The three different levels of coaching and how each of them supports lasting change.
While personal and professional coaching has been a growing field in the USA for the past 30 years, in many parts of the world it is still in its infancy. The beauty of coaching is that it allows for more creativity, innovation, and experimentation than other mainstream change tools. The catch is most potential clients have little awareness of what it is, how it works, and what to look for when engaging a coach.
In an effort to close this gap here is my take on what coaching is, what type of change it supports, and the different levels it operates on.
What is it?
Coaching is a tool to assist you to make change in your life and to grow as a person through the process. It helps you visualise what happiness and fulfilment look like for you and supports you to achieve it. Through the process you gain awareness of where you are right now, what is working, and what is holding you back. It is a deeper and more profound experience than simply reaching your goals through planning and action. To commit to coaching is to self-discover, to claim your future self, and to create from your whole being.
When do I need coaching?
Coaching can greatly benefit you at any time in your life, however, people tend to think about seeing a coach when they are facing a challenge, feeling consistently low, or after several attempts to change without success. It is an excellent tool for any type of personal and professional development, and is becoming more widely used in workplaces and within families and relationships.
How does it work?
Coaching works on the principle of synergy – the energy (ideas, focus, clarity) arising from the coach-client partnership is far greater than the energy brought by the individual alone. A coach is a sparring partner with specialised skills to ask the right questions, draw out what is important, keep you accountable, and encourage you in directions you may be unwilling to go alone.
Coaching operates at three different levels of reality, and the nature of the change shifts as the client travels through each level.
Most coaches operate at the practical level, helping clients to meet specific challenges or changes in their day-to-day life. This occurs in the reality we perceive through our senses and know to be true. It is the masculine domain of logic, reason, goals, and outputs. It utilises our left-brain intelligence, and focuses on what we can prove, measure, and validate.
Coaches work with clients on practical topics such as changing jobs, losing weight, improving communication and social skills, looking for a new partner, study choices, and relocation. In the session the coach helps the client to go from A to B as effectively as possible using contracts, visions, goals, objectives, and measurements. Challenges are approached as something to be solved or resolved when the client feels unable to do so alone.
Questions at this level are fairly standard. They include what, how, and when, and the process has clear deliverables. It is perfect for achieving one clear outcome, bringing big, unshaped ideas into form, or for simpler transitions like finding your feet in a new country, planning a wedding, or CV writing and interview preparations. It tends to include other practical tools such as training and consulting.
Possibility and potential
This next level is the reality of unlimited potential and possibility. It is a deeper exploratory process that helps clients identify alternative options and solutions beyond the obvious. It draws on the under-developed skills of intuition, instinct, imagination, and dreaming, where clients are encouraged to utilise the right-brain creativity and build competencies in the more feminine domains of intelligence.
Coaches who work at this level are often person-orientated such as psychologists, therapists, HR, communications and PR professionals, psychics, yogis, body-workers, physical trainers, and creatives. Through the process clients develop their innate human capacity to look within to intuit, sense, feel, hear, see, and envision insights, wisdom and guidance.
It also begins the journey to authenticity by moving the client away from the fixed structures, rules and conditioning of the outer world to become more familiar with their inner land. It is new territory and poses questions such as ‘who am I?’, ‘what does my life mean to me?’, ‘who do I want to become?’, ‘what impact do I want to have?’, ‘what is it to be alive?’ and ‘what would I choose if nothing held me back?’.
Here the coach works with the client’s approach to life rather than just the topic the client brings to the session. The goal is to open up alternate ways of viewing themselves, others, and the world around them. Challenges are approached as opportunities to self-discover, reflect, assess, and adjust. The language is dreamlike, for example: ‘imagine if your life were different, how would it feel and what do you sense about that?’
This type of coaching is perfect for major transitions such as feeling lost and wanting a new path, sensing more is possible in your life, becoming a young adult, choosing a future, having a baby, illness, losing a loved one, leadership and organisational change, or major career transitions where the client is unclear on what to do next. Life here evolves from being predetermined and inflexible to an adventure – a way of seeking maturity through experience.
Transformation or presence
At this level life moves from adventure to a rite of passage, where the client learns to view him or herself as the one and only creator of their life. It is here that clients master their mindset and become clear on the unconscious rules that run their inner world. They become artful at creating their outer reality, a dance between the unknown and the known. This is where human potential becomes realised and expands our universal existence.
The education is complete when clients no longer view life as something that happens to them – to be controlled, conquered or suffered. Rather they come to meet life as a creative partner, where life brings situations, events, and people, like a canvas offers itself to an artist. Humans are the artists with all the tools to manifest that wonderful, vibrant and compelling masterpiece called reality.
Coaching at this deep level tends to be delivered by spiritual teachers and transformational coaches. In these sessions clients can expect to experience meditation, powerful visualisations, be guided to work with their body as an interpreter of intuition, and to ask deep fundamental questions like ‘what is being asked of me?’ The mindset cultivated is one of willingness, openness, trust, and readiness to communicate with the unseen universal intelligence.
A great analogy for this process is that of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It offers a safe and supportive container so the client can disintegrate their old way of being and transform or bloom into full self-expression. The client transcends their current reality, evolves in consciousness and contributes through their presence to a more loving, peaceful, and awake world.
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