What is Coaching?
The International Coach Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Let's break it down - those are a lot of words.
Coaching assumes you have all the tools
Coaching is a funny business because as a coach, I'm not necessarily giving you new skills you need to be a better person or reach more of your goals. All of that knowledge is already something you possess; my job as a coach is to give you the tools you need to find and use those skills. You've got it all in there, we just have to figure out how to use it.
Coaching is forward-thinking
For me, the contrast between therapy or some forms of counseling and coaching is that therapy often focuses on where you're coming from, events in the past that formed your current perceptions, and a full understanding of who you are based on the past. Coaching sometimes covers some of that, but the real focus is where you're going from here. You are who you are, and your experiences are yours, but you make the decisions every day that either change your reality or stew in it. Good or bad, your past is your past and we are concerned more with what happens next week than your whole lifetime up to now.
Coaching is self-directed
A coach's job is to follow where you lead; to be the passenger to your driver. I won't show up at every session with an agenda; that's your work to do. I'll be ready to go wherever you lead, and I will have tools and approaches to suggest movement, but you don't have to do any of that stuff if you don't want to. Your success is entirely up to you and where you decide to take action.
Coaching is goal-oriented
Goal setting and action is central to a great coaching experience. Talking and exploring options is great, but unless you act on those conversations, coaching won't be worth it to you.
Coaching challenges your beliefs
Another cornerstone of great coaching is that you come out of the experience understanding more about why you think the way you think and act the way you act, and where you have the power to change that when you want. You develop clearer values that drive every decision you make. That can be uncomfortable sometimes, and a good coach challenges the way you're thinking, not allowing you to stay in your comfort zone all the time.
Coaching is not forever
One of the best qualities in a coach is that she works herself out of a job. Once you have the tools to move ahead, you can use them at any time in your life that they are needed. You may enter a coaching relationship again during a life transition or when you have new skills to develop, but the structure of coaching should not be that you stay in it forever.
This is sometimes a strange experience for some people. Often, if you have a really great coach, you might leave a session thinking, "Wow! Look at all of those things I just figured out all for myself. She didn't really say anything; she asked a few questions, but whatever. I could have figured all of that out on my own. Maybe I don't need a coach after all." And that's the point of great coaching. You do the work on your own because then it lasts longer and has a greater impact. Great coaches work in a way that makes you think you don't need them. That's okay; often clients will decide they can do it on their own, but when they realize the effectiveness of coaching, they usually return.
Coaching is about maximizing your skills for the good of all
When you get right down to it for me, coaching addresses a strong belief of mine; I believe that every human being who isn't struggling for survival, who was born into a society that keeps them comfortable and well-fed, has a responsibility to be aware of his or her strengths and skills, and to find ways to use those skills for the good of the planet. Whatever that means to you, living an easy life is not the idea. You have a responsibility to make this a better place for those around you, to create beauty in some way for others to enjoy. Maybe your job here is to create more people who find their own way of making the world a better place, or maybe it's to finance other people's ideas to do the same. Whatever it means to you, that's your job here. If that's not the meaning of life, I don't know what is.
There's my soapbox about coaching! If you're inspired, give coaching a try!