Life Coaching Might Hurt More Before it Gets Better

by | May 5, 2021

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.

Last week I shared the relief I experienced (in the pain in my butt!) after finally making an appointment with a physical therapist. As I’ve been doing my daily exercises at home (while secretly wishing this problem would be gone already), I’ve realized how similar the relationship I have with my physical therapist is to the relationship I have with my life coach (yes, I almost always have a coach).

There are no shortcuts. I just want this pain to go away. I want to be able to run with ease again. But I could pay my physical therapist all the money in the world and my course of treatment wouldn’t be any different. I have to do my daily exercises. With both my physical therapist and my coach, there’s no magic bullet. I need to have the Strength to consciously choose to put in the work.

The real work happens after the session. My appointments with my physical therapist are short. She checks in with me, asks lots of questions, and helps me tweak my plan. But if I didn’t do anything between sessions, I wouldn’t make any progress. In the same way, my coaching sessions provide me a chance to check progress and gain new awareness, but most of the work (whether action or reflection) happens outside of the session. For example…

You can’t skip the homework. At the end of every coaching session, my coach helps me determine my action items for the week. Sometimes she poses a challenge to supercharge my progress. But when I leave the coaching session, it’s up to me to actually do that homework—just like I have to do my PT exercises. I cannot be a passive participant and expect to see any real change. 

It often hurts more before it gets better. Some of the exercises my physical therapist gives me hurt. There’s one where I have to roll a tennis ball in the small of my back against the wall—and when it hits just the right spot, ouch! But the more I do it, the better it eventually feels. In coaching, when dealing with tough issues, it can be painful before it feels better. We all have sore spots in our life that we don’t want to touch. When my husband was arrested, it was the most painful experience of my life. I worked with my life coach to be able to even say the words out loud. Husband arrested. At first, I couldn’t say those words without feeling tremendous pain. But the more I did, the easier it got.

Just getting started provides relief. I’m shocked that after only one week of doing my daily PT exercises, my butt is already improving. I’m not running without pain yet, but it’s feeling much better when I walk. Once again, it’s the same with coaching. I recently had a client where after just the first session she felt energized to take actions she’d been putting off for years. Has she accomplished them all yet? No, but she started. And sometimes starting is the hardest step.

One-minute Workout

  • Pause. When you feel yourself wanting someone else to make you feel better—or avoiding the work only you can do—take a Pause.
  • Think. Ask yourself: What makes this hard? What’s the outcome I’m working towards? What’s in my control right now? 
  • Act. Move forward with intention and clarity.

Whether it’s physical therapy or coaching, you have to do the work—even when it’s not easy. But this is actually more freeing than waiting for somebody else to fix whatever is ailing you. Because at the end of the day, you’re the one who knows the outcome you’re looking for. And I’m cheering you on every step of the way!

Recommended Reading: Curious what most successful people have in common? This book argues it’s not talent (yes, you read that right!)—rather, persistence and passion. Duckworth shares interesting stories from her research and strategies that you can use to increase your grit. It’s a great read. I’ve definitely needed grit to keep focused on healing my pain in the butt!

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