Breakthrough Coaching Conversations: recent turning points with life coaching clients

A “Show, Don’t Tell” Demonstration of How Life Coaching Works

I’m setting out here, from memory and email, brief moments from some breakthrough coaching encounters that happened recently (2005).  The conversations with Beth and Janice had to do with life and career issues (for most clients, they’re one and the same).

Bill’s is a typical case of a client who has a clear goal and simply cannot move himself to reach for it.

Rita wanted coaching on an internet business she thought she wanted to start.  All conversations occurred in the first week of coaching, and all represented turning points of sorts, after which the clients began to look at things in totally new ways. It was exciting to be there!  (Names and some locations have been changed to protect the victorious).

1. Beth Gives Herself Permission to Reconsider Old Loves (this page)

2. Janice Tries on a Thought Experiment to Identify What Keeps Her From Leaving the Firm

3. Bill Can’t Get Motivated to Meet His Goal — Studying for his Ph.D.

4. Rita Gets Help Very Different From What She Expected

5. Karen’s Story of Gaining the Self-Esteem to Learn New Things and Plan Her Future

6. Coaching with Intuition

Afterword – Applause for Clients


Beth Gives Herself Permission to Reconsider Old Loves

Beth:  I have been doing some thinking about what you had said [in our last call]. Somewhere in it all I think I came up with the choice of whether or not I should give myself permission to look at things I really enjoy again.

Coach:  Great.  Why do you suppose that happened?

Beth:  Last week you said you’d read through all the materials I sent you about my skills and my personality and aptitude assessments, and then you said you were more interested to know what I loved to do — what I’d always loved to do, no matter how long ago or how trivial. And when I said the one job I’d truly enjoyed was being a camp counselor, I actually felt myself waiting, almost holding my breath, for you to laugh or tell me that was silly. And you didn’t. You took that as seriously as if I’d said I wanted to get an MBA.

Coach:  More so, I think.

Beth: (Laughs).

* * *

Excerpt of mail from Beth the next day: . . . “I struggle to find my true calling – At times I think it is in marketing, other times, I think I try to avoid true passions because I do not believe they will be lucrative or at the very least, enough to support myself, or give me the lifestyle I want. I have gone through two career counselors. If I were to outline what I really enjoy doing it really does evolve around me of service to others, BUT there is a catch. I cannot operate as well in this mode if people ‘expect’ it of me . . . ”

Email from Coach:  “Wow, this looks like some great thinking going on! There is one thing that I’d be curious to know, if I were you, and that is why, exactly, the notion of an expectation ruins any giving or service for you. I won’t get into any psychoanalysis because it’s not my function or inclination here, but I merely note that if you could better understand this – bring it out into the open – you might simultaneously open up even more options for yourself. This is consistent with my coaching philosophy about self-awareness leading to authenticity.”

Excerpt of mail from Beth the next day, enclosing product of several hours’ worth of journaling while mulling over the question:  “Why do I need to dictate who gets my services and/or charity? 1) Taken advantage of in the past [by] a lot of people who knew better [and] did it anyway – hurtful. . . Helping others that I want [to help] brings a sense of closure to the chapter of being taken advantage of.. it is natural for me to be this way and I also enjoy the act of kindness, innovation or service that I offer. I enjoy recognition, this is part of the internal reward.” [She goes on to list her new criteria for what she wants out of a career and life, and several types of careers that would fit her new criteria].

Beth, on the next phone call a few days later:  I’m so excited to tell you about all these revelations I’ve been having! Do you mind?

Coach:  Not at all!

Beth:  I’m really thinking about some things for the first time. I remember what you were saying, too, about clinging to status and prestige, including in the form of money or conventional jobs that we think impress people. I just don’t think marketing is for me. I’m not a conformist, and you’re right that it wouldn’t be the creative outlet I thought it would be for me. Those marketing people you put me in touch with loved their jobs but they were incredibly helpful in disabusing me of some ideas. So I’ve got a few new careers I’m going to try out on you. Are you ready?

Coach:  Let’s go.

Go to to the second of the recent breakthrough coaching conversations, Janice Tries on a Thought Experiment to Identify What Keeps Her From Leaving the Firm

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