People who are considering coaching often have some concerns or worries heading into the experience. It’s quite common, and very normal. There are many reasons why you might feel some nerves as you think about reaching out to a coach, so this week I’m covering seven reasons why you might be nervous about coaching in a 7-day series of blog posts. Today I’m focusing on Reason #1: You’re afraid that coaching will change you.
Here are the posts so far:
Reason #1: You’re afraid that coaching will change you.
Coaching just might be best understood when you think about where all coaching comes from: sports. The role that a coach plays is to help the player to become better at their sport, plus s/he guides the athlete to find ways of improving strength, speed, competency, courage, and to become more competitive. The right coach can take an athlete from “talented” to superstar.
An executive coach helps a client in much the same way, guiding the client to become a more adept, exceptional leader, finding ways of improving emotional strength, courage, and helping the client to create the life and career s/he wants. The right coach can help you to manage fear, expand boundaries, develop new skills, and achieve the life you truly want.
In short, coaching will change you. And that can be a frightening prospect when you’re deeply enmeshed in your comfort zone.
Your Comfort Zone Just Might Be Killing You
Your comfort zone is a lot like quicksand. Quicksand is loose, wets and that yields easily to pressure and ultimately sucks you down, making it virtually impossible for you to escape, unless you have access to a rope or Lassie.
Similarly, your comfort zone sucks you in, making you think you should stay right where you are, making it hard to escape, because change is scary and because fighting against your demons can seem impossible.
The problem with staying in your comfort zone is that if you’re not moving forward – even incrementally – you’re eventually going to slide backwards.
Think about what it feels like when you stay in your pajamas for too long. It’s comfortable and cozy at first, and for awhile you might think, “I never want to wear anything else.” But the longer you stay in your pjs, the more things start to fall down around you. At first it’s just a meal that you meant to cook, but calling out for pizza was just was easier. Then it’s a chore you meant to do that didn’t get done or an errand that you meant to run that you put off until tomorrow. Sloughing off gets easier and easier as malaise begins to take over. Keep this up long enough and eventually, life crumbles around you.
This might seem dramatic, but it’s the essence of what happens when you’re stuck in your comfort zone, whether it’s your pjs or your mental “safe place.”
So what’s more dangerous? Facing the fear and doing the thing anyway and maybe you change for the better, or staying where it’s safe and comfortable, and trying to stave off the entropy?
Coaching will change you, but you control the change.
It’s not like you sign up for coaching and then suddenly you don’t recognize yourself anymore. That’s not how coaching works. Coaching is a co-created relationship. That means you and I work together to develop the vision for your future, but you are always squarely in the driver’s seat. You control how things evolve and how coaching will change you – not me. You’ll never do something you don’t want to do, and you’ll get to keep what’s working and improve the rest.
You choose the speed.
I have some clients who come into coaching ready for massive transformation, and they want to move fast. I have other clients who prefer to take their time, making their transition to their “future self” more slowly. You choose the speed, and you choose the direction. It’s not like your coach has ways to trick you or make you do stuff you don’t want to do or that you’re not ready for. It simply doesn’t work that way.
Done right, coaching will change you for your highest good.
You know that saying, “Keep your eye on the prize”? Well, as a coach, the “prize” that I keep my eye on is my clients’ greatest, highest good. My focus is on what’s best for you and what you want. I’ve had clients who started out with one goal and over time, as they began to realize that goal, became aware that what they’d started out striving after wasn’t what they really wanted at all. I’m not invested in your success as I define it. I’m invested in your success as you define it.
Another thing a good coach should be paying attention to is something called “ecology.” How will your transformation and evolution impact your world around you? Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and when one person in a relationship changes, the entire dynamic changes. You might know this – sometimes in an introductory conversation, a client will say, “As I change, I worry that I’ll outgrow my partner,” and that’s a realistic and honest fear. So it’s important for a coach to consider how a client’s shifting beliefs might affect her marriage, for example, or how a client whose family doesn’t understand entrepreneurship might be impacted as she starts a business, and to coach a client around these issues.
For some clients, this means recommending marriage counseling as we embark upon the coaching process, simply because each individual is a part of a larger system that needs to be considered and factored in. However, even without marriage counseling, many of my clients find that as they evolve, because together, we’re taking into account how partners and family members might respond to the client’s evolution, and because we’re moving slowly, the system can adjust around the client.
So yes. You will change, hopefully and most likely for the better. And it will be an exciting time. It will also be a little scary, as you press against the boundaries of your comfort zone, expanding the space in which you feel safe. But know this: coaching will change you, but you won’t be changing alone. You’ll have a partner and an ally guiding you down the path.
This wraps up my series on Seven Reasons Why Coaching Might Make You Nervous. Coaching can be an intimidating process, for all seven of the reasons I’ve discussed in this weeklong, multi-part blog series. But I hope that you can see that, despite the low barrier to entry, a good coach is a well-trained, experienced professional who can guide you to greater levels of success and happiness in your life, your relationships, and your career. And even if you’re not sure you need coaching, virtually everyone who can come to the experience with an open mind, willing to listen, can benefit from coaching.
Once you’ve chosen a good coach with solid training and experience, you don’t have to be an amazing client, you just have to be a willing client. A good coach will guide you down the path of transformation at the pace that’s appropriate for you, and you’ll dive deep when and how you’re ready to do so. You’ll work in a judgement-free space, and never have to worry that your coach thinks badly of you. You’ll find in your coach an honest, nonjudgmental ally who can guide you down the path to transformation in a life where you’ll be happier than you ever thought possible.