It is extremely frustrating for me, as a coach, how utterly confused people are as to what coaching is. They mistake it for consulting, mentoring, therapy and a whole mix of the three above.
I got tired of explaining what it is because, even if I’ll get my point across, people tend to undervalue the power of coaching. And thus, they discount it and don’t even try to find a coach.
So, instead of explaining in vain, I will give you something else today: eight signs that you may hugely benefit from coaching. If any of the below points applies to you, I sincerely encourage you to get a coach as fast as humanly possible.
Here they are:
1. Feeling “Stuck”
Sometimes you exactly know where you are stuck, like my accountability partner, Søren, who knows he has a mental block around money. And this is about as much as he knows.
However, often you don’t realize you have a mental block. Actually, it’s quite rare to be as self-honest about your difficulties as Soren is. We invent and buy into our own lies to excuse ourselves. The typical (by far, not comprehensive) list of such lies is:
“It’s not the right time…”
“I don’t have time…”
“When [specific but not likely circumstances in faraway future] happens, then I…”
“I’ll definitely do it… someday.”
“I just have thick bones.”
“Tomorrow… next week… next year* I’ll do it” (* delete as applicable).
There is an easy trick to reveal if you are stuck: you want something, but you cannot achieve it – repeatedly. Those goals may be in any area of your life: lose weight, quit smoking, triple your revenue, finish your graduate school, run a marathon, start dating again…
You may not even be aware of your excuses in this area, but the fact that you cannot reach your goals, time after time, is a sure indicator of some kind of block.
2. Wanting To Pursue a Life-long Dream
Sadly, most of us don’t actively pursue our dreams. We hide them at the bottom of our souls like priceless treasures instead of trying to achieve them.
I know this very well from my own experience. I buried my dreams so deep that I wasn’t even aware I still had them. It took me over a month of serious self-examination before I uncovered I wanted to be a writer! And then, I felt completely helpless.
I didn’t even know what ‘being a writer’ meant. It took me several months of a trial-and-error approach to start pursuing this dream.
This is where coaching can be very handy, both in the phase of uncovering hidden dreams and in defining what the first steps are.
3. Transitioning Into a New Stage of Life
Starting a new education level. Starting a new career level. Moving to another city, state, or country. Retirement. Getting married. Expecting the first child. Turning into empty nesters. Selling your business.
Seriously, in all of the above, coaching could be helpful. My friend from our coaching training liked to complain that “All this coaching could not be even a career if people were still talking like in the old times.”
And he was probably right. Coaching is so useful in transitioning into a new stage of life because it forces you to press the pause button and examine your life. You have to reflect and establish your priorities. You probe your desires and define your priorities. We are SO not used to doing it in the hurry of everyday life.
4. Transitioning Into a New Stage of Career
There are organizations where coaching is obligatory at a certain level of your career development. If you are promoted to a team leader, director, president, or partner of the company, you need to go through coaching. Why? Because usually in the dynamic business environment you don’t promote people who are ready for promotion. You promote people who are available within the organization and let them grow into the new role.
But it’s not a bad idea to get coaching no matter if your organization requires it or not. External perspective and a confidential conversation partner are always welcome when you are far from being sure of what you are doing.
5. Longing to Become Your Best Self
You don’t need to be “broken” to want to be better. Desire for growth is one of the natural human needs.
And it’s interesting how different areas of life it encompasses. Some people want to pursue art and get better at it. Others want to develop professionally. Many want to get better at soft skills of various shades – from being able to strike a conversation to mastering one’s own emotions.
In my coaching training, I was surprised that there are even frameworks and techniques to work on your relationships through coaching!
A new stage of life or career may happen to you, but can also be engineered by you. If you feel like there is “something more” in the future for you, coaching is a right tool to discover what this “something” is.
More often than not, this longing for something more comes from the point of frustration. You don’t know what you really want, but you surely know you don’t want to repeat the loop you are stuck in.
This was the exact feeling I had had back in 2012, when I knew that I didn’t want being stuck in my miserable day job till retirement. Yet, I had no clue what else I could do. I didn’t give myself an internal permission to explore different options. A skillful coach, who would have helped me to probe different possibilities and to see that the biggest obstacle on my path to better life was my own self-image and self-talk, would have been priceless for me.
Another common pitfall is deciding on something, and it may be even the right decision, and then going headfirst without much (or any) reflection. There are definitely moments in life when you should press the pause button and think hard before you go into action. Ask any bride; most of them planned their weddings since their childhood. 😉
This is actually the modern affliction – we don’t stop to think. Coaching allows exactly that – a space to think and process through your thoughts.
I’m amazed by the results of one of my coachees. She is a solopreneur who provides quite a high-end service – expert advice on sales via LinkedIn for big companies. She struggled with a pile of debt and no future projects on the horizon. Within a few short months, she systematized her business, paid off a large chunk of her debt and booked herself full for the coming months.
I credit exactly zero of her progress to my knowledge of sales or LinkedIn. I’m pretty ignorant on both areas. She was able to progress rapidly because our regular coaching sessions gave her space in her crazy busy schedule: the space to reflect. Apart from being a solopreneur, she is also a single mom. Her days had been filled with non-stop activities since dawn to dusk. What she desperately needed was time for planning her activities and rearranging them in a more coherent fashion.
Coaching provided exactly this for her.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Business activities are not the only things we fail to plan. Brian Moran in his book 12-Week Year instanced some research which concluded that we can shave off the longer project 20% of the required time just by planning. Writing a book, moving to a different country, choosing and graduating from a college – those are some common examples of projects that could’ve gone much smoother with some planning.
8. Being Anxious or Overwhelmed
We connote those states with the need of professional help – therapists and psychiatrists. But mental health, like physical help, is an area where an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure. You don’t need to get crazy to get help. In fact, we get crazy because we don’t dedicate enough time and energy to mental and emotional self-care.
Coaching is a tool which allows you to articulate your own concerns and worries. Hearing them out loud makes miracles for your self-awareness… and your ability to manage difficult emotions. As long as your worries are just an intangible mesh of bad feelings and negative thoughts whirling in your head, you are helpless against them. They paralyze you. They overwhelm you.
But if you put them into words, magic happens. In order to put something into words, you need to activate the conscious part of your brain. You can think through your worries instead of just mulling them in your mind over and over again. Then, clarifying any decision and an action plan turns from ‘impossible’ into doable.
Getting rid of your worries can never be a coaching objective on their own. Coaching is action- and future-oriented. It’s not dwelling over your past and analyzing past regrets.
However, being anxious or overwhelmed is the clear sign you need coaching – you don’t do a good enough job on your own. You let your emotions cloud your judgment and dictate your actions (or worse yet – inactions). Allowing for external insights opens up the doors to new solutions, broadens your mental horizons and gives you the opportunity to get into a real dialog with your body and emotions (instead of this weird dance consisting of subconscious prompts and your automatic responses to them).
You Can(not) Do It Alone
The above point aptly describes the whole coaching situation. At the root of most of your problems, there is a single person. You.
And that’s the truth for everyone on the planet.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
A coach is not a knight on the white horse who saves you from yourself. A coach is not even a helper. He is a companion. A person who is NOT you and can see things you are not aware of. Above all, the coach is there so you are no longer alone. That’s how human beings tackled their problems since the dawn of civilization – together.
The Signs You Need a Coach
You can solve your problems or up your game alone. Of course, you can! There were plenty of people in the history of humankind who pursued their dreams, planned complicated projects, or transitioned into a new stage of life – on their own, without any assistance.
You can also drive a nail with your bare hands. It’s totally doable. But why bother, if you can use a hammer for that? This simple tool will spare you a lot of time, pain and effort.
Notice the signs you need coaching in time, and solve your problems working together with another person. Spare yourself a lot of time, pain and effort.