What I learned as a client

As a client of who, you might wonder. The answer is, as a client of some great coaches. An important step in the professional development of every coach is to be a client himself/ herself. It is an amazing experience that can benefit the coach both as a person and as a professional.  In this post I would like to share what I learnt from being myself a client in coaching sessions.

Coaching is a fantastic learning experience

We all learn differently and there are different ways of learning. Reading a book for example is a way of learning. Attending a lecture is another way of learning. Which ways of learning do you enjoy the most? How do you learn best? Some ways of learning are more passive while other ways of learning are more active. According to my experience, active ways of learning work better.

Imagine attending a lecture where someone talks for an hour. Of course you will have learned some stuff after the lecture. You will have kept notes that you can take with you and review anytime. Imagine being a lecturer yourself. You have done your research on a topic and you have created a great presentation. In which of the two situations have you learned more?

Coaching is closer to the second case but goes beyond it. It is an interactive way of learning.  Imagine bringing to a coaching conversation a topic that you want to explore. The coach supports you in looking your topic from different angles. He/ She helps you to realize what you need to research further and/ or what kind of actions you need to take. The coach is there for you while you take these actions and is there for you to explore it further. Coaching is an approach than can really accelerate the learning process. You learn in your own pace, the way you want to learn and by doing so the positive effect in your learning cycle can be tremendous.

Topics can emerge out of nowhere

When you are unfamiliar with the coaching process you might worry that you have no topics to discuss. After all your life is so perfect right now and you don’t have any problems. Well, the truth is that coaching is not necessarily about solving problems. Something in your life might be good enough but is it perfect? For example you might be happy with the personality you have developed over the years. But are you 100% happy with the person you have become? Aren’t there any characteristics in your personality that you would like to improve further?

During my sessions as a client I realized that there is always room for improvement. My coaches helped me to explore the different aspects of my life and realize that there are many areas on which I could potentially use some coaching.

Going beyond talking out loud

And yes, coaching goes beyond talking out loud. Although talking out loud can be useful, we often get caught up in an endless self talk and fail to see beyond that. Self talk is about reinforcing our current way of seeing things, our current beliefs. “My boss hates me”, “I will never make it”, “They don’t respect my feelings”. Often we forget that the way we see things is just a perspective and there are other perspectives that could serve us better.  Sometimes we even fail to separate objective facts from beliefs. As a result we might get caught up in a never-ending vicious circle.

During my coaching sessions as a client I had the opportunity to work on different disempowering beliefs that I had and get rid of them. This not only changed my perception of reality, but also I gained a greater level of happiness. And that was really a valuable learning.

Coaching can really go deep

That coaching can really go deep is not obvious to everyone. Someone once told me that coaching is good for things like time management and nothing more. Well, according to the understanding I gained as a client, I can tell you that this perception is totally wrong.  Coaching can really go deep and can raise the level of awareness of a client.

If you are working with a coach towards achieving a goal, time management is an aspect involved and is a relatively important aspect. We could, however, argue that there are other aspects involved that are even more important. One of these aspects is alignment.  A person really cannot be dragged towards achieving a goal. If a person sets out to pursue a goal, which is not in alignment with his /her values and his/ her life purpose, it is clear that this person will not commit himself/ herself to the achievement of this goal. Furthermore if this person does not clear up the various disempowering beliefs that might block him /her along the way, he / she might even give up.

Coaching is probably the most effective structure for supporting a person achieving goals by removing this kind of obstacles. Therefore, coaching can play a huge role in the journey of a person towards self discovery and self development.

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Destination vs Journey – a power tool*

 1.       Life as a journey

Life is a journey in every sense and on every level…  we go from childhood to old age… from ignorance to enlightment… from not knowing to suspecting… from suspecting to knowing. If life is a journey then we are some kind of travelers. We travel through space and time.  We travel with our physical bodies or sometimes without them within our imagination and within our emotions.

 2.       The traveler and the tourist analogy

“What is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?”

“The tourist goes to some place for a week, a month or even a year but in their heart they know that they will return.  The traveler goes to some place and they don’t really know if they ever come back.”

I always remember this dialogue from a film I had watched in my twenties called “Sheltering Sky”. Sometimes I even ask myself “Am I a traveler or a tourist?”

Let’s explore a little bit the concept of traveler. The traveler has realized that it is the journey that matters. The traveler really focuses on the journey. He/ She is not afraid of the unknown and is always excited about what is coming next. He /She is curious to explore new places both in and outside their hearts, both in and outside other people.

It is the heart and the state of mind of a traveler with all their curiosity that makes life so exciting. We all have experienced traveling and we all have experienced this feeling of excitement. Why then not bring it into our daily lives? We don’t have to get a plane or a boat ticket to feel like travelers. There are a lot of unknown places to explore within us and others. Just pause for a moment and try some mindfulness. Even a walk that you have taken a thousand times before, becomes different and exciting. And yes, the state of mind of a traveler is linked to a mindfulness state of mind.  And this is something we all have experienced in our travelling as well.  Can you remember yourself taking deep breaths while enjoying a beautiful countryside in some faraway land, wanting the moment to last forever? And can you imagine having this mindfulness state of mind of the traveler always in your daily life?

3.       Journey vs Destination

Journey vs Destination really means focusing on the journey instead of focusing on the destination. It means not being attached to the final destination. It does not mean not having a destination at all. The destination must be there to inspire you to set out on the journey.  The destination is your vision and your end goal. In between, there are smaller destinations and a lot of travelling.  Reaching your destination is just a moment in time but travelling towards your destination is every moment in time.

Journey vs Destination means being present in the moment and enjoy the process towards reaching a goal. It also means being fully aware of the change process and things that need to be addressed along the way.  Very often we need to be flexible and adjust the initial goals if the process takes us somewhere differently. As we embark in a process of change and on a journey towards reaching a goal, the initial understandings about the goal and our expectations might change. So, destination vs journey also means that we continuously examine where we are and where we want to be.

* The Power Tools™ which have been developed by the International Coach Academy (ICA) are a way to support participants in the discovery of perspective, and the role it plays in achieving results. Journey vs Destination is a power tool developed by Panagiotis Ntouskas following the ICA approach.