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Coaching vs. Self-Coaching

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally made the decision I’d been putting off for so long, and wrote down the deadline for my goal. But in that same moment, I noticed a slight feeling of frustration that I hadn’t been able to come to this conclusion by myself. I have been coaching other people since 2018 but here I was sitting in a session with a coach. Why wasn’t I able to coach myself with the same skills I used to coach others? And if working with a coach really is necessary when it comes to sorting through your own stuff, why is self-coaching such a big part of the Yes Futures programmes?

Let’s start by considering what makes coaching so impactful.

When we have an idea, challenge or dilemma, it’s natural for us to approach someone who knows us well for advice - a family member, a friend, a teacher, a colleague - but the fact they know us well isn’t always a good thing. The people we go to may have built up their own version of who we are in their minds and these versions will vary from person to person. This can lead to you being left with conflicting advice or even those whose opinions you value and trust discouraging you from going for your goal because they don’t think it’s right for you.

When you work with a coach, it’s highly likely that they won’t know you very well (at least to start with) so they don't have those preconceived ideas about you, your abilities and what you can or can’t achieve. They provide a safe, non-judgmental space for you to share what’s on your mind, genuinely listen to you and, perhaps most importantly, they won’t give advice (much to some people’s annoyance). This is because they know that the person who knows you best is you. You may not think you know the answers, but they’ll help you to find them through some smart and responsive questioning and reflecting back your words so you can hear your thoughts and feelings out loud. How often do we get that opportunity?

With all this in mind, why are we so keen to endorse self-coaching and how can it be done in a way that elicits changes and maintains impact?

To answer the first question in the simplest terms: because positive futures begin with self-belief.

In the grand scheme of things, our programmes allow us to work with students for only a small amount of time and so while we want to provide effective coaching, we also want to give our students the tools to continue the amazing work they’ve started in their sessions. We want the students to leave their last coaching session with the belief that they can continue to set and smash their goals and develop the skills of Confidence, Resilience, Communication and Self-Awareness, amongst others.

This is where the power of self-coaching comes in; the challenge to set themselves some time each week to set, review and work on their goals.

In their last coaching session, we provide our students with a copy of the Self-Coaching Toolbox which gives them the opportunity to set themselves a monthly goal (and review it), as well as complete a short activity each week. It takes around 66 days to create a habit and this five-month workbook is a great way to build that habit in a manageable way.

But what about those who want to build their self-coaching muscle but haven’t had the chance to experience the Finding Futures or Rising Futures programmes?

Journaling is a fantastic tool if you want to be your own coach. You can set a timer for a set amount of time (start with five or ten minutes) and just write whatever is on your mind, even if you think it doesn’t make any sense. When the timer goes off, have a break and then return to what you have written with fresh eyes. Is there anything that leaps out to you as seeming important that you’d like to take forward to work on?

An alternative to free writing is to use some coaching questions as a journal prompt (do an internet search for coaching questions and you’ll be surprised by just how many you’ll find). You may find that one question leads to you writing for ages or you may answer one fairly quickly and then search for a new question to help you move forward. Suddenly, you’re becoming your own coach.

Mindfulness and meditation is also a great way to tap into what’s really going on for you. Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness isn’t about sitting quietly and forcing our minds to be empty. That would be like telling you to not think about pink elephants, then that’s all you’d be able to think about.

Instead, mindfulness is about purposeful awareness of the present moment. You may choose to sit quietly for ten minutes, or maybe go for a walk or bike ride (without the music or podcast to cover the thoughts), and just notice what comes to your mind. Don’t push that thought away, but don’t feel the need to force it to stay either. Just let it be and, if it wants to, become. Then at the end of the time you’ve allocated yourself, grab that journal and write what you noticed and what you think it means to you.

It can take a while to develop this skill, particularly if the thoughts and beliefs that come to us actually belong to the people close to us (remember the people we think we want to ask for advice). Keep trying, keep listening to yourself and before long you’ll be growing that self-coaching muscle.

For more information on our programmes and to find out how we could support your students, please visit our Programmes page.

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