What is Coaching Really? Is it Useful?
I first heard about coaching roughly a decade ago. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. Coaching was a word used in the context of business and mostly associated with skill development of the executive cadre. Then, the word started to appear in other spheres. I was hearing about wellness coaching, life coaching, nutrition coaching and more. Over the past few years, the term coaching has almost gained buzzword status. But what does it mean exactly? And is all coaching the same?
When I started researching coaching, I was amazed at how many different approaches and methodologies exist. There are so many schools that offer programs of different lengths, depths, levels and financial costs. I was also surprised to learn that coaching is not a regulated industry. Although there is an International Coaching Federation that offers guidelines, it does not establish or enforce standards. As such, anyone can call themselves a coach, with or without formal training.
I’m very much a rule follower and believe in obtaining training - especially in areas that involve working with people. I’ll admit that I felt a bit lost trying to compare programs that were certainly not all apples! So, I decided that my starting point would be to identify what I felt I could genuinely offer based on my strengths, my interests and my skill set. It was also extremely important to me to find a program that was in line with my core values.
Some soul searching led me to uncover that what I crave most is being of service to others in a meaningful way. It’s why I became a yoga teacher. Yoga can be powerful, transformative and supportive of one’s wellbeing. My yoga practice sustained me during some very difficult times and fuelled me during the beautiful moments too. My mat is where I shed all the layers - the heaviness as well as the light, happy ones. My mat is where I connect with myself.
Over the years, I have chosen to practice yoga with some teachers more than others because of their methods, their sequencing, their energy and what they pull out of me as a student. When I teach, I take the responsibility seriously. I speak from my heart and try to inject my personality throughout the class.
My favourite part of teaching is connecting with the students both before and after class. I especially love receiving feedback as the students leave the studio. I’ve come to understand that those conversations feed my soul. When a student tells me that my words resonated with them, it makes me happy. It’s not vanity or a pride thing but it feels as though I’ve contributed somehow. It’s as though I managed to add some positivity to someone’s life for a moment. I believe that all forms of positivity have a ripple effect - like a stone dropped into a pond - that extend beyond that moment in time.
For me, the decision to become a Coach was about being of service off the mat. When it came time to select a coaching school, it was clear that I needed the program to be supportive, based on deep respect and all about connection. I chose to study in the Integral Coaching Method because its approach met my criteria. The coaching relationship is a partnership. The Integral Coaching methodology is like a loving “container” where mutual respect, development, growth, accountability and support exist. The tools that are used and the practices or homework exercises are powerful and transformative.
What does coaching really entail though? Well, let me ask you this: have you ever felt stuck? Have you ever tried really hard to achieve a goal but were at a loss for where to begin or what the next steps might be? Maybe you knew what the steps were but just couldn’t seem to make a new routine stick or to master the new behaviour? These are the situations where coaching can be really useful.
A skilled Coach is an active listener. They will notice the words you choose, how you describe your situation and the desired outcome. They will identify what may be holding you back. Maybe your biggest obstacle is linked to a limiting belief. Maybe your inner dialogue is harsh and working against you. Maybe your thoughts are preventing you from making a lasting change. A trained Coach will notice these obstacles and shed some light on them. You will then work together to develop new capabilities to move beyond those obstacles and toward lasting change.
It may sound a bit touchy-feely and it certainly can be at times. However, there is a strong methodology at play. I have seen it work, over and over again. I chose to train in the Integral Coaching Method because I loved that it takes into account and respects the individual’s strengths and areas that require bolstering. It’s not therapy where we dive into what may have happened in childhood. It’s not about comparing the individual to their coworkers, friends or family members. It certainly isn’t about dictating next steps. It’s about learning to see the individual in their present circumstances, from their point of view. The Coach’s job is to seek out the heart of the matter and shed some light on the issue in an objective way. The coaching relationship is a partnership between the Coach and the individual to develop new skills and strengthen existing ones to reach the objective. It is powerful, effective and certainly useful to get “unstuck”.
I knew deep within myself that I wanted to teach yoga. It was a pull that was so strong and yet simple. I am deeply humbled and grateful every day that I have the opportunity to support others on their mat. The pull toward coaching was much the same. Once I found the school and the methodology that truly spoke to me, the path before me was clear. I’ve learned so much about myself in the process. I can honestly say that I have continued to learn from every coaching relationship with my clients. For me, coaching is about being of service to others. It’s about being a positive pebble dropped into the pond. The ripples are beautiful.