by Jean-Paul Cortes
All coaching starts within yourself. What does this mean? Well, although
coaching is something you do for other people, before you take on your
first clients you should first seek to understand yourself.
Why? Well, let me ask you a few questions.
What is your purpose for coaching? If you can't answer this, if you don't understand why you want to be a coach, eventually you might find yourself doing something that you don't really want to be doing.
I'm not saying this to turn you off to learning how to coach; quite the contrary, whatever skills you acquire will probably benefit you in many ways. What I'm saying is, that if you want to be a professional coach, before you end up investing time and money in training, it's probably a good idea that you know what you're getting into. This starts with knowing a lot about yourself.
Most of us are outwardly focused, we tend to center our attention on what others are doing – how they do things, how they act, think and feel. Sometimes, this could make us believe that other people stop us from doing certain things and in extreme cases that they are somehow preventing us from living our life.
We are for the most part, painfully aware of how others are “affecting” us. We end up convincing ourselves that “the grass always seems greener on the other side,” and because we neglect to look inwardly, this outward focus turns into our reality. But is this the truth?
It's really not, it's only our perception of how things are at that moment. Letting go of this is hard. Understandably, we hold on to our beliefs because we fear losing ourselves and our sense of identity. But if we've created our identity based on a false perception, what are we really losing?
Learning more about yourself is an essential part of becoming a coach. Of course you can always choose not to look deep within yourself to find the answers you're looking for, but do you really want to?
Change comes regardless if you want it or not, self knowledge is the most important and most valuable knowledge you will ever have. This process can be pretty scary at times. But the other option is even worse - not growing as a person.
There are plenty of definitions for a leader, “a person who rules, guides, or inspires others,“ “one that leads or guides.” And while these are all good, you can't help but to notice that they're pretty much outwardly focused; what if we were to turn it inward? Wouldn't it be better if we become leaders unto ourselves?
Self knowledge means becoming a leader, because when you “know thyself” you necessarily lead your life to beneficial outcomes. Great leaders are made because they follow their own path, knowing fully well who they are and daring to take the journey of greater self knowledge. Being a leader unto yourself is not following someone else's path, but simply “knowing thyself”.
How can you gain self knowledge?
You might want to ask yourself the following questions:
As a coach, helping your clients gain self knowledge is a big part of the process. Now, you may be wondering how this is done, and one way to do this is by allowing them to become aware of their behaviors.
There are many reasons why people work with coaches, and it's very likely that they're looking for positive things to happen in their lives, while getting rid of unhelpful behaviors and negative effects. Because we're literally too close to see our behaviors, our jobs as coaches sometimes is to shed light on our client's behaviors.
Having a coach encourages a person to speak their thoughts. This brings out the voice that goes on in their minds and also the pattern of this discussion. Inner talk can be quite critical, and it has a tendency to never move us forward.
Speaking to a coach allows inner talk to take a rest and tells your mind that you are no longer willing to listen to critical self talk. This also helps people have a clear idea of how their minds work, which could be the first step towards a new way of doing things.
Now, there's something that you always have to be mindful of when working with clients. Most of us have had the experience of looking at someone else's life and thinking “if only they did this or that, it would be so much better.” Or, we might believe that if one of our clients take care of themselves more, they would look much better or feel that much more confident.
We tend to make judgments like this on other people's lives, based on what we believe is best for them.
Firstly, the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is probably the best advice you can give yourself. Because, no matter how well meaning your advice is, the result is usually to make others feel judged and criticized. And when you feel this way, all sorts of walls go up, preventing the real work of moving forward to take place.
As a coach, you have to allow people to take responsibility for their own life and actions. You may believe you know better and in certain cases maybe you do, but always remember: it's not your life. In coaching, the solution is within the client. They must own the solution, or else lasting change will not be made.
There is a fine line between judgment and feedback. When you offer feedback, you are like an observer. There might be something you have noticed from the person you're coaching, something that they just can't see for themselves. At that point, you may want to bring it forward. This is feedback.
The difference is, that when you offer feedback you're not being judgmental. In other words, you're not offering your opinion, or voicing your beliefs. You're centering on the facts as you're seeing them.
When you pinpoint the language that is being used by your client for example, such as when a statement about themselves is made over and over, you help your client notice this without being judgmental about it. They may not be aware that they are doing it and if you ask them if they would like to hear what they have been saying about themselves and repeat back their words to them, you most likely open the doors to lasting change.
Coaching is a process of awareness, a powerful tool to help people understand more about themselves and their place in the World. As a coach, you facilitate this process of discovery by asking questions that lead to the inward journey of self knowledge.
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