coaching sessions end with a concrete action plan and steps for you to execute. These assignments are what connect the inner game advancements we make during the call to outer game actions, which produces REAL WORLD results.
Just because I stress inner game a lot doesn’t mean you can ignore outer game. You can’t lose weight through endless introspection. You must hit the gym, do sports, eat right, count calories, etc. The inner game work is there to give you a foundation for outer game work. Not having a proper inner game means that you’re unhappy, unmotivated, and actions feel like chores.
Coaching puts external pressure on you to follow through after your inner game gets dialed in. This dramatically improves your chances for success. When your willpower starts to flag, you’ll remember that you have an assignment due and the bother of having to explain why you failed to do it is often enough motivation to get you to follow through. Also, if you lose touch with why you undertook the goal in the first place, a coach can quickly connect you back to your original vision, giving you a boost of motivation that can mean the difference between success and failure.