A Coaching Power Tool Created by Tolga Hayali
(Leadership, Career and Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Self-reliance and self-doubt are key components of life and client coaching. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-reliance is having confidence in and exercising one’s own powers of judgment. It occurs when in the back of our minds we constantly compare, judge, and evaluate everything that comes through our senses with something that took place seconds, days, or even years ago. We tend to design our lives based on past events we have experienced, and our memories can hold us captive by building walls around our minds that lead to self-doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, or stress about taking any action. On the other side, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-doubt is the lack of faith in oneself, as a feeling of uncertainty about one’s abilities, actions, etc. In coaching, we are reminded many times to focus on the present. It is important during coaching to understand that we are complex human beings and we can make mistakes or fail. However, when we fail, we may want to reframe the experience and see it as a learning opportunity to get up and move forward. Sometimes individuals are afraid to let go of their past negative experiences and thus create new perceptions about themselves. The key is not to let ourselves drown in these mistakes, failures, or bad experiences but to love ourselves for who we are and let go of these past experiences. In short, be kind, merciful, and forgiving to ourselves rather than critiquing and harsh to ourselves. How beautiful does the poet Alexander Pope express “To err is human; to forgive, divine” from one of his famous work “An Essay on Criticism”.
It is important to understand our clients’self-defeating stories about their past, and/or even their worries about the future because to develop self-reliance, clients need to be in the present moment, rather than live in the past or a worrisome future. In the movie Kung Fu Panda, Oogway talks to Po about how he is too concerned with what was and what will be because of how much he eats and how he looks, which will never make him the great Dragon Warrior. Oogway shares the saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” This attitude leads to an acceptance of who we are, loving and respecting ourselves. Self-reliance requires us to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly to maintain a healthy sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. When we rely on our own abilities with confidence, we convey that we deserve to be happy, and we look to our future from the present moment with hope and excitement, even though we may make mistakes and have flaws, as all human beings do.
When we are in a state of self-doubt, we create an environment with much negative self-talk and the feeling that we are not good enough–we are dependent on everyone, fearful of failure, and avoid any challenge that can lead us to different levels of growth. Living life with self-doubt inevitably leads to “failure” and sets us up for a life of unhappiness. Self-doubt may cause us to hide our flaws to avoid being criticized, and this can hold us back from taking the steps necessary to accomplish the goals we want in life. It can cause too many walls to be built around us, without being aware of them, which will lead to full isolation and being trapped in our own prison.
Self-reliance requires confidence in our own abilities to satisfy our needs, but maybe not the wants. Human beings can put themselves into the want trap with no solid SMART goals. They can dream big, but dreams without goals and plans are just dreams! It is really crucial to work with a coach who can help clients understand themselves better, explore and reflect on their thoughts, and recognize to what extent they are practicing self-reliance. To start the process, a coach might be interested in finding out the strengths of the client using the Appreciative Inquiry method. If clients can see strengths in themselves, it can build upon their self-reliance for making future decisions about themselves. It is important for the coach to understand how much the clients are aware of their strengths, or if they are “curtaining” them, due to feelings of arrogance and self-deception.
Finding underlying beliefs that may sabotage a client and prevent him/her from acting with full confidence can raise deep meanings of what success means to the client. Questions to explore this might include:
- In a perfect world, what would achieved goals look like?
- What is holding you back from the actions you might want to take?
- What is stopping you?
- What makes you want to make this change?
- What would be the benefits to you?
- What support systems do you have in place that can support you through this transition, especially in challenging moments?
Coaches need to explore and carefully listen to all the client’s statements, especially those about feeling “not good enough,” and a “can’t do attitude because it may create more trouble,” or “can’t accomplish because of lack of self-confidence, lack of self-awareness, lack of faith in oneself.”What hinders our abilities and prevents us from acting on actionable SMART goal items is our own judgments, self-critique, and self-limiting beliefs, which fuel our fear. We all have those, and it is within our power to empower ourselves to control them or let them go. Our thoughts can trigger visualizing and imagining everything in a negative way that prevents us to take action, which results in more disappointments and more self-doubt.
During a coaching session, if the coach can see and identify any of the above-mentioned negative thoughts, there is an opportunity for the coach to help the client through reflection on the thought and helping him/her understand that self-acceptance is one of the non-negotiables for self-reliance, which can be very empowering. Supporting clients’ realization of how worthy they are to be independent and to trust themselves without judgment is empowering. While self-doubt can only limit clients by discouraging them from taking any action, helping them see their self-reliance will encourage them to take small steps to achieve the desired outcome they are looking for. The more clients can experience positive results, the more self-reliant they will be. Clients will also accept failure and mistakes with a different perspective. Some of the questions to help clients see this shift could include:
- If your best friend who you truly love and care for very much was going through a similar experience as your client, what advice would you give?
- What other advice would you give and what question would you ask to bring out the love and care for your best friend?
- What prevents you from not giving advice similar to what you would give to your best friend?
- What is holding you back?
- If you had a crystal ball, what would you like to see happen?
- What change would you like to see?
- What different response to this event could you give, and desired positive result?
Your commitment to your client will make his/her actions meaningful and give him/her the feeling of self-reliance. Otherwise, if the client does not follow through on his/her commitment, or hold himself or herself accountable, it may be an indication that self-doubt is still present. That means the coach needs to explore deeper and reflect on the excuses presented by the client. There could be many reasons why the client expresses excuses for not holding himself or herself accountable for the commitment. Excuses are not limited just to themselves, but also to events or circumstances that come through blaming anything and everything. Clients need to reach the level where they take full responsibility for themselves and especially for the outcome produced by their responses. All these can be worked through gradually by creating a safe place for clients and empowering them to shift their perspective and reframe the circumstance so they can see their own potential and capacity to execute actionable commitments. The Reframing Technique is a powerful process whereby clients’ thought and belief patterns, behaviors, emotions, and lives can be transformed if the technique is applied consistently, with opportunities for improvement identified and alternatives brainstormed. For a coach who wishes to encourage his client to be more committed to taking action and being more accountable, here are some possible questions that can be asked:
- You mentioned a couple of opinions, what is preventing you from taking action?
- What do you need to put in place to implement your commitment(s)?
- If you had the opportunity and power, what would you do?
- What is the one thing you can do toward achieving your most important goal?
- How does it feel to act upon your desired actions toward achieving your goal?
- What kind of support system do you need to ignite the first step?
- When will you take the first action? And what will it look like?
- What will be the indicators that you have achieved your goal?
The above questions are intended to hold the client accountable to implement the client’s plan. Therefore, many of them are action-oriented questions that will empower the client to act upon. We can observe and sense the energy in the above questions, which are more “walk the talk” rather than “talk the talk.” Many times, one small step after another can lead to a big change.
As a result, it is important to understand what really matters to us, what options or possibilities we have, and from what perspective we are looking at an event, circumstances, or information shared with us. With all the knowledge we have, what is the value we place on them? Those are all in our control and can alleviate self-doubt and increase our sense of self-reliance, which will lead to letting go of past negative experiences, mitigating future worries or anxieties, and focusing more on the present with actionable plans implemented with baby steps.