In the beginning, I thought that health coaching was all about the client.
My integrative health coach training experiences at Duke IM in the Foundation Course (2009) and the Certification Course (2010) were phenomenal and truly transformed my life. I not only learned and practiced the coaching skills, the coaching process, and how to effectively partner with clients; I started my own optimal health journey. Since starting my private practice during Certification, I’ve had the privilege of being invited to journey with clients who bravely take on the challenges in their life, and to witness the bold moves they make to align their vision and values with daily living.
My revelations as an integrative health coach aren’t rocket science. But now, 8 years later, I am clearer about how when I’m open and paying attention, my clients make me a better coach and a better person. It’s the circle of coaching.
I have more revelations, but here are the five that rise to top. Disclaimer: I am a work in progress.
It’s not just about the coaching skills, the coaching process, and the coaching partnership. In order for me to bring my “A” game to my work, whether coaching, instructing, or presenting, I must make my own self-care a priority. I have to live with intention, being a student of my own journey, conducting experiments to find my path in nutrition, movement, relationships/communication, etc., and honoring what I already know to be true about what I need. My inner work prepares me to be the coach my client deserves, one who is present, listening mindfully, and compassionate.
For me, that is wrapped in a 5-15 minute mindfulness practice, a daily devotion with journaling in the morning, and movement sometime during the day. The difference between the days when I create the margin to include these staples and the days I don’t translates into how I show up with others professionally and personally. That practice of settling in and shifting gears from “doing” to “being” is invaluable. I’m more settled, focused, and cognizant of the space I am holding and the process I am following to best serve my client. That energy creates the space for my client to freely share and explore.
As coaches, we are taught to operate from the belief that clients are creative, resourceful, and capable of finding their own solutions/answers. We are also taught the importance of beginner’s mind and staying curious; however, none of that knowledge stops me from sometimes “knowing” what my client “should” do. I self-manage pretty consistently, but still find myself relieved and surprised by the insight or actions chosen by my client. I laugh at myself in those moments when my client proves, yet again, that they have a unique solution that I couldn’t have come up with in a hundred years!
It’s that simple. When I am quick to speak, I can feel the energy of the conversation shift and sometimes deflate. I rob my client of the opportunity to dig deeper to find their own right answer. When I’m silent, I communicate my belief in them, my confidence that the answer will come, and that I’m happy to hang out while they get there…no rush, no pressure. Count to 3 before responding or do whatever it takes to give your client the space to do their own work.
Because I don’t think they go away. At least mine haven’t. Let your fear be a signal worthy of your attention and exploration. Examine its origin: perfectionism, people pleasing, fear of failure or success, protecting your public image? Whatever resonates for you doesn’t have to dominate you. Notice its impact. Whether your fear reveals insecurities or opportunities, conjures self-doubt or self-confidence, interrupts or motivates forward momentum is all valuable data. Fear is a natural part of the human experience. Practice self-compassion. What helps you press through the fear? For me, it’s the four Ps: prayer, preparation, practice, and maybe a good pinot noir.
So it’s the circle of coaching. I’m grateful for my clients who teach me how to be a better coach and a better person. I’m grateful to be able to do this work and to be a part of this health coaching community.
And yes, I’m grateful to be a work in progress.
The early registration deadlines for the next IHCPT Courses are coming up soon! Register for the Foundation Course by February 2 and for the Certification Course by January 5 to receive the early registration discount. You will receive training on how to help others through the coaching process and will also learn about how to use these skills in your own life.
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