by George Theodorou
Coaching. Something I’ve believed I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Hearing about people’s experiences. Hearing about their thoughts and feelings. Hearing about their goals and aspirations. I’ve always wanted to help people to deal with whatever they are facing, and to help them get ‘there’.
My passion for helping people has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour and have naturally been inquisitive about people’s thoughts and experiences. I felt like I could help people by hearing about their experiences and offering my advice.
People used to say to me that I was great at giving advice and that they thought I was a good listener. I thrived off this. The feeling of helping people was amazing for me. It was also strange, but a nice feeling, to have people come to me specifically for a situation they were about to approach, to hear what I think about it. And I was super happy to oblige.
Well, what a shock I’ve been through recently…
I’ve always wanted to be in a profession that helps people. As I heard the terms ‘life coach’, ‘performance coach’, and ‘personal development coach’ more and more, I felt aligned with the role of the coach.
This was further strengthened after seeing Maggie Siff demonstrating ‘performance coaching’ in her role as Wendy Rhodes in the TV series ‘Billions’.
Seeing the impact Wendy had on those she was ‘coaching’. How she was able to so quickly find the right things to say. How she seemed to understand people better than they understood themselves. How her advice helped other people overcome their perceived barriers, which enabled them to thrive.
I just thought, “wow”. I want to be exactly like her.
I couldn’t see anything else that would be a better fit for me. I just loved the idea of immersing myself in other people’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences and helping them achieve whatever they wanted to achieve. I felt incredibly inspired as to how my life could be if I were to become a coach.
Until recently, where I experienced a little bit of a ‘reality check’…
In May this year, I was given the opportunity to enrol on a coaching qualification, which has overhauled my thinking about coaching.
I learned that I already knew a lot about coaching, but I just didn’t connect the dots.
You see, I thought the coach ‘fixed’ things for people. I thought the coach had the knowledge, the understanding of psychology. All they had to do was package this information into an easily digestible way for the individual. That was the skill of coaching – I thought.
Little did I know that coaching has nothing to do with providing the answers, or by ‘fixing’ people’s ‘problems’.
In fact, coaching is grounded in something that I had previously learned about during my time in college, but which I thought had nothing to do with coaching.
That is the person-centred approach, pioneered by Carl Rogers.
Whilst I was learning about the impact Rogers had on coaching, effectively paving the way for coaching to exist, I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that I wanted to be something so badly based on the things that I thought I ‘knew’ – when in fact what I knew was quite off the mark.
It was equally strange to realise that I already had a good understanding of Rogers’ person-centred approach and the core conditions of empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard, but that I thought that there was no way this related to coaching.
That’s just counselling, right?
Coaching is about using your ‘expertise’ on human motivation and behaviour, to get people to act and ‘achieve’ their success, right?
Whilst counselling focuses on the past and tries to get to the root of an issue, whereas coaching focuses on the future and short-term or long-term goals, both approaches place the person (or the client), at the centre. The person is the ‘expert’ of their own world.
As I said, this ‘revelation’ really shook me to the core. I mean, my whole life ambition was to help people be the best they can be, and I thought my perception of coaching was going to get me there.
It was certainly a strange moment when I was experiencing a literal shift in my worldview and understanding of my ‘purpose’. However, what an amazing revelation it was.
Quite simply, I want to live in a world where everybody feels able and equipped to reach their potential. It saddens me that there is so much human potential left on the table, due to barriers that are real or perceived. I thought that by being a coach, I could tackle a small part of this huge challenge. It was an amazing feeling to have found my ‘calling’.
Instead, this course has helped me see that whilst you can have an incredible amount of passion to help people and want to see people thrive, you cannot ‘tell’ people how to get there.
I used to think that people had all the potential in the world and that they just needed guidance. Now, by really accepting and appreciating the person-centred approach, I truly believe in human potential.
By that I mean, that people are truly capable of deciding for themselves what it is they want to achieve, and how they do it. People have the answers within them, and the coach’s role is simply to facilitate that process of discovery and learning.
I will note that there are certain disadvantages to the person-centred approach, some of which are detailed in John Blakey and Ian Day’s book, ‘Challenging Coaching’. This book is more aligned with Wendy Rhodes’ approach to coaching – which is still fascinating to me, but I now know that it isn’t the whole approach.
The best approach is the one that works for the other person. Whilst it’s great to think you’ve ‘solved’ someone’s issue, or fixed their problem, this is all surface-level stuff.
People need to feel empowered, not dependent. People need to feel believed in, without certain conditions that limit their autonomy. Quite simply, people know what’s best for themselves.
That was my hardest lesson. My incredible passion for helping people made me think that my role was to figure out what is best for them and then tell them to do that. How wrong was I?
Despite the initial confusion and discomfort from this ‘un-learning’ experience, I’m grateful for it. This way of thinking stills inspires me, perhaps more so, to pursue my dream of becoming a life coach.
There is still a lot more to learn when it comes to coaching, and many other areas of my life. Indeed, I quite look forward to whatever else disrupts my worldview (for the better!) in the future.