The client sat downcast. “I know I said I wanted to, but I am having trouble sticking to the plan. Here I go again. One more attempt to make a real positive change and then another brick wall!”
At times, a client seems to be his own worst enemy. He started well, but ran out of enthusiasm or confidence along the way. The “why” seems weak in the face of the discouraging results or boredom or painful experiences.
It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:15: For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
And often, this discouragement is followed by self-hatred and a cycle of negative self-talk while the once-hoped-for goal is put aside. He feels like a failure and disappointment to himself and to the coach, among others.
Getting to the Big “Why”
As coaches, our joy is to see our clients succeed, so whether at the beginning of the goal-setting process or after a setback, it is time to take a careful look at the reasons why the client is considering change.
In making any kind of positive change to lifestyle practices, there will be days when the question comes, “Why was I going to try to do this anyway?”
The client needs to be able to find that his goal matches his core values, and you as coach can be a tremendous support for someone ready to give up on himself and his goal.
The big question “Why?” indicates the personal values of the client. The “why” needs to be true to what the client really cares about and really wants. An answer that only gives the most obvious answer or that serves to please another person does not necessarily tap into the emotional belief system lying beneath the surface.
If we expect clients to be logical at all times, we will be in for a surprise. People are often not logical due to strong emotions and beliefs that may appear to make no sense, although there is always a reason why people do what they do.
By probing to get to the root of his personal values, we can help our client be much more successful. A person who decides to give up smoking or to change his eating habits may have very good logical reasons for doing so. He may even have been warned by his physician to make a change. However, logic does not always prevail against emotion or physical desire.
It can be beneficial to assist the client in discovering what need or desire the cigarettes or junk food is satisfying. Certainly a medical examination may uncover vitamin or mineral deficiencies that lead to cravings, but there may also be other factors. It is unrealistic to “just stop doing it” without paying attention to the underlying motivation or at the readiness he has to change.
Perhaps a cigarette break gives permission to relax for a few minutes, to slow down and breathe more slowly. Perhaps the taste of junk food gives a feeling of pampering oneself in a day of feeling too under-appreciated. Clearly the client in these cases values peace and quiet or comfort more than being smoke-free or 40 pounds lighter. Peace, quiet, and comfort are, after all, normal, legitimate desires all people experience.
Asking a few non-judgmental questions can make a client aware of what drives him emotionally to seek the relief or satisfaction he found temporarily in the non-healthy behavior. He then may be willing to explore some alternate healthier practices which will provide that same kind of feeling he wants.
Coaching Provides Energy
A coach who understands that people are often their own worst enemies will come alongside and offer enthusiastic support so that the client can grow to a place of readiness to begin personal change.
Changing habits takes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. As coaches, we can provide energy-giving and non-judgmental support, encouragement, and accountability to increase the client’s chances of victory. For when our client wins, we win too!
Donna Astern is a certified Life Coach loves to see people move forward with the unique plan and person God has for their lives.