Working with a Transformational Coach is Hard, but So Worth It - Here's Why
I have a Transformational Coach that I’ve worked with during three separate times of my life (ok, really 2.5 times, but I’ll talk about that later.) Up until recently, I’ve been embarrassed to admit it because it’s been hard for me to concisely explain what a Transformational Coach does much less talk about why I’ve needed one. Similar to the stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help from a therapist or counselor, that’s how I’ve felt about working with a Transformational Coach. I’ve tried to present myself to the world as someone who has my shit together, not as someone that has lacked confidence, direction, and motivation many times in her adult life. Fortunately, working with my Transformational Coach has helped me get beyond the shame (and a lot of the other things keeping me stagnant), and I’m proud to share about my experience. So, here it is - at least my journey with transformational coaching to this point in my life.
What is Transformational Coaching?
(I won’t lie...I had to look up the definition of transformational coaching for this article because I’m still not great at clearly describing what it is.) According to the Center for Transformational Coaching, it is focused on self-actualization, diving into who a person is and wants to become. Breaking this down into real-human speak, a Transformational Coach helps a person create shifts in their life by bringing attention to the thoughts, behavioral patterns, mindset, and beliefs of the person. Taking it further, I find that my coach forces me to step back from the B.S. (or as she lovingly puts it, the story) I tell myself and actually look at it realistically and with compassion. We often get caught up in our stories that we don’t stop to ask ourselves if what we believe about ourselves is true or fair. And that’s where true, lasting change can happen; it is in disrupting & reframing these thoughts and beliefs, which is made easier by a Transformational Coach.
Life Coach vs. Transformational Coach
(Again, I had to look this up to see if there was a definable difference between these two since I’ve never worked with a Life Coach and never really asked if there was a difference.) According to CareersInPsychology.org, the main difference lies in the focus of the coaching:
Life Coaches focus on helping clients change how they act in order to better their lives.
Transformational Coaches focus on helping clients change how they see themselves in order to better their lives.
I’m sure this is a little oversimplified, but from my experience with transformational coaching, that is spot on.
Transformational Coach vs. Therapist/Counselor
While I find my coaching sessions very therapeutic, my coach isn’t a trained or licensed therapist/counselor. She is incredibly well-educated and continues to grow her knowledge base of psychology, but she knows her limits and would not try to help someone if she believes she is out of her depth. (As a side note, I think this is crucial when working with any coach -- you want a person to know when they might need to refer a client on for more professional care.) This is not to say that a coach cannot be a therapist or counselor. In fact, I’ve worked with a therapist in the past that also was a life coach. I am hesitant to
My Experience with Transformational Coaching
My first time working with my Transformational Coach was by luck. I met her at a yoga retreat, and she was finishing up her training program and needing some clients to work with for her capstone class. She offered me free sessions, and I took her up on the offer. In looking back at it, I honestly needed the coaching at the time, but would never have considered getting any type of coach. I was at a point where I felt very stuck in my life and work, but lacked the confidence and motivation to actually figure out how to get “un-stuck.” So these sessions were great and awful. I dreaded them because I hated having to admit to thoughts and beliefs that were holding me back. I was embarrassed having to vocalize what was “going on in my head” and feeling like a loser for believing things about myself that were silly to say out loud. Despite all of this, I left every session feeling lighter and freer. I was sold on the power of transformational coaching and was happy to write her a glowing recommendation, but I still hadn’t allowed myself to fully experience the benefits of it. At this point in my life, I wasn’t willing to accept that many of my thoughts were holding me back so I didn’t fully embrace the work I was doing. I still held on tightly to many of my limiting beliefs thinking that they were true and, in a twisted way, would keep me safe.
The next time I worked with Nikki Swan, my Transformational Coach, was after recording our podcast episode with her. Talking with her reminded me of our time together and made me realize that I was willing to pay for and commit to working with her. I was at a point where I could identify areas where I needed help with and knew she was . This wasn’t just a “I’ll give it a try” like before; I was all in. And, yet, I still dreaded our sessions. I was still so ashamed of how I viewed myself and how my thoughts and mindset were holding me back. But after three sessions in four months (it was a special offering for past clients), I was much clearer on what I needed to change, was able to let go of the shame more quickly, and knew I needed to commit to a more structured plan with Nikki.
And that’s where I’m at right now (and why I said that I’ve worked with her 2.5 times.) At the time of writing this, I’m in the middle of working with her for three months on a consistent bi-weekly schedule. And I actually look forward to our sessions. I truly did not think that was possible. But I’m seeing so much change in my mindset and beliefs that I have a running list that I keep of things I want to discuss with Nikki in our upcoming sessions. I still cry, a lot, but it’s cathartic and not shameful. I’m not a completely transformed person, but I’m also not the same person that I was three months ago. Outwardly, most people who know me probably wouldn’t even say there is a difference. Inwardly, I feel and think so much differently than I did a few short months ago.To be clear, I still think pretty nasty things about myself and have plenty of limiting beliefs I’m working on. However, now I can recognize my thought as just an old thought or belief -- that it’s not the truth. Sometimes I take this further and get curious about the thought. I find myself tracing it back to where the belief may have originated, what may have happened in my life that made me start to accept that belief as truth. When I do this, I am able to see that I can change the pattern, stop the B.S., and create a different, kinder belief.
Why I Recommend Transformational Coaching
Transformational Coaching is hard. It has forced me to look in the proverbial mirror and acknowledge some pretty ugly things that I’ve thought about myself for a huge chunk of my life. I have had to admit, out loud, that I am the one holding myself back in many arenas of my life. That I’ve been approaching parts of my personal and work life in an unhealthy, unsustainable way. I have felt so much shame and gone through so many boxes of tissues. Because of all of that, I’ve been able to grow personally and professionally. I’m kinder to myself and more open to the opportunities I’m presented with, whether or not they look exactly like my expectations. I’m more optimistic and more willing to take on challenges than I have been in years.
This work is not for the faint of heart, but I promise that it is worth it!
My Tips for Working with a Transformational Coach
Deciding to work with a Transformational Coach is a big decision. When you consider the time and cost (which you usually have to pay for out-of-pocket), not to mention the emotional vulnerability, it can feel like a huge commitment. But, it’s a commitment that is definitely worthwhile. To get the most out of it, these are my tips for working with a Transformational Coach.
Find a coach you like & trust. This to me is of the highest importance. You are going to be getting into some pretty deep stuff that requires you to be vulnerable, which can be very scary. You want a coach that will make you feel supported, challenged, and comfortable. They don’t need to be your best friend, but you want to feel a positive energy or connection with them. This means you should have a free/complimentary “discovery” call with the potential coach that is minimally 15 minutes long. Spend the time asking questions so you can understand why this person got into transformational coaching, what their approach is, and generally how easy it is for you to talk with them.
Be open & honest, even if you are embarrassed/feel like crying/don’t want to talk about “it.” It’s kind of like the saying “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” You are working with a coach to make necessary shifts in your life, and there’s no shortcut in this work. This means that you need to share your thoughts, feelings, and actions (both past & current) with as much honesty as you can. I’ve dreaded many of my sessions with my coach knowing that what I needed to talk through was going to lead me to cry or be super embarrassed. And, I won’t bullshit you, it sucks BUT it’s brought me to so many revelations and positive changes that it’s always worth it.
Commit to the entire process. Coaching is a process that reaches beyond the sessions you have with your coach. You will be given “homework” to do between sessions - don’t shrug it off. While a lot of powerful shifts can happen when you are talking with your coach, your transformation can be so much more impactful if you “do the work” in between these meetings. Challenge yourself to go all in, all the time. If you are spending the money for the coaching, why limit your progress to just the coaching sessions?
Want to learn more or try it out yourself?
Check out our episode with my Transformational Coach, Nikki Swan: Episode 6: Transform Your Life through Transformational Coaching
Book a discovery call with Nikki Swan: https://www.mindfulswan.com/