The point of a coach is to guide others to achieve their goals. If you know how to coach obstacles, you can better help your clients to do so.
Everyone has inner obstacles.
And these inner obstacles don’t always express themselves in the same ways.
Each client is unique. So each inner obstacle is unique to them. But the roots are the same.
It’s our job as coaches to help our clients excavate these inner obstacles and guide them to overcome them.
Inner obstacles include fear, shame, self-doubt, anger, resistance etc.
In this post, we’ll look at two of the most common obstacles; fear and self-doubt. And give tips on how to coach these.
We’ll also answer a question we receive often; “What if the client doesn’t know the source of their inner obstacle?”
How to Coach Self-Doubt
How do you coach self-doubt?
Whether it’s your own or a client’s, most people feel that in order to be free of the paralysis and the suffering of self-doubt that they have to get rid of it, to eliminate the doubt.
But anything we try to push against within ourselves tends to push back – try not to think of the color blue, what happens? You see the color blue everywhere.
The harder you try, the brighter that color gets when we push the mind, it pushes back.
When we push emotions, they push back.
So instead, why not use something like the our InnerLifeSkills kite process, where we realize that the tension of opposites actually helps the kite to fly.
That we can take something like self-doubt and we can transform it into something that actually helps instead of hurts.
How do we do that?
We listen to the voice of self-doubt not to believe it, but to go deeper than the surface of what it is saying to find its roots.
Because every feeling, every thought that arises, no matter how painful, no matter how much tightness and energetic tension that it brings to us, it can be traced to something that is pure.
So we asked ourselves, what is self-doubt trying to speak for?
That’s actually valid.
That’s actually worth listening to worth giving a place of belonging.
And we could call this the positive intention or the positive reason for self-doubt.
So ask yourself, what is the valid reason for doubt?
Perhaps it’s trying to get us to pause for a moment to reflect, to consider it might look like it’s trying to erode our self-esteem.
It might look like it’s making us stall in our progress.
It might feel very painful, but when we question and when we just inquire and we go a little deeper than the surface, we find actually perhaps doubt can be a friend.
Everything in life has its place.
Doubt looks like the opposite of certainty.
So sometimes we think “if I could get rid of doubt, then I would be certain”, but deeper wisdom tells us that that brings us gifts.
It brings us the gifts of humility, of questioning, of wanting to make sure that we’re coming from an authentic place, wanting to make sure we have our facts straight to be clear on reality.
And in fact doubt is trying to help us to get more certain isn’t it, to get more confidence once we look at it clearly.
Instead of coaching someone to get rid of self doubt – why not coach at a deeper level?
Coach at a place where we send the bucket of questioning down into somebody’s wisdom well, to find the wisdom of doubt so that doubt can be transformed from an enemy to a friend, from something that felt like it was imprisoning us to something that frees us. And that gives us wisdom, gives us insights, gives us something important.
IThe Root of Self Doubt.
When we experience self doubt, it can be paralyzing – the mind questioning everything. It’s those thoughts that are wondering, questioning you, questioning your actions, questioning your decisions.
Let’s look at the surprising roots of self doubt – the conscious spiritual understanding – to help you to free yourself of the debilitating power-robbing experience of self doubt.
You face a crossroads, you’re experiencing some kind of suffering or stress, but you can’t find your way through.
You feel stuck.
You feel paralyzed.
Things aren’t clear because this thing called self doubt is in the way.
It can be extremely valuable to understand where self doubt is rooted – like pulling a weed out of a vegetable garden.
If we just cut the top off, we don’t remove the root band is standing the root of self doubt.
We can work with it in a much more conscious way.
So let’s bring some wisdom to your self doubt.
Here are three important concepts that I’m going to be unpacking for you.
The first is that doubt is rooted in the body’s mind, and there’s some surprising understandings to offer here.
The second is we’re going to be looking at how doubt is linked to integrity.
And the third is to have a little bit of a look at why old souls tend to doubt the most.
Most people aren’t aware of the fact that the body has its own intelligence, its own operating system.
You’ll certainly feel how this is true when you feel that fight or flight adrenaline response, or if you notice the reflex that the body has without any conscious intervention on your part.
But what if I say to you that thoughts can stream from the body’s mind and that you can change radio stations to discover thoughts that stream intuitively from your deeper wisdom from your soul.
Now, before the sounds very abstract, think about the fact that when you have an intuitive insight, the texture of the thought actually feels different to the daily chatter of the mind.
So self doubt tends to be sourced in this surface body mind.
If you think of mind as having many stations, many channels, many radio stations from the surface, all the way to the depth of clarity when we’re doubting, when we’re in conflict, when there feels like this push pool confusion, it’s accompanied by a contracted feeling.
Isn’t it like a heaviness in the body, in a tightening in the mind as if the mind, heart and gut are closed somehow.
That’s a clue that the thoughts that are coming to us, are actually streaming from the body’s mind – the surface mind – now, if you think of it this way, it gives you a little bit of distance.
You start to go, oh, this doubt, these doubting thoughts, this conflicted tight contracted textured thought actually is rising from the surface of my mind.
And that immediately gives you a choice. It immediately opens the possibilities in the space. Ah, I don’t have to identify with this. I don’t have to say I am my doubts.
Instead, a doubt has arisen in me. These contracted thoughts are arising in me. I am not in the contracted thoughts.
Can you feel the difference?
The second key insight is this, instead of seeing doubting thoughts and self doubt as an obstacle to get rid of, what if I told you that your doubt was coming from a place of integrity?
Because surely if you weren’t a person with integrity, if you didn’t care about the consequences of your choices, if you didn’t care about life, if you didn’t have reverence to want to trade in this world in a way with respect and conscious intention, you wouldn’t doubt some of the most dangerous destructive minds on this planet have no doubt.
They’re a hundred percent sure there’s no room for questioning.
This is an invitation to take your doubt, which feels like a very paralyzing, debilitating experience – and put it in your hands and treat it with some kind of respect or love, because you appreciate that where it’s coming from is a place of integrity.
Notice how by seeing that; your relationship with self-doubt is already starting to shift, is it not?
And finally, if we appreciate that our souls on these beautiful journeys and that our souls have been learning and learning and learning and learning.
It’s the older souls that have been around the block that have played the game so many times that are usually the ones with that integrity and with a conflict between the body mind and the deeper wisdom that is wanting to whisper through the conflicted contraction.
Your wisdom and your soul will never grab the microphone. It doesn’t have an agenda like that – a need to be right.
So it tends to be that the older souls with the most wisdom that tend to be plagued with the integrity and the contradiction or the contrast between the body mind and deeper wisdom and intuitive knowing, and feel torn between the two.
So what can we do to support ourselves when we are experiencing crippling self doubt, I would suggest the following transformations that you coach yourself, that you guide yourself through, that you meditate on and that you practice mindfulness on that you switch from a body mind dominance to a soul mind dominance without this being esoteric. We want to keep one foot on the ground.
This means consciously learning how to change radio stations from body mind, surface mind, to go after your deeper wisdom, because your deeper wisdom is going to resolve doubt, not in a way that brings arrogant ego based certainty.
It has a different texture, but in a way that is about clear seeing, because when you see clearly when the lights get switched on in the dark room, doubt is no longer even a question.
You just walk through the room.
It’s when the room is dark and you can’t see what you’re doing. And you’re fumbling.
That doubt is an issue.
So we access our wisdom to turn on those inner lights.
I also recommend that you appreciate that that’s coming from a place of integrity.
In my InnerLifeSkills Master Coaching work we call this looking for the positive intention, looking for the valid reason for something’s existence.
So when we see our doubt rising, we thank it for coming from a place of integrity.
And we ask ourselves, what is the positive, valid reason for this questioning?
And we include that in our meditation.
We include that in our self-coaching.
And we are mindful of that.
That alone has a powerful, transformative approach and effect on self doubt.
And instead of being an older soul with so much wisdom, held back like a lack of well in the desert, that’s blocked with rocks – build your wisdom well and give voice and presence to your wisdom. So that self doubt can live there with a place of honor, because it comes from integrity.
We appreciate that it’s coming from a limited surface mind, and we bring the water of our wisdom to that surface, mind to heal.
How to coach fear
Let’s say that your client is facing the inner obstacle of fear, anxiety, overthinking, and just is paralyzed in some way to move forward in their lives.
Or they’re just suffering because of that kind of tightness in the heart.
There are many wonderful ways to support our clients when they are hitting those kinds of inner obstacles.
Here’s the surprising way the American psychologist and hypnotherapist, Dr. Milton Erickson contributed a groundbreaking idea called positive intention work.
He put forward that every behavior was motivated by a positive intention for that person, no matter how dysfunctional or destructive the behavior, even that from the point of view of the person, there was a valid, positive reason for their behavior.
A justifiable reason.
It can be deeply transformative to look for the positive intention behind a behavior or an experience that is causing us some kind of stress or centering – and fear is no different.
Instead of trying to get rid of a fear, or eliminate fear, why not find its positive intention?
The positive intention is the valid reason for the fear, what it is speaking for in us.
What is fear trying to give us?
That’s actually a good thing that has value in our lives.
And you might think it could be protection.
It could be safety.
It could be caution slowing down, which if we check is still about safety.
Once we realize that fear has a purpose – a reason that is justifiable.
Instead of being frightened of fear, we can coach an inquiry.
We can send the bucket down our client’s wisdom well to find wisdom around what the positive intention is behind the fear.
Once a client realizes, wow, this fear is actually trying to protect me, or they find something valid, a gift, we then focus on that positive intention because we can coach that.
We can use that.
We can welcome that into our lives when we realize actually the reason I’m not moving forward in this project is because I have fear.
And the fear is trying to keep me safe.
Then the next question could be, how can I move forward and honor the need to be safe?
How can I give it a place?
How can I find what I need to care for myself to make sure that the risks are minimized and to step forward in a way that is authentic and is not compromised by the fear but it’s still honoring it’s message.
I hope that is interesting. And that you might start experimenting with positive intention work when next you bump into fear.
Question from a Master Coach.
“If a client has obstacles, but they’re unaware of the source of the obstacles, would it be okay if I suggested a questionnaire, some kind of tools for them to complete in between the coaching sessions or must all processes be handled in the coaching meetings.”
This is a question that an InnerLifeSkills Master Coach put forward, and I’m going to do my best now to give the some insights into possible answers.
The first part of the question: ‘if a client has obstacles, but they’re unaware of the source’ raises a little bit of a red flag for me that I must mention.
We need to be clear on our role as a coach.
Now, if we are practicing pure coaching as defined by the ICF, it means that we are not moving into the territory of therapy. We’re not therefore using questions to dig into the story, into the pain or into the problem.
Now that doesn’t mean that we disregard these things or that we’re insensitive to them and that they don’t have a place in the coaching conversation, but it does mean that it’s not a focus and we certainly don’t lead a client there.
We don’t really need to know the source.
We don’t need to be doing that because that’s not the role of a coach.
If we are combining coaching in a blended form – we are adding coaching to therapy or some kind of other skill that we are licensed to offer.
Then we might dive into the story, pain or problem, but be careful to feel obliged in any way to look for the source of an obstacle.
When a client says that they are feeling fear, procrastination or any inner obstacle, we don’t need to go digging into the root of that.
We don’t need to find its source.
We simply need to hear that that’s what the client has said.
In other words, to overcome, to resolve, to transform that particular obstacle.
So we certainly don’t need to know the source.
Now, for the second part of the question – if there ever seemed to be a need for some kind of work in between coaching sessions, could we suggest something?
As coaches, we don’t usually suggest or offer advice, especially if we’re offering pure coaching.
Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it.
But what we must remember is that coaching is a partnership and a partnership means that the client is very much responsible for their own progress.
And we are responsible for giving them the best coaching we can.
Therefore it might be better to have a conversation with the clients about what they think they would like to do in between sessions.
If we did put a little suggestion out there, we need to say that it’s a possibility – we need to position it as an opinion.
We definitely don’t assert it from a position of being an authority in any way.
And then if a client says that they would like to journal or do some kind of questionnaires in the meantime, that sounds perfectly reasonable as long as it’s being completely within their own decision-making power.
And they’ve been a full participant in that kind of discussion.
Recap the root and re-framing of obstacles.
Coaching obstacles is not about pushing obstacles aside. Because as we resist, their force becomes stronger and the obstacle can overtake.
So what we teach in InnerLifeSkills Master Coach classes, is to re-frame to positive using our KITE process.
Guide your client to understand the positive intention behind the obstacle.
What gifts is the obstacle trying to give?
Why is fear showing up?
Why is self doubt showing up?
And how can you take this and use it to achieve goals?
Remember, it’s not for us as coaches to tell our clients what the positive intention of an obstacle is. We must always maintain our coach position and simply guide our clients to discover this for themselves.
That is how we coach obstacles. Through guiding our clients to re-framing a negative obstacle into a positive gift.