I recall in the early days when I was just in coach training, nearly 14 years ago, that everywhere I was reading people kept making these distinctions between therapy and coaching: therapy deals with the past, coaching with the future, therapy helps internal healing and coaching is about external goals and action. Well, in my book, both of these statements are grossly inaccurate and I won’t get into why exactly. The fact of the matter is that there is lots of overlap in any kind of healing-helping modality, each and every one has its “unique points” amidst many points of sharing and common ground.
Having said that, I do want to connect to the “unique point” of coaching which I feel is ingrained firmly in its emphasis on “action”. There is at times a tendency to overdo it and label coaching all about “structured goals, plans and actions”- this is far from good, professional coaching because coaching is far beyond an Excel sheet, action-table and “To-Do List”. There is a lot that precedes or works in tandem with such action-oriented items, coaching takes one deeply into defining passions, values, dreams and “readiness for change”. Without these you certainly don’t need a coach, just download a template from the internet and get on with it…
Yet, action is at the core of the coaching modality, I would call it more “purposeful action”, because taking action is part of the overall change process, which coaching can be very effective in. Why is this? Why is taking action so essential in transformative and healing processes?
The difference between thinking about something and doing something about it is not at all trivial. We all have been there before- sitting on top of that fence, considering our possibilities, analyzing the heck out of every option- some of us can be there for years. It is only when we produce motion in a direction that we allow for the “universe” to hop in and give us a hand with some clarification. Just as water that does not flow can become a swamp, thoughts, hopes and aspiration which do not lead to motion will have little effect on creating opportunity and change. Lest we confuse motion with action, motion by itself is not our goal, but purposeful action which comes from motion that emanates from a desire to produce a thing of change or creation. I will provide a few examples from some clients (names changed for confidentiality) to illustrate what it is this “purposeful action of transformation” I am referring to.
Gila was a woman in her mid-forties with stress around wanting to make changes in her life but having a feeling that she could not move forward. With small children at home, a husband who worked late at the office, a professional career of her own, Gila could not find the time, energy and focus to bring about what she aspired to: weight loss, exercise, time to paint and read. Knowing what she had to do did not take her very far, the same held true when she tried to analyze why it was so difficult to bring about change in this area. It was only after we devised a plan of action with purpose and she BEGAN TO IMPLEMENT THE ACTIONS that Gila began walking those kilometers, opening up those leisure hours to paint and read, eating healthier and losing those kilograms.
Sheila felt demoralized at work. She had climbed the company ladder from administrative secretary to being a candidate for general manager of one of the company’s main division. Yet, she felt that she was a woman in a male-dominated industry that she could never manage to say what she needed to say at management meetings. There was always some man who was more vocal, emphatic and assertive around so that her voice was never really recognized. We worked together at this, devised a “communications plan” in which she would be able to assert herself, in which her self-confidence would be authentic but also effectively expressed. Once she has done the first step, the next few were easier, she did get that promotion and has long “forgotten” the days when it was different. It all began with a step, then another step…
Yoav, 56, came from a difficult rather dysfunctional family. He was taught that life requires doing it on your own, the idea of going out and eliciting support, feedback, contacts, ideas were far from anything he was used to doing. In his coaching process it became apparent that “action planning” to get out and do what he feared most- asking for input- would be far better than any talking we could do. So it was- after a few weeks of getting out and having some “one on ones”, Yoav became bolder, softer, easier to talk to and easier to be with.
Taking an action is not an island unto itself, it must be accompanied by a structure that will allow for reflection and insight. More often than not, I have observed, it is what scares us the most but also what helps us break through to new pastures and horizons. Isn’t that what transformation is all about?
Tags: career, life decisions, life transitions