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  • Writer's pictureLucy Qian

Self-coaching: Lead Your Life with Clarity, Creativity and Courage

A few days ago, I conducted a sharing session in the global learning festival for a Swedish multinational company. The topic of my session was coaching – introducing what coaching is and how coaching helps people achieve their career and life goals. The majority of the 650 people who attended were new to coaching and they asked many questions about how to find a good coach for themselves. While answering their questions, it occurred to me that I wanted to write a post to introduce self-coaching. Although self-coaching is not a substitute for working with a coach, coaching ourselves does help us a great deal in our daily lives. If allows us to understand our situations better and make wise decisions.

What do I mean by self-coaching? Imagine when we find ourselves in situations that we do not want, we usually feel unhappy, disappointed, upset, etc. We keep thinking how come the other person treat us badly, why do things not go our way, how disappointing it is to see ourselves fail our goals … It is hard for us to stay objective in those situations especially when we get emotional. Our lack of objectivity keeps us from seeing things as they are. In that sense, self-coaching means taking ourselves out of the situation that keeps us from having more perspectives about what’s happened. Just like what’s said in the leadership concept of “balcony and dance floor”, introduced by Ronald Heifetz, that when we are on the dance floor, we are occupied by the activities and details, but when we get on the balcony, we can observe the activities, ourselves, and others, seizing what’s really true and what’s most important.

To coach yourself means that you need to wear a coaching mindset to examine what’s happened. Let me introduce three important coaching mindsets that will equip you with the ability and skills to get yourself on the “balcony.”

Mindset #1 Dedication to truth

When you travel, you may rely on your map. The more accurate your map is, the more likely you are to get to your destination. Otherwise you may get lost. Similarly, in our daily lives, we have a “map” in our mind, our map of reality, i.e., how we see ourselves and the world. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. On the contrary, if our mind is occupied with faulty thinking, untested assumptions, self-limiting beliefs, and even illusions, we are less likely to take correct actions or make wise decisions.

The coaching mindset of dedication to truth is all about making sure our map of reality is most accurate possible.

Thinking that shows it’s a strength:

- When I am emotional, I know for a fact that the world I see may not be the true reality

- It is a life-long process to examine and update my reality of map. I need to own it and be responsible for it

- When unpleasant situations happen, I tend to see it as an invitation to revise my map of reality so that I can get to know myself and the world better

Examples of self-coaching questions:

- What is my interpretation of what’s happened?

- What, if anything is absolutely true? (the facts)

- What are only my perceptions or assumptions?

- Which evidence/facts from the situation (or earlier situations) counter my perceptions and assumptions?

Amelia was upset when she learned that her subordinate went to her own boss to talk about a work conflict.. In our coaching conversation, Amelia kept talking about how disappointed she was at both of them. She felt disrespected and played. When I asked her what she knew as absolutely true. She realized that she actually had no idea what her boss had said to the subordinate. She also found that from the subordinate’s response afterwards, it was probably more true that her boss had coached the person to support Amelia than doing harm to their relationship. Once the reality was revealed to her, Amelia found more peace internally and could start strategizing her next steps.

Mindset #2 Openness to other possibilities and perspectives

The second mindset is straightforward. It is based on the previous mindset we introduced. When things happen, we may consciously or unconsciously believe that there’s only one possibility or way to look at them. Sometimes we are so attached to the version of the story we believe that we simply cannot see other possibilities and perspectives.

Thinking that shows it’s a strength:

- However true it looks like, there are always more than one perspective to look at a situation

- It is my personal choice to decide how to look at a situation

Examples of self-coaching questions:

- What would be another way to look at the situation? / the person?

- Is it possible that … ?

- What if you knew that … ?

Jenny was rather concerned about her 5-year-old son who she thought was lack of empathy. Her proof was that when a pet or plant died, instead of looking miserable, her son always immediately asked her to buy him another one. Jenny’s catastrophic thinking got her to believe that her son would not know how to build relationships given his lack of empathy. During coaching, I asked her: “What if you knew that it is your son’s unique way to express his feelings for those dead pets and plants by wanting to take care of new ones?” Hearing that Jenny immediately stopped her catastrophic thinking and responded with great calmness: “It is definitely a possibility! I never thought about that. Now you help me see my next step. I’m going to speak with my son and ask him what he feels.” My great mentor Marion Franklin, MCC describes the exact coaching approach, i.e., reframing, in her book the Heart of Laser Focused Coaching. Marion says that "opening our mind just that tiny, tiny crack to another interpretation took away the intensity of 'this is how it is'".

Mindset #3 Willingness to try and fail

You are probably familiar with such a scenario: you want to do something but find yourself dreading it. You’re curious what’s holding you back. The third mindset is about the fear of failure, which is probably the most common fear for human beings. Willing to try and fail means that you care about the process or experience of growth more than the result.

Thinking that shows it’s a strength:

- When I am out of my comfort zone, it means I am learning and growing

- Knowing how to do it is not enough, the key is that I apply what I know in action

- I see what I want to do as an experiment instead of a test of how good or bad I am

Examples of self-coaching questions:

- In the next week, what is one thing that I am willing to experiment?

- What is one thing that I am willing to fail?

I hope the three coaching mindsets will help you better reflect on your situations and come up with actions that work best for you. If you decide to experiment coaching yourself, I’d love to hear your experience. If you feel like speaking with a coach to deep dive into your challenges, I’d be happy to have a discovery conversation.

If you like this post and would like to receive such lessons and insights drawn from real life stories, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Your email address will NEVER be rented or sold.

Lucy Qian, Life Coach, PCC (ICF)


About Lucy Qian, International Life Coach

Lucy’s clients say that she has a superpower for helping them see clear direction and next steps, no matter how confused they are in the beginning. Through coaching with Lucy, they become clear about who they are and know what they really want.

Lucy is a certified coach in different settings: Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Certified Laser-focused Life Coach by the Life Coaching Group, and Organizational Coach by the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.

In her blog, A Journey to Clearness, Lucy shares life experiences and lessons from her practice as an international life coach.

Learn more about Lucy.

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