Some of the costs of coaching

IMG_2173 Earlier this month, a client said to me, "Can't I just have all the transformation without any of the work?".  He was only half-kidding.  The fact is, coaching is not a silver bullet, and it requires work on the part of the client as well as the coach.  It's not a free pass to excellence, or fulfillment, or whatever you want to generate in your life.  That's precisely why it works - because you have to put in the effort.

Today, I'll cover some of the costs of taking on your life in this way.

No more playing the victim

Playing the victim is supremely satisfying.  When we are the victim of something, we have no agency.  It's not our fault that we haven't achieved what we set out to do, and it's not our fault that we're unhappy/angry/upset.  We are never responsible for the way we are feeling, and consequently, we never have to do anything to change it.  We get to sit comfortably and complain to whoever will listen.

While victimhood is comfortable, it has no power.  You likely have an experience of being with someone going through one of these moments.  Initially you are willing to empathize with them and massage their hearts, but as time goes on, you start to lose your patience and judge them for their lack of action.

Coaching means putting your inner victim to death.  It is holding yourself radically responsible for everything that shows up in your life, and taking on whatever is needed to generate what you want in life.

Although we are quick to point out to other people where they are playing the victim, our own victim usually remains invisible to us.  It wasn't until I shared with my coach how much I judged people playing the victim that she started to point out all of the areas in my life where I was doing the same thing.  The chief difference was that while most people were holding themselves victim to external things, I was playing victim to my own choices.  (For example, choosing to take on both a law degree and coaching certification at the same time, and then getting upset and disempowered by how little spare time I had).

No more sitting comfortably with your stuff hidden

Coaching means being confronted with how you are showing up.  It means putting an end to letting ourselves off the hook.  I've heard coaching being described as that same as having a really good friend except that you pay them.  This is cute, but totally inaccurate.

Friends let us off the hook.  All.  The.  Time.

It's because they love us.  Friends don't want to cause us pain, or start a fight with us.  They want us to feel good.  They're compassionate.  They're human.

"Nuh uh", you say, "Not me - I tell my friends exactly how it is".  Notwithstanding any sympathy I have for your friends, this isn't actually any different, because your friends don't actually want you to show up that way for them.  We want friends that we get along with and with which we don't have a lot of friction.

We're not sharing our problems with our friends because we want them to hold up how we're letting ourselves off the hook - we're doing it because we want them to massage our hearts and empathize with us.

Coaching represents a unique relationship, without a direct analog to any other in life (with the possible exception of sports coaches).  We hire a coach because we want to get out of our own way, and because we want someone to hold our feet to the fire.  It's not comfortable and it doesn't always feel good - but it's what moves us forward with power.

No more keeping things clean and tidy

I shared with a client the other day that before they had even gotten out of bed in the morning, their survival mechanisms were shaved, showered and dressed in a three-piece suit.  The stories, interpretations and things we do to get by in the world when confronted have been finely honed as we've aged, to the extent that we often don't even see them operating.

The core responsibility of our survival mechanisms is to keep things nice and tidy.  To avoid whatever confronts us, triggers us and makes us uncomfortable.

Those that work with a coach are bored of that pattern and no longer interested in maintaining it.  That inevitably means things are going to get messy, sloppy and sometimes ugly.  Empowered growth doesn't look nice or pretty, and it rarely looks the way you expect it to.

Relying on judgment and blame as a substitute to action

My favourite one of all.  Check in and see if this is familiar:

"I didn't do what I said I would do.  I'm stupid and worthless.  I don't even want it that much.  I suck".

This is a classic dance for many of us.  We tell ourselves that we're committed to something, and then don't act on it.  Instead, we berate and beat ourselves up.

Leadership is about ownership without judgment or blame.  If we failed to succeed on a commitment we made, we don't get to beat ourselves up.  We get to own how it went, and then identify what was missing.  And then we take another swing.  Instead of using self-criticism to either forgive our lack of action (I didn't do it, but at least I'm mad at myself), or give up on our commitment altogether (it's too hard and I obviously don't want it), we use each failure as a step towards success.

No more relying on "I don't know"

We rely on "I don't know" for all kinds of things.  Start noticing those three words in your daily conversations.  When we are talking with friends, family or work colleagues, we use "I don't know" as a get out of jail free card whenever we're confronted, worried about looking foolish/stupid/embarrassed/etc., or simply don't want to put in the effort.

People don't push us when we don't know.  How can they?  There's nothing for them to push against.  And this is exactly why we rely on it so much.

This is usually one of the first things I train people out of when they begin working with me.  I don't know is no longer an acceptable answer - especially since there's no one else that will be able to tell us about you.

What's the next step on your project?  "I don't know".  Great, what's the next step toward actually figuring that out?

The bottom line?  Stop stopping.

"I don't know" is neat in its succinctness, but it does absolutely nothing for your growth.

Here are some practices to take on this week, in service of seeing where coaching might benefit you:

  • Take on noticing how often you say "I don't know".  Keep a piece of paper and pencil with you, and mark a check every time you utter the word.  (For bonus points, mark another check every time you think it).
  • Notice how often your friends confront you with how you're being, and what your strategy is when that happens.
  • Notice how often you use blame or judgment to let yourself off the hook for not taking on something you committed to.
  • Notice how often you let yourself off the hook of taking on these practices (meta!).