A key assumption in any type of coaching is that you are the expert when it comes to finding your own solutions. Of course you are. It’s a fundamental premise contained within both models I’m going to tell you about, and it applies equally regardless of whether you are being coached by a professional, co-coaching, or coaching yourself. As you will probably have noticed by now, the coaching process is full of challenging questions and over the next few pages, I’ll be offering you a step by step guide through some of the most important of those questions. If you can allow yourself the time to answer them honestly you will find yourself transported along the path of transition with relative ease.

Each of these models assumes that you have the potential to overcome your own internal resistance or barriers to change but they also require you to have the courage and commitment to actually work with them, and not just read about them. A good model however, should never constrain you but simply give you the necessary structure to make the process easier to follow. One of the first and best loved of all the coaching models is the GROW model that was originally used with great success in the athletics and sporting world.

GROW is an acronym standing for your Goal, your current Reality, your Options and finally your Will to change. In this simple and practical model, you are guided from your initial goal setting, through exploring the reality of where you are now in relation to those goals, exploring your options and finally confirming your commitment to take action. Here is a simple reminder of what those letters stand for:

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Way forward / Will

Although the GROW model is perhaps the best known model, from my perspective as a healthcare practitioner it lacks the element of safety which is so very important whenever you are embarking on health related goals. So I would also like to introduce you to a model of my own design; the OARS Health Coaching Model. I feel this model is more appropriate when it comes to making improvements to your health because it also asks you to consider if what you are doing is entirely safe and in the best interests of your long term wellbeing.



Let me begin by telling you how the OARS model first came into being.

Like many coaches, I was reflecting on a recent call with a client and I just happened to be doing this whilst I was out in a rowing boat.

Now, this particular client was a young man recovering from a motorbike accident and one of his key goals was to regain full mobility as quickly as possible. He hated hospitals, he hated being told that it would take months to heal and he had a burning desire to get back on his bike and start riding again as quickly as possible. For him, the value of coaching was not in overcoming procrastination or staying focused but in having the skilled companionship of someone alongside him to share his progress, helping him mentally rehearse his recovery and above all encouraging him to make sure that his goals were safe and taking him in the direction of sustainable good health. There were many times in those conversations when he needed encouragement to seek out specialist advice to check on the safety of the speed at which he was pushing his recovery, and many times the advice he received was to be more gentle with himself, to have greater patience, or to exercise in different ways. There were times when that advice turned out to be very challenging indeed.

And I was reflecting on this as I was watching the oars of that rowing boat cut through the water pulling me further forward with every stroke and it occurred to me that this was an excellent metaphor for health coaching too.

Of course, if I had just looked at those oars they would have been useless to me. To be of any use at all I had to engage them with the water so that with the application of energy and effort they pulled me forward and it’s just the same with the OARS model of coaching. You actually need to engage with it so that it can pull you forward.

So that is how the OARS model came to be born. I hope you find it as helpful as I do, but remember it’s just a model, not a script.


  • Outcomes or objectives
  • Action planning
  • Reality checking and locating resources.
  • Safety check to ensure that your outcome, action planning and resources all lead in the direction of enhanced and sustainable health

Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself at each stage of the process to help ‘pull’ yourself forward.



Firstly, choose the most important goal or outcome that you want to work on. Just pick a single topic to keep things simple for now. You can come back and repeat this process as many times as you need to for future outcomes until it is completely familiar to you, but for now, I recommend you keep to one simple goal.

Having a specific and clear outcome is an essential starting point because it helps to give you direction and ground your vision by breaking it down into small and manageable steps.

Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself:

  • What would you like to change or achieve?

Write your outcome in a simple sentence using positive words only to express what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid.

Imagine this outcome is already yours.

  • What do you see, feel, hear, or do that tells you that you have achieved your goal? Be as specific as you can.

Check back to make sure that you have written your outcome in a form that is SMART. In other words it specific, measurable, action based, realistic and set in time?

  • What might other people recognise in you, that proves you have been successful?



This is where it all happens, it’s where you decide which options will work best for you and it’s where your commitment gets turned into real results.

  • What now needs to happen to get you to that place of achievement?
  • Consider what you could do to help yourself move forward. Think of as many creative options as you can.
  • If you were to admit to yourself what the most important first steps were, what would they be?
  • Now if you were to actually do these things, would they begin to move you forward in the right direction?
  • What else could you do to put your ideas into action? Is there anything in particular that you either need to stop doing or start doing?



In this step, you need to check that your action plan is actually realistic and achievable and then consider what practical inner or outer resources you could draw on to help you achieve it. So consider:

  • What do you have now in relation to this outcome? What does the gap look like or feel like between what you already have and what you want or need in the future? How realistic is it to close that gap?
  • What obstacles might be in the way of your success and what resources could you draw on to help yourself?
  • Drawing on a wide range of resources, both inner and outer can make the process of change so much easier but most of us aren’t used to asking for help. Where might you find the help and support you need to make achieving your outcome even easier? For example, you could ask your doctor or nurse for advice, look for information in a book, or on the internet, join a support group, or perhaps speak to an expert.
  • If you were to make yourself a list of all the resources both internal and external that you could draw on to help you move forward, who, or what would be on that list?



Good health is incredibly precious so it’s always worth considering if the people who are medically qualified to care for you would also be supportive of your plan, or would they urge caution about any aspect of it?

Ask yourself:

  • Do any of the goals or resources you have in mind compromise your health in any way?

Sharing your plan with someone who has the clinical qualifications to appreciate any risks you might be taking is not only a way of helping to keep yourself safe but also of gaining support for your plan too. So if you are not sure about the answers to these questions then I recommend asking someone who is medically qualified to advise you.

  • Is your action plan fundamentally health enriching?

For example, do any of the resources you have in mind bring with them their own health concerns such as unbalanced diets, unknown ‘medications’, or stopping one bad habit only to replace it with another which can be just as damaging.



Asking directly for what you need to support your success can be daunting sometimes, so it’s worth giving this a little bit of forethought to help you find the right words to say. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • “I’m doing really well on my new diet, please could you stop offering me chocolates?”
  • “I want to cut back on how much alcohol I’m drinking. Do you think you could help me by not expecting me to share a whole bottle of wine with you, I’d like to keep to just one glass this evening?”

Now think of some examples of your own:

  •    “Please could you help me by…”



The golden key to coaching is creating an accountable partnership whether that is just with yourself, with a trusted friend or with someone who is professionally qualified to help you.

For really complex or highly charged emotional issues I strongly recommend that you find a professional health coach to work alongside you for a while. This needn’t be a drawn out process but often the company of a skilled professional can prove invaluable in helping you gain momentum, or move through a challenging life transition. Of course, you may just decide that you would enjoy the company of a skilled companion anyway, rather than going it alone, many people do and you might be one of them. But there is another option  I’d like to tell you about that is becoming increasingly popular and that is co-coaching.

To co-coach effectively you need to find a partner who knows you well and who would also like to share a coaching relationship with you. Make sure you set some ground rules before you begin, such as maintaining complete confidentiality, equal sharing of time, listening without judgment and so on.

Check that you each know what the other wants to get out of the session. For example, I often start with the question:

“How will you know if this coaching session has been a  success, what needs to have happened, been achieved or understood, for you to really feel that it has been worthwhile?”

Then use either the OARS or GROW model to keep yourself on track making sure that you finish with an action plan that is realistic and acceptable and most important of all achievable in the time available between sessions.

To co-coach properly you need to be able to listen without interrupting, whilst paying complete attention to the strengths and inner resources of the person you are coaching so that you can encourage them to come up with their own solutions. It’s also important that you secure a real commitment for the action steps that have been agreed upon. And of course, you should also expect your co-coach to be able to do the same for you.



Imagine that you are now the coach and you have been asked to work with a friend with exactly the same health challenges as yourself.

  • What would your conversation be like as you take your friend through the OARS model? What new outcomes or achievements would they choose for themselves and what resources could you encourage them to draw on to help them achieve these goals?
  • Now, what if this friend were really you?
  • What is it that you know you need to do now?



“Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answers.”



The Health Factor Copyright © 2017 by Anne Watkins. All Rights Reserved.

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