There are ways to get clarity around the coaching process to optimize the payoff you are looking for. It helps to begin by working with your coach to get crystal clear about your goals and how coaching can help you meet them. It is also helpful to identify early on what kind of tradeoffs are necessary for a better future life.

In this article, I will walk you through additional considerations about the coaching process that can assist you in leveraging your time, money, and effort to realize maximum gains. Here are some things to think about when your efforts at coaching seem to be stalling:

Remind yourself why you are in coaching in the first place.

If you are questioning why you are in coaching, you may be experiencing a shift in balance between the costs of coaching and the perceived benefits. Likely when you started you were looking for immediate solutions. Now maybe you aren’t suffering so much and have an improved perspective on your life. Furthermore, you might find that coaching isn’t working as fast as you would like it to. Scientific research indicates that some clients are at risk for dropping out of coaching prematurely when they experience a little bit of improvement, thinking they have gotten enough of what they need. Perhaps these are your thoughts as well.

But the truth is you can’t always expect immediate and easy results for lasting change. Meaningful personal change generally takes time and effort. Patience and faith are keys. Coaching is sometimes like peeling an onion where each layer needs to be removed to get to the core of what needs to be addressed. Your coach’s job is to help you keep progressing toward your goals and update you on your progress so that you don’t get discouraged. 

Be curious about what happens in coaching. Everything is potentially “grist for the mill.”

It is said that what happens in coaching is a microcosm of how we live outside of sessions. That is, we tend to bring into coaching the patterns playing out in our lives.  In this context, coaching can be seen as an opportunity to discover what patterns are running the show and to try out new ways of relating. A good counselor will help you explore these topics without fear or worry.

If your coach seems off or out of sync, then notice your response. Is your tendency to withdraw or not say anything? I once worked with someone who spent almost an entire session talking about how many friends she had. Whereas my goal had been to learn how to get my needs met, my response to her self-centeredness was to say nothing and simply drop out of the working relationship. What if, instead, I had taken a risk and confronted her about my need for better support? That would have been an entirely new behavior for me. I might have learned something valuable in the process.

For example, if you feel resistant about what is going on in session it is likely you can learn something valuable about yourself, about how you are responding to your life. So hang in there. It may take some determination to explore what your resistance is about because the human tendency is to avoid anything uncomfortable. However, as Pema Chodron suggests, the best practice is to turn toward what is difficult with friendly curiosity. You can experience valuable personal growth when you do and uncover your brilliant wisdom in the process. Use your coach to help you explore what you are experiencing.

Confront your doubts about coaching.

It takes faith to work with a coach, especially when the solution isn’t obvious. 

Critical elements for successful coaching include collaborationon mutually agreed-upon goals, a close working relationship, a sense of safety, and empathy. I might add it is important to feel seen, heard, and respected. The absence of any of these elements may lead to an absence of progress toward your goals. Ideally, you would discuss any concerns you have with your coach. If you do, you can only grow from the experience of successfully repairing an important relationship in your life— this time, repairing your relationship with your coach. If it doesn’t feel like it’s worth the effort then find another coach.

Consider your relationship with yourself outside of coaching, too.

It is an uphill battle to improve your life through coaching if you are not already taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Many people adopt patterns of self-neglect based on attitudes they learned from their parents while growing up. If it is difficult for you to be nice to yourself, you’ll want to notice what attitudes and behaviors are problematic and work to change them.

In general, try being your own best friend as much as you are able. This attitude will help maximize the benefits of coaching. Be loyal to yourself no matter what. Respect your needs and limits. You can do this by paying attention to your body sensations and emotions and responding to the needs these represent. What you feel is always relevant and important. What you experience is always your truth. Listen carefully inside so that all parts of you can weigh in on what is going on in your life. Be sure to engage in activities and relationships that are rejuvenating and nurturing.

Good quality sleep is essential for optimal functioning, so above all, be committed to getting quality sleep. Learn all you can about sleep hygiene and put in place the necessary habits for regular sleep hours. 

If any of these efforts are difficult for you, consult your coach.

Build habits that support your health, well-being, and coaching goals.

There is so much written about the power of habit, yet I see many people struggle to build the habits they wish to have. I can so very much relate to this! I think sometimes the habits we try to create and break are so charged with the aura of success and failure that we lose sight of how primitive our brains are at establishing and breaking habits. First, we must understand the function that undesirable behaviors serve so that we can find alternative ways to meet those needs. Only then can new habits be cultivated. Then, through repetition and environmental cues, new behaviors can be aligned with values and goals.

A good coach can help you troubleshoot habits. My recommendation is to start with building one small and easy habit. Then you can experiment with the habit-building process and see how the process works and when it does not. To ensure success, make sure your new habit aligns with at least one of your values and goals.

There is plenty of information available online. For a quick video tutorial on replacing a bad habit, see Charles Duhigg’s 3-minute video on habits:

Be patient with the coaching process. Change is not linear. 

Make sure you are getting what you need out of every coaching session. At the same time, it is helpful to know that not every session has to have a big ah-ha moment. Research demonstrates that you, the client, have valuable insights about your issue, and your input is important to ensure therapeutic success. What works best is when you bring to session your wisdom and strengths while I offer additional perspectives to help you remove blind spots and work through stuck points.

Sometimes, coaching can be like a walk in the park where you and I comment on the flowers and trees. Other times, coaching can be like landing on hard, ordinary ground, on rocky, wild countryside. Once we open up to ourselves, then we land on what-is. This is where we can truly grow and change. 


So there you have it, some of the ways you can jump-start your coaching process and facilitate personal change:

Be clear about why you hired a coach, and keep your goals in sight at all times.

Have an open mind about what you are experiencing.

Make sure you have a strong working relationship with your coach.

Ask questions when the process isn’t what you expect.

Cultivate curiosity even when things feel uncomfortable.

Keep the faith that coaching works, but also look for what parts of your life you might be neglecting. Self-care is the foundation on which you can make meaningful and lasting change. Build healthy habits, however small, that will assist you in your goals. And finally, be patient with yourself and your coach. Track your progress as best as you can and consider what you could be doing to improve the process.