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What is "Coaching"?

True story: 

I’m not a fan of the term “coaching”.

It’s kinda confusing and cringey, hey?

It makes me think of either an old dude in a hat, short-shorts, and a whistle who’s yelling at me…or…some over-hyped chick with pom-poms cheering me on.

Neither of those are my jam, and so I totally get it if they're not yours either!

(You'll notice the image I chose for this post is neither of those, but more the vibe I feel fits with the coaching I do.)

Another truth: 

I myself am a “coach” (and I love it.)

And that’s partially why I’m writing this—for people to better understand what I do.

I'm also sharing about coaching because I personally believe the planet would be served by every adult human having a coach, mentor, or therapist at some point(s) in life and I want to help normalize those things.


Because it benefits us all when we each take accountability for and work through our own sh*t, grow our self-awareness, and become better versions of ourselves so we create less suffering in the world—and that's what those things are all about!

Yes, I absolutely think we can do a lot of that on our own. This is what I believe dedicated yogic and other contemplative, self-inquiry, and mindfulness-based practices help us with.

AND, I also think if you wish to accelerate or amplify the work you're doing on your own, working with someone outside of yourself is a game-changer. 


In this post, I’ll cover the meaning of the term coaching, some common misconceptions about it, and what it generally is.

Note: These distinctions are based on my personal opinion and are not definitive rules or definitions. Chat with any mentor, coach, or therapist you’re considering working with to understand their personal approach.

Two women sitting side-by-side looking at a view of the ocean and lush, tropical, islands.


Let’s begin at the beginning with wtf does "coaching" even mean?

Why We Think of Dudes in Short-Shorts AKA The Etymology

According to Wikipedia (so take that for what it’s worth ha), the word “coaching” originated in the 16th century and referred to being pulled around in a horse-drawn carriage.

In the 1830s, the word started to be used in Oxford University slang to refer to a tutor “coaching” or “carrying” a student through their exam. In this context the word meant:

“A process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.”

This meaning resonates with how I perceive coaching today!

It wasn’t until after that, in the 1860s, that the word became connected with sports, and that’s where the common association of the word has stayed.

The definition above is why I put coaching in the category of “change work”, meaning the intention of coaching is to facilitate change.

Some other examples of “change work” include psychotherapy, counseling, consulting, neuro-linguistic programming, and hypnosis.

Coaching vs. Therapy vs. Consulting 

It can be helpful to describe coaching by comparing it to therapy and consulting.

Here’s my take on the differences:

Consulting - You hire a consultant as someone who’s an expert in a field you want assistance in. Generally you ask them to use their expertise to tell you what to do. To me, “mentorship” is similar to consulting.

Therapy - Mental health focused with someone trained to deal with trauma and big stuff from the past.

Coaching - More question, action, and present-moment oriented. Instead of telling you what to do, coaches tend to help you tune into yourself by asking you questions to help you create a clear vision and an action plan to get there. They help you move through any obstacles in the way and hold you accountable to the steps along the way (if you want). Coaching also tends to work with what’s present now as opposed to focusing on events from the past.


Here are a few common misconceptions about coaching:

1. It’s someone telling you how to create a life like theirs.

You might think coaching is about finding a coach who’s “arrived” where you want to go and then paying them to tell you how they got there. To me, that is more like consulting or mentorship, while a coach is trained to help you tune into your own inner compass and wisdom. They help you determine what success means to you, to create a road map to get there, and they stay alongside you as you take steps forward. So instead of them being on a pedestal possessing the information you need, they are alongside you helping you mine the wisdom within, and empowering YOU as a wildly capable creator.

2. You have to have some big problem.

What’s cool is that you can show up for coaching with nothing in mind, like literally zero, no big or small issue to work through. Even with nothing to say, a good coach will guide you to an illuminating "a-ha" moment and help you start to take action on that new insight. I still never cease to be amazed by how I can show up to a coach with nothing to talk about and leave the session with a new realization, a compelling plan for a manageable action in the direction I want to go, and more self-awareness…and I’m always glad I showed up! Of course, if you do bring something to the session, that's great! Either way, it’s amazing what a bit of time and space dedicated solely towards your self-discovery and actualization can do.

3. It's not for you.

Similar to #2, many people think: "Sure, coaching is for Sarah-Jane over there because she has [insert issue] and needs help [insert anything], but I don’t need that so it's not for me." Wonderfully, there are many types of coaches out there these days specializing in the things modern humans commonly need help with: time-management, finances, relationships, parenting, communication, health, nutrition,...and the list goes on. So there's something out there for everyone! And the only real criteria for being able to benefit from 1:1 support is the desire and readiness for growth in some area of your life. It's true that if you’re not interested in that, coaching might not be as beneficial for you.

4. It's all talk.

While coaching is practitioner specific (more on that next), it can tend to be more action and process oriented than some types of talk therapy. This can help create change faster and more effectively than talking alone.


In my opinion, some of the distinctive features of coaching are that it's:

1. Practitioner dependent.

Because coaching IS such a broad term, there are many types of coaching trainings out there and coaches will vary greatly in how they work and what they offer. Some might follow a structure where each session is a step in a process, while others see what comes up each week. And there are different modalities coaches might utilize such as visualizations, writing, breath work, somatic work, and more. Check out your coach's background or schedule a quick call with them to better understand how they work.

2. Action-oriented.

Compared with therapy that can be sitting and talking or consulting that can be sitting and listening, coaching tends to be focused on action as the gateway to creating change and momentum. Accountability and the option to take self-chosen action steps between sessions is a hallmark of coaching that can greatly accelerate change. Some coaches (self-included) also tend to be more action and practice-based within the session as well.

3. Client-driven.

Have you ever had someone tell you what you "should" do for weeks, months, or years and you never do it...then one day it dawns on you for yourself how it's a good thing to do, and then you just do it no problem?

If getting what we wanted was as easy as being told what to do,…wouldn't we all have what we want?

It's the coming up with it on your own bit that makes the difference! "Client-driven" means coaching supports you in clarifying what’s important for you and your own steps for moving towards that. Since it's common that our problems and solutions aren't fully clear or conscious, somatic and sub/unconscious tools are my favorite ways to bypass conscious confusion and stuckness and tap into deeper wisdom.

4. A mirror.

Ever had a friend complain to you about someone doing that thing that they do themselves all the time? We all do this at times because we see others better than we see ourselves! (There might be some shadow work to do there too, which is a powerful tool for growth.) This is one reason why even the most highly skilled and experienced coaches and therapists have their own coaches and therapists: because they want to see their blindspots so they can grow. Coaches can be mirrors that utilize questions and direct reflection as needed to help us cultivate the self-awareness that amplifies transformation.

I hope this created a bit of clarity around this kinda cringey term and confusing topic!

Feel free to hit me up with any questions. :)

You can click below if you're curious to learn more about the 1:1 body-mind coaching that I offer.


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