Do you ever read a book and find yourself highlighting interesting lines on almost every page? That was me as I was reading “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” by Lori Gottlieb. The book was recommended to me by another coach. She said the author was very good at spotting patterns and unstated needs in her clients. The author is a therapist, and even though a coach is much different than a therapist, we also spot patterns and unstated needs.

The Past

Therapists help clients make sense of their past and help them get “unstuck” if something in their past is keeping them from moving ahead.   They have the training to diagnose clinical conditions such as depression or OCD.  Coaches don’t ignore the past: everything a person has experienced is part of who they are, but the focus for coaching is more, “Here you are; where do you want to be; and how can we help you move forward.”

“At some point in our lives, we have to let go of the fantasy of creating a better past. If we don’t accept the notion that there’s no redo, much as we try to get our parents or siblings or partners to fix what happened years ago, our pasts will keep us stuck.”

“Many of us torture ourselves over our mistakes for decades, even after we’ve genuinely attempted to make amends. How reasonable is that?

Change and Loss

People come to coaching because they want “something” to be different in their lives. I often ask new clients, “If our coaching engagement is wildly successful, what will be different in you, in your life?” The problem is people want things to change – but not if that involves them changing.

“Change and loss travel together. We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

One of the tools I like to use to help people change is the Immunity to Change Map developed by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. It can very quickly help clients see what hidden assumptions and competing commitments they’ve made that make it very difficult to change (think New Year’s resolutions).

“The stages of change are such that you don’t drop all your defenses at the same time. Instead, you release them in layers, moving closer and closer to the tender core: your sadness, your shame.”

Moving Forward

Bringing about transformational change requires us not only to recognize our hidden assumptions, but to take action. And taking that action requires us to take ownership of our development and step out with courage.

“Being a fulfilled adult means taking responsibility for the course of your own life and accepting the fact that now you’re in charge of your choices”. 

The Role of the Coach

Gottlieb states that she’s never had a client that she didn’t end up liking. I feel the same. Once you’ve been one-on-one with someone, and they’ve shared their thoughts, their fears, their insecurities with you, it’s natural to be in their corner rooting for them.

“We’ve helped them hear the questions they didn’t even know they were asking: Who am I? What do I want? What’s in my way”?

“Everyone needs to hear that other person’s voice saying, I believe in you. I can see possibilities that you might not see quite yet. I imagine that something different can happen, in some form or another. Let’s edit your story.”

When we learn to edit our story, our life takes on all sorts of new potential. What’s your story and how would you like to edit it?