Coaching Accountability Leads to New Learning: A Chilling Story

One of the great benefits of coaching is the opportunity of accountability. In each session the iStock_000010338713Smallclient and coach strategize actions that the client commits to taking between sessions to help her make progress on achieving her goals. When the client returns for the next session the coach checks in with her about her action item. Whether or not she completed the task, there is always an opportunity for learning. It’s fascinating to see how the learning emerges for clients. Following is a particularly rich example of the type of learning that can happen when clients take action.

Sally (name changed to maintain confidentiality) had committed to “chilling” for 15 minutes every day. She knows how to work hard, but self-care and relaxing are difficult for her. She had been unable to make time for chilling at home, but was determined to do it on a trip to St. Thomas with her daughter and husband.

The first day Sally went to the pool with her family and lay on a lounge chair. She soon realized she had forgotten to bring a book or magazine. She had nothing to do. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? Not so for Sally! She felt extremely uncomfortable, like she was going to jump out of her skin. She looked around and noticed others doing nothing. They seemed just fine with relaxing. The contrast between the comfort of others around her and her discomfort made her aware that she really didn’t know how to relax and do nothing. She could see and feel how inexperienced and uncomfortable she is with doing nothing, with just relaxing.

Shortly thereafter she asked a staff member what people do on St. Thomas. The young woman responded, “Relax! Relax! Relax! Relax! Relax!” Given Sally’s memory of her difficulty relaxing at the pool, she took the young woman’s response as an indicator that she what had made her so uncomfortable at the pool, relaxing, was exactly what she was meant to do on this trip.

A day or two later Sally and her husband had some time to kill before a scheduled event. It was an excellent opportunity to practice chilling. They went to the lobby and hung out for four hours! When I asked Sally how she had managed that she told me that she had taken that staff member’s message to heart. Somehow it opened her up to have a different experience when there was nothing to do. Instead of twitching, she enjoyed watching people, nestling down in a comfy sofa, allowing her mind to wander and chatting with her husband. Her drive for doing was replaced by allowing rest, relaxation and just being with her loved ones in a lovely place. 

Sally’s commitment to chill led her to new awareness of how difficult it is for her to unplug and relax and to having a new, positive experience that motivated her to seek more such experiences. In our next coaching session Sally was more determined than ever to bring chilling into her time at home.

What new behavior would give you the opportunity to learn about yourself and open up the possibility for real change? Would having accountability offered in coaching make it more likely that you would take action and have a new experience? If you’re curious about this possibility, email me for a free 30 minute conversation about the opportunities of coaching for you.