What is coaching anyway?

I was at a conference recently where a speaker referred to people seeking therapy. She warned the audience of ‘private people popping up and offering therapy when they aren’t qualified to do so’.


This got me thinking: am I seen as one of those people?


Now, I know I don’t offer therapy as I go to great lengths to ensure my clients know I’m not a counsellor; I’m a coach. So, the next obvious question (to me) is what do I mean by the word ‘coach’ and what am I offering?


I offer a safe, non-judgemental space where a person feels listened to and able to take some time out to quieten their minds. It’s from this quieter headspace that we can insightfully see wider choices and options for ourselves.


Family, children, parents, work, school, money, social media, thoughts about the past, fears about the future can bring about a sense of overcrowding in our heads; like an orchestra with a brass band section booming behind our brow. It can often feel that our options are closing down and we are running ourselves into endless cycles of poor health and difficult relationships, with everyone against us and no relief available.


But there is also a harp playing within that orchestra. It’s a soft and beautiful sound and it is constantly singing behind all the other instruments, often we can’t hear it when it’s drowned out by that noisy brass band section.


My teacher, Rudi Kennard, told me a story about a convict he worked with in a prison in America. This was a relatively young man who was desperate for money. He had got himself into a lot of debt and saw no way out, other than to rob a bank. As we know, it is relatively easy to get hold of a gun in the States, so he decided to use the gun to rob the bank.


Whilst he was in the bank, the alarm was raised and a police patrol officer, who was passing by, ran into the bank to deal with the robbery. The bank robber told Rudi that, in that moment, he panicked; he shot the police officer dead and ran away. He’s now serving a sentence for murder and theft.


But here’s the thing: he told Rudi that the split second he had pulled the trigger, he knew he had more options available to him. In the moment that he pulled the trigger, he felt he had no options. But the second the bullet fired, the options came flooding in; he could have pushed the police officer out the way, he could have surrendered, he could have only shot him in the knee.


So, what has this story got to do with my question about coaching and what do I offer?


Because I know we have an inbuilt self-correcting system which always quietens a busy or chaotic mind. Our harp is always playing amongst the loud orchestra in our heads. As soon as our robber had pulled the trigger, in the very next moment his mind settled (all on its own) and he saw a range of different choices that were available to him.


When we cut ourselves, our body repairs itself; it forms a scab and, as long as we leave the scab alone, it heals all by itself. When we are caught up in overwhelming thoughts moment to moment, we can take comfort in the fact that we have a self-correcting psychological system that heals without us doing anything, unless we pick at it.


In my coaching work with people of any age I am guiding my client to a space where they can hear the harp; where they can feel safe to see what they are experiencing moment to moment and, from this space, notice the options opening up to them.


For me, it’s not about unpicking the past; not about letting genies out of bottles. It’s about seeing in this very moment that we are safe. Then we might naturally drop away from those heady thoughts and see for ourselves, in a moment of self-kindness, that we are able to choose the step to take next.


Change comes from a quieter mind, from a place of being kind to ourselves and knowing that, no matter that thoughts are popping up right now, they will pass on their own. This is what I do; I guide people to that space.