Before I started studying life coaching, I thought it was cheesy and New-Agey, because I jumped to conclusions based on assumptions rather than evidence. I started to realize I might be wrong about life coaching in recent years, as I took on more leadership roles in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I began to notice that I sure seemed to be doing a lot of coaching with less experienced practitioners about lots of things, some having to do with training and technique, and others having to do with broader issues—with life. Students started to seek me out for insight into challenges they were facing or goals they had set for themselves, and I realized I was happy to try to help them organize their thoughts and resources to make empowered decisions for themselves.
I started to read and study more about the coaching field, and it turns out it is supported by substantial research and theory. It is not fluffy. It involves a professional relationship that enables clients to take their own good advice, which may be hidden under layers of doubt and fear, but which is always there.
The Institute for Life Coach Training provides a comprehensive definition of coaching on its website. The gist of it is that coaching can help people work toward becoming their best selves by recognizing and honoring their own goals and wishes. Once I read this definition I realized that whether I wanted to be or not, one of my roles as an experienced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and teacher was life coach. I wanted to help people get better at jiu-jitsu, and I wanted to help them live their best lives. I was never comfortable telling people what they should do, however. I am a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and while I should take responsibility for being the black belt of my own life, this expertise does not extend to others’ lives.
Fortunately, based on what l have learned formally, my belief that each individual always knows his or her own answer, even if it is hidden, even if it is not the desired answer, is at the heart of coaching. I had an innate sense that I could only help people access what they knew to be best for them. I did not know myself what they should or should not do, but I could help them figure it out.
Recognizing what we want for ourselves and working toward it can also be a scary prospect, though. It requires self-awareness, and while self-awareness can lead us toward fulfillment, it can also lead to discomfort, because it often leads to change. It is not for the faint of heart, though everyone deserves to reap the benefits of following their own good advice.