Coaching is a co-creative experience. The story goes back to the 1970’s, when Tim Gallwey, a Harvard tennis coach, realized one day that due to his tiredness, he simply played with one of his players WITHOUT any instructions or teaching. To his surprise, the player improved much more in that particular practice hour.  Gallwey, who had studied meditation when younger, realized there is more power in self-reflection than getting distracted by the constant outside “noise.” He then wrote a book “The Inner Game of Tennis,” and found that he spoke more to business people than to athletes. In the 1980’s, coaching started to ripen into a profession and is now regulated by, among others, ICF, the International Coaching Federation.

Since coaching as a profession is still relatively new, many people including some of my clients initially have some misunderstanding about coaching. So here are some “what is/what isn’t coaching.”

First, what is not coaching?

Coaching is not therapy.

A therapist usually treats a client under the assumption that the client has a condition and needs to be “fixed” where a coach assumes that a client is whole, creative and resourceful. Being the expert of his life, he has all the wisdom and power to find the best solution and act upon it. Therapy tends to focus on the past and figure out “what’s wrong.”  For some, it’s useful to let go of the past. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on “what’s now? What’s next?” Where the attention goes, energy flows. It’s more about what we want, instead of what we don’t want.

Coaching is not teaching.

I lead and facilitate seminars too, and in those occasions, I share my ideas, models, tools and perspective more.  In my coaching session, it’s more about listening and honoring a client’s map of the world. Through the power of active listening, a coach can tap into much more than what is said and shed some new lights on the client’s emotional state and unconscious beliefs, which are the building blocks of her current reality.

Coaching is not consulting/mentoring.

A coach is not a subject expert. I’ve had clients in art, music, consulting, business, technology, etc. Sometimes I have little clue what exactly their day-to-day work entails. Coaching is “meta” if you will. It’s about shining lights on values, beliefs, identity, visions and spirit so a client can self-organize internal and external resources, along with developing skills to get goals realized/issues resolved.

A good coach is also a good passenger instead of a driver. She doesn’t have her own agenda, but to fully respect and focus on the client’s, trusting that he is the expert of his life and takes his unique path that’s most suitable for him. By cultivating one’s internal alignment and power, a client thrives without co-dependence.

And… A good coach is not exactly a friend.

Yes, there is a lot of on-going trust in a healthy coaching relationship. At the end of the day, coaching is about change. We perhaps all need to commiserate from time to time. J When a client is ready to get out of a blamer or a victim’s mindset, real coaching starts. When we are completely okay with what is, or even appreciate what is, that’s when change happens. By leveraging on that power of paradox, coaching creates new awareness and new perspective, and in turn allows changes to occur.

So now, what IS coaching?

The ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”

Most of the coaching nowadays is done via skype or on the phone. By being truly present and curious, a coach actively listens to the client, beyond what’s being said, and then asks powerful questions and sometimes provides sounding-board feedback. Just like Gallwey’s “silent session,” the power of self-reflection in such a coaching conversation will generate new self-awareness and new solutions. A congruent client will create congruent steps forward, which she can request the coach to hold her accountable for.

The most powerful coaching happens when the pair has regular and consistent conversations. Growth and change come organically, non-linearly and exponentially. It’s not about growing a tree in one conversation, so to speak, but savoring this journey of self-discovery, and letting each step build on the previous. Trust me, changes do come if you allow the process to work its magic. For that reason, I usually require my clients to have a minimum three-month commitment to be truly worth their time.

Different coaches take different approaches to coaching. To me, coaching is the bridge to connect the inner world with the outer reality. For most of us, we are conditioned to sort outwardly for answers, suggestions or proven models. The real wisdom is within. Coaching unlocks the gate to that infinite universal source of wisdom, and when we are connected with it, we start to gain new perspective. The quantum understanding of the universe will tell us perspective is everything. “When we change our way of looking at things, the things we look at change.” Daily experiences are no longer random. Things don’t just happen. You will start to get “the memo” and have the feeling that you are actively creating the life you want to have by paying attention to the inside.

Everyone has unlimited potential. Everyone is born to create, with joy and ease. Choose the reality you would like to have. It’s that easy. All it takes is a bit of inner work.

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