Welcome to the very first installment of Ask the When I Grow Up Coach! When I decided to make this a new series here, I wasn’t sure what kind of questions I was gonna get. When they all started coming in, I also realized I didn’t think about how I wanted to answer ’em here! It lead me to stalling for a bit, but I finally figured it out. Each week or so, I’ll pick one of the questions that have been posed to feature here, until there are no questions left! It might lead to a bit of a lag time between asking the questions and getting them answered, but I hope that the wait is worthwhile! And if ya need an immediate response to somethin’, please say so & I’ll at least give ya a short answer on my Formspring profile. Yes yes? Yes yes.
Disclaimer: A few of the questions that have been posted are from other coaches or would-be coaches. While I’m absolutely happy to share my story and offer any advice I have on being a coach, I’m only gonna post the questions that can be applied more universally. Hope that’s helpful!
OK, here’s the question:
“When I was younger I thought coaches and counselors were magical people who never doubted themselves. Then I realized that’s preposterous. How do you get yourself to coach when you’re having your own moments of doubt?”
Well, you’re right on that – coaches and counselors are not magical creatures at all, and we absolutely positively have moments (or hours, or weeks, or months) of doubt and negativity that rear it’s ugly head every so often.
Even though I’ve personally coached over 100 people, I still have times where I fear that my client might not be getting what they wanted out of the sessions, or their expectations aren’t being met, or I’m underwhelming them, or….you get the jist. I’ve been lucky in really enjoying and connecting with the majority of my clients, and knowing right away that our sessions are helping them clarify what they want for themselves and allowing them to move forward. And then there have been the handful who, well, I wonder why they continue to give me their money and show up week after week. That’s when I start feeling the doubt and put the pressure on myself: to ask the “perfect” questions and provide the answers for them and steer them on their way, instead of having them find it for themselves. Thankfully, that never lasts long, and that train of thought dissapates before I start our session. Because I trust the process and my abilities as a (non-judgmental, unadvice-giving, objective) coach, I know that by putting the pressure on myself to be someone I’m not, I become exactly the element that becomes detrimental to the process, the journey and my client. So, I’m able to recognize that and nip it in the bud right quick.Also, it’s now about really recognizing who I work with best, and steering the people who wouldn’t be such great fits to other coaches I know. That way, I know the moments of pressure will be fewer and further between.
While I wanna say that the short answer to this question is, simply, “trust” and “experience”, I know it’s more than that, because I felt this way with my first few clients, when I was still an innocent little flower hoping not to cause my clients major mental damage. I remember starting to compile a huge list of potential questions to ask and exercises to do (I even categorized them!), assuming I’d spend the session with this list in front of me, scanning it while my client’s talking so I can have the “perfect” answer and the “perfect” exercise to take them through. Thankfully, this lasted less than 1 session, because it was impossible to listen (and I mean really listen – power listen!) to my client and do, um, anything else at all. So I was left with my own devices and the permission I gave myself to tell my client, “I’m not sure where to go next” and let things sit, even if it lead to a long silence.
So yes, the trust builds with the experience (in both yourself and your process), and in that also comes the confidence that makes me secure in knowing that (a) people wouldn’t invest their hard-earned money in me and my sessions if I, um, suck (b) the people who loved worked with me – and thankfully, that’s a nice majority, from what they tell me – loved working with me: the unperfect coach, the one without all the answers, the one who powerfully listens and laughs and supports and says “Love it!” way too many times. I know that “perfect” coach is a lesser coach than I am, so I carry on as myself.
I could wrap it up here, but I wanna take this question a step further and touch on how one can move forward with their moments of doubt: ya know, feel the fear and do it anyways. I know that trusting yourself is way easier said than done, so feel free to try the following:
- Give yourself hard deadlines, and set up a loss if you miss it. All my clients who work with me via phone know that they get a free session if I give less than 24 hours notice to cancel/reschedule or show up more than 10 minutes late. For my email clients, I promise a response within 48 business or else same penalty: a free session. You can do the same even if someone’s not paying you to be somewhere when you promise to be. Tell your husband not to let you watch TV unless you spend an hour writing first, or only go to the massage appointment (that has it’s own 48 hour cancellation policy, and keeps your money if you don’t oblige) only if you have 3 paintings to show for it.
- Do the timer trick. Fancy smart scientists have proven that setting a timer for 45-minutes and then telling yourself you’re “only” gonna work for that long is a great way to get you going on whatever it is you wanna do and make progress, while tricking your brain into saying, “No big deal…I can do anything for 45 minutes!”. When the timer goes off, give yourself absolute permission to walk away from whatever you’re doing if it’s still no fun. And if 45-minutes seems too much for you, or if you don’t have that much time, set it for 10 minutes. Regardless, the most important thing is to just start.
- Set up a reward to give yourself when you’re done. Yup, this is pretty much the opposite of the first tip, but it’s one this life coach loves (focus on the positive!). The key is to determine the reward before you start, so you know what’s waiting for ya on the other end. And yes – no work, no reward!
- Let yourself off the hook with the criticisms for once. Put a visual reminder in your work/art/creative/office space that screams, “Being a beginner is beautiful” or “Your only job is to do the work.” One of my clients decide to make a post-it that said “Brainstorm”, covered in rain drops and lightning bolts. To her, that helped her focus on the work and the process instead of the end result. Do the same for yourself.
- Recognize (and embrace!) the benefits of being a beginner. This can help.
Ooh, I’m likin’ this new series…what about you guys? If you have a question for me, ask away – I can’t wait !