THE STORY OF COACHING
As this book is all about using the skills of coaching to help you help yourself to better health, it seems right to begin by taking a look back through time to the origins of coaching, just as a reminder of what it really means to us today.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the story of coaching has its beginnings with an old Hungarian cart! Rumour has it that our present day use of the word ‘coach’ originated many years ago in the Hungarian village of Kocs, where fine quality carts and carriages were built to carry people between the towns with as much ease and comfort as possible.
Eventually, the reputation of these fine carriages spread throughout Europe and with time the English word ‘coach’ came into use. So how does the original Hungarian word for a horse drawn carriage apply to the modern day concept of a professional coach? One idea is that the more wealthy and privileged people of the day would have their companions read to them on long coach trips, or that a private tutor would use long journey times to read aloud to the children, and so the term to be ‘coached’ was born. Or so the story goes.
One idea is that the more wealthy and privileged people of the day would have their companions read to them on long coach trips, or that a private tutor would use long journey times to read aloud to the children, and so the term to be ‘coached’ was born. Or so the story goes.
One thing is for sure, a coach, just like a traditional carriage is a means of transporting a valued person (that’s you) from where they are to where they want to be with as much speed, ease and comfort as possible.
WHAT A PROFESSIONAL COACH SHOULD DO FOR YOU
Being your own coach isn’t necessarily for everyone. It can take time and energy to make improvements to your health and sometimes working with a professional can help give you the enthusiasm and motivation you need to stay on track. Just in case this applies to you, or someone you know, I’d like to give you an idea of what a well trained coach should and shouldn’t be doing for you.
Firstly they need to have undergone a thorough training, be properly accredited and insured, and in my opinion, they should also do the following:
1. They should take every aspect of your wellbeing into consideration, rather than focusing on a particular part of you that needs to be ‘fixed’ or altered in some way. All parts of you are related and work together as a whole and it’s important to take that into consideration.
2. They should hold you accountable for the changes you say that you want. As adults, we are supposed to be able to take responsibility for the things we say that we will do, but in practice, it’s not always that easy. A coach will help by providing you with the motivation and structure to be successful and stay on track. Remember your coach may be qualified in other disciplines too but they are not there to prescribe for you. Just to hold you accountable for the changes that you have agreed to, and to give you the encouragement to find out for yourself what really works.
3. They should keep you focused on your solutions, not on a list of problems that are holding you back. And they should meet you where you are, however ‘bad’ that place may seem to be, and then help you move forward from there. The entire coaching process is about your success.
4. They should offer you a short free sample session to allow you time to ask any practical questions you may have and to sample their coaching style. This also allows your coach to judge if they can really help you. Coaching is a partnership and both parties need to be confident in the relationship.
5. They may offer you ‘signposts’ to further resources but should stop short of prescribing for you unless you are also specifically employing them to do so, in which case they should hold appropriate qualifications in that speciality too. To tell someone what to do can be quite dis-empowering compared with giving them the understanding of where they can get that information and learn for themselves. This is unfortunately why some coaches have earned themselves the name ‘The Broccoli Police’. A good coach will never impose their judgements or standards on you.
So for example, if you are overweight, or drinking more alcohol than is good for you, it is far more empowering for you to find out for yourself what a healthy weight or alcohol consumption is, rather than have someone else give you a target that you must achieve. All the research shows that when you take responsibility for yourself in this way, you are far more likely to succeed in achieving your goals. It’s what your health coach should be encouraging you to do.
These are just a few of the many benefits that a coach can offer you but it’s worth pointing out that there are also some things that they shouldn’t be offering you too.
In my opinion, the best coaching is always content free which means that health and wellness coaches don’t prescribe or advise. If they do then they are being something else. Nutritionists, nurses and personal trainers are all beginning to incorporate elements of coaching into their professional roles but if your coach is giving you specific advice about the things you should or shouldn’t be doing, then it may be worth checking on their professional qualifications to do so.
A coach should never, in my opinion, tell you what to do, or worse still try to sell you anything. Yet you will find plenty of people who do just that. So I urge you to make sure that anyone you chose to work with is properly qualified and that if they also want to sell you anything, or prescribe for you, that they are additionally qualified to do so.
Of course, it’s fine to combine coaching with other services such as consulting, advising, training or mentoring. In fact that often works very well, but I also believe that it’s important to be clear about what the practitioner’s scope of professional practice is in each area, even if they do overlap at times.
So if you decide to look for a personal coach I would suggest that you are really looking for a partner to travel along with you on your journey. Someone who can point out the occasional signpost along the way, rather than a teacher who tells you which way to go.
YOU CAN BE YOUR OWN COACH TOO
Wellness can mean so many different things to different people, to one person it may mean achieving a goal that is physically measurable, to another it may mean the ability to manage well under pressure, or even to enjoy a greater inner contentment.
In my experience, most people already have a very good idea of what they should do to become more healthy. After all, we are constantly bombarded with recommendations for healthy living by the media but many people also give up along the way or fail to even start because they don’t know how to work through the change process. In learning to coach yourself you can overcome these challenges by learning a set of skills that will last you a lifetime, skills that will help you achieve new outcomes for yourself that you may not even have thought possible.
Are you ready to coach yourself?
You can if you want to, it’s entirely possible but it takes focused commitment and a strong desire to succeed.
Are you ready for that?
If your answer is no, then be honest about that and consider using the activities and suggestions in this book to help raise your enthusiasm for something better. Or consider accepting a free sample session from a professional coach who can work with you one to one.
If your answer is yes, then all you have to do is turn the page and we will get going straight away.
“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.”